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The best of Delhi
India’s populous capital has a reputation for overwhelming newbies with its tidal wave of traffic, relentless heat, restless energy, vast sprawl and abundance of fun things to do. Delhi goes beyond the cacophony of car horns: pockets of peace can be found if you know where to look—not to mention delicious street food, markets, fascinating museums, awesome shopping opportunities, beautiful historical sites and friendly locals. If learning to go with the flow is a life lesson you’re seeking, then the streets, temples and bazaars of Delhi will reward seekers with ample lessons delivered with a side serve of masala tea. Done something on this list and loved it? Share it with the hashtag #TimeOutDoList and tag @TimeOutEverywhere. Find out more about how Time Out selects the very best things to do all over the world.
From a killer hip-hop scene made up of international clubs to rooftop bars, hotel lounges and elegant restaurants that transform into secret parties, Delhi’s vibrant nightlife scene is the alter ego of a city that is more subdued while the sun is out. If you’re looking to party the night away while in India, you’ve come to the right city: here are the very best clubs in Delhi, outstanding destinations in a capital that you won’t soon forget.
Sometimes skipped over by travellers because of its daunting size and fast pace, Delhi is its own Indian universe: a city made up of seven historical establishments, a history defined by dramatic kings, exciting art (check out the best museums in town), enticing food options (you absolutely must eat at the top restaurants and delight in the local street food scene) and a cultural landscape that’s uniquely enticing. Today, India’s capital is an amalgamation of the years that, combined with an ambitious young population and new subcultures, gives rise to a destination that will cater to one’s every craving. Attending the best events in Delhi is the ideal way to explore all of the city’s most exciting aspects: from its culinary ambitions to its musical feats and extraordinary bazaar offerings. If you haven’t fallen in love with Delhi yet, you’re just about to.
Delhi is a megacity bustling with people. It is overwhelming: the heat, dust, noise and crowds can make the most seasoned traveler wary. But India’s capital is also a melting pot of history and culture, filled with exciting things to do and see, including markets, museums and cafés all influenced by the steady influx of traders and immigrants that have shaped the city for centuries. Delhi’s culinary epicenter has undoubtedly been affected by the diversity as well. Food here is a mix of many styles, cuisines, cultures and communities: Middle Eastern recipes brought by the Mughals are married to Punjabi and Sindhi ones originating in Pakistan and Iran. Tibetan and North-East Indian flavours meanwhile add interesting twists. The result is a mind-boggling, tongue-tickling array of offerings that one can only find in Delhi. Feeding millions of immigrant workers, shoppers, office goers, students and housewives, the Delhi street food served in these stalls is woven into the fabric of the city like its air and water. There is no way you can experience the real Delhi without sampling its street treats, so get going.
Delhi undoubtedly is India’s culinary capital and the soul of the city is intricately connected to the vast array of food options available all throughout it. Offering the kind of multiculturalism that is also reflected in the town’s museums, bars and events scenes, the best restaurants in Delhi include an expansive spread of Asian, Mediterranean, European and, of course, Indian meals. This hand-picked list promises the most delicious: from award-winning fine dining venues to trendy new joints and little spots to visit during historic market walks. Put your bibs on, it’s time to devour these Delhi-cacies (sorry, we had to).
Delhi might not be quite as synonymous with glitz and glam as Mumbai—home to legions of Bollywood stars—but the history-packed Indian capital holds its own when it comes to nightlife. You’d be hard-pressed to find another city where old and new align so visibly, all across the city’s architecture and the restaurants and events that make up the unique local culture. After all, where else can you party next to the spooky, half-crumbling remains of fallen empires? Across this metropolis of over 20 million people and counting, trend-setting bars and pubs sit comfortably next to centuries-old Tughlaq and Mughal monuments, while sleek hotels boast fashionably throwback lounges. The stage is set for the perfect night out on the town—that is, if you know where to go. Want us to help out? Here are the best bars in Delhi.
Delhi has a long history of welcoming travelers. Take Ibn Battuta, the famous medieval explorer, for example: upon arriving in the Delhi caliphate, he was swiftly honoured within the royal courts of Muhammad Tughlaq. The capital of India rolls out the red carpet for its guests and nowhere is that more apparent than at the best hotels in Delhi. The city may have dispensed with the tradition of giving foreigners a honorary title, but you can still expect a royal welcome that includes a rundown of the city’s top restaurants, street food options and shopping scene. From quirky, family-run guesthouses to lavish palatial estates, Delhi’s accommodations cater to all budgets, tastes and temperaments.
One of the world’s liveliest capitals, Delhi is a guaranteed lesson in keeping your cool. Expect bumper-to-bumper traffic made of chauffeur-driven SUVs and wheezing three-wheelers and streets jam-packed with people strolling by. Add in ambling cows, singing chai-wallahs and booming temple music and you’ve got yourself the perfect case for sensory overload. In a city so chock full of sights and sounds—not to mention the restaurants, bars and clubs you’ll want to visit—you’ll be in dire need of somewhere sweet to lay your head each night. Accommodations can run the gamut from pricey to downright palatial. But if you’re watching your wallet, skip the luxury resorts and high-end heritage finds and stick with these modestly priced, even downright cheap, hotels—some of this madcap city’s best-kept secrets.
The best parks in Delhi are for everyone: history buffs, architecture enthusiasts and nature lovers alike. In a city where you can peel away history like the layers of an onion while browsing through museums and markets, parks with medieval monuments and the relics of ancient dynasties offer a glimpse into the city’s rich past. Delhi’s landscaped green spaces double up as cultural hubs; spaces where art, music, history and nature seamlessly blend into one another. And for those times when all you need is a total and complete escape from an overwhelming city bursting at the seams with enticing things to do, Delhi’s urban forests are the answer. Here’s where to breathe easy in a chaotic city.
Looking to dig deeper into the city’s soul? A good road to Delhi’s heart passes through the city’s museums. Although devouring delicious street eats, dining among locals at only-in-India restaurants and developing a palate for chai at cafés all around town are great ways to get to know Delhi better, there is something about the best museums in Delhi that speaks to the very essence of its citizens and their prized culture. Make sure to visit all the national museums but step outside the hustle and bustle of the city centre and find rare wonders: the quirky yet unmissable Toilet Museum, the Philatelic Museum for stamp-collectors and the Jantar-Mantar, where you’ll walk through the observatory and take a close look at all the instruments on premise. Delhi certainly knows how to please all sorts of souls.
A snack and chai with a side of conversation is an age-old concept in Delhi, with locals converging at every corner to enjoy a quick bite or beverage before going their way to battle the city’s sprawling landscapes, museums, parks and a myriad of other things to do. Today, the best cafés in Delhi include a wide set of options—from slick, modern coffee shops to old establishments reminiscent of the capital’s British regime. In each part of the city, food is attuned to distinct histories and demographics and, while coffee is new to Delhi’s predominantly chai-drinking populace, the growing movement led by young, independent professionals has set the premise for a flourishing culture of caffeine. This list deals with the very best cafés for a quick fix, which also happen to be ideal locations to spend an entire day in.
India’s sprawling capital city is also the country’s number one shopping destination. Just as the city is a melting pot of people and cultures from across India, so is the shopping scene a microcosm of the country’s finest offerings. Pashminas from Kashmir in the north or coffee from Karnataka in the south: there isn’t much you won’t find in Delhi’s shops and bazaars. From traditional handicrafts to contemporary homeware, established Indian designers to indie fashion labels, shopping in Delhi is a vast, varied and ever evolving activity, best to be pursued after fueling up at the city’s best restaurants and pubs or while enjoying the just-as-enticing street foods. As usual, we’re here to help: here is where to go to stuff your bags with crafts, design finds, edibles and beauty buys. Ready to shop?
Forget about shopping in huge air-conditioned malls, generic supermarket chains and snobby department stores, the best markets in Delhi are where the action is at. A history, art, architecture, culinary, culture, fashion, language and etiquette lesson all rolled into one experience, a day spent traversing Delhi’s markets requires endurance, patience, open-mindedness and supreme negotiation skills. In return, you’ll leave with new friends, a full belly (but if you've worked up an appetite, here are the best restaurants in town) and a huge stash of tea, spices, jewellery and soft furnishings. Exploring the market scene might actually be the very best thing to do in Delhi.