Delhi has been the capital of South Asia for centuries. As epochs melt away into time and new regimes come to power, the remnants of the old remain, adding to the massively diverse character of Delhi. With the passing of time, the city expands and builds on top of the past; the gates of the Mughal Empire lead the traveler into the towers of international corporations. In a single day, one can get lost in the royal past in the massive and venerable edifices of Mughal India, view Hindu art from all ages, eat the finest cuisine in the world, attend a business meeting in a gleaming skyscraper, and drink a premium espresso-based coffee drink. The city is sprawling, and each neighborhood has a different face. In it’s current incarnation, New Delhi is an international business center and the capital of the most cutting-edge culture in India. New Delhi is where all young Indians aspire to be.
Since many people fly into the New Delhi Airport, it is likely that you will end up with at least a day or two in the city. As a traveler in Delhi, you will be able to find any face of the city to meet your interests and desires. However, you may find that it takes a few days to get beyond the new cement façade of New Delhi and into the spirited heart of Delhi proper. Delhi has an extremely lively nightlife, with dance halls, bars, clubs, cinemas, theaters, and British-style gentleman’s clubs. There is a huge array of shopping, especially in the famous Connaught Place, a shopping city within the city. There are also many fascinating museums to check out.
The tourist ghetto near the train station, Pahar Ganj, offers a broad array of accommodations and restaurants, but travelers who plan on spending more than a few days are advised to expand their horizons. The city is arranged in a sprawling series of enclaves, and you can find your own temporary home in the Tibetan enclave, Sarfdarjung, among the white faces of the expatriate community, or in the authentically Mughal old city. The brand new metro system makes travel around the city much easier and more pleasurable than it used to be.
Things to do in
A must see is the incredible Nizamuddin Dargah, one of the most famous Sufi shrines in the world. Sufism is the open-minded mystic branch of Islam, and a Dargah is the grave of a celebrated Sufi saint. Go on a Thursday night for a free and open Quwwali concert (Sufi vocal music, a la Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan); it is a truly magical experience, and highly photogenic.
Check out the museums of Delhi, especially The National Museum of India, where you’ll see a huge range of historical and artistic artifacts. The Delhi Modern Art Museum is surprisingly enjoyable.
Do not miss the Red Fort and the Old City. The Red Fort is one of the largest and most spectacular examples of the height of Mughal royal architecture.
Although it is out of the way, visit the lotus-shaped Baha’i temple, the largest Baha’i temple in the world, and a great opportunity to learn about the religion.
Set aside some time to do some shopping. In Connaught Place you will find everything from electronics to hand-woven silk and handmade crafts.
Finding the right place for yourself in Delhi can be hard. If you need to stay in Pahar Ganj—perhaps you have an early morning train—you can find rooms from Rs 200. The most clean, comfortable, and affordable rooms in the city are in the Tibetan Colony, Manju-Ka-Tilla (also good if you’re getting tired of Indian food; eat your fill of Momos!)
Budget Hotels Delhi
If you need to stay in Pahar Ganj, trust your instincts. You’ll find rooms from Rs 200
YMCA & YWCA—Clean, safe, reliable.
Prince Polonia—The most respite from Pahar Ganj; expect to pay Rs 700
Midrange Hotels Delhi
Wongdhen House (Hotel)—The most popular hotel in the Tibetan Colony, Manju-Ka-Tilla
Hotel Alka—located in the fashionable Connaught Place: great value!
Luxury Hotels Delhi
Le Meridien—Located in Janpath, close to the nation’s capital
Uppal’s Orchid—Environmentally conscious sleek accommodations in South Delhi
Hotel Palace Heights—Great service, great location, affordable