India’s capital is punctuated by vestiges of lost empires, along with the modern city featuring swanky malls and the metro railway. Shopaholics, you are home in a city which attracts the best of every region. And prepare to tuck into some of the subcontinent’s finest food, including the famous Dilli ki chaat, which, rather like the city itself, tosses up several flavours in just a bite.
Here are 20 great things to do in India’s capital.
1. Visit the great sandstone carcass of the Red Fort, and imagine the last days of the Mughal empire and the British era.
2. Try Dilli-ki-Chaat – Delhi’s tangy local street food, such as papdi chaat (fried wafers loaded with potatoes, chickpeas, yoghurt and chilli) or golgappas (fried hollow dough filled with chickpeas and spicy potatoes), in Old Delhi.
3. Hear qawwalis (devotional music) sung at dargah of Nizamuddin Auliya; religious songs resounding at around sunset at one of Islam’s holiest tombs.
4. Humayun’s Tomb combines Persian style with local craftsmanship, and is surrounded by the fiercely symmetrical Mughal gardens: take a stroll here at dusk.
5. A trip through the doors of the Imperial hotel is like a voyage back into the days of the Raj, with polished hallways hung with chandeliers and works of art. Drink a G&T in its 1911 bar.
6. Lose yourself to shopping, in the temples to Indian craft that are Delhi’s government emporiums on Janpath, close to Connaught Place.
7. Get lost and confused in the narrow bazaars of Old Delhi, and feel like you’ve wandered somewhere medieval.
8. Ride on the Delhi metro: so cheap, so clean, so democratic, unlike the other world upstairs.
9. Get a suit made in Khan Market – take one to copy and get made-to-measure at a fraction of the cost of a designer outlet.
10. Visit the former home of Indira Gandhi, Indira Gandhi Smriti, where she was shot dead by one of her bodyguards in 1984, and learn about India’s most powerful dynasty.
11. Wander around Lodi Gardens on a Sunday afternoon, the perfect place for people watching.
12. Discover the district of Hauz Khas, with its crumbling Mughal tombs and tempting art, antique and fashion boutiques.
13. Chow down on scrumptious masala dosas at the Janpath branch of Saravana Bhavan, and finish your meal with a deliciously gritty south Indian coffee.
14. Take a trip out to peaceful Qutub Minar, with its towering minaret resembling an ornate factory chimney.
15. Eat a great Gujarati thali at pristine Rajdhani, opposite Rivoli cinema, just off Connaught Place.
16. Shop middle-class Delhiite-style at laid-back Khan Market, browsing its bookshops and hanging out for a chat at Café Turtle, fuelled by coffee and gooey cake.
17. Use the map from William Dalrymple’s City of Djinns for a different way to explore the city.
18. Wind up at the Jama Masjid, climb the mosque’s minaret, then enjoy a classic non-veg meal at nearby culinary institutions Karim’s or Al-Jawahar, famous for their roasted meat kebabs.
19. Get flabbergasted by the wealth of Indian art at the National Museum.
20. Visit Gandhi’s simple tomb in its tranquil gardens, and drink in the atmosphere – nowhere else in Delhi is as peaceful as this.
This article first appeared in www.lonelypanet.com in October 2010. For more, look out for our upcoming Best Escapes North India.