Delhi is a sprawling city but the major sights of interest are located not too far from each other, in the grand scheme of things. Most places of interest are in New Delhi, Old Delhi and South Delhi.
WHEN TO VISIT
Weather-wise, Delhi is a city of extremes by Indian standards. Winters can see mild, sunny afternoons with highs from 15 to 20 C, but winter mornings can be terribly foggy, resulting in transport disruptions and can dampen sightseeing excitement too (that's supposed to be the India Gate but I can't see a damn thing!). Summers from Apr to Jun are hot, with temps going to and beyond 40 C in the day. Monsoons from Jul to Sep are rainy and hot.
New Delhi is largely a green area with well maintained roads, roundabouts and important government buildings, as well as embassies of foreign countries.
In the heart of Delhi, Rajiv Chowk, formerly and still popularly known as Connaught Place is one of the capital's most popular eating and shopping destination. Consisting of three concentric circles, the area is divided into many blocks. Come here to catch a meal, look at the colonial architecture or just to people-watch.
Not far from Connaught Place, hidden in the leafy lanes of Central Delhi, is an old baoli (stepwell) called Agrasen ki Baoli, also known as Ugrasen ki Baoli, dating from the 14th century. There is no admission fee to visit.
|Agrasen ki Baoli|
|An instrument at Jantar Mantar|
|Sacred Heart Cathedral|
|A section of a tusk depicting Buddha's life scenes at display|
at the National Museum. Carved early 20th century
|Bara Darwaza, as viewed from inside the fort|
Some 4 km north of Old Fort is another of Delhi's historic forts, known as Feroz Shah Kotla. Ask Delhi residents about this fort, and they will point you to the more famous cricket stadium next door, which goes by the same name. And while the cricket stadium has some interesting historic feats to it, such as Indian bowler Anil Kumble's 10 wickets in an innings against Pakistan, even this cricket fan admits that the fort is pretty amazing too.
Delhi has over the ages hosted 7 cities, and Feroz Shah Kotla was built to house the fifth city of Delhi, known as Ferozabad. Built in the mid 14th century by Sultan Feroz Shah Tughlaq, who was also a noted builder, who commissioned a number of mosques, forts etc across the Sultanate, the fort, now in ruins, is said to be haunted. Every Thursday a ceremony is held to please the djinns who are said to inhabit the place.
|Looking around the fort|
Feroz Shah Tughlaq was a cultured man and appreciated history. This is shown by the Ashokan Pillar, dating from the 3rd century BC which he meticulously brought from its original location in Ambala. This pillar rests on top of what was a pyramidal structure.
|The Ashokan Pillar|
|The expansive jails... at least Feroz Shah Tughlaq reduced the |
brutal punishments such as flaying often meted out by this
predecessor, Muhammad bin Tughlaq.
|Interior of a tomb in Lodhi Garden|
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the perfect symmetry of the tomb and the sheer elegance makes it one of the most beautiful structure in Delhi. The surrounding lawns, which if you turn away from the main path can feel like a forest, are pleasant to stroll through.
|Isa Khan's Tomb|
Inside are some museums, such as Museum on India's Struggle for Freedom. Historical sights inside the fort include the Diwan-i-Aam, where the emperor gave public audiences. One of the more elaborate halls is the Khas Mahal, the emperor's private palace.
|Detail in the Khas Mahal|
|Stairs leading to Jama Masjid|
Mehrauli is a district in south west Delhi, also known for its historical sights.
The most famous of them are clustered in the Qutub Archaeological Complex. Getting in can be a hassle- you buy your ticket from across the road, and then come back to join the entry queue- expect loads of crowds on weekends/holidays.
The complex is home to Qutub Minar, a minaret built in the end of the 12th century.
|Detail on the Qutub Minar|
If you want to escape to another historically-rich area nearby with very few crowds, visit the Mehrauli Archaeological Park. Read a page on it by me here.
We have stayed in several hotels in Delhi including:
- Le Meridien Delhi. Located conveniently in New Delhi, walking distance to Jantar Mantar, India Gate and National Museum.
- Hilton Delhi. Not too close to any major attractions but close to the metro.
Undoubtedly North Indian cuisine is the best to try here. Go to Chandni Chowk for street food and paranthe. Connaught Place, Khan Market and Delhi's malls have options for sit-down, including fine dining restaurants.
One of Delhi's street food specialties is shakargandhi, which is nicely spiced up sweet potato. You can find this just about everywhere, such as in Janpath market.
Delhi has received a lot of bad press recently, however as a tourist, Delhi does not pose any extra risk provided you follow typical big-city precautions. The metro can get very crowded in rush hours, and as in any crowded place, watch your pockets and bag. Scams and touts can be the biggest annoyance.
Within Delhi, the metro is of some use to tourists. However, within a smaller area, autos (3 wheelers) or rickshaws are more useful. Taxis cannot be hailed.