What to Do in Delhi: A Local’s Guide

For those ready to brave the crowds and the smog, Delhi local Ariel shares her top seven unbeatable experiences.


Photo © iStock/Instants

One of the world’s oldest cities, Delhi is both a history-rich metropolis and a vibrant modern capital at the seat of India’s political power. 

Travelers to India who only touch down in Delhi and set out for other destinations are missing out on one of the country’s most fascinating and culturally-significant cities.

It would take years to take in all its sites, so be sure to spare at least a few days or more.

Laxminarayan Temple

None other than Mahatma Gandhi himself inaugurated this Hindu temple. You can join the faithful in offering garlands to the gods, hand-carved by master craftsmen from Benares.

But be warned, worshippers swell during festivals, so you may have trouble squeezing inside!

Lotus Temple

This gleaming white, blossom-shaped sanctuary is one of Delhi’s most distinctive buildings.

Only one of seven major Baha’i temples around the world, it celebrates all religions and faiths. Despite 4 million visitors a year, the temple always remains blissfully calm.

Jama Masjid

Built by emperor Shah Jahan just a couple decades after the Taj Mahal, this mosque’s domes and marble-and-sandstone minarets are standing strong after four centuries.

Visitors can explore the grounds, but entrance is forbidden during prayer times.

Nizamuddin Dargah

Uncover Delhi’s thousand-year Sufi culture with this Muslim mausoleum, where throngs of devotees go for prayers. Vendors loudly hawk rose petals and kebabs in a warren of surrounding stalls.

Every Thursday, world-class qawwali singers perform to packed crowds.

India Gate

Delhi’s answer to the Arc de Triomphe, this British-built memorial commemorates Indian soldiers killed in World War I.

But don’t expect a solemn mood from this lively hangout. You’ll see vendors with balloons and ice cream, and even selling rides on remote-controlled cars.

Keep an eye out for the Flame of the Immortal Soldier, known as Amar Jawan Jyoti, which has been kept burning since 1971.

Chandi Chowk

Delhi’s unmissable Old City is a mad cluster of tiny streets and back-alleys, crowded with rickshaws and bullock carts. It’s also a major shopping hub.

For silver and attars (essential oils), head to the 17th century jewelers’ lane of Dabira Kalan.

You’ll see brides haggling over ribbons and lehengas (long, embroidered bridal skirts) in Kinari Bazar.

There’s even a vintage camera market at Kulcha Choudhary.

And, don't forget to eat! The Old City is a street-food lover’s paradise. Head to Sitaram Bazar for aam kulfi (mango ice cream), or daulat ki chaat (a foamy, saffron-infused dessert that takes up to six hours to prepare).

For kebabs, look no further than the famous Karim’s, founded in 1913 by the son of a cook in the Mughal royal court. Its mouth-watering recipes are still a family secret.

Meena Bazaar, Delhi. Photo credit: iStock


Had enough history? Take a stroll through Asia’s largest suburb, a high-tech enclave that will shortly be home to the country’s first driverless metro cars.

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