New Delhi is a melting pot of history, architecture and extraordinary gourmet options. The city has been the capital of India since the 12th century and attracts countless tourists looking to immerse themselves in all that it has to offer.
With architecture dating back to the 4th century and a range of styles from the medieval period, the Mughal empire and British rule, the main must-sees are mostly historical sites. Add a modern, burgeoning cafe culture and vibrant street food scene to the mix and you’ll have a holiday to remember.
Don’t know where to start? As a resident and proud Delhite, here are my top 16 things to do and eat when you visit this cultural hotspot:
1. Gaze Upon The Qutub Minar
The Qutub Minar is the tallest brick minaret in the world and a UNESCO site which makes it the highlight of the city. The minaret (slender mosque tower) is divided into five storeys and each storey has different architecture styles denoting the various rulers of the Mughal dynasty.
The premises is made up of a slew of ruins spread over a vast area and would take about half a day to explore. I’d recommend heading to the site early to dodge the crowds, or at sunset to get some amazing pictures for the ‘gram.
Prices: INR550 per ticket
Qutub Minar: Mehrauli, New Delhi, Delhi 110030 | Opening Hours: 7am – 6.30pm (Daily), last entry at 5pm
2. Get A Mighty Breakfast At Cafe Dori
If you’re finished at the Qutub Minar, head to nearby Cafe Dori for a delightful breakfast. The cafe is great for a nice cup of coffee and serves delicious European breakfast options.
I recommend trying the Turkish Eggs (INR375) and an Iced Caffe Latte (INR200) which is terrific to beat Delhi’s heat. The Turkish eggs are served atop Greek yoghurt and spiced with chilli, which is an interesting combination that works.
If you’re up for something sweeter, the Mocha (INR200) and Hot Chocolate (INR 275) are also hits with locals.
Cafe Dori: The Dhan Mill Compound, 100 Feet Road, SSN Marg Dr Ambedkar Colony, Chattarpur New Delhi, 110074 | Tel:+91 011 2630 2488 | Opening Hours: 10am – 10pm (Daily) | Website
3. Check Out Street Art In The Lodhi Art District
Delhi’s street art scene has evolved over the years but the revolution started pretty much from the Lodhi Art District. The area is India’s first open art gallery and the paintings here are worthy of a stroll.
These low-lying flats were brought to life by the St+Art foundation comprising renowned Indian and international artists. The gigantic murals are based on various themes and serve as a great backdrop for some travel photos.
Lodhi Art District: 261, Block 15, Lodi Colony, New Delhi, Delhi, 110003
4. Visit The India Gate & Surrounding Areas
The India Gate is usually the poster child for Delhi’s tourism; the triumphal arch is one of the most visited places in Delhi by tourists and locals alike. The surrounding gardens are also a popular spot for morning walks or for picnics in the late evening.
When here, you can also visit the recently erected National War Memorial nearby. The memorial honours soldiers who lost their lives in all the various wars India participated in. A humbling place to feel patriotic!
Prices: Entry is free for both sites
India Gate: Rajpath, India Gate, New Delhi, Delhi 110001 | Opening Hours: 6am – 10pm (Daily)
National War Memorial: Rajpath, India Gate, New Delhi, Delhi 110001 | Opening Hours: 9am – 6.30pm (Daily)
5. Marvel At The Grandeur Of The Humayun Tomb
A near-perfect replica of the Taj Mahal, the Humayun Tomb built in red sandstone is the mausoleum of Mughal Emperor Humayun. A fine piece of architecture with intricate detailing all over the building, the tomb will awe you with its grandeur.
The premises are a perfect example of water preservation in the Mughal era, with water channels around the main tomb. Envisioned by Humayun’s wife who drew inspiration from Persian architecture, the picturesque tomb is now a major tourist spot.
If you plan on visiting the tomb on a Sunday or a holiday, get your ticket(s) online to skip the queues. On other days, tickets can be bought easily from the counter at the entrance of the tomb.
Prices: INR550 per ticket
Humayun Tomb: Mathura Road Opposite Dargah, Nizamuddin, New Delhi, Delhi 110013 | Opening Hours: 7am – 6.30pm (Daily)
6. Walk In The Arenas Of The Purana Qila
As the name suggests, the Purana Qila (Old Fort) is one of the oldest forts in Delhi, dating back to the 15th century. Said to be sitting on the site of Indraprastha (city) of Pandavas from Mahabharata, the Qila is a prominent landmark in Delhi’s chronicles.
The fort is situated right opposite the Pragati Maidan which hosts a variety of events throughout the year, and is only a few kilometres away from both the India Gate and Humayun Tomb.
The fort was built by Emperor Humayun and it was here that he died after falling from the mosque in the premises. There are various structures in the fort including the aforementioned mosque, a (closed) baoli (stepwell), Humayun Darwaza (gate), wide arrays of gardens and a lake.
You’ll need to buy separate tickets for the fort and the lake from the counter at the entrance.
Prices: INR250 per ticket (same price for the fort and the lake)
Purana Qila: Mathura Road (Near Delhi Zoo), New Delhi, Delhi 110003 | Opening Hours: 7am – 5pm (Daily)
7. Stop By Cafe Lota For Authentic Indian Cuisine
Right opposite the Purana Qila is the Crafts Museum that houses a local favourite, Cafe Lota, which serves up a variety of delicacies from all over India. A recent addition to Delhi’s culinary scene, Cafe Lota has a chill vibe, humble staff, and delectable food choices.
I recommend trying the Sattu Paratha Chokha (INR420). This bread is stuffed with spiced potatoes and prepared using Sattu (a type of flour) found in Bihar and Madhya Pradesh.
The dish is served with smoked eggplant, green chilli sauce and mashed potatoes. Complete your meal with a glass of Ambadi Iced Tea (INR90) which is made from an ingredient (Roselle) mainly found in Maharashtra.
Cafe Lota: Gate No. 2, National Crafts Museum, Bhairon Marg, Pragati Maidan, New Delhi, Delhi 110001 | Tel: +91 07 8389 60787 | Opening Hours: 8am – 8.30pm (Daily) | Website
8. Take A Stroll In Connaught Place
The heart of Delhi (literally) for any Delhite is Connaught Place. Identifiable by its white facades characteristic of British architecture, it’s not only a financial district but also a superb shopping complex.
For those wanting to explore the area like a local, I would suggest taking a walk through the inner circle, making your way towards the outer circle to visit Gurudwara Bangla Sahib (Sikh house of worship). Pay your respects here, taste the prasad (religious offering), eat langar (a free meal) and walk around the lake inside the premises.
Connaught Place has become a popular tourist spot thus attracting major brands, which is why you’ll find a Madame Tussauds alongside the more historical Charkha Museum.
Prices: Free entry (for Gurudwara Bangla Sahib), from INR624 per adult ticket (for Madame Tussauds)
Gurudwara Bangla Sahib: Ashoka Road, New Delhi-110001 | Opening Hours: 24 Hours (Daily)
Madame Tussauds: Regal Building, 44, Connaught Cir, Connaught Place, New Delhi, Delhi 110001 | Tel: +91 011 4702 4700 | Opening Hours: 10am – 6pm (Daily) | Website
9. Descend The Steps Of Agrasen Ki Baoli
Back in the day, the rulers and kings all over India wanted ways to preserve water and stepwells were created. Agrasen ki Baoli was one such stepwell for storing water and is now one of the most famous ones in Delhi.
The baoli is a must-visit spot close to Connaught Place and can be easily covered while strolling around the heart of Delhi. An architectural marvel in itself, the stepwell is rumoured to be haunted due to the numerous suicides that take place here.
Prices: Free entry
Agrasen ki Baoli: Hailey Road, Near Diwanchand Imaging Centre, K G Marg, New Delhi, Delhi 110001 | Opening Hours: 7am – 6pm (Daily)
10. Try Indian Food With A Twist At Farzi Cafe
When it comes to Indian cuisine, no one can do it better than us and we definitely know how to spice it up. Farzi Cafe is a great dining spot if you’re looking for Indian delicacies with a unique twist.
I recommend trying the traditional Matka Cholle Luchhi Puff (INR435) which features chickpeas served with fried puff bread. Another interesting dish to order would be the Tandoori Soy Chops (INR360) which serves as more of a snack but is still rather filling.
Complete the meal with smoothies or mocktails like the signature Farzi Ok (INR245), an orange-based drink.
Farzi Cafe: E-38/39, Rajiv Chowk, Inner Circle, Block E, Connaught Place, New Delhi, Delhi 110001 | Tel: +91 07 0531 27289 | Opening Hours: 12noon – 1am (Daily) | Website
11. Admire The Architectural Brilliance Of The Red Fort
Old Delhi is what many call the soul of the city and part of it is home to the 16th-century Red Fort built by Shah Jahan, who also commissioned the Taj Mahal. The external walls of the fort were built using red sandstone which gave the fort its name.
The various buildings in the fort feature intricate details inspired by Islamic, Persian and even Hindu culture. Some parts of the fort are currently being restored and beyond access, but you can still admire the impressive structures from the outside.
Prices: INR550 per ticket
Red Fort: Netaji Subhash Marg, Lal Qila, Chandni Chowk, New Delhi, Delhi 110006 | Opening Hours: 9.30am – 4.30pm (Daily)
12. Take In The View At Delhi’s Largest Mosque
Just a kilometre away from the Red Fort is Jama Masjid, one of the largest mosques in the country and the largest in Delhi. The mosque has three white domes and three gates and dates back to Shah Jahan’s reign during the 16th century.
The mosque also has towers (minarets) which provide an excellent panoramic view of the capital. You’ll need a ticket to head up the southern minaret and can buy one from the counter located next to the main mosque building.
Prices: Free entry to the mosque | Fee of INR300 for photography | INR100 to ascend southern minaret
Jama Masjid: Meena Bazaar, Jama Masjid, Chandni Chowk, New Delhi, Delhi 110006 | Opening Hours: 7am – 12noon & 1.30pm – 6.30pm (Daily)
13. Eat Your Way Through Chandni Chowk
When visiting Jama Masjid, I highly recommend exploring the rest of Chandni Chowk too. Chandni Chowk is one of the oldest markets in the capital and is filled with cramped alleys and throngs of people and rickshaws.
Brave the crowds and sample various street foods before checking out other shops selling anything from wedding attire (Kinari Bazaar) to books and stationery (Nai Sarak).
Dahi Bhalle and Aloo Tikki are two of many delicious snacks served up at Natraj Dahi Bhalle, a famous snack shop which was established even before India gained independence.
Dahi Bhalle comprises fried green bean paste that’s served with a yoghurt and tamarind sauce, while Aloo Tikki is made from boiled potatoes which are then spiced and fried.
Other vendors to visit would be Paranthe Walli Galli (selling stuffed parathas), Karim Hotel (selling kebabs), and Dariba Kalan (selling jalebis, an Indian sweet made from pure ghee).
Chandni Chowk: New Delhi, Delhi 110006
14. Explore The Ruins Of The Hauz Khas Fort
The antiquities of Alauddin Khilji’s empire lie in the Hauz Khas Fort; ruins in the form of dilapidated walls, a mosque, and a madrassa overlooking a lake make up the premises.
The fort was unknown even to many locals up till a few years ago, when the opening of hip cafes in the nearby village started drawing visitors. Entry to the fort is free and this continues to attract tourists and college youth on a daily basis.
The algae-covered man-made lake facing the fort is a prominent highlight, and the village is also a must-visit, featuring various boutiques and street art. After exploring the fort and lake, dine at one of the hip bistros in the area like Hauz Khas Social, Little Saigon, Blue Tokai, or Smoke House Deli.
Prices: Free entry
Hauz Khas Fort: Hauz Khas Village, Deer Park, Hauz Khas, New Delhi, Delhi 110016 | Opening Hours: 6am – 5pm (Daily)
15. Escape The Crowds At The Safdarjung Tomb
A true unexplored gem of Delhi is the Mughal era mausoleum built during the last reign of the Mughals. The 17th-century Safdarjung Tomb was constructed using red and white sandstone, with a design similar to the Humayun Tomb, albeit lacking the grandeur and symmetry.
The tomb is surrounded by water channels and other buildings like the Jangli Mahal but these are closed to tourists. The interior of the main mausoleum was designed in the baroque style but seems to have been impacted by the brunt of time.
There are hardly any tourists even on a Sunday, so if you’re looking to escape the crowds, head here.
Prices: INR 250 per ticket
Safdarjung Tomb: Air Force Golf Course, Delhi Race Club, New Delhi, Delhi 110021 | Opening Hours: 7am – 5pm (Daily)
16. Go Museum Hopping
With so much history and culture, Delhi is in no way short of museums. Squeeze museum-hopping into your itinerary and learn as much as you can while you’re here.
The National Gallery of Modern Art located right next to the India Gate is a haven for art aficionados, with art collections spread over four floors. The National Museum on the other hand, features as many as 200,000 artworks including sculptures from the Indian subcontinent that are about 5,000 years old!
The Crafts Museum opposite the Pragati Maidan showcases heritage works from all over the country and will open your heart to the incredible traditions of India.
Finally, I recommend the National Rail Museum which documents the evolution of Indian Railways and even features a toy train that’s very popular with kids – perfect if you’re visiting Delhi as a family.
Prices: INR200 per ticket (National Gallery of Modern Art), INR 650 per ticket including audio guide (National Museum), INR200 per ticket (Crafts Museum), INR100 with audio guide (National Rail Museum), INR 100 to ride the toy train (National Rail Museum)
National Gallery of Modern Art: Shershah Road, Near India Gate Jaipur House, New Delhi, Delhi 110003 | Opening Hours: 10am – 6.30pm (Tue – Fri), 11am – 8pm (Sat & Sun), Closed on Mon | Website
National Museum: Janpath, New Delhi, Delhi 110011 | Opening Hours: 10am – 6pm (Tue – Sun), Closed on Mon | Website
Crafts Museum: Pragati Maidan Bhairon Marg, Pragati Maidan, New Delhi, Delhi 110001 | Opening Hours: 10am – 5pm (Tue – Sun), Closed on Mon | Website
National Rail Museum: Shanti Path, Chanakyapuri, Near Bhutan Embassy, New Delhi, Delhi 110021 | Opening Hours: 10am – 5.30pm (Tue – Sun) (last entry at 4.30pm), Closed on Mon | Website
If you’re planning to visit India for the first time and starting with Delhi, you might be a little confused/apprehensive. Here are some of my best tips for a first-timer:
- Stay in Central or South Delhi as opposed to the popular opinion of Paharganj.
- Delhi Metro is the safest and fastest way to commute in the city.
- Don’t fall for scams with people recommending you a place and suggesting that the one you chose is closed.
- Delhi has amazing private taxi services; I recommend Uber, Meru and Ola.
- Delhi-belly is real – only drink mineral water or get your own bottle and refill it at any good restaurant or cafe.
*This post was contributed by Shivani, blogger and owner of The Wandering Core.