Site of no fewer than eight successive cities, India's capital DELHI is the hub of the country, a buzzing international metropolis that draws people from across India and the globe. Home to 1.3 crore (thirteen million) people, it's big and it's growing. Yet tucked away inside Delhi's modern suburbs and developments lie tombs, temples and ruins that date back centuries; in some places, the remains of whole cities from the distant past nestle amid homes and highways built within the last two decades. The result is a city full of fascinating nooks and crannies, that you could happily spend weeks or months exploring.
As a place to hit India for the first time, Delhi isn't a bad choice. The city is used to foreigners: hotels in all price ranges cater specifically for foreign tourists, and you'll meet plenty of experienced fellow travellers who can give you tips and pointers. And there's certainly no shortage of things to see and do. Quite apart from its historical treasures, Delhi holds a host of museums and art treasures, cultural performances and crafts that showcase the country's diverse heritage. The city's growing nightlife scene boasts designer bars, chic cafés and decent clubs. Its auditoriums put on a wide range of national music and dance events, drawing India's rich classical traditions. Smart new cinemas screen the latest offerings from both Hollywood and Bollywood, while its theatres hold performances in Hindi and English. And if you're flying home from Delhi, you'll find that you can buy goods here from pretty much anywhere else in India, so it's a good place to stock up with souvenirs and presents to take back with you.
Delhi is the capital of India, its third largest city, and the industrial hub of northern India. In addition to being the epicenter of power, Delhi is the second most widely used entry point into the country. Built on the banks of the Yamuna river, the city is a beautiful blend of a historical past and a vibrant present. The National Capital Territory of Delhi was divided into nine districts in 1997. They are Central, North, South, East, West, North-East, South-East, North-West, and South-West District.
Central Delhi/New Delhi
The capital shifted from Calcutta to Delhi in 1912. At that time, the area from Willingdon Crescent, Connaught Place, and Lodhi Gardens were covered by villages. The architects envisioned structures of monumental scale and their efforts are now seen in the Rashtrapati Bhavan (President's Residence) , Connaught Place , Sansad Bhavan (The Parliament House) and India Gate . Central Delhi is the hub of tourists, commerce and politics. It is also full of historical monuments and attractions like Jantar Mantar , Janpath Market , and St. James Church .
The area between Delhi Gate and Kashmere Gate, Shah Jahanabad, is crowded with winding lanes, which tempt exploration. Small businessmen find it useful to open shop in this area. This has resulted in the establishment of some big wholesale markets, such as the one in Khari Baoli . It also has middle-class residential areas with chaotic markets of Paharganj and the bustle of Delhi University.
South Delhi/South-East Delhi
Considered the fashionable district of the city, it has the best stores, hotels, infrastructure, tourist attractions, markets, historical monuments, restaurants and nightspots. The district also has the largest green patch as compared to the rest of the city. Furthermore, it also has the largest concentration of ancient historic ruins ( Hauz Khas , Qutub Minar , Tughlaqabad), and newer attractions like Lotus Temple and the popular sports complex of Siri Fort , all interconnected by wide, flawless roads.
West Delhi/North-West Delhi
The western areas primarily include residential blocks of Patel Nagar, Punjabi Bagh, Rajouri Gragen, Ashok Vihar and Tilak Nagar. Recent years have witnessed a tremendous growth in the city's economy, and the west has not been left behind. Markets are turning trendy and many high-rises are being constructed. Suddenly, the area has become lucrative causing new businesses to spring up.
On the other side of the Yamuna River lies Preet Vihar, Gandhi Nagar, Vivek Vihar, and Shahadara, some of the residential areas of the district. This place is almost devoid of any interesting facet save the fact that it is the proof of the colossal horizontal growth of the city.
Delhiites love to flaunt their heritage of Maharajas and dynasties. And hence it is one of the prominent cities when it comes to the art of dining out. The city is full of restaurants, and almost all the upscale ones have a grand and regal air about them. The most favored cuisine is Indian, i.e. Mughlai and Tandoori. Still, international cuisines are thriving in Delhi like never before. Although a step behind Mumbai's nightlife, Delhi is fast catching up and finally breaking the five-star monopoly. With the choices spilled all over the extensive city, here are a few pointers.
South Delhi/Greater Kailash/South Extension
This is the fashionable district and people aspire for an address in this area. It has shopping centers, designer boutiques, coffee shops, malls, and some pretty good restaurants and clubs. Most of the city's nightclubs and bars are situated here. There are many designer resto-bars too, such as Shalom , Olive Bar and Kitchen, Buzz , Diva , Suede , and Punjabi By Nature . Be it a restaurant in the middle of the scenic deer park ( Park Baluchi ), a bar amidst a rural village ( The Rooftop Bistro ), or a nightclub next to McDonald's and a cinema hall, the dining and drinking culture is very successful in adapting itself to Delhi's diverse mini-habitats.
Central Delhi/Connaught Place
Most of the bars and restaurants in the high-rises offer a spectacular panoramic view of Delhi. Be sure to dress up and bring plastic money when dining at The Imperial or enjoying spirits at Patiala Peg . Head towards Nirula's for its 21 varieties of ice creams or to the Yellow Brick Road , an all-night coffeehouse with the best pastries in town. For an after dinner drink, go to Agni at The Park or any of the five-stars' elegant lounge bars with live music.
North Delhi/Chandni Chowk
Get a real flavor of Indian hospitality at the street-side cafes of the historic Chandni Chowk where some restaurants are more than a hundred years old. Or visit the oddest, most eccentric Chor Bazaar, a restaurant named the "Market of Thieves," serving Indian cuisine at Hotel Oberoi Maidens .
This complex houses many small shops displaying extraordinary traditional Indian crafts. But in addition, it is a powerhouse of regional cuisines. Kiosks run by different Indian states offer their authentic food. You can find Assamese, Tamil, Gujarati as well as Goan cuisine here. While you may savor Punjabi food at Punjabi By Nature , you'll see that everyday is a carnival at Dilli Haat .
Delhi is a big city. Many spend weeks here, and yet only manage to scrape the tip of the iceberg. Numerous travel agencies and tour operators organize day trips to the various monuments and attractions of the Delhi. The Delhi Tourism board also offers a wide spectrum of services to tourists. Assistance centers and tour offices are set up in various corners of the city. The Government of India Tourist Office +91 11 332 0005 New Delhi Railway Station, +91 11 336 4004, +91 11 373 2714 Indira Gandhi International Airport, +91 11 565 2011, +91 11 565 2021 Or visit the official New Delhi Tourist website. www.delhitourism.com
The city is so vast that it doesn't allow for simply walking during the sightseeing tours. However, the small feat can be accomplished by bunching tourist attractions close to each other.
Connaught Place is not only the commercial hub of the city but a cherished symbol of Lutyens grand architecture. It is a mammoth circular building, and has inner and outer circles where numerous shops, restaurants, clubs and showrooms are located. In the middle of this circular giant lies the lush central park. On its side is the underground shopping market of Palika Bazaar . On emerging from the air-conditioned underground, walk towards Art Today in the inner circle. It is a gallery, which showcases valuable contemporary works of Indian artists. Nearby is Jantar Mantar , the ancient observatory built in 1725 to determine time and positions of the planets.
Take an auto-rickshaw or a cab from Connaught Place and head towards India Gate . This structure is a tall gate made in sandstone to commemorate the soldiers of the Indian army. It is surrounded by vast manicured lawns with marble fountains, which lead to the Rashtrapati Bhavan (the President's Residence) on one end and the National Gallery of Modern Art on the other. The whole area is surrounded by Lutyen's buildings like The Secretariat , The National Museum and Shankar's Dolls Museum . The museums have massive collections and deserve at least a few hours each if not more.
The Lodhi Garden is located in south Delhi. It is almost a botanical garden with hundred-year-old trees and rare plants, and beautiful Lodhi tombs and bridges from the 1500s. It is spread over many acres complete with manicured grass lawns, wooden benches, red mud pathways and jogging tracks. There are many tombs here and visiting all of them takes many hours. On the left of these gardens is the impressive Safdarjung Tomb . Located in the midst of a sprawling complex, it is one of the most beautiful pieces of architecture from the Mughal era. On the right of the Lodhi Gardens is India Habitat Centre and India International Centre . They are the two foremost cultural hubs of the city. Daily music, dance and literary performances, plays, book readings and art exhibitions are organized here.
The Nizamuddin area is full of ancient dargahs (Muslim shrines), which are not just popular tourist destinations but also revered pilgrimage sites. The most spectacular is Nizamuddin Auliya's dargah, which lies amidst a maze of small village-like lanes. On Thursdays, live Sufi music ( Nizamuddin's qawwali ) is performed in front of the shrine. The awe-inspiring Humayun's Tomb is also nearby.
The Qutub Minar complex lies in the southern-most part of the city. And a few kilometers away lies the border to the neighboring Haryana state. It is a sprawling complex with some of Delhi's most famous monuments, such as the Qutub Minar tower , the Iron Pillar , Tomb of Iltutmish , Alai Darwaza , and Alai Minar . A little away from the complex is Mehrauli. Ancient monuments like Bhulbhulaiyan , Gandak ki Baoli, Hathi Gate and Jamali Kamali are scattered all over this village-like area. Finding them all may be a bit difficult, therefore, it is advisable to carry a very good map or a guide.
On the southern edge of Delhi lie the eerie ruins of the Tughlaqabad Fort. It stretches for over seven kilometers and is a popular place for picnics or day treks as the climb up to the various parts of the fort can be quite adventurous. Nearby is the Asola Wildlife Sanctuary and the 11th century water tank of Surajkund.
If you prefer the sanity of civilization but don't want to miss the historical and tourist sites, visit the Lotus Temple. Here you'll find the bustling designer Hauz Khas Village , the allegedly haunted Chor Minar , and a charming sports complex of Siri Fort . The Lotus Temple announces its presence from miles away. An intimidating white structure in the shape of a lotus, it has been designed as a temple symbolizing the unity of all religious faiths. People from all religions are invited to meditate silently under the massive flower.
On the other extreme of the city is Shah Jahanabad or Old Delhi. Rich in monuments of ancient dynasties, spend a day at the historic Red Fort (Lal Quila) or try delicious Indian fare at Chandni Chowk . Jama Masjid , the pinnacle of Mughal mosque architecture, lies close by and there are many interesting ancient Baolis strewn across the busy lanes.