The nightlife in Delhi is diverse and caters to everyone from barflies to classy clubbers. While the most exclusive nightclubs are sequestered in luxury hotels, numerous trendy stand-alone bars have recently opened up and are proving to be popular alternatives. However, do note that the legal drinking age in Delhi is 25 and proof of age may be required. In addition, bars must close by 1 a.m. in accordance with the nightlife curfew. If that's too early for you and you have cash to splash, plenty of clubs await.
These days, many of Delhi's best bars are centrally located in the Outer Circle of Connaught Place, which has transformed into a vibrant nightlife destination in recent years. In South Delhi, Hauz Khas Village is where the action is at. The new Aerocity hospitality precinct (adjacent to Delhi airport) is heating up as well. Dress standards are generally casual and western. Wear the same as what you would if going out back home. The following bars offer something special:
- Blue Bar: Located at the Taj Palace hotel in Chanakyapuri, Blue Bar is opulent and edgy, with an open-air alfresco lounge that fronts the swimming pool. The Cosmopolitan cocktails are among the best in the city. Happy hour is from 6 p.m. to 8.30 p.m., and music and dancing starts after 11 p.m. Dress to impress, as this bar is at a five-star hotel.
- Ministry of Beer: Spread over three floors in Connaught Place, Delhi's first microbrewery offers up a wide range of craft beers.
- Station Bar: This slick railway-themed art deco bar in Connaught Place serves creative signature cocktails and international finger food.
- Local: A cavernous, buzzing bar in Connaught Place, paintings of Delhi decorate Local's rustic wood and steel interiors. Drinks at wholesale prices, large TV screens for sports, and a revolving DJ stage ensure it's always busy.
- Tamasha: Tamasha features an outdoor bar shaped like a truck, plus five separate areas, including a sprawling courtyard and hookah lounge, mezzanine, and rooftop overlooking central Delhi.
- Public Affair: Inspired by speakeasies from the Prohibition Era, Public Affair's unique, handcrafted cocktails are superb.
- Hauz Khas Social: This pocket-friendly co-working space for creative types doubles as a lively bar at night.
- Summer House Cafe: A café renowned for its cool underground electronica gigs on Wednesdays and Fridays, rooftop vibe, and sophisticated mixed crowd. Happy hour runs until 9 p.m at this Hauz Khas hotspot.
- Lord of the Drinks: This funky chain features themed designer interiors and an extensive drinks menu.
- Serai at Olive Bar and Kitchen: This is the ideal place for a sundown drink after visiting Qutub Minar in South Delhi. The view is magnificent and the culinary cocktails are infused with fresh fruity ingredients.
- PCO: PCO is worth experiencing for the novelty factor and ambiance if you're in South Delhi. Short for "Pass Code Only", this Vasant Vihar bar has been set up as a vintage speakeasy and requires a secret code for entry. If you're not in the know, call ahead and make a reservation to get the code. Happy hour is from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
- Plum by Bent Chair: With locations in Aerocity and Janpath, Plum has super cute, Instagrammable decor that you can actually buy. Plus, delicious signature cocktails and fine pan-Asian cuisine.
- Juniper Bar: This bar specializes in gin, with 35 different varieties. The signature gin infusion, Delhi's Fire, is a must-try. You can find it in Aerocity, at Hyatt's Andaz hotel.
- Liv Bar: You can create your own cocktails from the available ingredients at this elegant lounge bar in Aerocity.
Delhi's nightclubs attract an immaculately dressed rich crowd—and a cover charge to match. You can expect to pay anywhere from 2,000 to 5,000 rupees ($30 to 70) per couple on weekends, redeemable on food and drinks. The clubs in luxury hotels are permitted to stay open late past the curfew (usually until 4 a.m.), making them perfect for nocturnal party animals. However, they're very particular about who they let in, so make sure you look the part. Guys, this means no sandals, tennis shoes, or sneakers. Girls, consider wearing a sexy dress and heels. The pick of clubs includes:
- Privee: Located at the Shangri-La Eros Hotel in Connaught Place, Privee is widely regarded as the city's best nightclub. This sprawling, 10,335-square-foot party place aims to provide a world-class, futuristic experience. The music is mostly commercial, Bollywood, and EDM. For something different, you can inhale alcohol in the exclusive Breathe n Booze room. Thursday is the elite Expat & Models Night, and there are free drinks for the ladies. The club is closed on Mondays.
- Kitty Su: Housed in Connaught Place's The Lalit Hotel, Kitty Su boasts an enormous dance floor and regularly hosts top international electronic music artists. It's an open-minded club that's inclusive of the LGBTQ community and differently-abled people. The club operates Tuesday to Sunday, with a different event each night.
- The Playboy Club: Despite being part of the world-famous Playboy brand, this Samrat Hotel club in Chanakyapuri is tailored to Indian moral sensibilities, with modestly dressed Playboy bunnies. The crowd pours in after 1 a.m.
- Key: Also at the Samrat Hotel, Key features glamorous red velvet sofas and glittering chandeliers. The music ranges from hip hop to Bollywood depending on the day of the week. It's closed on Tuesdays.
- SoHo: Launched in early 2019 with a state-of-the-art sound system, fusion cocktails, and gourmet global food, SoHo is open until 5 a.m. Wednesday through Sunday. It's located in the Ashok hotel in Chanakyapuri.
Heard enough Bollywood and commercial music? An increasing number of bars and restaurants in Delhi are hosting live gigs instead of DJs. Options include jazz, rock, electronic, and acoustic performances. Some of the best places to go are:
- Unplugged Courtyard: Hosting live Sufi music on the regular, Unplugged Courtyard features a beautifully illuminated courtyard and garden.
- 38 Barraks: This Army-themed restaurant in Connaught Place is spread over two floors, with live music across various genres most evenings.
- Junkyard Cafe: Head here for décor made from recycled and upcycled junk, pitchers of cocktails served in plastic buckets, and live acoustic music from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.
- Farzi Cafe: Musicians perform live every weekend at this upscale modern Indian fusion cuisine restaurant.
- Piano Man Jazz Club: Located in Safdarjung Enclave, Delhi's top dimly-lit jazz lounge hosts live jazz ensembles daily from 9 p.m.
- Auro Kitchen & Bar: At this establishment in Hauz Khas, you'll find modern Indian cuisine, a rooftop bar made from a shipping container, and eclectic electronic music acts.
Currently in the Saket and Vasant Kunj neighborhoods of South Delhi, the Playground Comedy Studio provides dedicated spaces for stand-up comedy. Shows take place throughout the week, but the best ones are held on weekends.
Tips for Going Out in Delhi
- Bars and clubs commonly restrict the entry of single guys (referred to as "stags"), especially on weekends.
- Many bars double up as restaurants during the day and open around noon for lunch. Party mode turns on when the DJ arrives post-dinner.
- Clubs open between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. but don't really start happening until after midnight. It's possible to enter without paying a cover charge before 11 p.m.
- Females can get free or discounted drinks on "Ladies Night," which often takes place on a Tuesday or Thursday.
- Last drinks are served at 12.30 a.m. in bars that close at 1 a.m.
- The Delhi Metro Train shuts down from approximately 11.30 p.m. to 5.30 a.m.
- App-based cabs such as Uber and Ola are the safest and most convenient way of getting around.
- Tipping isn't compulsory. Sometimes, establishments automatically add a service charge of 10 to 15 percent to the bill. If not, a tip of up to 15 percent is satisfactory.
- Unfortunately, Delhi has a reputation for being unsafe at night. Females should be cautious and avoid going out alone.