It’s got every cuisine you can think of. It’s got a thriving cultural scene. It’s got places to soak in the sun (or hide from it!), and lots and lots of shops. In recent years, the satellite city of Gurgaon, 30km south of New Delhi, has become so self-sufficient that it is fast becoming a travel destination in its own right. With direct connections to the capital via the Delhi Metro, and a growing reputation as the capital of all things cool, Gurgaon is where Delhi’s aspirations for the future are made real. Indeed, you may find that you never need to travel out to ‘old’ New Delhi. Here’s our guide to spending time in Delhi’s newest hangout.
Passing time in Gurgaon
Some Delhi residents like to be snobbish about Gurgaon, and you’ll often hear the words ‘concrete jungle’ in connection with the city, but this dynamic satellite actually has some lovely open spaces. Leisure Valley Park (open daily from 5am to 10pm; entry free), in Sector 29, serves up 25 acres of greenery bang in the middle of Gurgaon. It’s a great place for nature lovers to escape the city crush for some moments of peace and quietude, a green haven by day and a venue for musical concerts by night. Even on days with no events, a musical fountain stirs up life in the evenings, adding drama to a stroll in the park.
More boisterous nightlife(and day-life) is on offer at Kingdom of Dreams (Auditorium Complex, Sector 29; 0124-4528000; open 12.30pm to midnight, Mondays closed). Topping the bill are the musical spectaculars Zangoora and Jhumroo, bringing a touch of Vegas glamour to the southern suburbs. Even if you don’t watch a Bollywood-style show, you can easily spend a day shopping for local handicrafts and trying out dishes from across India at its indoor food street, Culture Gully.
Food lover’s playground
Without a doubt the biggest attraction in Gurgaon is its food scene, drawing people from all over Delhi with its sheer variety. Cyber Hub (11am to 1am; entry free), next to all the major corporate offices in Cyber City, is a one-stop banquet, serving everything from tikkas to tapas. Along the row of restaurants, check out SodaBottleOpenerWalla (0124-6518801), a quirkily designed eatery serving Parsi food. The pedestrian arcade is handy if you just want to walk around away from the traffic and sip a coffee outdoors.
Another top foodie stop in Gurgaon is Amaranta (443 Udyog Vihar, Phase V; 0124-2451234), the coastal Indian cuisine restaurant at the Oberoi Gurgaon, serving fab seafood. Kebab enthusiasts congregate at The Great Kabab Factory (Park Plaza hotel, Sushant Lok, Phase 1; 0124-4150000), for endless rounds of kebabs for a fixed price, or grab tasty takeaways from Qureshi’s Kabab Corner in DLF Phase 1 market. Crossing the globe, head to Izu (Sector 53, Gurgaon; 0124-4055660) in the South Point Mall for modern Japanese, or Fat Lulu’s (105, Cross Point Mall, DLF Phase 4; 0124-4245497), for pizza; it’s come a long way since starting up as a pop-up joint in the Galleria Market.
If you are planning to visit Kingdom or Dreams or Leisure Valley Park, drop into Sector 29 market, which has a good selection of mid-priced restaurants where you can grab a bite.
Gurgaon retail therapy
The great thing about Gurgaon is that there are still some open-air shopping spaces amongst some of Delhi NCR’s biggest indoor malls. Galleria Market in DLF Phase 4 has everything from international brands to Indian speciality stores such as Kama Ayurveda, and a lovely outdoors space where you can sit by the fountain and enjoy the sun. There are plenty of restaurants and cafes alongside the boutiques.
Ambience Mall at Ambiance Island on National Highway 8 is definitely king of the indoor malls, with one kilometre of high-street brand shopping and entertainment zones including a kid’s playing area, a food court, a beer garden and a concert space. At Ambi mall, as it is called by the locals, you can find a range of mid-priced Indian designers offering quality ethnic Indian wear. Cross Point Mall in DLF Phase 4 and South Point Mall on Golf Course Road are two of the smaller malls that are worth visiting, though perhaps more for the food than the shopping.
Thanks to the hundreds of multinational companies in town, Gurgaon’s residents are mostly young couples with plenty of dispensable income and free time – Delhi’s DINKs (double income no kids). The bars and pubs that cater to this crowd are ‘happening’ enough to even draw people south from New Delhi. Recently, Gurgaon has seen a surge in microbreweries making their own beer. Manhattan (in Global Foyer Mall, Golf Course Road; 088006 97554), is currently the most popular brewery; 7 Degree Brauhaus (South Point Mall; 0124-6672000) offers great dark beers as the DJ rolls out popular tracks. Other top spots for a good night out include Soi 7 (Cyber Hub; 09015455000) with its in-house live band; Speakeasy (Sector 15-2; 09810999086), with the best cocktails in town; and Naya Beer Garden (Anya Hotel; 0124-490111), a new addition to the city’s nightlife scene and a convivial space for outdoor drinking and dining.
Old favourites such as Howzzat (Galaxy Hotel, Sector 15; 0124-4868000) are still popular, and new arrivals seem to be opening every week – try Sutra Gastropub (Cyber Hub; 09958636700) in Cyber City. If you want one destination with loads of options, promenade to Golf Course Road – this is definitely Gurgaon’s party street.
Staying in Gurgaon
With chain hotels all across the city, finding a place to stay within your budget is not going to be a problem. Anya (Golf Course Road, 0124-4901111) is a new boutique hotel that will definitely appeal to the artistically inclined, with a big collection of art and sculptures on display. Westin Sohna (Karanki Road; 0124-4508800), a little away from the city on the Sohna-Gurgaon road, is a sleek and indulgent retreat if you are travelling with family.
For something more offbeat, Tikli Bottom (Gairatpur Baas, 0124-2766556) is an eccentric boutique hotel with uniquely personalised service, set in a Lutyens-era bungalow off the Delhi-Jaipur highway. Or, for international convenience, there’s always Delhi Aero City, with everything from pricey a JW Marriott to a reasonably-priced Lemon Tree, just 20 minutes by road from Gurgaon.
If you have a day or weekend free and want a greener, quieter getaway, then Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary (open daily 9am to 4.30pm) is a good option. The best time to visit the sanctuary is in the winter when it attracts lots of migratory birds such as the Siberian crane and greater flamingo. In the summer, you are likely to spot plenty of Indian residents, including the little cormorant, painted stork and white ibis. It’s 15 km from Gurgaon centre on the Gurgaon-Farukh Nagar road.
For a more historical and cultural break, Neemrana Fort, 92 km from Gurgaon on the Delhi-Jaipur highway, is a lavish, nostalgic fort-hotel where you can spend a few tranquil days pretending you are a maharaja and enjoying traditional Indian hospitality. It was founded in 1464, but today you can soar over the battlements on a Flying Fox cableway.
Getting here from Delhi
The Delhi international airport is only half hour from Gurgaon and cabs are easily available at the airport. The Yellow Line of Delhi Metro takes you directly from Rajeev Chowk, the centre of Delhi, to HUDA City Centre, the centre of Gurgaon. This line also serves Sikandarpur metro station, where you can change and connect to the Gurgaon Rapid Metro that takes you to Cyber Hub and other areas inside Gurgaon.
The article was first published on lonelyplanet.com.