With a host of historical sites, museums, markets, parks, restaurants and bars, there’s just so much to explore in India’s capital city. But if you only have a weekend and want to make the best of your short stay here, then here’s how you can discover Delhi in 48 hours.
Old Delhi, or the erstwhile Shahjahanabad, is on everybody’s itinerary when they visit the capital. When you reach here before 8 am or earlier, the usually overflowing streets have an unusual sense of stillness. Jama Masjid, which served as the royal mosque to the Mughals for ages, opens its doors at 7 am and these early hours are the best time to visit the mosque. Shrouded in an air of unmistakable piety, you will find some people offering their prayers and others meditating on their own in quiet corners. The entry is free but you will be charged Rs 200 (£2) for photography.
After a spiritual sojourn at Jama Masjid, you can head straight for a scrumptious breakfast. For a budget-friendly meal, Haji Shabrati Nihari Wale is the perfect place. They serve delicious nihari, which is a traditional stew of slow-cooked meat, believed to have been invented in Old Delhi during the Mughal period. Haji Shabrati Nihari Wale serves breakfast from 6 am to 10 am and you’ll only have to shell out a couple of hundred rupees to dine here.
If you’re looking for a more luxurious spread then Lakhori-Haveli Dharampura is the place to be. They serve Indian breakfasts like paranthas (stuffed bread) and puris (deep-fried bread) alongside western choices like pancakes and cereals. Lakhori-Haveli Dharampura opens at 7:30 am for breakfast and will cost around Rs 2000 (£20) per person.
After a hearty meal, you can either walk to Red Fort, which opens at 9:30 am or take a cycle rickshaw there. The Red Fort is a little less than two kilometres away from Jama Masjid. The entry fee is Rs 35 for Indians and Rs 500 for foreigners. Arriving early can save you from having to wait in long queues.
Red Fort was built by the fifth Mughal emperor Shah Jahan and served as the chief residence for the dynasty for almost 200 years. Each year, India’s Independence Day is celebrated here. It will take a good two hours to take a complete tour of the Fort.
Red Fort, Netaji Subhash Marg, Chandni Chowk, Delhi, India, +91 11 2327 7705
After this, bid Old Delhi goodbye and head to Connaught Place, a remnant of the British Raj architecture and miles apart in character from the time-honoured Old Delhi.
Indian Coffee House, near PVR Rivoli cinema, is ideal for getting a dose of caffeine to re-energise before taking a walk around Connaught Place. The coffee house was established in 1957 and once used to be a favourite haunt of politicians, writers and artists. Indian Coffee House boasts of serving nine Indian Prime Ministers in the past. There are stories about how the coffee house was brought down during the State Emergency in 1976 because it was believed to be a hub for hatching conspiracies against the then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi. Although some people have complained about the slow service these days, if there’s only one cafe you can visit in Connaught Place it is this.
Just a hop, skip and a jump away from Connaught Place is the ancient observatory Jantar Mantar, built by Maharaja Jai Singh II of Jaipur. This unique structure was used to measure time and study astronomy during the 18th-century.
Jantar Mantar, Sansad Marg, New Delhi, India, +91 11 2336 5358
Soak in a bit of creativity at the National Gallery of Modern Art, which has interesting exhibitions lined up at all times. The National Gallery of Modern Art houses a large collection of works including those by the pioneers of modern Indian art like Abanindranath Tagore, Amrita Sher-Gil, Nandalal Bose, Jamini Roy and Raja Ravi Varma. The building which houses the museum used to be the residence of former Maharajas of Jaipur.
The museum is open until 5 pm and remains closed on Mondays.
A 10-minute walk from the National Gallery of Modern Art will take you to India Gate, one of the most famous monuments in Delhi. This 138-feet World War I memorial was built to commemorate the 82,000 soldiers of the British Indian Army who gave their lives fighting in the war.
You can walk down the wide road at Rajpath which connects Rashtrapati Bhavan on Raisina Hill to India Gate. Rashtrapati Bhavan is the official residence of the President of India containing 340 rooms. The famed Mughal Gardens are situated behind the Rashtrapati Bhavan, but it is open to visitors only in February.
As darkness starts to fall, India Gate lights up in beautiful colours, making for a stunning view that cannot be captured during the day.
India Gate, Rajpath Marg, New Delhi, India, +91 11 2336 5358
Delhi has many parks for those looking for an early morning stroll. But for the time-strapped travellers, Lodi Park is the best option to go for. Spread over 90 acres, Lodi Park isn’t just ideal for a leisurely walk, but it also provides an opportunity to familiarise yourself with Delhi’s history.
The Lodi dynasty ruled over the city from 1451 to 1526. The tombs of the rulers from this era still stand at Lodi Garden along with architectural structures from the bygone period like the Shisha Gumbad and Bara Gumbad.
If the morning walk and history lesson have made you hungry then there are a lot of options for breakfast nearby. The All-American Diner at the India Habitat Centre opens at 7 am and arguably has one of the best breakfasts in the city. They serve everything from french toast with banana and nuts to bacon and eggs.
Alternatively, you can go a bit further to Khan Market and try the Big Bawa Breakfast at the Iranian cafe SodaBottleOpenerWala.
SodaBottleOpenerWala, 73, Khan Market, New Delhi, India, +91 11 3310 5087
With so many iconic monuments in Delhi, it’s hard to choose one over the other. Since day one covers some celebrated Mughal era architectures in Old Delhi, you can give Humayun’s Tomb a miss (albeit with a heavy heart) and visit Qutb Minar instead.
The tallest brick minaret in the world stands at a height of 239-feet. Apart from admiring its colossal beauty, it’s important to note the historical significance of Qutb Minar. It was built by Qutb Ud-Din-Aibak, founder of the Delhi Sultanate, after conquering Delhi’s last Hindu kingdom. The monument signals the ushering in of Muslim dynasties in Delhi, eventually leading up to the Mughal empire. Qutb Minar, thus, marks a key moment in the history of the city.
Qutub Minar, Mehrauli, New Delhi, India, +91 11 2469 8431
Next up, head to Buzzaria Dukaan, just opposite to Qutub Minar, in order to shop for some local products and take souvenirs back home. The store promotes Indian-made products and includes handmade Ayurvedic beauty gifts, Indo-western inspired apparels and home decor items.
The second evening can be spent at Shahpurjat, Delhi’s hippest neighbourhood. Lined with independent boutiques and some great concept restaurants and cafes, Shahpurjat is never short of vibrant energy.
If you’re an animal lover, Puppychino, Delhi’s first dog cafe is the place for you. Besides some great food, getting to hang out with a bunch of furry friends is an excellent way to rejuvenate after a long day of touring the city.
Shahpurjat also has another first to its name thanks to The South Delhi Kitchen, which is India’s first Community Cafe. Here, sharing a meal with a stranger and splitting the bill even though you’ve just run into each other and will never meet again, is considered perfectly normal.
Before you leave you can get yourself some natural essential oils from Meraki Essentials and some quaint home decor items from Ikka Dukka.
Meraki Essentials, 11-A, DDA, Shahpur Jat, New Delhi, Delhi, India, +91 95990 80825
Ikka Dukka, Dada Jungi House Lane, Shahpur Jat, New Delhi, India, +91 97172 60192
Delhi’s nightlife is best experienced at Hauz Khas Village. Along the stretch of this urban village are many trendy bars and restaurants which are buzzing with life on both weekdays and weekends. You will be spoilt for choice when you come to Hauz Khas Village and bar hopping is a fun way to try out all the great places here.
Hauz Khas Social, Summer House Cafe and Lord of the Drinks Meadow are the safest bet when you visit this neighbourhood. If you’re lucky, you might also run into someone like Chris Martin from Coldplay, who briefly dropped by Summer House Cafe for a drink and played a short gig to appease the fans. Martin was in town for a charity initiative at that time.
If you’re not up for Hauz Khas Village, then The Piano Man Jazz Club in Safdarjung Enclave is another good option to unwind on your last night in Delhi.
Hauz Khas Social, 9-A & 12, Hauz Khas Village, New Delhi, India, +91 78386 52814