If you want a holiday, go to Barbados but if you want to be transformed, go to India. You don’t visit India — you experience it. And if you’re visiting India, most likely your flight will land in Delhi. It is a huge city and can be overwhelming for anyone who’s not familiar with it. Believe me! 25 long years in the city and it took me a whole lot of time to get accustomed to its means. It is divided into 6 main zones – North, South, East, West, Central and Old Delhi. It has a curious history – it was destroyed and rebuilt many times, a fact that’s evident in many landmarks all over the city.
Delhi’s history and popular points of interest are what makes it a traveller’s delight. This city of Djinns has got a lot to offer to someone who’s on the look-out for culture, architecture, good food and shopping. Though it’s a tad difficult to tell what all is there to visit in Delhi, yes I’m giving out an honest try here to cover up this beautiful city and its antics.
Delhi has unbearable summers and foggy winters so avoiding those seasons is the best bet. Though rains are unpredictable, it usually rains around the months of July and August. It is only in the months of February, March, October or November is when you won’t be uncomfortably hot or cold when you go out to see the city’s heritage sites.
Here is a quick glimpse of Delhi’s timeline that’s as interesting with all the history behind it.
- Indraprastha – Earliest mentions of Delhi in Hindu epic Mahabharata and also in Buddhist scriptures Pāli Canon. It was called the city of Indra.
- Ashoka’s Delhi / Maurya Age
- Tomar Dynasty
- Chahamanas of Shakambhari
- Delhi Sultanate – Mamluk Dynasty, Khalji dynasty, Tughlaq Dynasty, Sayyid dynasty and Lodi dynasty
- Mughal Delhi
- British Raj (Lutyens Delhi architecture towards the end)
1. Connaught Place
Connaught Place also called CP, is a prominent financial and business hub of the capital. Connaught Place is the heart of the city with the rest of the city around it. It is a place where you can witness Lutyens’ architecture.
Connaught Place has an inner circle, an outer circle and a central park in the middle. These circles are pretty big and walking the entire circle may seem doable but is not. Give this place a chance to amuse you with its capacity to offer you anything and everything from food to shopping stores, and you’d find it enjoyable.
2. Lodhi Garden
Lodhi Garden is one of the best places to visit in Delhi and the best part is that it is absolutely free. It is more than just a garden; it has 15th-century architecture too from the Sayyid and Lodi Dynasties. There are history, nature, peace, locals and a lot of beauty. Check out Bada Gumband (big dome), Shisha Gumband, three-domed mosques, and Tomb Of Mohammad Shah Sayyid – they are mostly next to each other in the middle of the park. The tomb of Sikandar Lodi is on the other end of the park.
On one end of the Lodi garden, there is also a pond with swans and a bridge that goes over it. If you walk further over the bridge and then into the garden, you will also see flowerbeds for seasonal flowers.
3. India Gate
India Gate is an important landmark of Delhi. It is generally illuminated at night, especially during patriotic holidays. It is a war memorial and not a Historical landmark like the Mughal buildings. There are names of around 70,000 Indian soldiers inscribed on it who died in the First World War and the Third Anglo-Afghan War.
Sir Edwin Lutyens built it in 1931; who by the way built most of the New Delhi towards the end of British India. Because of this, some parts of New Delhi are called Lutyens’ Delhi. More than just the India Gate, the majority of the people visit this area to enjoy the gardens around it. Many locals use these gardens for picnic spots. The best time to visit it is in the evenings and you should walk around it as much as possible.
4. Lotus Temple
Lotus Temple is a flower-like Bahá’í temple and looks a little like the Sydney Opera house. It has 27 marble flower petals and little ponds that surround them. Bahá’í is one of the newer religions. It is a Bahá’í House of Worship.
5. Dilli Haat
Dilli Haat places housing stores and shops from almost all the Indian states. You could enjoy a variety of food and get a real quick glance at the entirety of India at a single place. There are artists that sell handmade things like jewellery, sarees, silk, bags, sandals and even furniture. Many of these sellers are travelling gipsies who sell their handicraft that’s the speciality of their state or village. It is usually to see one or two musicians playing sarangi or flute.
From time to time, Delhi Tourism Board organizes different events in Dilli Haat so if you’re lucky, you can also get to see a performance. Most of the times there are cultural events that are organized inside. Dilli Haat is in three different locations in Delhi but the INA one is highly recommended.
6. Red Fort
Red Fort is grand, magnificent, and is red in colour. Perhaps it should have been number 1 on this list because it was the main residence of the Mughal emperors for many years. The Red Fort represents the Mughal architecture at its best. Sadly this fort’s precious jewels and artwork were destroyed by Nadir Shah’s army and the British. This is where Bahadur Shah Zafar (the last Mughal emperor) was put on trial by the British.
Red Fort has many structures inside its complex and together they’re a UNESCO world heritage site. There’s Rang Mahal, Mumtaz Mahal, Khas Mahal, Diwan-i-khas, Hammam (bath), Baoli (stepwell), prince’s quarters.
7. Akshardham Temple
Akshardham Temple is a magnificent newly built Hindu mandir that’s on the banks of Yamuna River. It was built on the principles of traditional Hindu architectural system – Vastu Shastra that defines minuscule details like the layout, positioning, geometry, measurements, ground preparation.
It is almost entirely made with pink sandstone from Rajasthan and Carra marble from Italy without any steel or concrete support. Akshardham Temple has many domes and pillars with intricate carvings. There is a Hall of Values and theatre that’s indie the temple complex. There’s a Sanskruti Vihar boat ride where you can learn about the history of Hinduism from Vedic India and Vedic teachings such as yoga, mathematics, astronomy, science, arts, and more.
8. Hauz Khas Village
Hauz Khas Village as lovingly called HKV is the newbie in the fame timeline of Delhi. Within a span of the last 7-8 years, it became one of the most happening places in the city. It was once Delhi’s artistic neighbourhood with studios and boutiques but is now the most popular place for nightlife.
There is a lake that’s directly behind Hauz Khas village. Try to find the lane that goes along the lake. There’s a Deer Park nearby to explore if you visit Hauz Khas Village. There is an abandoned plot area here that is covered in graffiti.
9. Rail Museum
Delhi doesn’t have a shortage of good museums but Rail Museum is the most interesting one probably because of the love for trains that I have.
National Rail Museum of Delhi is in Chanakyapuri, Delhi’s diplomat area. You get to know the history of trains in India and special saloons on exhibit that were built for royal family members and famous people. There is a saloon that was built for the Prince of Wales, Maharajas of Mysore and Indore. You can also see the legendary Fairy Queen, world’s oldest steam locomotive that’s still in service and runs on the same route as Palace on Wheels. A very interesting thing about this museum is that you can take a ride on a toy train. The museum will offer fun-filled times if you have kids with you.
10. Chandni Chowk
Chandni Chowk market isn’t the easy market to handle for first-time visitors because the chaos here is on another level. It took even a Delhiite like me some 2-3 attempts to get used to visiting the place. The place is one of my favourites for famous street food and shopping.
It has a huge history behind it. During the British rule, Chandni Chowk was an affluent neighbourhood with Havelis of rich merchants and uncluttered road. It was actually built during the Mughal times in the 17th century by Shah Jahan and his daughter Jahanara. Back then, there were water canals that separated different sections. The name means “moonlit square” and merchants from all over the world that travelled on the Silk Route came here. This market hit its lowest point after India – Pakistan partition and has never been the same. At the moment it is the place to buy insanely affordable and wholesale things. A lot of Delhi-ites visit this market to buy affordable Indian formal attire if there is a wedding in their family.