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Delhi

Delhi Travel Guide

A fusion of medieval citadels, capitals of past dynasties, and now of course modernity and all its sprawling shininess: Delhi is the capital of India, and one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world.

It contains the famous ‘seven cities’, a collection of fort based settlements surviving from the city’s turbulent history of invasion and regeneration.

New Delhi was built by the British in the early 20th century, and is home to a number of architectural relics from imperial times, as well as the nation’s parliament. New Delhi also serves as the main business district of the city. Its central area, Connaught Place, although in a state of disrepair, is the place to go for shopping, restaurants, travel and banking, with a vast underground bazaar for electronic goods and cultural knick knacks. 

Old Delhi was the capital of Shahjahanabad (Delhi’s seventh city), and its Red Fort, seat of Mughal power in those days, is an immaculately preserved imperial citadel. The alleys leading off Old Delhi’s main thoroughfare, Chandni Chowk, are a classic example of India’s bustling, almost intimidating market areas. Old Delhi sees diverse religious activity and commerce live side by side. 

Nearby Delhi are the ever popular satellite towns of NOIDA and Gurgaon.

Places to Visit in Delhi

Connaught Place

Connaught Place, often abbreviated to CP, is Delhi’s financial, commercial and business centre. Situated as it is in the very heart of Delhi it is a useful starting point to orientate your travels around this varied and bustling city. In order to help those unfamiliar with India’s capital we have referenced geographical relation to CP for all the other places of interest that we mention. 

Built in the 30s CP was a grand affair, two large circles (outer and inner) of proud buildings with radial roads spanning out in all directions (when looking at a map look for what appears to be a large wheel and you’ve got it). India’s Tenants’ Laws (fair-minded or restrictive depending on your political persuasion) mean that there are limitations in how much landlords can increase rent. So happy shopkeepers don’t pay much rent, disgruntled landlords won’t pay for investment and the ones to actually pay are the poor stately buildings as they’re left to fester and decay on their own. 

Inner Circle: Largely clothes and shoe shops. This is where you find the big brands like Levis, Lee Cooper, Lacoste and Benetton. 

Outer Circle: Here you will find banks, travel agencies and airline offices.

Timings: 10 AM to 6.00 PM (Closed on Sundays).

Nearby Attractions:

The Indian States Emporiums: These large, air conditioned, stores are scattered around CP and are very good places to buy souvenirs. Each state has its own emporium which sells handicrafts made in that region. What visitors might find appealing here is the fixed price policy. After a day of hardened haggling it is a relief to simply read a label and pay a price – you won’t get bargains here, but nor are you at much of a risk of being ripped off. 

Palika Bazaar: A nearby underground market accessed by several bunker-like openings in the middle of the large roundabout next to CP. Prices are much cheaper here, but then the quality can be as well. Careful scrutiny matched with good bartering can get you some very good deals though. Be careful when buying electronic goods however. One of our researchers had the foresight (stupidity?) to march around this underground warren of stalls with his laptop, in desperate search for the latest series of 24 – Fourteen stalls had Jack Bauer’s latest escapades on DVD, but not a single one of them would play anymore than a title sequence that looked as though it had been mocked-up on a Spectrum ZX. 

Sells: Electronics, Clothes. 

Baba Kharak Singh Marg: An all India Craft Market that sells handicrafts from each of the Indian States. A good place to buy an array of souvenirs. 

Bengali Market: Stalls serving traditional food and Nathu and Bengali Sweets. 

Mandi House area (1 Km from CP): Contains theatres showing English & Hindi shows.

Red Fort

Palace for Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan’s new capital, Shahjahanabad, the Red Fort was built in 1639 A.D and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its high red sandstone walls shelter marble palaces, grand halls, beautiful gardens and the Moti Masjid: The Pearl Mosque.

Our Travel Tips:

 

Driving Time from CP: 25 minutes

Cost by AutoRickshaw (Tuk Tuk): Rs 50

Cost by AC Cab: Rs 150

Gift Shops: Situated on the entrance to Lahore gate, they are overpriced and similar merchandise can be found elsewhere for considerably less.

Best time to visit: 11 AM to 4:00 PM

Queues: Seldom significant queues.

Guides: While much history and detail can be found from plaques and ‘in-house’ guides, taking your own personal guide (there are hundreds vying for your custom outside Lahore Gate) is recommended to learn the most about The Red Fort.

Eating nearby: Karim’s – One of the oldest eateries in Delhi, it offers authentic Muglai cuisine. The Chicken Tikka & Raan is especially recommended.

Nearby Attractions:

  • Jama Masjid
  • Chandni Chowk (see below)

Qutab Minar

Built by Delhi’s first Muslim ruler, Qutb-ud-din Aibak, in 1193, Qutab Minar is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. At 72 meters high it is the world’s tallest brick minaret, its red sandstone carefully engraved with carvings and verses from the Qur’an.

Our Travel Tips:

Driving Time from CP: 40 minutes

Cost by AutoRickshaw (Tuk Tuk): Rs 125

Cost by AC Cab: Rs 300

Gift Shops: Many are scattered around nearby. The further afield you go the better the deals you are likely to get.

Nearby Attractions:

Chatarpur Temple
Queues: Queues are not an issue at this attraction.

Guides: There are no staff on hand to talk to you about the minarets history so a guide would be useful for those wanting to learn more.

Eating nearby: Garden of Five – a range of cuisine. Senses – a range of cuisine.

Humayun’s Tomb

Humayun was the second Mughal Emperor, ruled over modern Afghanistan, Pakistan, and parts of northern India from 1530. Hamida Banu Begum, Humayun’s widow, ordered the building of his tomb in 1562 and it was completed eight years later. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, its complex of buildings display the very best in Mughal architecture, set in beautifully maintained gardens with peacefully flowing watercourses.

Our Travel Tips:

Driving Time from CP: 20 minutes

Cost by AutoRickshaw (Tuk Tuk): Rs 50

Cost by AC Cab: Rs 150

Gift Shops: None

Queues: Queues seldom an issue.

Tour Guides: A good guide could provide you with a wealth of information as you tour the many different buildings.

Eating nearby: Karim’s – this is the sister to the main red Fort branch – Authentic Muglai cuisine.

Nearby Attractions:

  • Nizamuddin
  • Auliyas Mazar

Bhai’s Lotus Temple

Architecturally acclaimed the Expressionist style Lotus Temple was built in 1986 as a Bahá’í House of Worship. The concrete structure is modelled on the Lotus Flower and has a potential capacity of 2,500.

Shoes cannot be worn inside the building and such is the flow of visitors you can’t simply kick your trainers to the floor and pick them up again when you leave: There’s a ‘bowling alley’ system of tickets-for-shoes, but in a quirky twist (perhaps so as not to ruin the aesthetics outside the temple) the storage room is three quarters subterraneous, so you have to give – and recollect – your shoes by leaning down to a man five feet beneath you. There is also an Information Centre full of rooms whose walls are covered with the history and beliefs of the Bahá’í and the eager followers will excitedly tell you even more.

Our Travel Tips:

Driving Time from CP: 45 minutes

Cost by AutoRickshaw (Tuk Tuk): Rs 125

Cost By AC Cab: Rs 300

Nearby Attractions:

Gift Shops: None

Queues: This is a very popular site and while there is seldom a significant waiting time to get in the peaceful, quite inspiring, interior of the temple is best appreciated during quieter periods.

Guides: There is a Information centre that will tell you all you will ever need to know about Bahá’í.

Eating nearby: No restaurants or cafés in the immediate vicinity.

The History of Delhi

Archeologists suggest that Delhi was inhabited from 2000BC, but the Mauryan Empire (300BC) established the first settlements.

The Tomara dynasty founded Lal Kot in 736AD, and the Chauhan Rajputs conquered it in 1180AD, renaming it Qila Rai Pithora, only to be defeated in 1192 by the Afghans. In 1206 the Slave Dynasty established the Delhi Sultanate and built the Quwwat-al-Islam, India’s oldest surviving mosque. A succession of Central Asian dynasties, such as the Khilji, Tughluq, and Lodhi, later held power, adding various edifices in turn. In 1398 India was invaded amid rows over Muslim sultans’ tolerance of Hinduism, and Delhi, a major centre of Sufism at this time, was left in ruins.

In 1526, Zahiruddin Babur won the Battle of Panipat, founding the Mughal Empire, which would rule for over three centuries. In 1556, a Mughal defeat led Shah Jahan to build Shahjahanabad, more commonly known as Old Delhi, as the capital. Another defeat at the Battle of Karnal in 1739, saw Delhi sacked again. Finally, at the Battle of Delhi in September 1803, General Lake’s British forces defeated the Marathas.

Shortly after the Indian Rebellion of 1857, Calcutta was declared capital of British India and Delhi made a district province of the Punjab, only to be once again declared the capital of British India in 1911. Parts of the old city were pulled down to create New Delhi; designed by Edwin Lutyens to house government buildings. New Delhi was officially declared capital of the new republic of India on 15 August 1947. During partition, thousands of Hindu and Sikh refugees from West Punjab and Sindh migrated to Delhi. This trend continued, and now contributes more to the rise of Delhi’s population than birth rate, which is in decline.

Geography

Delhi is located in northern India, bordering Uttar Pradesh to the east and Haryana to the west, north and south, and lying almost entirely in the Gangetic plains. Two prominent geographical features are the Yamuna flood plain and Delhi ridge. The low lying plains provide fertile soil for agriculture, but are prone to ing. Reaching a height of 318m, the ridge is the region’s dominant feature. It originates from the Aravalli Range in the south and encircles the west, north-east and north-west parts of the city. The Yamuna is a sacred river in Hinduism and the only major river flowing through Delhi. Most of the city, including New Delhi, lies west of the river. East of the river is the urban area of Shahdara.

Delhi has a semi arid climate with high annual temperature variation. Summer is from April to October and includes the monsoon season. Winter, peaking in January, is notorious for heavy fog. Monthly mean temperatures range from 14ºC to 33ºC but extremes from below freezing to almost 50ºC are possible. Annual rainfall is over 700mm, most of which occurs during those monsoons in July and August. Delhi is also vulnerable to major earthquakes.

How to Get There

By Air:

Indira Gandhi International Airport
Palam Airport is sometimes used to refer to the international airport’s domestic terminals.

By Train:

Delhi Junction, also called Old Delhi or Purani Dilli.
New Delhi Station, located in Central Delhi.
Hazrat Nizamuddin located in the south.