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.
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Best things to do in Delhi
What is it? A gold-domed house of worship that receives thousands of visitors per day.
Why go? To see the Sikh community in worship while touring the sprawling Gurudwara Bangla Sahib complex. To visit you’ll need to cover your head with a scarf. Didn’t bring one? Never fear, the complex has one you can borrow for the duration of your visit. While touring the building, don’t miss visiting the busy kitchen that feeds many of Delhi’s residents. If you’re keen, you can even lend a hand-shaping and baking chapatti.
What is it? A next-level cricket league for local and visiting fans alike.
Why go? Attending a cricket match in India would have to rate as one of the ultimate achievements for fans of the game. Score a ticket to a match and watch the Delhi Daredevils hit boundaries like there’s no tomorrow. Travelling alone? Come armed with your cricket knowledge and game banter and you’ll make new friends in no time. Don’t know the difference between a googly and a yorker? Just drop the name Sachin Tendulkar into the conversation and you’ll be fine.
What is it? An intimate cooking class held in the home of a local cook.
Why go? To aid in the creation of delicious regional delicacies. You’ll learn about the different spices used in north Indian cooking, be immersed in Indian cultural traditions and find out more about what life is like for families in New Delhi. If you’ve ever wondered how to eat with your hands without making a supreme mess – this is the place to do it!
What is it? A historic complex that once housed the emperors of the Mughal dynasty.
Why go? Want to know how the other half lived in previous centuries? Explore the epic crib that India’s Mughal emperors occupied until the mid-1800s on a tour of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Red Fort. Built by Shah Jahan (of Taj Mahal fame) in the seventeenth century, the Red Fort is a sprawling complex made of striking red sandstone. Make sure your camera and smartphone batteries are at full charge before setting foot in this place – you’ll want to capture the Red Fort’s dramatic arches, romantic balconies and ornate tile work.
What is it? A rooftop bar with knockout views of Qutab Minar.
Why go? At the end of a long, sweaty day of sightseeing, this is the place to savour a single malt whisky while watching the sunset. With impressive, sweeping views of the world’s tallest brick minaret at the neighbouring UNESCO World Heritage-listed Qutab complex, Dramz is highly sought after come sunset.
What is it? A quirky museum dedicated to all things sanitation, hygiene and waste removal.
Why go? A museum for anyone who gives a crap about sanitation, the galleries of this institution are flush with toilet-related paraphernalia and artefacts that date back centuries. From ornate, Victorian-era porcelain bowls to modern, Japanese electronic toilets, this museum will give you a newfound appreciation of the humble toilet.
What is it? A chilled lakeside spot to eat, drink and people-watch.
Why go? When you’ve had your fill of New Delhi’s markets, museums and monuments, take a minute to relax with a cool Kingfisher beer and lake views at Haus Khas Social. Delhi’s youthful energy is present at this social spot, so sit back and watch students, entrepreneurs and travellers mix together in one social space. By night, this hip hangout hosts DJs, making it the perfect spot to party down.
What is it? A 90-acre oasis in the middle of one of the busiest cities in the world.
Why go? When the pace of Delhi gets too much, beat a hasty retreat to the serenity of Lodi Garden to recharge. Green space is at a premium in Delhi, so expect to share the gardens with joggers, picnickers and other travellers seeking respite from the sun. Take a stroll across the manicured lawns, listen to the birds chirping, watch locals do yoga, rest under the shade of the tall trees and admire the historic tombs built centuries ago.
What is it? A themed restaurant where you can dine in a vault converted into a private dining room.
Why go? To unlock a unique dining experience. This restaurant – located in the centrally located Connaught Place district – offers Indian cuisine as well as bites from around the globe. However, the main attraction is undoubtedly stepping through the vault doors into an intimate dining room. Claustrophobic? Admire the vaults from outside, then enjoy a Negroni while lounging in a leather Chesterfield sofa instead.
What is it? A labyrinthine network of shops and bazaars located in Delhi’s Old City.
Why go? The bazaars and street food stalls of the Chandni Chowk district easily bamboozle visitors accustomed to calmer retail experiences, but the rewards on offer are worth enduring the initial confusion. As a metropolis of trade that has stood for centuries, modern-day Chandni Chowk offers travellers a chance to buy everything from electronics to fresh fruit, sweet treats and wedding saris. Wear your comfiest shoes, pack your rupees, bring your camera and walk in with an open mind – Chandni Chowk is not your average shopping destination.
What is it? A foreigner-friendly dance class for Bollywood lovers.
Why go? Even if you have two left feet, a two-hour crash course in Bollywood dance at the Delhi Dance Academy is still a fun way to be immersed in India’s film and dance culture. Simply book a spot, get yourself in the mood by donning one of the supplied costumes, put on your cheesiest movie star smile and start perfecting your Bollywood dance moves.
What is it? A tribute to the life of one of India’s most influential and beloved public figures.
Why go? While in India it’s impossible to ignore the legacy of revered activist Mahatma Gandhi. There are many monuments dedicated to him and buildings named after him – he even features on the currency. If you want to understand his role in shaping modern day India, spend some time reflecting on his incredible life at this museum.
What is it? An atmospheric bar and restaurant filled with British Raj-era memorabilia.
Why go? Retreat from the frenetic energy of New Delhi by savouring a classic cocktail or two in this heritage-filled bar and restaurant. It’s filled with period-era portraits, photography and military medals of years gone by.