New Delhi, the bustling capital of India, offers a slew of attractions, from open bazaars to regal forts to cultural festivals. These are my top 10 favorite delights of Delhi.
Dilli Haat: A Year-Round Crafts Bazaar
Across from the bustling INA Market, Dilli Haat is a year-round craft bazaar and food court that offers mouthwatering dishes from all over India and a variety of handicrafts from every state in India. Many of the shops hold permanent spots in the market, while many of the stalls rotate every 15 days. You can find everything India has to offer from precious stone jewelry to token elephant statues to beautiful handlooms. You can even find traditional artwork, wood carvings, and a wide variety of luxurious Indian fabrics. It’s a great place for tourists to buy trinkets and gifts. Most of the prices are fixed, but you can still try your luck at haggling. Prices are fair and reasonable, with the money landing up in the hands of the poor craft makers. There is a small, nominal entrance fee priced at Rs. 50.
The Lotus Temple, otherwise known as the Baha’i House of Worship is a world-acclaimed architecture marvel of New Delhi. The exterior facade is beautifully designed in the shape of a white lotus flower and is resonant of the Expressionist art form. There are 9 entrance doors that all open to the center hall. It’s one vast, vaulted hall with lines of wooden benches inside open to the public for prayers. It’s open to devotees of all faiths and religions and not confined to the spirituality-based Baha’i faith. It’s a breathtaking site during Hindu holidays and festivals as the lotus flower is an integral icon of Hinduism. Even though the structure is brilliant during the day, it’s even more stunning during the evening hours when it’s lit up, pressed against the drowning sun. Talk about picture perfect!
Hustle and Bustle of Chandni Chowk
Chandni Chowk is the one of the most crowded and busiest areas of Delhi. It’s a must-see for Delhi neophytes. I agree it can be a bit overwhelming to be surrounded by hordes of people and shoving past persistent hawkers, but it’s a unique experience, to say the least. Although generally pinned as the wholesale market, you can find anything from ethnic bridal wear to everyday household items to jewelry. It truly radiates the traditional spirit of India. The aroma of savory Indian spices such as haldi (turmeric) and tulsi (Holy basil) pervade the air and instill a curiosity for mouthwatering Indian food. It’s known for its rich creamy lassis (refreshing buttermilk drinks), so stop by at one of the food nooks and see what all the hype is about. Hustling through the busy streets and browsing through all the goodies can take quite some time, so expect to spend all day there. Located in the heart of Old Delhi, the miles-long shopping district begins with the Jama Masjid, the biggest mosque in India. Because the area is largely dominated by Muslims, you may be able to find actual beef shish kebabs in some hidden food stall. A piece of advice: try to dress fairly conservatively to ward off the unwanted negative attention that might follow. And also, because it’s so crowded, it’s best to drive to Connaught Place and take the metro from there, just to save time and avoid hour-long traffic delays. Once in Chandni Chowk, it’s easy to travel to other parts of Old Delhi like Darya Gunj. Be cautious of your bags and wallets as it’s notorious for pick-pocketing.
Qutb Minar: The Tallest Minaret in the World
Another UNESCO World Heritage Site in India. It is the tallest brick minaret in the world and a fine example of Indo-Islamic architecture. The marvel lies not only in its size, but also in its intricate scriptures etched around the tower. The 13th century red sandstone monument stands tall at 72.5 meters and towers over the metropolis. There are supplementary monuments and mosques, that are no less impressive and make up the aggregate Qutb Complex. This beautiful structure is definitely worth a visit.
Lodhi Gardens: Sweet Serenity
Aside from the steeply-priced posh spa, there exists a place that can aid in the ultimate relaxation, even amidst the hustle and bustle of Delhi. The best thing of all is that it won’t even put the slightest dent in your wallet! Set in central Delhi, it’s the ideal place to take a stroll, have a midsummer evening picnic, harmonize your mind, body, and soul, meditate and perform outdoor yoga, or even have an open-air chat with an old friend. I can’t promise fresh, crisp air, because there is no such concept in Delhi, but I can promise a relaxed mind and energized body, at least that was true for me. The fast-paced nature of a metropolitan city like Delhi can definitely have its perks, but at times, it can take its toll on you and leave you both mentally and physically fatigued. That’s when the curative properties of gardens and parks fall into place. The park not only offers lush botanical gardens, but further down, you can find the historical site of Lodhi’s tomb, a ruler of the Muslim dynasty that took over during the 16th century. Whether you’re looking to whet your cultural appetite, partake in a leisure activity, or simply recharge your battery, Lodhi Gardens will provide it all…ahh, pure bliss!
Stargazing Under India Gate
Formerly known as the All India War Memorial, India Gate is one of Delhi’s landmarks and can’t be missed. Historically, India Gate is a war memorial that pays homage through its inscriptions etched at the top to all the Indians that died during the bloody days of World War I. Today, it’s a must-see tourist destination of Delhi with scores of people bustling around this commemorative monument at any time of the day. On breezy spring and autumn days, you’ll be sure to witness flocks of middle-class families and couples out on a picnic in front of the Gate. There are plenty of ice-cream and water hawkers for all your midsummer day essentials. It’s located on Rajpath (King’s Path) and is strategically placed across from the Parliament House. In the center of the arch is a small token of respect for the deceased; it’s called Amar Jawan Jyoti, which literally translates to the flame of the eternal soldier, otherwise known as the Unknown Soldier’s Tomb. I think the best time to go is at night when the lights shine bright and you can see the true glory of Delhi. I found it to be a great place to read, especially at night or in the late evening hours, when the stars are out (and mosquitos); it has a unique sense of calmness and unspoken melody, that even the throngs of screaming children and boisterous car horns can not interrupt.
Red Fort: Old Glory
Also referred to as Lal Qila in Hindi, the Red Fort is a relic of the 17th century revealing the creativity of the Mughal architecture under the rule of Emperor Shahjahan (the mastermind behind the Taj Mahal). It encases a considerable amount of Old Delhi with its mile-long walls and multiple facades and pavilions. To truly bask in the glory of the palace, it’s best to go during sunrise. Entrance fee is Rs. 100 and days of operation are Tuesday-Sunday. One thing that is a must is the nightly sound and light show. A blaring anonymous voice over the loud speaker guides you through the highlights of the fort and recounts a tale of undying regalia. It’s every night at 7pm and costs a mere Rs. 20 to enter. The show lasts about 30-45 minutes and gives a complete run-down of what should be taken away from the historical marvel. One piece of advice: cover up as much as you can or you’re likely to be eaten alive by those pesty mosquitoes that come out to play at night. It’s also one of UNESCO’S World Heritage Sites.
Hauz Khas Village
Oozing with historical significance and lined with ancient stone monuments, Hauz Khas Village is regarded as one of Delhi’s premier shopping and residential districts. The upscale locale is buzzing with narrow streets, persistent hawkers, swanky boutiques, tattered Islamic architecture, clusters of concrete houses, rampant water sprinklers, palatable Indian restaurants, budding art galleries, and a small park teeming with deer and other animals. As you can see there’s never a dull moment, but amidst it all, there’s a sweet, placid melody that resonates throughout. I can’t explain it; it’s something you have to see to experience. It’s a great option to spend the entire day here as you can find all your day’s essentials in the area. Go the world-famous Park Balluci restaurant or have your own little picnic in the park. Blow hundreds of dollars at exclusive boutiques like Ogaan during the day and guiltlessly ruminate over your purchases as you take a nice, long stroll along the lake or in the park in the evening. You’ll see a functional mix of both rich and poor families reveling in the small joys of life and basking in sweet serenity.
Indian Prime Minister’s Annual Independence Day Speech
We happened to be in New Delhi on August 15 for India’s Independence Day. Informed by a bunch of natives, we went to the Red Fort early morning on the day of and listened to the Prime Minister of India give a remarkable speech. He does a great job of summarizing the achievements since independence and talks about the future plans of India. He also recaps the year in all its glory. It is quite inspirational and I learned a lot about India’s history in the process.The entire event released a gush of patriotic vibes, even though it’s not our country, and made us feel like we were a part of history. If in the area, I highly recommend it. I would also suggest going early since security is extremely tight and the crowd can get quite large.
International Mango Festival: A Mecca for Mango Aficionados
The International Mango Festival is an annual festival in New Delhi where you can witness scores of mangoes in all types, shapes, colors, and sizes. It’s typically held in the Talkatora Indoor Stadium during the month of June (end). It provides a stunning display of mangoes from all over the country, all 550 varieties as I learned from my crash course from one of the mango vendors. The festival is an opportunity for rural mango cultivators to showcase their commodities and convert them into various edible treats like jams, pickles, and juices. There is even a show during which the top notable chefs of 5-star hotels in Delhi skillfully prepare different dishes using mangoes–interesting and innovative! There are also many competitions and events that take place over the two days, including cultural programs and recreational events like mango-eating competitions, magic shows, mango slogan writing contests, mango carving (much like pumpkin carving during Halloween), and a seminar to expand your knowledge on mangoes. The festival is just a fun mango carnival and highly worth it, considering India produces some of the finest and tastiest mangoes in the world!
If you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing it:
I’m Nyssa. I started The Cultureur in August 2012, almost a decade after contracting the travel bug while on a Model United Nations conference in Russia and Finland.
And from there, when I took the first step in solo international travel and decided to study abroad in college,
there was no looking back, and I ended up living, studying, working, and volunteering in 6 countries (the U.S., the UK, France, Iceland, India, and Germany) and traveling to 50+ others.