Header image courtesy of Arif Imran (Pexels)
For many travellers, Delhi is their first experience of the vast nation of India. The chaos, heat, traffic-clogged streets, poverty, and general madness can be a huge culture shock. Beyond the madness lies magnificent historical buildings, wide boulevards, world-class museums, superb restaurants, and fantastic shopping opportunities. Follow this itinerary for two full days of top-notch experiences in this city.
International flights land at Indira Gandhi Airport, about 15 miles from central Delhi. It is best to arrange transport beforehand with your accommodation as scammers are rife at the airport. Getting around Delhi is easy once you get into the swing of it. Tuk-tuks are everywhere, but make sure you agree on a price prior to setting off. Otherwise, the swish new metro system is efficient and superb value.
Accommodation ranges from fleapit five-dollar hostels to the most opulent hotels for several hundred dollars a night. Most people stay in the areas of Paharganj, Karol Bagh, or Old Delhi. For those looking for a mid-range option, the Godwin, located in Paharganj near Old Delhi Railway Station, is a good choice. If you have the cash to splash, try the five-star Taj Mahal Hotel for some serious pampering.
When in Delhi, forgo the bacon and eggs and indulge in a traditional North Indian breakfast instead. Pt. Gaya Prasad Shiv Charan Paranthe, hidden in the hectic alleyways of Chandni Chowk, is a humble café that serves every type of paratha imaginable. Accompanied by chutneys, these tasty and filling parathas are the real deal, and eating here is an authentic Delhi breakfast experience. It’s a popular spot and you may have to wait for a seat, but we promise it will be worth it.
When you have had your fill of parathas, jump into a tuk-tuk and head to Humayan’s Tomb (East Nizamudhin). This original Mughal mausoleum inspired the construction of the Taj Mahal in Agra, and the asymmetrical grounds are serene and beautifully manicured. Parrots and eagles sit in the trees, and the gardens are a pleasure to stroll around and a world away from the chaos of the streets.
The National Crafts Museum (India Gate) is only a short walk away from Humayan’s Tomb and is one of Delhi’s underrated and lesser-known attractions. Entry is free and there are a number of galleries displaying textiles, embroidery, and paintings as well as wood, metal, and stonework. A village complex consisting of dwellings, shrines, and courtyards from all over India is well-presented and a delight to explore. In the marketplace, you can experience traditional music and dance on the central stage. Before you leave, check out the excellent store which is crammed with tempting goods.
For lunch, you can’t beat Gulati, a vegetarian restaurant where the food is so delicious that even carnivores will be impressed. The restaurant receives consistently excellent reviews for its nutritious and lovingly prepared Punjabi, Jain, and Sattvic cuisine. Furthermore, the nearby National Gallery of Modern Art is an essential stop for art lovers. Four floors and two separate sections are home to a wonderfully diverse collection of art which dates from the early nineteenth century. Interesting sculptures are scattered throughout the grounds.
As the sun goes down, head over to the iconic India Gate, a memorial to the 70,000 soldiers killed in the First World War. Always a hive of activity, Indian tourists pose for selfies in front of the monument, and vendors sell drinks and ice cream. Having worked up an appetite with all that walking, why not treat yourself to dinner at one of Delhi’s most renowned restaurants, The Spice Route at the Imperial Hotel? Before you eat, have a pre-dinner drink at the sumptuous 1911 Bar, which will transport you back to the days of the Raj. The restaurant itself is a feast for the eyes and decorated with artefacts depicting the journey along the iconic Spice Route. The food isn’t bad either; the dishes are an innovative and mouth-watering combination of Asian cuisine.
For those who really want to get under the skin of Delhi, The Salaam Balaak Trust runs guided tours conducted by former street children. The tours give visitors an insight into the lives of the children who live on the streets of Paharganj. All proceeds go towards supporting these children and helping them eventually join mainstream society. The Trust does an amazing job and it’s a worthy cause, as well as being a truly absorbing and moving tour.
Lunch comes with a view at Everest Kitchen—above Lord Krishna Hotel—where you can take in the hustle and bustle of the bazaar below from the roof terrace. Run by Nepalese owners, the restaurant is festooned with prayer flags and you may feel that you are in the heart of Kathmandu, rather than smack-bang in downtown Delhi. Indian, Nepalese, Tibetan, and Italian dishes are all on the menu.
The largest mosque in the city, Jama Masjid, is located in the heart of Old Delhi. Built in the seventeenth century, it is a huge structure with a towering minaret on each side from which there are panoramic views of the city. The upper floor has a capacity of 25,000. It is in the neighbourhood of Chandni Chowk Bazaar, a fascinating wholesale market dealing in paper, brass, and copper.
If you still have the energy, hail down a tuk-tuk and make your way through the frenetic streets to The Red Fort (Netaji Subhash Marg, New Delhi). A UNESCO World Heritage site, the fort dates back to the reign of the Mughal emperors and was built to keep out marauding invaders. In the evenings, a sound and light show takes place against the hulking red walls of the fort, depicting Mughal and Indian history.
Bukhara is one of the best places in the world to enjoy the cuisine of the North-West Frontier—delicious tandoori-cooked kebabs, vegetables, and bread. Cosy and candlelit with an open-plan kitchen, dinner at this lovely restaurant is a perfect finale to your 48 hours in Delhi.