A beguiling blend of ancient and modern, Delhi is India's capital city and the starting point for many tourists who are visiting the country. A minimum of two days is required to cover the city, although you could easily spend a week there and not run out of things to do. Here's a start.
Admire Historical Monuments
Delhi's long history encompasses many different empires and kingdoms whose residual monuments are dotted across the city. Most date back to the time of the Delhi Sultanate (which ruled from the 13th to 16th centuries) and the Mughal Empire (which ruled from the 16th to 19th centuries). These include Qutub Minar, the Red Fort, Humayun’s Tomb, Purana Qila, and Safdarjung Tomb. The monuments are mesmerizingly illuminated at night between 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. Purana Qila has an excellent evening sound and light show that narrates the story of the monument, too.
Visit Temples and Other Religious Sites
Jama Masjid in Old Delhi, Akshardham, and the Lotus Temple are on the itineraries of most tourists. However, there are many other temples in Delhi that have special visual, educational, or cultural value. Serene Gurudwara Bangla Sahib, the most prominent Sikh temple in Delhi, provides a respite from sightseeing near Connaught Place (its massive community kitchen is fascinating). Birla Mandir and Chhatarpur Mandir are relatively new temples that are renowned for their astounding architecture. Do dress conservatively by making sure your legs and shoulders are covered.
Get Lost in the Lanes of Chandni Chowk
Venturing into the depths of Chandni Chowk in Delhi's Old City isn't for the faint of heart. The thoroughfare (and surrounding market area) is one of the most crowded places in India; it's tumultuous and teeming with activity! The tangle of lanes will transport you back over time to the glory days of Mughal rule in the 17th century, when Emperor Shah Jahan had his capital at the Red Fort. You'll discover some of the best street food in Delhi, vendors selling all kinds of wares, old mansions, places of worship for various faiths, and British buildings such as the Town Hall.
Feast on Indian Food
Simply put, Delhi is a foodie's delight! Rich, predominantly meat-based Mughlai and Punjabi cuisines are the specialties of the city. However, there are plenty of tasty options for vegetarians, too. Read our guides to the best foods to eat in Delhi and Delhi's top restaurants to find out more.
Relax in a Park
Delhi is blessed with expansive parks, several of which have monuments right inside them so you can combine relaxing with sightseeing! The most extensive one is the 90-acre Lodhi Garden, which features an array of tombs and other structures mostly from dynasties of the Delhi Sultanate. There are many more in Mehrauli Archeological Park near Qutub Minar, while the 20-acre grounds of the Garden of Five Senses are decorated with sculptures. Adjacent to Humayun’s Tomb, the remarkable Sundar Nursery has been turned into a massive urban biodiversity park with restored Mughal-era monuments.
Discover Old Step Wells
Step wells were used to collect and store rainwater, and their architecture is particularly interesting. Hidden away in the unlikely center of the city near Connaught Place is an ancient and grand step well, Agrasen ki Baoli, dating back to the 14th century. There are a couple more step wells deep inside Mehrauli Archeological Park—the picturesque 16th-century Rajon ki Baoli and the comparatively plainer but older Gandhak ki Baoli from the 13th century. Others are located in the vicinity of forts such as Tughlaqabad, Purana Qila, and the Red Fort. There's also a huge circular step well in the little-known ruins of Firoz Shah Kotla fortress.
Learn About India at the Museums
Delhi's flagship National Museum is one of the biggest museums in India. A substantial part of it is dedicated to objects from the Indus Valley Civilization (also known as the Harappan period) dating as far back as 2,500 BC. The new Kranti Mandir museum complex inside the Red Fort covers 160 years of Indian history in the lead-up to independence from British rule. The village-themed National Crafts Museum is a must-see to learn about India's diverse handicrafts and watch artisans at work; Sanskriti Museums in South Delhi is also dedicated to indigenous arts and crafts. Sangeet Natak Akademi's museum of performing arts is a lesser-known museum that has a collection of musical instruments, masks, and puppets from all over India. Meanwhile, the National Rail Museum is one of the top things to do in Delhi with kids.
Check Out Indian Art
The art scene in Delhi is booming, with a host of new galleries complementing the more established ones. Carve out plenty of time to view the National Gallery of Modern Art's comprehensive collection of 15,000-odd works from the early 19th to early 21st centuries. You'll find India's largest collection of modern art at Delhi Art Gallery in Hauz Khas village. Art Heritage Gallery, in the Triveni Kala Sangam art complex near Connaught Place, also exhibits modern art from India's top artists. Delhi's oldest contemporary art gallery is Dhoomimal in Connaught Place, founded in 1936. If you're into tribal art, don't miss the world's first Gond art gallery in Delhi.
Admire the Street Art
Vibrant murals decorate the walls of buildings in Lodhi Colony, India's first open-air public art district (between Khanna Market and Meher Chand Market). The St+art India Foundation added fresh murals there in 2019 as part of the third edition of the Lodhi Art Festival. More murals can be seen at Shahpur Jat, Hauz Khas, and Khirki Extension urban villages in South Delhi. There's also a stretch of wall just outside Agrasen ki Baoli with street art on it.
Explore an Urban Village
Delhi's paradoxical urban villages have been annexed to the fringe of the city as part of its rapid expansion. More than 100 of them now exist, with Hauz Khas being the most famous. Its 14th- to 16th-century monuments from the Delhi Sultanate contrast sharply with the plethora of chic boutiques, art galleries, restaurants, and bars. About 10 minutes away, edgy Shahpur Jat was built on the remains of 14th-century Siri Fort, and is renowned for its young designer boutiques and health cafes. Go further south to Saidulajab village, next to Saket, and mix with creative types along Champa Gali (street).
Pay Homage to Mahatma Gandhi
Mahatma Gandhi is revered for his role in India's struggle for freedom from British rule. You can pay your respects to him at Raj Ghat, alongside the Yamuna River, at the spot where he was cremated. The peaceful memorial has an eternal flame, where a prayer meet takes place every Friday at 5.30 p.m. Other attractions at Raj Ghat include the National Gandhi Museum and Gandhi Darshan exhibitions. The place where Gandhi died is also in Delhi and has been turned into the Gandhi Smriti museum; it's closed on Mondays.
Spend Sunset at India Gate
India Gate, at the eastern end of Rajpath, is the ideal sunset spot in Delhi. The British built the monument as a tribute to the Indian soldiers who lost their lives while fighting in the British Army during World War I. It's illuminated for a couple of hours after sunset. Enter through the side facing the Indian Coast Guard Headquarters to avoid the crowds. Beforehand, stop by the new National War Memorial, dedicated to Indian soldiers who were killed in wars after India's independence.
Shop 'Til You Drop
Shopaholics will LOVE Delhi! Literally everything is available here, including handicrafts from across India. Tip: Buy all your souvenirs in Delhi at the end of your trip so you don't have to carry them around with you while traveling. Read our guide to find out the best places to go shopping in Delhi.
Go on a Walking Tour
A walking tour is an outstanding way of immersing yourself in the city. One of the most popular ones is Masterji Kee Haveli's Old Delhi Bazaar & Food Walk, which will guide you through the lanes of a local market and end at a restored heritage mansion for a cooking demonstration. Or take the Street Life of Delhi City Walk to hear the story of the children of the streets; it's led by underprivileged children who have been trained as guides. For more information, we've rounded up the top walking tours in Delhi.
Delhi Tourism operates a Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus service that covers more than 25 tourist destinations in the city, and is a flexible and convenient way of getting around to Delhi's main attractions. The air-conditioned buses have disabled access, an on-board tourist guide, and live commentaries in English and Hindi. Foreigners can expect to pay 999 rupees for a one-day pass, or 1,199 rupees for a two-day pass (rates are less for Indians). Discounted fixed itinerary bus tours are conducted on Mondays, when many monuments are closed.
A guided one-hour Segway tour is a novel way of sightseeing in the heart of New Delhi, which was designed by British architects Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker when the British shifted their capital there in 1911. You can glide down Rajpath, past stately government buildings such as Rashtrapati Bhawan (the residence of the President of India) and Parliament House. The tours depart hourly from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m., and from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tickets cost 2,000 rupees per person. A cheaper guided Segway tour of the Lodhi Art District is also available.
An innovative new attraction in Delhi, the Waste to Wonder Park opened in 2019 near Hazrat Nizamuddin Metro Station. This unique theme park features large replicas of the seven wonders of the world made out of repurposed industrial scrap and other waste. Tickets cost 50 rupees for adults and 25 rupees for children. It's open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day except Mondays.
Catch a Festival
Delhi's iconic festivals provide a memorable dose of local culture. You can experience Republic Day in January, Holi in March, Durga Puja and Dussehra in October, and Diwali in late October or early November. Find out more by reading our full-length article on the best time to visit Delhi.