What is the first thing you think of when you think about Delhi?
Let me take a guess - Rashtrapati Bhavan and politicians!!?
But Delhi is so much more than just the political capital of India.
For me (and for the 4.5 crore odd people residing here)... it’s home. And I’m here to tell you exactly why the city is so special! First things first, Delhi has something for EVERYONE - the old soul, the shopper, the foodie and the adventure seeker!
Whatever be your fix... my city has it!!!
Let's begin with what every tourist comes to Delhi for - the sights!
Our capital city has been at the epicentre for many a dynasty that ruled India over the centuries. The result? Grand monuments and ruins alike.
Here is a glimpse into some of my favourite sights in the capital city:
1. India Gate: The foundation to this memorial for the martyrs of World War I was laid on the 10 February 1921. One of the largest war memorials in the country, India Gate still houses the flames of the inextinguishable Amar Jawan Jyoti - lit in remembrance and reverence of the fallen heroes. India Gate is surrounded by acres of gardens that are popular “Sunday Picnic” spots that actually lead to the Rashtrapati Bhawan and the Mughal gardens.
2. The Red Fort: Commissioned by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan on May 12, 1638; this historical monument is where our national flag is hoisted on the 15th of August each year since independence. They do have an incredible ‘Light and sound’ show as well, but tourists are advised to pre book their seats so as to avoid disappointment.
3. Agrasen ki Baoli: A baoli, is a local term for what we all commonly know as ‘Stepwell’. This historical sight is one of the best preserved baolis in Delhi. It spans over three levels and has 108 steps! A photographer’s dream backdrop, this baoli was built by king Agrasen and rebuilt during the 14th century. A must see when in Delhi
4. Qutub Minar: Also a world heritage site, the Qutub Minar is a victory tower whose construction started in 1199, by Qutub-ud-din Aibak. The iron pillar, that shares the complex with the Qutub Minar in the Quwwatul Mosque grounds, has quite a legend behind it… It’s said that whosoever can successfully wrap their arms (from behind their backs, mind you!) around the pillar, will get his/her dearest wish granted!
The area around the monument is home to the flagship stores of some of the biggest names in Indian fashion, making it a very popular destination for wedding shopping. The luxurious fashion stores are flanked by new age eateries that excel in cuisines from around the world. So do make sure you keep aside at least a day to do justice to this area when you visit.
5. Humayun’s Tomb and Sunder Nursey: A world heritage site, this was actually India’s first garden tomb that was commissioned by Humayun’s first wife, Bega Begum in 1558. Today, it is flanked by some of the capital’s most beautiful gardens- the Sunder Nursery which boasts of a variety of flora and beautiful landscaping. The nursery even has an area cordoned off for peacocks to live in!!! It is one of Delhi’s most loved spot for picnics and farmer’s markets!
All that sightseeing is bound to get you super hungry so let’s explore the food paradise that Delhi is!
The gastronomical side of Chandini Chowk
The busiest and perhaps the most popular market of Old Delhi, is a food haven for anyone visiting Delhi. There is so much to see, do and eat here, (probably deserving of a blog of its own!) But I’m going to keep it short and tell you my childhood favourites:
Gole Hatti at Khari baoli, Fatehpuri for palak paneer and rice in earthen pots
Gyanis for kulfi falooda
Jalebi wala at Dariba Kalan
Kake-di-hatti at Khari Baoli for Delhi’s biggest naan!!!
Kucha Ghasiram for exquisite aloo bedmi poori.
Apart from Chandini Chowk, Delhi has a few legendary eateries as well:
Karims at Jama Masjid
Moti Mahal at Darya Ganj (this is the oldest one that has played host to an array of celebrities from Gordon Ramsay to John F Kennedy)
Shyam Sweet House at Chawri Bazar.
Also if you happen to visit during the winter months, the Daulat ki Chaat (India’s version of the whipped cream) available locally - will blow your mind!
With tummies full, it’s time to burn out those calories! Here’s where to head to next:
1. Adventure Island (Rohini; Delhi) - complete with a food and shopping arcade and easy metro accessibility, this adventure park has some really fun and thrilling rides. A must visit for those who love roller coasters!
2. The Delhi Zoo- spread across 176 acres, the National Zoological Park is home to a number of exotic and even some endangered animals. Rumour has it that Virtual Reality experiences too will be available here soon, but you might want to check on this beforehand.
3. Bicycle tour of Delhi 6 - several companies provide Bicycle tours of old Delhi, whose pincode is 110006, ergo Delhi-6. This, in my mind it is the most fun way of exploring the hidden gems of the old city!
For the real adventure seekers, you can get your adrenaline pumping with Go Karting, Power Paragliding and Paintball. The options are limitless, as are the centres available for for these fun activities. I’d recommend finding options for such excursions that are located nearest your hotel so that you don’t waste a day in transit! (For all the things I love about this city, I do detest the traffic).
With the “What to see and eat in Delhi” checklists nearly complete; it's time to indulge in some much needed retail therapy. And these places won’t disappoint you...I promise!
1. The Dilli Haat- Curios and crafts from all over the country, comfortably available in one place, the Dilli Haat is an open air market where you can spend hours indulging in handicrafts and heavenly food from all corners of the country! The best MOMOs in town are available here at the Arunachal Tourism Food Stall. So take a break from shopping and indulge in a plate with a bottle of water handy to douse the flames in your mouth after trying the super spicy ‘momo sauce.’
2. Janpath and Connaught place- Home to cottage emporium and every Delhi-ites first street shopping (and haggling) experience! This market, nestled in the heart of the city, has something for everyone- from kolhapuri chappals to handmade leather bags, you’ll find it all here.
And finally, to satiate your spiritual soul and gain blessings worth a lifetime, I highly recommend experiencing the serenity at Bangla Saheb, the Qawwali at Jama Masjid, the Mass at the Sacred Heart Church, and take in the history and mythology at the Akshardham and Lotus Temple.
Delhi is an experience in itself. But time permitting, there are short day/weekend trips around Delhi that you can also plan. A two-hour road trip away is Agra. Head there to experience the magnificent wonder of the world - The Taj Mahal, first hand. You can also flavour Rajasthani culture at Neemrana Fort, that’s only a short three hour drive away (halfway between Delhi and Jaipur)!
Do try to check all these boxes off your list on your next visit to the city. Be sure to tell us what you loved the most.