Delhi – It’s is where we grew up and went to school. Some of our closest friends and family still reside in the bustling metropolis. It’s also home to some of our favourite historical sites and restaurants. We’ve been quizzed about why we haven’t written much about New Delhi but the fact of the matter is that it’s hard to write a Top 10 style list when you know a place a bit too well! 🙂
But this year we wanted to rectify that and pen a list of some of our favourite things to do in Delhi – there’s something here irrespective of whether you live in the city or you’re visiting for the first time. There’s also dining options (and a LOT of food) with options to suit every budget. Needless to say, this list will keep getting updated every time we are in the city 🙂 Hope you enjoy this list of shopping haunts, restaurants, spas, and historical gems in Delhi:
I) Explore Historical gems at Mehrauli Archaeoligical Park
Mehrauli Archaeological Park is a hidden gem we would recommend to everyone visiting New Delhi. The sprawling park houses some stunning historical and archaeological sites. Our favourite is an ancient stepwell (Rajon ki Baoli) overlooking a crumbling mosque. It is off the beaten path, so you will not find too many tourists here. Nevertheless go early if you want the entire place to yourself! Entrance is free and it is at walking distance from the Qutub Minar Metro Station.
II) Admire Archaeological splendour at Humayun’s Tomb
Another magnificent archaeological wonder is Humayun’s Tomb. The historical site has recently undergone a major refurbishment and is in great shape! It’s easy to spend a few hours exploring the complex – spend your time fawning over intricate ceilings, exploring the complex, and running your fingers along walls that tell many a tale. When you’re exhausted, rest in the sprawling lawns at Humayun’s Tomb. If you’re a keen photographer, then we’d suggest visiting Humayun’s Tomb early. It gets quite crowded as the day progresses, which makes it impossible to get good photographs. Entry fee is INR 30 (for Indian nationals) and INR 500 (for foreigners)
III) Pamper session at Alaya Spalon
Asia is popular for affordable beauty treatments and New Delhi is no different. But it’s hard to find a place that is centrally located, good, yet affordable. I love Alaya Spalon because it’s a one stop shop for a day of pampering – it’s a spa and salon rolled into one, so I always drop by there for a bit of preening between trips. Start the day with a haircut and colour (Ashish does a great job!), waxing, brow threading and other such. Once the essentials are out of the way, pamper yourself with a lush massage at Alaya. Alaya is a unisex spalon and offers a range of services for men too. Vid loves the foot massage here and gets it done every time we’re in Delhi!
IV) Take a day trip to iconic Old Delhi
Even the most cursory list of attractions in Delhi will list Old Delhi as one of the top things to do in the capital of India. And not without reason. Old Delhi might be manic but it is well and truly sensational! What’s more it has something to offer, irrespective of whether you’re a foodie, shopaholic, or culture vulture.
We suggest starting your day trip in Old Delhi at the crack of dawn. Explore its historical by-lanes at this hour – the quiet is akin to the lull before the storm. Within hours of shops opening, there will be no place to step foot in these cramped alleys. Next move on to Lal Quila (Red Fort) and Jama Masjid (one of the largest mosques in India).
We are sure you would’ve worked up an appetite by now. Enjoy breakfast at Paranthe Wali Gali where deep fried flatbreads are served with a variety of pickles and curries. Alternatively sample chaat (tangy moreish nibbles) around the Chawri Bazaar Metro Station. Wrap up the meal with dessert at Daulat Ki Chaat. Wash it all down with a cup of steaming hot masala chai.
Spend your afternoon exploring the busy by-lanes of Khari Baoli (The Spice Market) , Kinari Bazaar, or Chandni Chowk – these are the perfect places to shop your heart away. Don’t forget to bargain.
V) Explore Lodi Garden and Safdarjung Tomb
If you’re in Delhi just for a day or two and want to explore historical gems that are centrally located yet stunning, then head straight to Lodi Garden. The garden is located in close proximity to Khan Market and easily accessible from most areas in South and Central Delhi. It is a popular photography spot and if you go early, you’ll even spot pre-wedding photo shoots taking place. Pack a picnic or drop by Lodi- The Garden Restaurant for a spot of brunch and champagne. Nom.
Safdarjung Tomb is a ten minute walk from Lodhi Garden. This forgotten monument barely receives any visitors and shows signs of neglect. But it is still one of the prettier monuments in Delhi and its palm laden interiors betray a history spanning centuries.
VI) Sample Japanese Food at Pan Asian, Sheraton (Saket)
If you read Bruised Passports, then you are probably aware of Vid’s unending love for Japanese food. They are in a committed relationship, no kidding! 🙂 So we’re always on the hunt for good Japanese restaurants wherever we go. That’s how we discovered Pan Asian two years ago. Ever since, we’ve gone back numerous times. The restaurant serves a variety of delicious Asian food but Chef Vaibhav is truly passionate (and knowledgable) about Japanese food. Vid loves the sushi and miso-marinated Black Cod at Pan Asian and I really enjoy their salmon tataki, tofu and artichoke tartare, and salads – one time we enjoyed our meal so much that I actually convinced the chef into teaching me how to roll the perfect sushi roll. Pan Asian is inside Sheraton Hotel, Saket. A meal here costs approximately INR 4000.
VII) Shop and binge on street food in Paharganj
Paharganj is often dismissed as the backpacking Mecca of New Delhi. While that is true, there is so much more to the area than just that! Paharganj is home to one of my favourite street markets in Delhi – the Paharganj market has dozens of shops selling colourful jewellery and laid-back cotton clothes at extremely affordable rates. Try hitting a couple of the fixed price shops for jewellery and souvenirs (everything costs £1/INR 100) if you don’t enjoy bargaining. If you’re hungry, there are 2 iconic stalls in the Paharganj Market that sell lassi (a sweet yogurt based drink) and chole bhature (curried chickpeas and fried flatbreads). The area also has several affordable rooftop bars. Use public transport as there are barely any parking spaces here – take a cab or use the Delhi Metro. The market is a 1 minute walk away from Ramakrishna Ashram Marg Station. You can combine your visit to Paharganj with a stroll in Connaught Place too.
VIII) Try Kebabs at Khan Chacha or Al Kauser
There is no dearth of legendary eateries in Delhi. Everyone seems to have a favourite. So do we. If you want to try typical North Indian kebabs (marinated and grilled meats), then try the iconic kebab rolls at Khan Chacha in Khan Market. Chunks of tender grilled meat are wrapped in flatbreads with a dash of tangy coriander chutney. If you’re craving a more elaborate meal, then try Al Kauser in Vasant Vihar for decadent Mughlai food on a budget. Don’t leave without trying Al Kauser’s signature melt-in-your-mouth Shammi kebabs (minced meat patties) or biryani. Both restaurants have plenty of vegetarian options and a meal at either restaurant will set you back by less than INR 500 per person.
IX) Dine in the shadow of Qutub Minar in Mehrauli
Qutub Industrial Area is one of our favourite areas for a languorous meal in the capital. Lavaash by Saby offers a unique menu that is a mix of Armenian and Bengali cuisine. Try their delectable mustard grilled fish or hilsa prawns. The restaurant is done up well and offers al-fresco meals overlooking the Qutub Minar. Olive Bar and Kitchen is another one of our favourites in the area. It doesn’t offer a view of Qutub Minar but its hand-rolled pizzas and wine list more than make up for it – a classic perfect for lunch or dinner. A meal at either restaurant will set you back by INR 2500.
X) Hunt for third wave coffee
How could we wind off a list of favourites without a coffee shop? Unfortunately it’s quite hard to find third-wave coffee in New Delhi – however things are changing fast!
If you, like us, can’t do without your fix of gourmet coffee, then try drop by Blue Tokai. The cafe is a tad hard to find but the brew makes it worth it. Another little gem is Coffee Bond – it is quite centrally located in Uday Park and brews a fine cuppa.
XI) Explore Lodhi Art District
Lodhi Art District is perfect if you enjoy street art. It’s akin to an open-air museum as a lot of the walls have intricate and colourful paintings on them – think London’s Bricklane or New York’s Bushwick! Walk around and you’ll see dozens of walls with everything from flora and fauna to graphic designs and symmetrical patterns on them. Highly recommended if you enjoy urban culture and art.
Accommodation in Delhi
If you are visiting New Delhi for a short time, we would suggest staying in Central or South Delhi to make the most of your visit. There are plenty of hotels to choose from. Shangri La in central Delhi (Connaught Place) is conveniently located and offers luxurious rooms and some great dining options. If you prefer to stay in South Delhi, then Hyatt Regency and ITC Sheraton are good options. If you’re on a budget, the localities of Saket, Hauz Khas and Khan Market have several home-stays and B&Bs that offer great rooms at competitive prices.
Getting Around in New Delhi
We wouldn’t recommend driving in Delhi unless you are accustomed to driving in manic traffic. Cabs are cheap and plentiful – Just Uber it everywhere! You can also get private rental cars with a driver for a few days. The Delhi Metro connects most major markets and sites in the city.
Shopping In New Delhi
If you’re a keen shopper and you’re visiting New Delhi, then there is no dearth of shopping opportunities for you. A couple of the shopping haunts mentioned above, such as Paharganj, Sarojini Nagar, and Old Delhi, offer a chance to pick colourful and archetypical Indian handicrafts and jewellery. However if you want your fix of high street stores such as Zara, H&M, Forever 21, Aeropostale, and Mango then just head to one of the malls in Delhi – we like Ambience Mall in Vasant Kunj for a spot of high-street shopping!
New Delhi also boasts of quite the nightlife. Leave us a comment below if you would like to see a list of some of our favourite breweries, clubs, and bars in the capital?