Delhi is a tale of eight cities – a vibrant metropolis steeped in a rich history spanning several continents and cultures.
In short, India’s second largest city (after Mumbai) is not the kind of place you can navigate in a weekend break.
To really get under the skin of this colourful, bustling spot, you will need (and want) a fair few days to explore – and even then you’ll probably only be scratching the surface of this sprawling location.
Delhi is believed to have been inhabited since the sixth century, serving as a capital of kingdoms and empires over the years, being rebuilt and reborn several times over.
You can take a step back in time by visiting the iconic remnants of the eight ancient cities of Delhi’s proud past.
Delhi remains a shining symbol of old and new of India, which epitomises the country’s ability to soak in new cultures while maintaining its own identity.
It is a place that can move at a frantic pace, but you also experience the old world culture at the traditional marketplaces of Old Delhi or check out the Colonial-era architecture of New Delhi.
SIGHTSEEING AND CULTURE
You can go on an incredible culture trail in Delhi and a great place to start is the magnificent Red Fort (www.delhitourism.gov.in). The World Heritage site took a decade to build, being completed back in 1638. The striking red sandstone walls of the fort tower, 33 metres above Old Delhi, serves as a lasting legacy to the power of the Mughhal emperors.
The main gate, Lahore Gate, is regarded as a symbol of modern India and attracts huge crowds each Independence Day.
Inside lies a treasure trove of incredible buildings, such as the Pearl Mosque, Royal Baths, Palace of Color and the white marble hall of Private Audiences.
An evening sound and light show recreates events from India’s history.
Visitors can tour the fort every day of the week apart from Mondays.
One of the most Instagram-worthy attractions on your itinerary will be the impressive India Gate (www.delhitourism.gov.in). The formidable structure, reminiscent of the famous Arc-de-Triomphe in France thanks to its archway design, stands 42 metres high in the centre of New Delhi.
The landmark commemorates the 70,000 Indian soldiers who lost their lives fighting for the British Army in World War One. During nightfall, India Gate is dramatically floodlit, with nearby fountains also bathed in colour.
The large expanse of lush greenery surrounding the structure also makes for a popular picnic spot for the huge numbers of visitors who flock here.
For a beautiful oasis of calm amid the hustle and bustle of the big city, take a trip to Jama Masjid.
India’s largest mosque is built on a ten-metre elevation and can hold a staggering 25,000 people at any given time.
The marble and red sandstone architectural triumph, built in the 17th century, has two 40-metre-high minarets, one of which can be climbed to allow you take in some awesome views.
From the top of the minaret, you can see how architect Edwin Lutyens incorporated the mosque into his design of New Delhi – the Jama Masjid, Connaught Place and Sansad Bhavan (Parliament House) are in a direct line.
FOOD AND DINING
If you are hungry for a taste of tradition during your stay, head to the Indian National Army Market (www.delhitourism.gov.in).
Nestled in the centre of south Delhi, it is known as the food baazar of the city.
It carries every spice, meat, fruit, vegetable and grain imaginable, from live crabs from Chennai to fresh turmeric, bamboo shoots and bitter gourd.
Delhi is brimming with international cuisine but you will want to try some quintessentially Indian dishes while you are here. Kaka Da Hotel (kdhkakedahotel.com, +91 11 2341 1580) is a popular spot in Connaught Place, which cooks up authentic dishes such as mutton and chicken curries, which you can mop up with parathas and naan bread. A simple but superb pleasure.
For a spot of fine dining, make sure to stop by at Bukhara, in the luxury ITC Maurya Hotel.
Regularly ranked among the world’s best restaurants, it has been a magnet for hungry tourists for decades as well as hosting big names such as former British prime Minister Tony Blair and Hollywood star Arnold Schwarzenegger, introducing them to the rustic flavour found in India’s North West frontier.
The signature dhal Bukhara – made up of black lentils, tomatoes, ginger and garlic simmered over slow coal fires for 18 hours – has been rustled up more than 2.5 million times since the eatery first swung open its doors nearly 40 years ago.
Delhi really comes to life at night. One of India’s biggest party spots, there are plenty of bars and clubs to take in here. Kitty Su (www.kittysu.com) is a funky spot to dance the night away after a day spent exploring the city. Its cool musical playlist means it’s a top place to check out. Soi 7 (+91 76250 35908) is another venue you need to visit. The rooftop spot hosts live music, has an eclectic food menu and even brews its own hops on site.
WHERE TO STAY
If you are after a place to stay that really wows, make an appointment at The Leela Palace New Delhi (www.theleela.com, +91 11 3933 1234), a grand five-star hotel fusing Indian tradition with splendid modernity, featuring a curated collection of modern art and magnificent displays of fresh flowers – 14,000 blooms are delivered every day. A more affordable offering is The Colonel’s Retreat
(www. colonelsretreat.com, +91 11 4660 4927) a conveniently located guesthouse in south Delhi.
Cycle-rickshaws are a good way to navigate your away around Old Delhi, but are banned from many parts of New Delhi. Make sure to negotiate a price before setting off. Taxis are plentiful and the Metro service, which is the 11th longest in the world, is reliable, too.
Emirates flies direct from Dubai to Delhi, with return economy tickets costing roughly Dhs1,200. It takes around three-and-a-half hours to complete the trip.
You can also jet off from Abu Dhabi, with Etihad, with direct flights also taking around three-and-a-half hours and economy ticket prices starting at around Dhs1,300.