A tale of two cities – New and Old – Delhi is a destination of extremes. The capital of India is home to some 19 million people, India’s parliament, and some of its most powerful and poorest inhabitants. A divisive city, most visitors to Delhi either love or hate it; but in a city of this size, there has got to be something for everyone. With an expansive urban sprawl, few know that Delhi is actually one of the greenest capital cities in the world, joined up like a patchwork of parks and public gardens. From bustling bazaars to its rich cuisines, some of the finest examples of Mughal architecture, and famed Islamic, Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist and Christian religious sites: there is something for everyone here. With so much to explore, why not spend more than just a day in Delhi’s beautiful chaos?
GUEST POST BY MEG LAMBERT
BLOG: AN ENGLISH WOMAN ABROAD
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What’s the best time to visit Delhi?
The weather in Delhi is a capricious creature. Disarmingly cold winter eves, breezy and balmy spring, torrential monsoons and scorching heat in the summer. Visit during October and November and February and March for the best weather. The days leading up to Diwali, normally towards the end of October, is always a fun time when the entire city feels very festive, and the same goes for Holi celebrations in March. These are wonderful ways to experience the city come alive.
a Few facts about Delhi
Formerly a walled city, Delhi’s five gates still remain spread across the old city: Delhi Gate, Ajmeri Gate, Lahori Gate, Turkman Gate and Kashmiri Gate. India Gate was a later addition by the British Raj, erected shortly after they changed the capital of India from Calcutta to Delhi in 1912. Officially, its population is just short of 19 million people, but unofficially that figure is believed to be much higher: closer to 23 million. Its metro is the most frequented in the entire world, and more than the entire population of Slovenia travel on its buses every day. “Bustling” doesn’t quite cover it.
One day in Delhi itinerary
This itinerary includes a fair amount of walking, so comfy shoes are advised, as well as plenty of tuk-tuk and taxi rides. Spare change will come in handy! As always in Delhi, make sure to carry plenty of drinking water and a packet of wet wipes will never go amiss. Follow this guide and make the most of your trip even if you’re short on time. These are the top sights and things to do during your one day in Delhi.
Start your morning at Chandni Chowk
Begin you morning in the heart of the beast, Chandni Chowk. Delhi’s largest and busiest market is not for the faint-hearted and is best visited in the morning before it gets really crowded. Travel by metro is advised so as to beat the traffic!
Begin at Kinari Bazaar, a maze of tightly knit ‘gullies’ dedicated to all things weddings: from lace borders to sequins; and wedding invites and favours. A kaleidoscope of colour and a visual feast even if you don’t buy a thing. Though you almost certainly will.
From here find your way to Khari Baoli, Asia’s largest spice market (you’ll smell it before you see it). Its exotic aromas will wet any appetite, so for the next stop scout out the Old Famous Jalebi walla – a classic Indian sweet and hot sticky pure sugar hit.
Learn about the Mughal history of Old Delhi
From here, take a rickshaw or tuk-tuk to Jama Masjid. Dating back to 1656, it is one of India’s largest mosques. The courtyard alone can accommodate up to 25,000 people. Ascend the 40m high minaret for 360° views of the old city.
Another tuk-tuk ride away is the Red Fort or Lal Qila. Built in 1639 by Shah Jahan, it was home to reigning Mughal emperors until 1857. A sprawling complex of over 250 acres, perambulate its ramparts and learn about its colourful history of sieges, plunder and exiles.
Make your way to New Delhi
If Old Delhi is chaos, then New Delhi is organized chaos. From the Red Fort, head down south to the relative calm, making sure you ask your taxi driver to go via India Gate for an obligatory photo opportunity and optional ice cream stop. Have lunch at Café Lota, located opposite Purana Qila and within the Crafts Museum. A tranquil space serving traditional Indian food from around the country, with a modern twist. Wander throughout the state-by-state exhibitions too.
From here, it’s another taxi ride to Humayun’s Tomb, one of Delhi’s finest examples of Mughal architecture. Completed in 1570, its symmetrical gardens interspersed with sonorous waterways make an utterly idyllic final resting place. At the time of writing there is museum and further garden restoration work being completed, which will make this even more of a worthwhile visit.
If you are in the area on a Thursday, make sure to experience the evening Qawaalis at the Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah, a musically intoxicating experience and an unforgettable way to witness the beauty of Islamic Sufism.
Otherwise, get a taxi to Lodhi Gardens for an afternoon stroll – a favourite pastime of local Delhiwallas. From the gardens you can walk to Kahn Market, central Delhi’s preferred shopping area, filled with worldwide names and local boutiques, as well as bars, restaurants and cafes.
Experience contemporary Delhi
Travellers often dismiss Delhi’s modern culture as not being a part of “real” India. But, for a city made up of tens of millions, comprised of an ever growing middle-class, ‘modern’ India is all they know (and quite frankly all that many are interested in).
Venture further south to Haus Khaz Village, a trendy part of town where the bright young people of Delhi frequent. Here too there are plenty of independent boutiques selling everything from designer clothing to dusty antiques.
Dinner at the Coast cafe is a great spot for traditional South Indian dishes, before, if you’ve got any gas left in your tank, a quick refuel at Social on dry-ice cocktails and kamikaze shots.
Where to stay in Delhi?
Lodhi Road, 110003 New Delhi
The Lodhi is an exquisite, luxurious 5 star hotel located in New Delhi, only a short walk from the to Humayun’s Tomb. The hotel features sensational building facilities, including an outdoor swimming pool, salon, fitness center, spa and massage center, steam and sauna room, a library, a cigar lounge and a business center on premises. Indulgent rooms provide both modern and stylish stay with a great sense of comfort.
Hotel Tara Palace Daryaganj
Hotel Tara Palace, 4606, Plot no. 13, Ansari Road, Daryaganj
Hotel Tara Palace Daryaganj provides a comfortable and modern stay in New Delhi, a short walk from the Red Fort. It’s one of the best value deals in New Delhi. Each room decorated in neutral tones and modern furnishings.
Bloomrooms @ Link Road
7 Link Rd, Jangpura, 110014 New Delhi
Bloomrooms @ Link Road is a modern, well furnished hotel with a cool flair, decorated in a white and sunny yellow theme. The hotel is a 5-minute drive from Humayan’s Tomb and Lodi Gardens. The rooms offer basic amenities and bright and comfortable stay.
Extra tips for visiting Delhi
– Delhi’s metro is great. Modern, unbelievably cheap and seldom crowded. Its only downfall is that it is not as well connected as other cities. When it’s convenient it’s really convenient, but otherwise tuk-tuks and taxis are an easy and affordable way to get around.
– An extreme of two cities, you can pick up a plate of food on the side of the street in Delhi for about 30 rupees (50p) and then drop £50 on lunch in a fancy hotel. Do be careful when eating out. Avoid street vendors unless they are reputable (e.g. the Old Famous Jalebi walla) and always keep plenty of bottled water with you.
– The weather in Delhi can range from pleasant in the day and cold in the evenings, to utterly scorching in the summer. Whatever time of year, women will feel more comfortable if you keep your legs covered. A light shawl is also useful if visiting certain religious sites. Long, loose fitting cottons are ideal and comfy shoes are always a bonus, preferably closed toes if you don’t want your feet to be too grubby by the end of the day!
– Many people find people begging on the streets upsetting. Rather than giving beggars money, an opened packet of biscuits or food is preferable.
– Otherwise just sit back and enjoy the ride. You will enjoy Delhi a lot more if you try not to be too rigid and appreciate the city for all its madness! On that, it will not disappoint.
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Born in South Africa, marinated in the UK, Meg has always had a passion for travel. Whether Interrailing across Europe or traversing Central Asia – her love for the unexplored has remained insatiable. In 2013 Meg moved to New Delhi, and has been writing and blogging; travelling and discovering the length and breadth of India since then. Ladakh and Nagaland are two of her favourite destinations to date, but Goa retains the top spot.