Things to Do
What to Eat
Where to Stay
Itineraries & Day Trips
Festivals, Holidays & Markets
Delhi, the capital city of India, strikingly evokes the ancient past while at the same time showcasing India's modern future. It's divided into two parts—the crumbling old city of Old Delhi, and the orderly and well planned New Delhi—which exist side by side, but feel like they're worlds apart. The estimated population of Delhi is about 22 million people and is rapidly growing. It recently overtook Mumbai as the largest city in India.
However, Delhi hasn't always been the capital of India, nor has it always been called Delhi. At least eight cities have preceded the Delhi of today, the first being the settlement of Indraprastha, which featured in the great Hindu epic The Mahabharata. Archaeological evidence suggests that it was located where the Red Fort now stands in Old Delhi. Delhi's long history has seen many empires and rulers come and go, including the Mughals who ruled northern India for over three centuries. The last was the British, who decided to construct New Delhi in 1911 and relocate India's capital there from Kolkata.
This Delhi guide will help you plan your trip, including when to go and what to do.
Planning Your Trip
- Best Time to Visit: The best time to visit Delhi is during the cooler, dry months from October to March (however, it's important to be aware that severe air pollution is a concerning factor at this time). Delhi has an extreme climate. It gets unbearably hot in the summer, with temperatures consistently exceeding 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in the shade, between April and June. The monsoon rain cools things down somewhat between June and October, but when it isn't raining the humidity is uncomfortably high and the temperature still reaches 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit). The weather starts becoming noticeably cooler in November. Winter temperatures reach around 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit) in the daytime but can be much colder. Nights are chilly, with the temperature dropping below 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit).
- Language: Hindi and English.
- Currency: Indian rupee.
- Time Zone: UTC (Coordinated Universal Time) +5.5 hours. Delhi does not have Daylight Saving Time. Read more about India's time zone.
- Getting Around: Transport in Delhi has undergone significant development in recent years to become the best in India. Visitors can look forward to air-conditioned trains and buses, computerized tickets, and app-based cab services such as Uber and Ola. The usual taxis and auto rickshaws are available as well. However, auto rickshaw drivers will rarely put their meters on, so it's a good idea to have an idea of the correct fare for the place you want to go to and agree on it with the driver beforehand. For sightseeing, the Hop-On Hop-Off Bus service is convenient.
- Travel Tip: Various markets, monuments and museums are closed on different days. This is usually Sundays (for shops around Chandni Chowk) and Mondays (for government museums, select monuments such as the Red Fort and Lotus Temple, and other markets). Ideally, to avoid the large crowds at monuments, get an early start and don't go on Sundays.
Things to Do
Delhi's top attractions are its mosques, forts, and monuments left over from the Mughal rulers that once occupied the city. Many of these are set in beautifully landscaped gardens that are perfect for relaxing. The contrast between rambling Old Delhi and well-planned New Delhi is immense, and it's interesting to spend time visiting both. Delhi also has some of the best markets in India, making the city sought-after for shopping. To explore Delhi on foot, try a walking tour. Otherwise, book one of these popular Delhi tours. Once you've seen enough monuments, check out some unusual things to do in Delhi.
Sightseeing in Delhi can be split over the following three main areas:
What to Eat and Drink
Delhi is renowned for both its street food and fine dining restaurants. Rich, meat-dominated Mughlai and Punjabi cuisines are most prevalent. They were established in the city when Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan set up his capital in the 17th century, and when people migrated from the Punjab region following The Partition of India in 1947. The popularity of modern Indian cuisine has grown in Delhi in recent years, with new restaurants using innovative cooking techniques and global ingredients.
Fancy cocktail bars are also popping up across the city in trendy locations such as Connaught Place, Khan Market, and the new Aerocity hospitality precinct adjacent to Delhi airport.
Where to Stay
Delhi has a wide range of accommodations to suit all budgets. Backpackers usually head to the grotty Paharganj district near New Delhi Railway Station. However, groovy backpacker hostels and budget hotels can be found in other areas in the city. Connaught Place and Karol Bagh are convenient central city locations, while South Delhi is an upper-class residential area that's more sophisticated and peaceful. Many of Delhi's bed & breakfasts (often called homestays) are located in South Delhi. The luxury hotels are generally clustered around the affluent Chanakyapuri diplomatic enclave and Connaught Place.
Read more about the neighborhoods in Delhi.
Delhi is the main entry point into North India. The city's Indra Gandhi International Airport is located in Palam, 23 kilometers (14 miles) south of the city. The airport has had a major upgrade, with the opening of Terminal 3 in 2010 vastly improving its functionality. Upgrade works are still continuing. There are a number of airport transfer options, including a Delhi Metro Airport Express Train Service. Most people choose to take a pre-paid taxi. Do note that fog often causes flight delays at the airport in winter, especially in December and January.
Culture and Customs
Unfortunately, Delhi has a reputation for being the most unsafe city in India for women. If you're sensible and take precautions, such as not going out alone after dark if you're a female, it's unlikely that anything untoward will happen to you. However, it is common for women to receive unwanted attention from men in tourist areas. This includes being photographed, stared at, and other types of sexual harassment. Women will, therefore, feel most comfortable wearing loose clothing that covers their shoulders and legs. A shawl that covers the breasts is also beneficial.
Do note that tourist scams are widespread in Delhi, particularly overcharging and commission rackets. Read up beforehand to be aware and prepare yourself. Pick-pocketing is another big problem, so make sure you take extra care of your valuables.
Some restaurants automatically include a service charge of 10-15 percent in their bill. Tipping isn't compulsory, though. If you do want to leave a tip, 10-15 percent is sufficient, or simply round the bill up on smaller amounts.
Haggling is expected at markets, except where there are signs stating "fixed price."
Money Saving Tips
- Take the Metro train to go sightseeing. The Yellow Line, which runs north-south, covers many of Delhi's top attractions. The special Heritage Line, which is an extension of the Violet Line, provides direct access to Delhi Gate, Jama Masjid, and the Red Fort in Old Delhi.
- Several popular attractions do not require tickets. These include India Gate, Lodhi Gardens, Lotus Temple, and Mehrauli Archaeological Park.
- Some museums have free entry. These include Gandhi Smriti, National Police Museum, the Philatelic Museum, and Airforce Museum.
- Take a stroll through the Lodhi Art District. It's free and you'll get to enjoy colorful street art murals on buildings.
- Meet like-minded people, and browse through books and magazines, at the Kunzum Travel Cafe in hip Hauz Khas Village. Coffee is available and you only have to pay as much as you want to for it.
- Eat the langar (free meal) at the Sikh Bangla Sahib Gurudwara at Connaught Place.