October 18, 2018
What are the best things to see and visit in Delhi, India?
A city steeped in history and politics, India’s capital city Delhi has two distinct characters.
Delhi’s old city, bustling bazaars and historic monuments will show you a nation rich in tradition, history, culture and energy. On the flipside there’s New Delhi – with the buildings and enclaves planned and built by the British, as well as the modern, contemporary side of the city that’s showcases all the modern developments you find in the west – shopping malls, fine dining, new highways and constructions.
For many travelling to India from Australia, Delhi is often an exit or entry point into India. A popular route or tour of India for many is the Golden Triangle – consisting of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur – or a longer private tour of Rajasthan which includes the famed Rajasthan cities of Udaipur, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Agra, Delhi and Ranthambore National Park for tiger safaris. For longer tours of North India we suggest adding in Varanasi and a stay in rural India. Whatever tour of north India you are planning, it’s likely you will start or end in Delhi.
So what is there to see and do in Delhi and is it worth including as a stop during a holiday in India? The short answer is yes. In fact, for those with time and who like to explore a city in depth we believe Delhi is a city where you can easily spend 3 or 4 days, with plenty of sights to see and interesting activities and experiences to have in Delhi. If you arrive into Delhi and have the time to ease into your India travel – to start slowly and to take time to get over any jetlag – we can easily create an itinerary that includes an interesting few days in Delhi covering more than just Delhi’s highlights and main sights. If you don’t have much time – you can cover a few of these in 2 days.
Here is a list of things to see in Delhi, in no particular order. Our list includes a mixture of sights, places to eat in Delhi, experiences, recommendations for the best places to shop in Delhi and other favourite to dos of ours.
#1 Old Delhi
Start with the old before you see the new. Take a cycle rickshaw ride or walking tour through Old Delhi. Discover the Bridal Street where soon to be brides come to shop for ribbons, decorations and adornments for their nuptials; stop and try the street snacks and sweets the lanes are famous for; and see Karol Bagh the old spice market and said to be the largest in Asia. Whilst you are in Old Delhi, visit Jama Masjid, one of the largest mosques in India.
#2 Big ticket monuments
Your time in Delhi could easily be filled with visiting its ancient monuments. The big drawcards include Qutab Minar – with its impressive 72.5 metre tower, Humayan’s Tomb – a must see in our books – and Jantar Mantar. (We strongly suggest skipping Delhi’s Red Fort. It’s crowded and chaotic and not at all impressive. If you are heading to Agra you will visit the Red Fort of Agra and have an overall better experience. ) A small travel tip – some of these big ticket sights open early (6am or sunrise) which is an ideal time to visit to avoid the crowds, the heat of the day depending on the time of year you are visiting, and Delhi’s traffic. It also means if you are trying to squeeze in a lot in Delhi in a short number of days, then you can maximise your time in the city. We went to Qutab Minar at 7am on a recent stay in Delhi and it was beautiful and peaceful.
# 3 Drive through Lutyens Delhi
Marvel at the architecture of Edward Lutyens in New Delhi with a drive past the buildings of New Delhi designed and constructed by the British when they establish the city as the capital. See India Gate, the parliament and the president’s house.
# 4 Visit a Sikh temple
Visit Gurudawara Bangla Sahib – one of the biggest and most significant Sikh temples in Delhi. See the striking gold domes on the roof, pause and listen to the singing of the sacred texts, marvel at the workings of the temple kitchen and notice the contrasts of the white marble temple and those who come to visit dressed in their finest and brightest of clothes. Visiting the Gurudawara and observing the rituals and customs here has been a highlight for us on many occasions and one we love to share with our guests. (Both men and women will need to cover their heads here.)
For the more experienced India traveller or those wanting a deeper, more intense experience, visit the Sufi Dargah at Nizzamuddin. The colourful, energetic, crowded and chaotic lanes and streets that wind to the dargah are not for those who don’t like crowds. But it’s here where you can truly feel the energy and power of worship. It’s said that on some nights of the week around dusk you can also hear devotional songs being sung. We visited on a Sunday afternoon. Ladies need a scarf or shawl to cover their heads and only men can go into the dargah and make an offering. It wasn’t too crowded when we went but it was buzzing with energy and full of people.
#6 Take a walk in Lodhi Gardens
One of the most appealing parts of Delhi, which other Indian cities lack, are its green spaces and parks. One of the nicest parks in Delhi is Lodhi Gardens. Rise early and join locals for a morning walk or jog through Lodhi Gardens, or visit at any time of the day and you’ll see people resting on the green grass, taking picnics, or exercising among the 15thcentury ruins that dot the landscape in this sprawling green park. The gardens are especially popular on weekends during the cooler months.
#7 Spoil yourself with a stay at one of the best luxury hotels in Delhi
Delhi is home to a number of fabulous luxury hotels. Here are a few worth splurging on.
> The Imperial – One of India’s finest luxury hotels and a grand heritage icon. This art deco masterpiece has hosted world leaders old and new, Bollywood stars, weddings and ordinary travellers such as us. Expect outstanding service, elegant interiors and an impressive swimming pool you’ll want to linger by if you are travelling during India’s hotter months. A stay at The Imperial hotel is reason enough in itself to visit Delhi. Be sure to linger over breakfast on the light-filled terrace, take a stroll through the hotel to take in its impressive art collection and pieces, make time for a drink in the bar and avail yourself of the yoga offered each morning.
> The Lodhi – With elegant, modern interiors The Lodhi is an oasis of cool and calm. Be prepared to be wowed by the private plunge pool in your suite, or laze by the long lap pool (pictured here below) during the hot Delhi days. Foodies are likely to be attracted to a stay at The Lodhi as it hosts Indian Accent on site. (see below.)
Other luxury hotels in Delhi include The Oberoi New Delhi and Taj Palace New Delhi.
What are some of the other best places to stay in Delhi?
In terms of accommodation, Delhi has a range of options to suit all budgets. Some of the other places we recommend for our clients are:
> Thikana – this boutique bed and breakfast has welcomed our travellers for years now. Welcoming hosts will provide you tips and information on where to go and what to see in Delhi. A home away from home, and great for travellers wanting a more personal experience during a private tour of India.
#8 Shop at Khan Market
Khan Market enclave is one of Delhi’s best places to shop, popular with both middle class Indians and expats alike. Khan Market is a pleasant and easy place to spend a few hours. It’s home to some of the more modern Indian boutiques – such as Fab India, Good Earth, Anokhi – there’s also plenty of home wares and souvenir shops you can find small mementoes to take home with you, plenty of fashion boutiques and some great book stores. There are also many new cafes and restaurants where you can take lunch, coffee and croissants, or even a glass of wine.
#9 Explore Haus Khaz
Haus Khaz is the arts enclave of Delhi – where you can find some independent galleries, as well as small boutiques and stores. There are also several cafes and bars here, so it attracts Delhi’s younger crowd at parts of the day. We’ve always loved having a bit of a poke around Haus Khaz – there are a few boutiques we love here, a nice café serving lighter healthy options for lunch and a great spa for a pedicure. However we were there at the end of September and though it had gone downhill a bit. We’ll go back again next year and reassess. For now it still makes our list, but if you are short of time then Khan Market is a better option.
#10 Dine at Indian Accent
Voted India’s best restaurant for several years running and listed as one of the Top 50 in Asia, Indian Accent will reveal to you the best of contemporary Indian cuisine. It’s a restaurant worth travelling for! Our personal preference is to savour the full tasting menu pared with wines, though there is an a la carte menu. It’s recently moved to a beautiful new location at The Lodhi. Ask us to reserve your table when we design your custom made private tour of India.
On the topic of food, a new discovery for us was Juggernaut restaurant in Greater Kailish. Opened in 2017, Juggernaut serves incredible South India fare (dosa, idli, wada), north and south Indian thalis, fresh juices, great chai and good, strong coffee. The restaurant is light-filled with pretty wall paintings and a live sitar player some days. We loved Juggernaut and ate their everyday during a recent 4-day stay in Delhi. It’s immaculate, the food fresh and high quality, and superbly tasty! A real gem to find!
Flights from Australia often arrive early morning into Delhi, when there is not many places open for breakfast other than the big buffet spreads at hotels, and it’s too early to check-in to your hotel. Juggernaut is a great first stop when you land in Delhi – it opens early and after a long flight a decent meal and a hot chai or coffee can help you energise for the day!
#12 India Cooking Class
If you are interested in food and would like to learn a few of the secrets of Indian recipes, a cooking class in a family home is a fun, relaxed way to do so. Let us introduce you to some of our favourite hosts – who will welcome you into their home in Delhi for a private cooking class and meal. Uncover the secrets of Indian cooking, enjoy conversation with a Delhi resident and gain some new culinary skills with which to impress your friends upon your return home.
#13 India on a plate
Still on the topic of food – Indian cuisine is diverse and varies greatly from state to state. There’s much more to it than the butter chicken and dal widely eaten in the west! Ingredients differ depending on what is grown locally (think about the rice grown and favoured at meals in south India versus the wheat crops of the Punjab in the north where breads are consumed with meals more often), flavours shifts and ways of cooking are specific to local areas. If you aren’t travelling far afield on your holiday in India but are keen to explore its diverse food cultures – there are a number of regional restaurants in Delhi where you can taste some, for example Assam Bhavan and Andhra Bhavan.
#14 Play golf
Golf enthusiasts should make time for at least one round of golf while they are in Delhi, with the city being home to two courses – the Delhi Golf Club and the Qutab Golf Course. The Delhi Golf Club is set on grounds that were once part of Humayun’s Tomb Complex. The course is littered with 16thcentury monuments built from red sandstone and peacocks roam the greens freely. Experience the championship 18-hole Lodhi Course – where the 6thhole could be the toughest with its narrow fairway and dense surrounding scrub. Afterwards, linger in the clubhouse for lunch and drink. (To find out more about golfing in India – see our Heritage Golf India tour by our small group touring brand Remarkable East. This itinerary can be put together as a private golf tour in India for you.)
#15 Take a stroll in Connaught Place
Connaught Place is a good option for a bit of shopping, lunch or evening dinner and drinks. Centred around a circle of heritage style buildings, this busy business and shopping district is home to many of the global shopping brands, but also has a number of street vendors, local shops, restaurants and bars. At night it is quite lively and busy. Connaught Place is located close to Jantar Mantar, Gurudawara Bangla Sahib and the Imperial hotel so all can be visited together.
#16 Test your bargaining skills at Dilli Haat
There are a number of Dilli Haats in Delhi – outdoor government run markets or emporiums. You have to pay a small entrance fee to get in. Inside the market you will find food stalls, and many small shops and vendors selling handicrafts, trinkets, clothing, home wares, souvenirs, bangles, bags, bed covers and the like. Be prepared to bargin!
#17 Triveni Terrace Café & Gallery
Triveni is also a new favourite of ours – for the galleries and the café. After a busy morning of seeing Old Delhi and the sights – Triveni is a welcome retreat and change of pace. Stop in and visit the small galleries with their modern exhibitions and linger on the terrace of the outdoor café. Sip (delicious) chai and munch on Indians snacks, cake or sandwiches and enjoy the quiet gardens and outdoors space.
#18 Lotus Temple
Marvel at the impressive architecture at Delhi’s Bahai temple. See the beautiful white building built in the shape of the lotus flower. The temple is closed on Mondays.
#19 Train Museum
We’ve included this one for family travel in India. India’s has the largest railway network in India. A day or overnight trip by train in India is a great experience if you like train travel and one we often include for our travellers. Discover some of India’s train history and see some of its old locomotives at the Train Museum in Delhi. A good option if you are travelling in India with children and need some activities that aren’t temples and monuments!
#20 Art Fix
Art lovers can get their fix at the National Gallery of Modern Art in Delhi, spread over two buildings and with several sculptures in the small surrounding garden. Part of the exhibition we enjoyed – but some of it we didn’t rate at all. If you are short on time skip the gallery. If you are an art enthusiast and what some context and history for Indian art then make a short stop to the gallery.
#21 India Habitat Centre
Head to the India Habitat Centre to catch a contemporary or classical Indian cultural performance or exhibition – a lovely space and a great variety of shows. Head to their website for daily listings of what’s on.
#22 Markets and bazaars
If you like the hustle and bustle of local markets and bazaars, there are a number of places to go in Delhi. Some of the markets you can visit in Delhi including the Tibetan Handicrafts market on Janpath, Chandni Chowk, Lajpat Nagar and Dilli Haat (see above.)
These are some of the things you can see and do in Delhi. Contact us if you’d like to receive a detailed itinerary for a private tour of India.
You may also like to read our other travel blogs: