New Delhi is a tapestry of tradition, history, architecture and cuisine, and being India’s capital city, it attracts more tourists than most areas in the South-Asian country. This bustling metropolis is often engaged with activities of different sorts, from traditional and cultural events to religious festivals. As a tourist, the things to do in New Delhi can be overwhelming simply because of its sheer volume but to narrow it all down, here are the 20 best things to do in New Delhi:
1. Visit Lotus temple
The name, Lotus Temple, resonates with its flower-like structure. This unique architectural feature was directly drawn from the Hindu scriptures which inspired its construction. According to the son of the founder of Bahai scripture, the faith that underpins the temple’s belief, a place of worship should have a nine-sided circular shape. This is why the Lotus Temple is formed of 27 ‘petals’ that create nine sides. Each side has its own separate entrance for visitors to enter and exit the temple.
The beauty of the Lotus Temple, however, is deeper than just what the eyes can see. It is encapsulated in the belief of the Bahai Faith that promotes unbiased religion. It allows for people of all religions, gender and any other identity to enter and reflect upon their lives. The temple itself is covered with verses and quotations taken from different religions.
2. Get religious at Akshardham Temple
The Akshardham Temple, or Akshardham Mandir as it is locally called, is the most beautiful religious structure anyone can visit. The building is composed of more than 200 pillars and nine domes that depict both cultural, natural and religious symbols – from deities to dancers and plants and animals. Furthermore, it’s architectural marvel extends to the fact that the monument does not have any steel or concrete support but yet remains sturdy on its sandstone and marble construction.
Within the temple, there are statues of the renowned deities in Hinduism, likes of Sita, Krishna and more. You can either reflect on your own, or pay homage to these divine characters.
3. Visit Hauz Khas Complex
The Haus Khas Complex reverberates with ancient history, as the entire Islam-based complex hosts a number of prehistoric buildings. The Haus Khas Complex was initially built as a large reservoir of water for the Muslim royal family in the 13th century. The name ‘Haus Khas’ roughly translates to the ‘Royal water tank’. Eventually, this area was consecrated as the graveyard for all Muslim royalty.
At present time, the Haus Khas Complex holds the tombs of Muslim monarchists who lived from the 14th to the 16th centuries. It also has an Islamic seminary and a mosque. Visitors will require tickets to enter the Haus Khas Village, as per the new rules imposed by India’s government. There are future plans for a night bazaar and open-air theatre to be constructed in this historic site to promote culture, history, and tourism.
4. Spend an evening at India Gate
Located on the eastern side of New Delhi, the India Gate is a memorial site that commemorates the valour and heroism of the thousands of Indian soldiers who lost their lives in the First World War.
This 30-foot-tall gate is considered to be one of the largest war memorial sites in India and can easily be seen on the road from Rajpath. Most visitors choose to spend their evening beside this enormous gate, especially because of how vibrant and picturesque the monument looks under the haze of the evening sun.
5. Explore Indian culture and food at Dilli Haat
Celebrating India’s traditional and artistic culture, the Dilli Haat is a weekly open-air market that is located in Kidwai Nagar in Delhi. This marketplace was constructed by India’s government purely for different artisans to come and sell their handicrafts to tourists and locals.
However, this place now holds a number of Indian cultural acts, including dance performances and serenades of traditional music. You can also enjoy a complete Indian cuisine in Dilli Haat’s food plaza. In short, Dilli Haat is somewhat the heart of New Delhi.
6. Wind up at the Jama Masjid
Built in the year 1656 by the famous Mughal Emperor, Shah Jahan, the Jama Masjid is one India’s greatest monuments as it is one of the largest mosques ever built in the country. The architecture of the mosque is breathtaking, with tall red minarets guarding the structure on both sides as the mosque alongside three gigantic golden domes.
The mosque was built parallel to other great projects commissioned by Emperor Shah Jahan, but its incredible design and intricate features make it one of the most iconic structures built by the emperor. The Jama Masjid can currently be visited by anyone.
7. Visit Qutub Minar
Considered as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Qutub Minar is a towering monument that was originally built to celebrate the prevalence of Islam in Delhi. This historical 240-feet tower has about five storeys and each consist of a balcony overlooking the Delhi capital. The Qutub Minar is therefore also considered to be the tallest tower built in India.
Visitors can enter this religious monument and witness hundreds of Arabic inscriptions and religious depictions being carved on its surface. You can also climb up to one of its higher levels to see the complete city of New Delhi.
8 Enjoy a delicious meal at the India Habitat Centre on Lodhi Road
While India might be the hub for history and culture, it also interposes modern and contemporary designs and lifestyles within its framework. The India Habitat Centre was built specifically for the purpose of providing an urban locality, complete with museums, restaurants and recreational areas.
You can enjoy a western course of cuisine at the All American Diner, with options such as pancakes, waffles and crepes and afterwards, take a break at the Lotus Pond which comprises the Visual Arts Gallery. There’s a plethora of activities that you can participate in in this multipurpose convention centre.
9. Visit the Rashtrapati Bhavan
Directly translating to the ‘Presidential Palace’, the Rashtrapati Bhavan symbolises the strength and ubiquity of democracy and secularism in New Delhi as well as in India. This enormous mansion is the official home of India’s President, quite similar to America’s White House.
The Rashtrapati Bhavan is a complete architectural and political marvel, for it was constructed during the period of British invasion in India, and housed a number of significant politicians over the course of its existence. The palace resonates with a Baroque quality of design and includes hundreds of classical and cultural motifs. Visitors, however, are left stunned primarily because of the palace’s gigantic size – it is believed that the Rashtrapati Bhavan is larger than the Buckingham Palace.
10. Wander around Connaught Place
The Connaught Place is one of India’s largest commercial and financial centres, where a number of India’s giant companies are headquartered. Because of its bustling nature and commercial setting, Connaught Place is incredibly well-maintained and comprises a variety of attractions for visitors, namely Madame Tussauds, central Exchange houses, well-known eateries and the PVR cinema hall.
Visitors can also wander about the Central Park which is popular for hosting cultural events every now and then, and has a wonderful fountain display. The Connaught Place encapsulates Delhi’s boisterousness but also its municipal charm and glory.
11. Lose yourself to shopping at Chandni Chowk
If you want to see Delhi’s bustling atmosphere, there is no better place than Chandi Chowk. This densely crowded marketplace is one of Delhi’s oldest and most renowned. Built in the 17th century by the renowned Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan, this particular marketplace holds hundreds of small stalls and vendors stretched out in its three conglomerate bazaars.
Here, you can find local handicrafts, products, traditional Indian outfits, along with eateries and confectioneries which sell authentic Indian street food. Because of its extremely cheap prices and the ability to haggle your way down to the lowest amount of money, locals typically choose this shopping complex for their necessities. While this does mean that Chandi Chowk becomes overly crowded at times, it still is a place for every tourist to visit, for here is where you can find a completely authentic experience of Indian culture and tradition.
12. Enjoy a sunny day in Lodhi Gardens
Built during the Lodhi regime in the 15th century, the Lodhi Garden currently sits as one of the most beautiful nature gardens in New Delhi and exhibits the tombs of two historical rulers, Mohammad Shah and Sikandar Lodhi.
The Lodhi Garden is often visited by locals to spend a quiet day outdoors, with many choosing to jog around or exercise under the morning sun. The garden mainly comprises three domed mosques and a connecting bridge between the Yamuna River and Sikandar Lodhi’s tomb. Visitors can choose to either rest in the scenic atmosphere of the Lodhi garden or wander about and examine the historical edifices present around the garden.
13. Boating at Purana Qila
The name ‘Purana Qila’ is Urdu for ‘Old Fort’. This name aptly suits the place, for this historic fort has stood strong in the province of Delhi for over 2500 years. Built by the famous Mughal emperor, Humayun, who was the direct descendent of Emperor Babur, this fort was originally meant to be a personal city for its builder. However, a consequent war lead to the demolishment of most structures within the fort, leading to Purana Qila being purported as a fortress rather than a Mughal city.
Currently, tourists can rent out paddle boats and tour the fortress by sailing around its small lake. There are also speedboats and small boats available for use, and while the waters might get a bit crowdy during peak hours of visitation, boating in Purana Qila is still one of the best things to do in New Delhi.
14. Food Walk to Old Delhi
India is the land of culture and tradition, but it is also the home of spices and flavourful cuisines. However, Old Delhi specifically offers one of the best food walk experiences in the country, for it includes most of India’s famous delicacies.
Scour through hundreds of street vendors and small eateries and enjoy the taste of butter naans, spicy chole kulcha, sweet halwas, lassi and kheer and crispy jalebis. The taste is rich and incredibly appetising and often alleviates the humidity and hotness which is typical of New Delhi weather.
15. An Evening at Jantar mantar
The Jantar Manter was originally built as an astronomical observatory during the 18th century by the Jaipurian king, Maharaja Jai Singh. Shaped into a form of a sundial, this monument holds nearly 13 astronomy instruments that is used to not only observe stars and planets in the solar system but to also provide a correct time. In the olden times, the Jantar Mantar was used alongside four other observatories to produce calendars and astronomical tables which would help the people to measure time and calculate dates.
Now, the observatory is open for visitation and tourists can often see the sundial at work, specifically during the evening where you can get an accurate depiction of time in the most natural format.
16. Find Peace at ISKCON temple
Being an abbreviation for ‘International Society for Krishna Consciousness’, the ISKCON temple is one of the biggest religious organisations in New Delhi. It is a temple dedicated to the religious sacraments of Krishna and Radharani, with the focus being on educating oneself about the Vedic texts and depictions as well as to find inner peace with oneself.
You can attend seminars or learn through its multimedia exhibitions, where one centre even holds the world’s largest sacred book.
17. Visit Red fort
The Red Fort is one of the trademarks of India’s history and is marked with great respect and admiration by both Indians and foreigners alike. It was built in the 17th century by Emperor Shah Jahan for the purpose of it being the main palace of his capital city, Shahjanabad which is now known as Old Delhi.
The Red Fort now epitomises the Mughal dynasty as well as the complexity and beauty of Mughal architecture. It comprises the most intricate architectural styles and envisions the culture and influences of India at its empirical height. Visitors can also see light and sound shows performed at certain times in the year in the Red Fort.
18. Enjoy the street life of Delhi
New Delhi’s population is renowned to be quite dense, and this can be witnessed while out on the streets in this vast metropolis. From rickshaws and tuk tuks on the streets to a variety of vendors selling all kinds of products and services, Delhi’s street life is an attraction to visitors on its own.
Its hustle and bustle climate provide the ultimate experience of living in a crowded city centre while its colours and vibrancy offer brilliant landscapes. You can even spot elephants casually being ridden on the streets beside cars and trucks–that is how unique and unexpected New Delhi is.
19. Hear qawwalis at Dargah of Nizamuddin Auliya
Dargahs are derivations from Islamic culture, where Muslims use the word to refer to a ‘portal’ that can be used to invoke and beseech the spirits of saints to provide their blessings and help. The Dargah Hazrat Nizamuddin is a personal ‘Dargah’ made for the Sufi prophet of the 13th century.
It is constructed as a domed building of one floor with a surrounding marble pavilion, where qawwali sessions are often held on Thursday evenings. These are devotional poems which are turned into lyrics and sung with rhythm and energy.
20. A visit to Chhatarpur temple
Standing a few miles away from Qutub Minar, the Chhatarpur Temple is a towering landmark that was built to honour the goddess, Katyayani. This temple is considered to be one of the biggest temples in India and is built completely out of marble and stone.
The temple is used mainly during the religious season of Navratri when Hindus come to worship and pay homage to the goddess, who is believed to be one of the many forms of the many-faced goddess, Durga.