Delhi, city of djinns and history, is one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world. From the glittering Mughal minarets of the old city to the orderly structure of colonial New Delhi, the city has been built and rebuilt several times over. This history is evident in its every turn—four-lane highways opening up to centuries-old ruins. This rich and colourful past, coupled with a new, thriving culture brought in by migrants from all around the world, gives Delhi an identity that is uniquely its own.
Whether you’re a veteran to the city or only visiting for a few days, here are some things to do in Delhi that you just shouldn’t miss:
Explore Old Delhi on Foot
The winding lanes of Old Delhi, former Shahjahanabad, bear testament to centuries of Mughal rule. Start your walk at the Red Fort, built by Shah Jahan in the 17th century, and continue onwards to Chandni Chowk, one of the oldest and busiest of Delhi’s markets. Take a detour through Dariba Kalan, Asia’a largest jewellery market to shop for silver and curios, before heading to the famous Jama Masjid, one of the largest mosques in India. End your walk with a traditional Mughlai meal at Karim’s or Al Jawahar in the Masjid area.
Pro tip: If you’re in the area on a Sunday, don’t miss the Sunday Book Market at Daryaganj, a two-kilometre long stretch of pavement that sells old books at incredibly cheap prices.
Go for an Early-morning Run at Lodi Gardens
Morning walks at Lodi Gardens, near Khan Market, is where you can meet Delhi’s social and political elite. The Gardens themselves are beautiful: a lush, sprawling stretch of green in the heart of the city. If you’re historically inclined, spend some time at the tombs of Sikander Lodi or Mohammad Shah, or simply enjoy a lazy picnic on the lawns with friends.
Pro tip: When you’re done roaming the Gardens, head over to the Indian Habitat Centre for some breakfast and maybe an exhibition or two.
Stroll down Rajpath, the Country’s Seat of Power
Central Delhi, often called Lutyens’ Delhi after the British architect who designed it, is the seat of political power in Delhi, and the country. Start with the Rashtrapti Bhawan, on Raisina Hill, and walk down the Rajpath. On your way are the Secretariat Building, which houses the PM’s office and various ministries, and the Parliament of India at Vijay Chowk. End your walk at the India Gate, India’s memorial to honour the soldiers who lost their lives at war.
Pro tip: The area is best visited in the evening, when the buildings are brilliantly lit and the Amar Jawan Jyoti at India Gate shines bright. Definitely high on our list of things to do in Delhi!
Spend a Day at Humayun’s Tomb
It’s hard to pick only a monument to visit in Delhi: there are so many to choose from! But if we could recommend only one, it would be the tomb of Mughal Emperor Humayun in Nizamuddin East. Built in red sandstone, and with intricate inlay work that reflects Central Asian and Persian influences, this building is an architectural marvel. The 30-acre Char Bagh Gardens that surround the tomb, built in traditional Persian style, are also breathtaking.
Pro tip: While you’re in the area, pay a visit to Purana Qila (Old Fort), around ten minutes away.
Eat, Drink and Shop at Paharganj
Right in front of the Delhi Railway Station is a stretch of street called the Paharganj Main Market—an assorted medley of budget hotels, souvenir shops and hole-in-the-wall eating joints. Mainly frequented by backpackers from around the world, Paharganj is the perfect place to shop everything from curios to brightly coloured harem pants and leather bags. When you’re done shopping, stop by for a cheap drink at My Bar; sample some schnitzel and hummus at Diamond Cafe or try authentic soju at The Shim Tur Korean Cafe.
Pro tip: If you’re looking for something more meaningful, you can take a walking tour of the area, organized by former street kids, in association with the Salaam Balak Trust.
Listen to the qawwali at Nizamuddin Dargah
The Nizamuddin Dargah, the mausoleum of Sheikh Nizamuddin Auliya, might seem a little unprepossessing at first, but you’ll change your mind once you hear the qawwali there. It happens every Thursday from 6 P.M.-7.30 P.M. A mystic, transformative experience. Hundreds of believers flock to the Dargah each week to listen to the chanting rhythms of the qawwali and to pay homage to the great Sufi saint Auliya. The tomb of poet Amir Khusro is also located within the complex.
Pro tip: Mirza Ghalib’s tomb is also in the vicinity. The famous Ghalib Academy is located near the tomb.
Party it Up at Hauz Khas Village
Once a tiny village that sprung up around a reservoir built by Allauddin Khilji, Hauz Khas today is a jumbling maze of narrow alleys lined with the trendiest eateries and pubs in South Delhi. By the day, history buffs and canoodling couple roam the ruins (which houses Firoz Shah’s tomb, a madrasa and a mosque), but as night falls, the place lights up to welcome youngsters coming in to drink, dance and party at HKV (as it’s popularly called). Most places have live music nights and you can party the night away at one of the endless pubs and restaurants in the area.
Pro tip: If you’re on the lookout to invest in some good art, Hauz Khas has many art galleries; most popular among them is Delhi Art Gallery, which showcases work by upcoming contemporary artists.
History, culture, green parks at every turn: the capital city has a lot to offer. We hope this list will help you move beyond Delhi’s tough, reticent exterior, and delve into the city’s many delights like a local!