Delhi is the capital of India and a bustling metropolis. The Indian culture is a sublime blend of traditional and cosmopolitan, and Delhi is its showcase. Any cultural influence that exists anywhere in the country, has left its footprints in Delhi. Age-old ruins, hidden museums, cosy cafés and much more, Delhi can keep you occupied and exploring for days.
Here are 10 top activities that you must do to soak all that Delhi has to offer.
1. Take a tour down history lane
The history of the city of Delhi is narrated by its ruins and monuments. Built and rebuilt with the rise and fall of empires the city will awe you with its tombs and mausoleums, forts and minarets, colonial mansions and lavish government sprawl. The legacy of every empire stands tall and strong in Delhi. To understand this evolution from the Mughal reign to the British period, visit some of the most famous monuments of the city.
The 12th century Qutub Minar is amongst the finest, oldest and well-preserved monuments of Delhi. The UNESCO world heritage site is a perfect blend of Indo-Islamic architecture. Crafted with red sandstone the tower stands tall at the height of 72.5 meters.
Built during the 17th century, the Red Fort had served as the residence for the Mughal emperor Shahjahan. This fort is a ceremonial place where the Indian Prime Minister unfurls the national flag on Independence Day every year.
The Persian architectural practises of symmetry, domes, arches and gardens were mastered in the Humayun’s tomb (seen above). This tomb paved the way for the building of the Taj Mahal decades later.
Some other prominent Mughal era structures that are a must-visit in Delhi are Jama Masjid, Lodhi Gardens, and Safdarjung Tomb. In the early 19th century, colonial buildings dominated the city’s architectural scene. The Parliament House, Connaught Place, Rashtrapati Bhavan are noteworthy buildings that you can visit from that particular period.
2. Explore museums
Whether you are an art lover, history buff or culture enthusiast, there are several museums dotted across the city for each of your interests.
The National Museum of Delhi is a treasure trove of ancient artefacts dating back to the Indus Valley Civilisation. There are prehistoric bronze and terracotta sculptors that are around 4000 years old. The museum also hosts a coin collection showing the evolution of coins from the sixth century BC to the present times. Indian crafts and handicrafts hold a prominent place in the world.
The National Handicrafts and Handlooms Museum showcases their long-established legacy. The inside of the museum has exhibits of jewellery, pottery, paintings and textiles, while the exterior is a village-like setting showing the vernacular structures from different regions of India.
The Gandhi Museum is dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi. The museum houses his belongings such as the clothes he wore when he was assassinated.
The 18th century Jantar Mantar complex is an open-air exhibit. The observatory houses stone masonry astronomical structures that were used to track the position of planets and stars.
3. Feast on street food
Apart from being a cultural centre, Delhi has also been a culinary epicentre. The Food scene of the city is a mix of many styles and communities. The flavours of the city are a potpourri of Middle Eastern, Central Asian, North Indian ingredients, and the result is a mind-boggling, tongue-tickling array of offerings that one can only find in Delhi.
The cobbled, narrow streets of Chawri Bazar are dotted with is wholesale shops of metalware and many many food stalls. You can sample halwa and poori, kachauri and kulfi here. The Chandni chowk area epitomizes Delhi’s street food. The Paranthewali Gali has innumerable options of stuffed Indian bread with a light curry and tangy sauce. A visit to Ashok Chaat Bhandar is a must when here.
The Connaught Place in New Delhi is a premium commercial district set in concentric circles. These circles are home to some of the most varied food offerings that are vegetarian and non-vegetarian. Be it chicken tikka, mutton curry, or rajma chawal, Connaught Place has food for every pallet. If you are struggling to narrow down your results of what and where to eat, the Zomato app can sort you out. You can even get food delivered to your doorstep with the help of this app.
4. Visit exquisite temples
Cultural diversity in India is visible everywhere, and Delhi has been at its crossroads forever. People of different faiths migrated to this city over the centuries. They settled here and built their respective places of worship adding more diversity to the existing cityscape. There are numerous shrines in the city, and some of them happen to be architectural and historical marvels. The iconic Lotus Temple was constructed in the year 1986 for people of the Bahai religion. This building is made in the form of 27 free standing petals that assumes the shape of the lotus flower.
The Akshardham Temple (seen below) is the largest spiritual complex in the world. This temple is known for its beautifully carved mandapams and pillars. The temple houses statues of more than 20,000 Gods and Goddesses of the Hindu religion
The Hare Rama Hare Krishna Temple is also known as the Isckon temple. It is a centre of learning Vedic Sciences and understanding Hindu philosophies. Many foreigners attend devotional lectures and practise spiritual awakening in this temple.
The Gurdwara Bangla Sahib is a distinguished temple for the people of the Sikh religion. The complex houses the temple, a large pond, a school, and a museum.
5. Stop by famous memorials
Memorials are places that testify to the sacrifice of the great leaders of the country and the struggles of the nation itself. The India Gate is the most prominent of all. It is a memorial dedicated to soldiers of World War I. The 100-year-old structure is often compared to the Triumphal Arch of Paris and is the largest memorial in the country.
The Raj Ghat marks the place where Mahatma Gandhi was cremated after he was assassinated. The memorial has a serene atmosphere. The aura of the place is simple, elegant yet, powerful, befitting the personality of the Father of the Nation. It is located on the banks of the River Yamuna.
There are many other memorials of the country’s popular leaders and martyrs like Vijayghat, Shantivan and Shaktisthal. You can visit a few of them if you have time in hand.
6. Sign up for a walking tour
To unveil the layers of history and have a perspective of real Delhi life, join a walking tour to the old city area of Delhi. These will help you to explore hidden alleys and discover parts of the city that are usually devoid of tourists. A Heritage walk will take you across the monuments, ruins, step-wells and tombs and, a Food walk will cover stalls of food and restaurants across the bazaars. There are many such walks and each of them will provide in-depth knowledge based on the theme.
7. Indulge in a shopping spree
Delhi is home to luxury designer boutiques, huge malls with international brands, chick and trendy fashion markets and local street-side kiosks. The options to shop here are endless for a shopaholic. If you are looking for upscale, classy indie boutiques stores and couture wear, then head to the Khan market. The market also has some cool restaurants and cafes to take a break from shopping. Swarming with young Delhiites and pulsating with high energy Khan market is an excellent place to hang out in the evening.
Delhi also has no dearth of mall options if you want to mall hop. DLF Promenade, Ambiance Mall, Select City Walk and Pacific Mall are only a few to name.
But the real shopping experience lies in the century-old Chandni chowk market. It is the original shopping district of a city and fun to explore even if you don’t want to shop. Each narrow lane has its speciality item ranging from jewellery, fabrics, electronics, saris or spices.
The Sarojini Nagar market offers you a good bang for your bucks with its export surplus designer brands at a throwaway price. New stock arrives every Tuesday, so it’s best to go then. The Paharganj, Janpath and Lajpat Nagar are a few more affordable markets where you can buy a variety of products.
8. Ride a rickshaw
The fun experienced while riding a high-end luxury car anywhere else in the world is similar to hopping on India’s ubiquitous and affordable rickshaws. This slow speed, side open, three-wheeled vehicle lets you absorb the charm and the bustle of the streets without really being a part of it. These colourful carriers may play funky local music and even have funny names. If you want to explore the places in the old city, then autorickshaws are a bet. You can simply hop on and hop off anywhere without hunting for a parking spot, but it is advisable to negotiate the price of the ride beforehand.
9. Grab some handicrafts
The Indian handicraft industry is a source of employment to a large number of the rural population. The capital city has attracted artisans and craftsmen from all across the country to exhibit their skills and products. From lacquer work, pottery, zardozi, mirror work to a host of decorative pieces, there are various handicrafts markets in the city.
Dilli Haat is where craft, cuisine and culture come together from every state and region of the country. It is a magical world of Indian art and heritage. The set-up is like a traditional village market, and the stalls sell native and ethnic products at affordable prices.
Apart from these markets, there are handicrafts emporiums of the state governments housed in the Connaught Place area. You can buy hand-woven carpets, shawls and jewellery from these showrooms.
Delhi also hosts annual extravaganzas as fairs on a large scale. The Surajkund Fair and the exhibit at Pragati Maidan are events where you must go if you happen to be there during the time of their hosting.
10 . Take a day trip
Whilst in Delhi you can explore some well-known and off the beaten places in the proximity on day trips. The Taj Mahal in Agra is around 200 km from Delhi. It is one of the most coveted attractions of India, but there’s nothing much to do in the city of Agra itself, so taking a day trip or a weekend trip from Delhi makes much more sense.
Mathura is a spiritual hub of the country and en-route to Agra. A trip to Mathura and Vrindavan (these are close together) can be an option for a weekend getaway from Delhi.
If you are a food lover and Indian cuisine is your thing, head to the town of Murthal. Here roadside stalls and restaurants serve some of the best Indian bread and curries. The best way to do such trips is to hire a cab from a local travel agency or book an outstation Uber or Ola cab through its app, which is available for select cities.
The old and the New Delhi feature two very different worlds and exploring all of it can become very difficult on a short trip. At the same time, this handsome jumble of activities can be difficult to perform with ever-increasing traffic and weather. The best season to visit Delhi is between October to March and keep at least a week in hand if you don’t want “been there done that”- kind of trip. Add some of the suggestions from this list onto your Delhi travel itinerary for some great experiences during your trip.
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