I will be honest. Delhi holds an eternally distinctive place in my heart. It is where I was born and spent a memorable part of my childhood growing up. The city, which is a perfect coalescence of History, Culture, Modernity, Politics and Technology, is a place where the entire country, it seems, comes together to make it what it is: ‘The City Improbable’, to quote the words of Khushwant Singh.
It’s not called Dilwalon ki Dilli (the city of the large-hearted) for nothing. From the facades of Tughlaqabad to the streets of Chandni Chowk, from simpletons of the Sadar Bazaar to the elites of Khan Market, from Connaught Place to Kalindi Kunj and with parliament and embassies on one side and Hard Rock cafes on the other, it is the city, improbable at its best. The capital boasts of its rich historical legacy and dynamic advancements beautifully blended together; one can pay a visit to the Mughals at noon and later shake a leg at one of the country’s most happening party destinations/clubs at night. A stunning mix of numerous cultures, sensibilities, traditions and languages, the city has emerged as a hybrid of its own kind.
It’s not called Dilwalon ki Dilli for nothing.
Being the Indian capital city, Delhi also boasts of one of the country’s best transport connectivity systems, both domestic and international. Besides air, the city has one of the most sought after rail and road interlinks from practically every other town or city in the country. As a popular travel destination, Delhi has a myriad of things to offer its tourists. It gratifies every segment of travel explorers, wanderers and vivid enthusiasts. Here is my custom pick of the top 10 must-do/see/visit places in Delhi:
Bangla Sahib Gurudwara
Situated in the heart of Connaught Place, the present Gurdwara was once a bungalow of Mirza Raja Jai Singh – hence its name Bangla Sahib. A sacred place with its deep-rooted history dating back to the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, the Gurdwara is known for its sheer serenity and delicate abode.
Agrasen Ki Baoli
The well of Agrasen is truly a fine blend of history and architecture. It is known to have been constructed from the aesthetic aspiration of the mighty King Ugrasen during the Mahabharata Era. The well, which is amongst the few of its kind in Delhi consists of 103 steps, few of which are immersed in water. The top 3 levels of the well are visible and each of them is lined with arched niches on either sides.
One of the Delhi’s three UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Humayun’s Tomb, is built in Chaar Bagh (four corners) style. As you enter the place, the first giant monument on your right is the bulbous, octagonal tomb of Iza Khan, a court noble who built it in his own lifetime, almost 20 years before Humayun’s tomb. As you forge through the first gate, you will see the dome of the tomb and enter a floral path leading to the second (West) gate, which now acts as the entrance to the beautiful central garden. The centerpiece is the eponymous tomb of Humayun, the second Mughal emperor.
Rising 42 mts high in one end of Rajpat stands the India Gate – a symbol of pride and bravery. This outstanding stone archway instantly ignites a feeling of patriotism and thus is a major tourist place in Delhi. Also known by the name of All India War Memorial, this prestigious monument is a mark of respect to all those unknown soldiers who have sacrificed their lives protecting an entire nation.
The Dillihaat, is an open-air craft bazaar cum food plaza situated in Delhi, run by Delhi tourism. Dilli Haat is adorned with beautiful sites. Under the open sky, little kiosks of junk and semi precious jewellery, paintings, fabrics, saris, pottery, furniture, souvenirs, showcasing bidri work from Karnataka or pashmina from Kashmir. A portrait maker was sketching a portrait of a girl. A mehendi wali was decorating the hands of a girl and others were waiting for their turn. At the far end, a food bazaar buzzes with activity where one can savour the inimitable flavors of the delightful local foods from the various regions of India like the momos from Sikkim or the bamboos hot chicken from Nagaland, kahwa & kebabs from Jammu, pooranpoli from Maharastra or the Gujrati dhokla. There were some Chinese food options also. I took hakka noodles with cold coffee.
Hauz Khas Village
The Hauz Khas Village is the urban market and probably the most ‘happening’ place of Delhi, as described by youngsters. With its antique shops, cool cafes, restaurants and bars, it is a must visit for all the art lovers and people who want to spend some leisurely time with friends. If you reach before sunset, you can catch a glimpse of the lake and the monuments surrounding it. Worry not if you are not into more monuments as this area turns into a happening night spot (with multiple restaurants serving an array of local and international cuisines) as evening sets, still giving you plenty of opportunity to enjoy your evening.
Janpath Market is situated opposite the famous Connaught Place, in New Delhi. This market is a mix of fixed small shops and local stalls. Here you’ll find the latest fashion goods all decorated in the pomp and glory of their arrival, embellishing the entire market. Other than the fixed small shops and local stalls, there are also local cloth/mojari or jutti (a Punjabi or Rajisthani footwear)/purse and other handicraft artisans sitting between the lanes of fixed shops.
Daryaganj Book Market
Known to have begun around 1964, the weekly book market at Old Delhi’s Daryaganj is said to be one of the oldest regular book markets of the city. The market is set on the narrow footpaths and cramped streets of Daryaganj only on Sundays. This market is practically a treasure for book lovers because of availability of second hand books in good shape and at reasonable prices, sometimes the prices dupe down so low that you can by a John Grisham at as low as 10-20 INR (US$0.23).
One of the favorite shopping destinations in Delhi, and the fourth most expensive office destination, couldn’t remain untouched from our presence. From eateries, to commercial business centers, from Cinema houses to retail markets, CP has it all. Built in 1933, Connaught Place in its early years was the headquarters of the British colonial Empire, and was named after H.R.H Field Marshal The 1st Duke of Connaught and Strathearn.
Moonlight Square is one of the oldest and the busiest markets of Old Delhi. It was built and established by princess Jahanara, Shah Jahan’s Daughter. Savouring the famous parathas of the “parathe wali gali” is a must here. Kindle the flame of the wanderlust burning inside your heart by taking a dip into the world of antiquity, a historian’s paradise, a shopper’s delight!
For a list of experiences for first-time visitors to Delhi, click here. (Coming soon!)