Most often than not, for the first time visitor to India, Delhi is their starting point. But not many take the time out to explore this incredible city. Instead they head off on the Golden Triangle route. Delhi has far more to offer, so next time you are in India follow our guide to get the most out of your weekend in Delhi and get to know this incredible city.
Many arrive to India with a laundry lists of places to visit, things to do, restaurants to eat and bars to drink at! It’s a frantic schedule even for a local urbanite! This brief guide will hopefully help you to negotiate your way across Delhi and help you discover this fascinating city.
New Delhi is the capital city of the Republic of India. It hosts the government’s legislature, executive and judiciary arms of the government. It also happens to be the seat of authority for the Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi. So this will be a great place to start your first day by exploring the landmark sites of the Rajpath. To make good use of your time use the local autorcikshaws for the short journeys between sites.
Delhi is a city that bridges two different worlds. Old Delhi, once the capital of Islamic India, is a labyrinth of narrow lanes lined with crumbling havelis and formidable mosques. In contrast, the imperial city of New Delhi created by the British Raj is composed of spacious, tree-lined avenues and imposing government buildings. Delhi has been the seat of power for several rulers and many empires for about a millennium. Many a times the city was built, destroyed and then rebuilt here. Interestingly, a number of Delhi’s rulers played a dual role, first as destroyers and then as creators.
The city’s importance lies not just in its past glory as the seat of empires and magnificent monuments, but also in the rich and diverse cultures. Delhi has captivating ancient monuments, fascinating museums and art galleries, architectural wonders, a vivacious performing-arts scene, fabulous eating places and bustling markets.
Delhi has been the political hub of India. Every political activity in the country traces its roots here. This was true even of the mythological era. The Pandavas of the Mahabharata had their capital at Indraprastha, which is believed to have been geographically located in today’s Delhi.
Start with the citadel of Lutyens’ Delhi, the Rashtrapati Bhavan. Spread over 330 acres, the structure was designed by renowned architect Lutyens as the official residence of the Viceroy of India during the British rule. It is now the official residence of the First Citizen of India – the President. Admiring the beauty of the arterial roads like the Rajpath, jump into an auto and head towards the National Museum – the largest museum in India. After which head towards the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) at Jaipur House which is about 2 km away.
Standing in front of NGMA, is India Gate, the 42-metre-high monument erected as a memorial in honour of the Indian and British soldiers martyred at the North-West Frontier during World War I and Afghan Wars in 1919.
This will be a great time to head to Connaught Place for lunch. Connaught Place is a hub for speciality and multi-cuisine restaurants and fast-food joints. You will find good places for any budget and preference. In keeping with the morning activity we suggest lunch at the Embassy. This restaurant is a great example of ‘if it aint broke don’t fix it’. The menu has remained unchanged for over 60 years. Embassy opened its doors just after independence and continues to serve the popular cuisines of that day—classic north Indian dishes and ‘Continental’ cuisine. But leave everything else aside and just order the chana bhatura, you can thank me later.
Post lunch you can go souvenir shopping at the many shops in Connaught Place, good excuse to burn off some calories from lunch.
While at Connaught Place take a short walk from the Patel Chowk metro station to Jantar Mantar, one of the world’s oldest astronomical observatories.
A short walk from Jantar Mantar, off Hailey Road, in a lane just before the Consulate General of Malta, is Agrasen ki Baoli, a 14th century step-well.
Relish your evening with a slice of history in the bylanes of Old Delhi. Jump into another auto and head to Chandni Chowk which is about 5kms away. The best way to explore this area is on a cycle-rickshaw or on foot. Start with Jama Masjid, one of the largest mosques in India. From there you have a choice of a number of temples, church and mosques.
While in Chandani Chowk be sure to try ‘Jalebi’, best described as a deep fried wheat flour pretzel which are soaked in a sugar syrup, at the Old Famous Jalebi Wala at Dariba Kalan. One bite of the hot, crisp, juicy jalebis and you’ll be ready to pay obeisance to their maker. If these have whetted your appetite go to Paranthewali Gali popular for deep-fried, delicious Paranthas. You will also find the city’s best lassi here. If street food is not your type, there are the usual restaurants and some fast-food outlets.
If you have some energy left and want to take in the nightlife, I would recommend heading to the bars in the numerous 5 star hotels. Delhi’s drinking dens can be found concentrated around Connaught Place or in the prosperous southern suburbs. Many Delhi bars also double up as restaurants and nightclubs.
One of my personal favourites is the 1911 at the Imperial Hotel, it’s a great bar and an even better hotel.
The Imperial Hotel – 1911 Bar
The next morning start your day with a visit to the Lotus Temple, another landmark in the capital city. The Lotus Temple resembles a half-open lotus, this is a relatively recent architectural marvel of the Bahai faith. From there, you can visit Humayun’s Tomb one of the most impressive Mughal edifices. Take some time to explore this magnificent structure and the other monuments the complex houses. About 2 km north of the Tomb lies the Nizamuddin Dargah belonging to the famous Sufi saint, Nizamuddin Auliya.
For lunch I would suggest going to Khan Market. This is a favourite of the expat and diplomatic community. It was originally allocated as seed land to immigrants from the North-West Frontier Province after the partition of India. Today it’s a popular shopping destination in Delhi. There are some great book shops and many cafes and restaurants. A personal favourite is SodaBottleOpenerWala. It has a quirky ambience with some great cocktails, but it’s the Parsi dishes such as berry pulao, dhansak and eggs kejriwal with toast that will make this your next goto place.
After lunch for the afternoon and possibly the rest of the day will be at Hauz Khas Village. The streets are crumbling and the wires overhead are irreversibly tangled. New Delhi’s historic Hauz Khas Village (HKV) may be a bit scruffy at the edges, but there’s no funkier spot in the capital to shop, eat and generally enjoy the vibe. It’s a perfect place to relax and shop. If you like art go to Delhi Art Gallery. This is one of New Delhi’s oldest, and owns its entire collection of India’s pre-moderns, moderns and contemporary artists.
If you are interested in the old masters – Raza, Husain, Tagore, F.N. Souza and Padamsee – and aren’t inclined to question the authenticity of the multi-dimensional and the outlandish, Delhi Art Gallery can be considered a safe place to buy.
There are an abundance of small niche shops dotted around the village and I would highly recommend spending the remainder of the day discovering them.
This brief tour should give you a better appreciation of Delhi and maybe next time you can stop for longer. Indian Odyssey offers a variety of tours around India and can encompass a few nights in Delhi in order for you to see for yourself what a diverse and vibrant city Delhi truly is.
Where to Stay
The Imperial Hotel – Janpath Road, Connaught Place
A luxury 5 star hotel conveniently located near the centre of New Delhi.
The Oberoi – Gurgaon
A contemporary hotel located around 15 minutes from the International Airport and 30 minutes from central Delhi.
For more information or to start planning a unique holiday to India, please contact us:
email@example.com / +44 (0) 1224 313984