A Design Lover's Guide to Delhi in 24 Hours

Qutub Minar, New Delhi | © ashishkuawasthi / Pixabay
Qutub Minar, New Delhi | © ashishkuawasthi / Pixabay
Photo of Mridu Rai
13 January 2018

Delhi’s long and rich history has seen the rise and fall of some of the world’s mightiest empires. The cultural legacy inherited from these bygone eras have all played a significant part in shaping Delhi as one of the creative hubs of India. There’s so much to see and do in the capital for a design lover, so if you only have 24 hours to spend here, this is how you should plan your itinerary.

India’s first Public Art District

In 2016, St+Art India Foundation, an organisation promoting street art in public spaces across the country, organised the St+Art Festival in Delhi. The two month long festival saw a group of homegrown and international artists transform the city with installations and murals, one of them the tallest of its kind in India. Delhi had never seen anything like this before and the festival provided the much-needed thrust to street art culture not just in the capital but in the entire country.

It was around the same time that India’s very first open public art district was inaugurated. Street artists gave a complete makeover to the drab walls between Khanna Market and Meherchand Market in Lodhi Colony and the neighbourhood suddenly became absolutely Instagram worthy. There’s no better way to start your 24-hour design tour in Delhi than by visiting the vibrant Art District. Also since it’s an open air display, you can start your day as early as possible without having to worry about opening times.

India Habitat Centre

The next stop on the tour is India Habitat Centre, also located in Lodhi Colony. If you walk from the Art District in Meherchand Market, it will take you about 10 minutes. That’s not much time but the weather can be quite unforgiving during the summer season, so you can instead hop onto an autorickshaw if you’d prefer.

The Visual Arts Gallery at the convention centre always has some great art and photography exhibitions on so even if you make an unplanned visit, you’ll find something interesting to do here. Check out the latest programmes at India Habitat Centre here.

Designed by American architect Joseph Stein, the building complex is unlike any other in Delhi. Even with all the hustle and bustle outside, once you step inside, its serene ambience provides an otherworldy feel.

If you feel hunger pangs kicking in then drop by the All American Diner which has a delicious all-day breakfast menu.

India Habitat Centre, New Delhi | © ben dalton / Flickr

National Gallery of Modern Art

From here, it’s time to head to the National Gallery of Modern Art, which is a 20-minute drive from the India Habitat Centre. You can either catch an autorickshaw or call for an Uber cab. The nearest metro station is a bit far off so these two are the best options for getting around.

The National Gallery of Modern Art is housed in a former residence of the Maharaja of Jaipur. This is one of the leading art galleries in Delhi and has an enviable permanent collection by both Indian and international artists from mid 19th century onwards, along with regular short-term exhibitions.

The palatial gallery has about 12,000 square meters of exhibition space and viewing the entire place will take some time. Some of the renowned Indian artists whose works are on display here are Rabindranath Tagore, Nandalal Bose, Amrita Shergil and Raja Ravi Verma. Jacob Epstein, Giorgio de Chirico and Sonia Delaunay are some of the international artists you’ll find at the National Gallery of Modern Art. Foreigners pay Rs 500 (£6) entry fee and Indian visitors pay Rs 20 (2p).

If you have time then you should definitely visit the India Gate monument and Rashtrapati Bhavan (President’s House), which are both close by.

An exhibition at the National Gallery of Modern Art | © Tracy Hunter / Flickr

State Emporium Complex

The last stop on this brief design tour is the State Emporium Complex in Connaught Place. The entire street is occupied by shops selling the best of Indian handicrafts, making it the perfect place to end the day with some fun souvenir shopping.

Crafts from different states of India are all up for sale at the State Emporium. The products are all genuine and the prices very reasonable here. Textile enthusiasts will find shawls and exquisite carpets from Kashmir. Pure silk and cotton saris from West Bengal, Madhubani paintings from Bihar, bamboo furniture from Tripura and sandalwood sculptures from Karnataka are some of the items you can buy here.

Even after all this, if your shopping needs are still unfulfilled, you can visit the Cottage Emporium in Janpath, which is just 10 minutes away. It also has a good collection of authentic Indian handloom and handicraft products.

Madhubani paintings from Bihar | © chamko rani / Flickr