Delhi is home to some eclectic neighbourhoods, from the upmarket Lodhi Colony to the bohemian Shahpurjat and even the Tibetan enclave of Majnu ka Tila. Each area is a cultural treasure trove offering some rare travel experiences. Explore our guide to the capital city’s coolest neighbourhoods.
Hauz Khas Village
The popular Hauz Khas Village is home to trendy bars, cafes and restaurants, and has come to be known for its gastronomic delights and buzzing nightlife. However, Hauz Khas Village also enlightens its visitors with the capital city’s medieval history. The urbanised village was an important site during the Delhi Sultanate of the 13th century. It housed a large water reservoir that supplied water to the adjacent city of Siri, built by the Sultan of Delhi Alauddin Khalji. The complex also consists of a madrasa (Islamic seminary), a mosque, and the tomb of Firuz Shah, a 14th century Delhi Sultan.
Just like Hauz Khas Village, Shahpur Jat is the remains of the ancient city of Siri in Delhi. The current urban village has been built over the ruins of the old one. Initially, due to cheaper rents, upcoming independent designers set up shop at Shahpurjat. Over the years, the area has become the stomping ground of hip, young millennials. Catering to the crowd is a bunch of niche fashion boutiques like Kanelle, Sahiba Singh, Collart and Nimai, vintage outlets like House of Blondie, quirky interior decor brands like Wishing Chair and stationary stores like Anand Prakash.
The neighbourhood also has some great concept restaurants. The South Delhi Kitchen is India’s first ‘community cafe’, where you can dine and split the bill with strangers. Then there’s Puppychino, Delhi’s first dog cafe, where you can unwind with cute puppies. While the neighbourhood is hip and trendy, the narrow lanes and archaic facades of most buildings still lend a nostalgic ambience to the place.
Connaught Place is a landmark neighbourhood of Delhi. Before the British decided to set up a commercial centre in the area, it was a thick forest where residents of nearby localities often came to hunt partridges. The architecture of Connaught Place finds no other likeness in the entire city. The circular structure is decorated with tall Georgian-style columns and Palladian arches that were inspired by the Royal Crescent of Bath, England.
Connaught Place is a renowned shopping district but it also has plenty of quality bars and restaurants. People also flock to the neighbourhood for the cinema experience at PVR Plaza and Carnival Odeon. The historic Regal Cinema was recently closed down and will be refurbished into a swish multiplex soon. Connaught Place encircles a sprawling park perfect for an idle stroll. Janpath Market is also close by, and so is the iconic Jantar Mantar.
This is one of the more upscale neighbourhoods in Delhi and you’ll always find something interesting to do here. Built in the 1940s, Lodhi Colony was the last residential area to be built in Delhi during the British reign. The Lodhi Gardens are a great place to visit when in the neighbourhood. You can often find eminent politicians taking their morning walks in the park, which also houses ruins of 15th century monuments. The Indian Habitat Centre nearby hosts some of the best cultural events in the city, from art exhibitions to film screenings. The All American Diner at the Habitat Centre is also a popular eating joint. Art aficionados would be excited to know that last year, the St+Art India Foundation transformed Lodhi Colony into India’s very first open public art district.
For food and shopping options in the neighbourhood, Meherchand Market has some kitschy boutiques and excellent eateries. When at the market, make sure to drop by CMYK Bookstore, definitely one of the finest book shops in the city. Delhi’s popular Japanese restaurant Guppy by Ai is also located in Lodhi Colony.
No matter how many trendy neighbourhoods come up in the capital, Old Delhi will never cease to be a favourite of locals and tourists. The city as we know it was founded by the fifth Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in 1638, so its original name was Shahjahanabad. Although the grandeur of the Mughal era may have faded, Old Delhi still manages to capture the imagination of visitors. The Red Fort and Jama Masjid, the two prominent Mughal monuments, are located close to each other in the area. One of the world’s oldest and busiest markets, Chandni Chowk, is a huge attraction. The name–which means moonlight square–was derived from the architecture of the bazaar that had a flowing canal in the middle that lit up every night with the moon’s reflection.
The area is also known for its street food and Mughlai cuisine, from places like Paranthe Wali Gali. Old Delhi was also home to famous Urdu poets like Mirza Ghalib and Mir Taqi Mir. Exploring this time-worn neighbourhood provides a rich insight into the drastic changes that the passage of time has brought upon a once great city.
Majnu ka Tilla
Located on the banks of the Yamuna River, Majnu ka Tilla is also known as the Little Tibet of Delhi. When the Tibetan Rebellion against China started in Lhasa in 1959, many natives fled Tibet and came to India. At the same time, the Dalai Lama found a new home at Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh. At first, a refugee camp was set up alongside the Yamuna; later, in 1960, the Government of India officially allocated the land for Tibetan refugee settlement. Today, the serpentine lanes of Majnu ka Tilla are lined with cafes and affordable eating joints mostly serving Tibetan, Nepali and other Asian cuisine. AMA Cafe, Busan Korean Restaurant, Rigo Restaurant and Yamuna Cafe are some of the popular places here. It’s also dotted with shops selling Buddhist artworks, prayer flags, incense sticks and other souvenirs.