15 Off-Beat Things to Do in Delhi

Seen Enough Delhi Monuments? Then Do Something Different!

Spice seller at Khari Baoli.
••• Spice seller at Khari Baoli. Tim Graham / Getty Images.

Delhi's top attractions are dominated by ancient monuments, mosques and forts. No doubt, they're mesmerizing, must-visit places. But what next, after you've seen them? These things to do in Delhi will give you a very different and unique experience of the city!

Got children? Also check out these Fun Things to Do in Delhi with Kids.

We also have handy itineraries for 48 hours in Delhi and one week in Delhi.

  • 01 of 15

    Khari Baoli Road, next to Fatehpuri Masjid at the western end of Chandni Chowk in Old Delhi, is home to the biggest wholesale spice market in Asia. Spices are what connected India to the West, and it's been in business since the 17th century! However, Gadodia Market (which is on the south side of Khari Baoli and is where many of the spice shops are) was built in the 1920s by a wealthy local merchant.  You'll get to see huge sacks of spices being transported and sold.

    As fascinating as it is, the spice market is also super congested and you're likely to feel overwhelmed trying to navigate through its interior alleyways by yourself. If you think the mayhem could be a concern, it's a good idea to see the market on a tour such as this Old Delhi Spice Market and Sikh Temple Group Tour. Do note that the market is closed on Sundays.

  • 02 of 15

    Marvel Over the Painted Houses at Naughara

    Naughara is a laneway off Kinari Bazaar in Chandni Chowk.
    ••• Naughara is a laneway off Kinari Bazaar in Chandni Chowk. Mark Daffey/Getty Images

    Old Delhi and Chandni Chowk are usually associated with crowds and chaos. However, located just off Kinari Bazaar, you'll find a tranquil lane with nine colorfully painted Jain havelis (mansions) that were built in the 18th century. This little hamlet is complete with an exquisitely-carved white marble Jain temple at the end of the lane. Its interiors have some magnificent murals and paintings. Do note that leather and photography aren't permitted inside.

  • 03 of 15

    Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah, the resting place of one of the world's most famous Sufi saints, Nizamuddin Auliya, attracts Sufi devotees from across the world. On Thursday evenings, its courtyard erupts with the soulful sound of live qawwalis (Sufi devotional songs) accompanied by traditional Indian instruments, which serenade the audience into a trance. One of the families that perform the qawwalis has been singing there for hundreds of years.

    Nizamuddin Dargah is located in the Nizamuddin West neighborhood of New Delhi, surrounded by a bustling market, near Humayun’s Tomb. Get there just before sunset. Prepare to walk through alleyways and face large crowds, and touts and beggars if you're a foreigner. Do dress conservatively and you may wish bring something to cover your head with (although it's not compulsory if you only enter the courtyard). You'll need to take off your shoes just before you go inside. Ignore the shopkeepers who will insist on minding them for a fee....MORE Delhi by Foot conducts an excellent walking tour. Or, join The Hope Project for a walking tour of Nizamuddin Basti, an old Muslim Sufi village surrounding Nizammudin Dargh (the mausoleum of 14th century Sufi saint Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya).

  • 04 of 15

    Attend the Changing of Guard

    New Delhi - Soldiers of the Presidential Bodyguard begin the Changing of the Guard ceremony.
    ••• Christopher Pillitz / Contributor/Getty Images

    The Changing of Guard ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan is one of many similar ceremonies that take place around the world (the most famous one is at London's Buckingham Palace). Yet, it remains a relatively unknown attraction in Delhi. Introduced in 2007, the ceremony was revamped and relocated in late 2012. It now happens on the forecourt of the Presidential residence every Saturday morning, where there's space for 200 guests. An equestrian display by the President's Body Guard, on horseback in their ceremonial regalia, has also been added. Since access to Rashtrapati Bhavan is generally restricted, the ceremony provides a fantastic opportunity to see the architecture of this immense building, once the centerpiece of New Dehli.

    The starting time varies depending on the season. It starts at 8 a.m. from mid March to mid August, and 9 a.m. from mid August to mid November. The cost is free for all. Enter through Gate 2 and bring photo identification.

    Continue to 5 of 15 below.
  • 05 of 15
    Entrance to Paharganj, Delhi
    ••• Entrance to Paharganj, Delhi. Alex Craig/Getty Images.

    Learn about the underbelly of Delhi, as you are guided on a walk through streets of Paharganj and the area around New Delhi Railway Station by children who were once living and working on the streets themselves. This unique tour, recommended as one of the best walking tours in Delhi, aims to make the story of Delhi's street children heard and to give a view of their world through their eyes. It's run by Salaam Baalak Trust, an organization that provides shelter, food, and support to the city's homeless street children. The tour is eyeopening, and sadly haunting and heartbreaking in parts, as you'll witness a brutal side of the city. However, it's also inspiring as it highlights how much the children can achieve if given the right opportunities. You'll also get to visit a Sikh temple's free langar community kitchen.

  • 06 of 15
    India puppets at Kathputli Colony
    ••• Danita Delimont

    Underneath the Shadipur Depot bridge in west Delhi, there's a slum called Kathputli Colony. It's home to around 800 folk artists, many of whom have represented India at shows abroad. Magicians, acrobats, mime artists, puppeteers, jugglers, folk singers, and traditional dancers are just some of the performers who live in the colony. Yet, the colony's time is limited. It's undergoing redevelopment and the artists will be relocated to a temporary transit camp nearby while construction goes on. For many of the artists, who belong to lower castes, life has been tough. However, they bring joy to so many through their work.

    Visit and be entertained by them on this fascinating three hour Art of Hope Tour. It's a very authentic tour that will provide you with great insight into a special Delhi community.

  • 07 of 15
    People in Indian slum.
    ••• Joe McNally/Getty Images

    Unfortunately, there are people living in sub-standard conditions in Delhi. However, it's not as depressing as you'd expect it to be.  It's possible to go on a walking tour of a slum in Delhi to gain a greater understanding of how people live there. You'll get to visit thriving small-scale industry, a temple, a family home, and a school. The tour is designed to be inspiring and educational in nature, and a large percentage of the proceeds are used for the betterment of the community.

  • 08 of 15
    Meet like-minded travelers, discover new travel ideas, exchange travel stories, read and buy travel books, and use the free Wireless internet  while you enjoy snacks (and pay only what you want for the coffee and biscuits). Regular interactive talks and workshops are also held by travelers, photographers, and writers. Musicians sometimes have casual jam sessions too. Kunzum Travel Cafe is located at T-49, Ground Floor, Hauz Khas Village, south Delhi. It's open Tuesday to Sunday, 11 a.m. until 7.30 p.m.
    Continue to 9 of 15 below.
  • 09 of 15
    The little-known Crafts Museum is a relaxing place to wander around and see artisans demonstrate traditional embroidery, weaving, carving and pottery. There are also galleries with more than 20,000 exhibits of handicrafts from all over India, a lovely cafe where you can dine, and handicraft stalls that sell items at reasonable prices. The Crafts Museum is located at Pragati Maidan on Bhairon Road. It's open daily, except Mondays, from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. Entrance is free. Tickets for the galleries cost 150 rupees for foreigners and 10 rupees for Indians.
  • 10 of 15

    For a different experience of Delhi, take to the streets on a bicycle and immerse yourself in the various colors, smells, sounds, tastes! Delhi By Cycle, a company started by a journalist from the Netherlands (the Dutch are known for their love of riding bicycles), offers a range of bicycle tours in the city. These include tours through different parts of Old Delhi and New Delhi, so you can explore different corners of the city. You'll need to be up early though! The tours start at 6.30 a.m. to avoid the traffic.

  • 11 of 15
    Bollywood dance lesson.
    ••• powerofforever/Getty Images

    Seen India's eye-catching Bollywood dance moves and been transfixed by them? Delhi Dance Academy gives you the opportunity to learn them as well, at its fun two hour Namaste India Dance Workshop, especially for travelers. You'll be introduced to four Indian dance forms -- Bollywood, Bhangra, Belly Dance, and Garba with Dandiya (this Gujarati folk dance is commonly seen during the Navaratri festival). The dancing is choreographed to popular songs and you'll get a two minute video of your performance to take away.

    The cost is 2,000 rupees per person, or 2,500 rupees per person with costume hire included.

  • 12 of 15

    Admire the Street Art

    Bicicleta Sem Freio | @dojla | Lodhi Art District|
    ••• Bicicleta Sem Freio | @dojla | Lodhi Art District. St+art India/Akshat Nauriyal

    India's first public open-air art gallery, the Lodhi Art District, is situated between Khanna Market and Meharchand Market in south Delhi's Lodhi Colony. International and local artists have painted more than 20 wall murals, facilitated by St+art India. This non-profit organization aims to make art accessible to a wider audience in public spaces.

     

    Continue to 13 of 15 below.
  • 13 of 15

    Volunteer at the Gurudwara Bangla Sahib Kitchen

    Gurudwara Bangla Sahib kitchen.
    ••• Filippo Maria Bianchi/Getty Images

    Atmospheric Gurudwara Bangla Sahib, a prominent Sikh temple near Connaught Place, isn't just a great place to relax for a while. It has a huge kitchen where the langar (free food for anyone who wants it) is prepared. It's staffed mostly by volunteers, and you can go in and have a look around or even help out. About 10,000 meals are served per day, which requires a lot of cooking!

  • 14 of 15
    Champa Gali
    ••• Media India Group/Arachika Kapoor

    Delhi's hipsters have a new hangout, which they'd probably like to keep to themselves as not many people know about it yet. Champa Gali is a bohemian street lined with cafes, design studios, and boutiques. It's situated in Saidulajab, an urban village close to Saket in south Delhi. Up until the 1990s, the neighborhood was nothing but agricultural fields. It was later populated with cow sheds and furniture shops, but is now transforming into a fashionable creative community. Find it at Khasra 258, Lane 3, Westend Marg, Saidulajab.

  • 15 of 15

    Be Served by Jail Inmates at Tihar Food Court

    Notorious Tihar Jail in Jankpuri, west Delhi, has a couple of surprising attractions -- a food court staffed by prisoners, and a market that sells products made by them. The food court, started in 2014 to give the prisoners hospitality experience, was revamped in early 2017. Both places are open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Combine your visit with a trip to nearby Kumhar Gram, the largest pottery village in India. It's a good idea to go on a guided walking tour through the village, such as this one offered by SeekSherpa.