101 Things to Do While in Delhi

Posted by Daniel Ratheiser • Monday, September 26, 2011 • Category: In Depth
Whether you come for business, education, or leisure, India's capital city Delhi offers you countless opportunities to spend your time. To help you make the most of this mega-city, we have gathered together over 100 interesting, fun, and often unconventional ideas into one handy guide. See how many you manage to tick off before you leave - that is, if you intend to leave behind the city's excitement at all…


ACTIVITIES:

1. Learn Hindustani, the lingua franca of the Indian Subcontinent (that covers the continuum of the standard registers Hindi and Urdu). For Delhi this is a real Must - and will make you enjoy the city all the more!

A haveli courtyard in Old Delhi
(c) by Varun Shiv Kapur
[http://www.flickr.com/photos/varunshiv/3968814237/]

2. Dream about an era begone by losing yourself in the labyrinthine alleys of Old Delhi and make an exciting discovery behind almost every corner.

3. Have a ride on a cycle rickshaw in Old Delhi. Don't forget to fix the price in advance - you don't want to get a bad surprise at the other end.

4. Get to know your local kabaris, who are India's ultimate recyclers and learn about their contributions to society. They pick up the trash at your doorstep, meticulously go through everything that can be recycled, and process it for re-usage...

5. Go to Lajpat Nagar and let henna be applied to your hands by experts - some of the designs are so elaborate, they make your head spin by simply looking at them.

Lodhi Garden
(c) by Ferdinand Harmsen
[http://www.flickr.com/photos/harmsen/2170788701/]

6. Make a picnic with friends in the serenity of the Lodhi Gardens and marvel at the imposing Afghani-style monuments surrounded by giant trees.

7. Take Delhi's high-tech metro to travel through the city. If you get off at Chawri Bazaar in Old Delhi, within a few steps of walking you will feel like a time traveller and experience a contrast that even in India is hard to beat…

8. Visit Jawaharlal Nehru University at night for its great food, relaxed athmosphere, and join one of the many stimulating discussions going on around campus.

9. Going to the movies at Eros Cinema in Jangpura in the mornings from Monday to Friday for a mere 70 INR or at a fancy multiplex with reclining luxury chairs for a several hundred rupees.

Chaiwallah
(c) by R.M. Calamar
[http://www.flickr.com/photos/rebcal/5574514545/]

10. Make new friends by sitting at your local Chaiwallah (tea vendor) and chatting up the locals - though chances are they will chat you up first!

11. Escape from the comfort of your living room as much as possible - you can also watch TV back home! Get out there and engage this pulsating city and its diverse residents.

12. Think about supporting one of the many NGOs that are improving the lives of the city's disadvantaged residents. Maybe donate a few hours of your time to teaching the kids in your neighbourhood - opportunities to make a difference are almost limitless.


SHOPPING:

13. Go to Connaught Place to do some window shopping and see the burgeoining Indian middle class revelling in their new found wealth - you will surely find better prices for virtually anything there in other markets…

Flower Market in Old Delhi
(c) by India Kangaroo
[http://www.flickr.com/photos/ishanz/5632276768/]

14. Embroidery, incense sticks, ittars (perfumes), brass moulding, laquer work bangles, and pounded silver sheets (which are used to wrap sweets, for instance) are among the manifold traditional arts that you can still witness being practiced in the backlanes of Shahjahanabad (Old Delhi).

15. Go shopping at Sarojini Nagar where you can find clothes from H&M, Berhska, Zara, etc for potentially much better prices than at the malls - it all depends on your haggling skills…

16. Buy spices in the bulks in Old Delhi's Khari Baoli, which is reputed to be Asia's biggest spice market.

17. Visit one of the many sabzi mandis (vegetable markets) and marvel at the colourful mouthwatering fruits and veggies.

At the weekly book market in Daryaganj
(c) by Koshy Koshy
[http://www.flickr.com/photos/kkoshy/2428419818/]

18. Join the weekly Kitab Bazaar (book market) in Daryaganj on Sundays.

19. Explore the countless crafts shops all over the city and buy some for your friends home. Maybe the khadi (homespun cotton) shirt you give them as a present will become all vogue in your hometown…

20. Also stop by gigantic Nehru Place, one of the world's largest IT markets (and probably the largest "IT bazaar") - not only exciting for all you nerds out there.

21. Get yourself a local dress tailor made: pyjama-kurta, shalwar kameez, safari suits, or any other of the local dresses you take a fancy to.

Delhi's famous shopping mall Select City Walk during Diwali Festival
(c) by Harsh Agrawal
[http://www.flickr.com/photos/denharsh/5148180554/]

22. When shopping at the fancy Select City Walk in Saket, just cross the street and move a few metres into the neighbourhood to see one of Delhi's grandest historic mosques, the 14th century Khirki Masjid.


SIGHTS:

23. Spend a day exploring Mehrauli, Delhi's oldest neighbourhood and make it a point to cover the shrine of Qutb Sahib, St. John's Church (whose unique architecture combines a Hindu, Muslim, and Christian elements), the Jain Dadabari Mandir, the mystical Kala Mahal, the city's most beautiful baoli (step-well), the Rajao ki Baoli, and the Jamali-Kamali compound - and there are lots of other palaces, tombs, baolis (step-wells), mosques, temples, and pavilions to be discovered at random.

Heavy monsoon rains visiting Humayun's Tomb
(c) by Panoramas
[http://www.flickr.com/photos/ranopamas/3807970117/]

24. Of course, don't forget about Delhi's most famous sights, such as the city's landmark, the Qutb Minar, the magnificent Humayun's Tomb, and the grand Jama Masjid (Friday Mosque).

25. Visit the tomb of Delhi's patron saint Khwaja Nizamuddin Auliya on an early Thursday evening and listen to the extatic qawwali performances.

26. See the impressive Akshar Dham temple of the Swaminarayan sect on the eastern side of the Yamuna and learn about Hindu temples in the 21st century.

27. Another very impressive and popular temple compound can be found in the far south: Chhatarpur Mandir.

28. Spend days in museums, the well known ones (such as the National Museum, National Gallery of Modern Arts, and Gandhi Smriti) as well as some of the more obscure ones depending on your individual interests (such as the National Crafts Museum, National Rail Museum, Sanskriti Museum of Everyday Art, and Sulabh International Museum of Toilets).

Temple spires of Old Delhi's Jain Laal Mandir
(c) by Carol Mitchell
[http://www.flickr.com/photos/webethere/2205159751/]

29. Learn about the world of the Jain religion at the stunning Laal Mandir (Red Temple) in Old Delhi and visit their bird hospital inside the compound.

30. Explore the artsy Hauz Khas village, meet up with friends, enjoy the great food, and explore the monuments and beautiful park.

31. Pay a visit to the charming urban village Shahpur Jat and discover small independent boutiques, cafes, bookshops, and art galleries. Once you are there, also stop by at Knowledge Must's office to learn more about opportunities to make the most out of Delhi's diversity such as language classes and unique tours of various localities.

32. When visiting Delhi's Red Fort, make it a point to visit the fort attached to it, Salimgarh, which was formerly lying on an island in the Yamuna. It houses the Swatantra Sangram Museum, which brings India's freedom struggle back to life - completely for free!

Delhi's magnificent Friday Mosque
(c) by Panoramas
[http://www.flickr.com/photos/ranopamas/3800654235/]

33. If you enjoy Mughal architecture and less explored places, then also make it a point to visit the Sunheri Masjid, Fatehpuri Masjid, and Zinat-ul Masjid in the Old Delhi area.

34. For an altogether different experience, don't miss out on the otherworldly Tis Hazari Court Complex, where over 50,000 of litigants push their way through every day. Imagine a court room turned into an Indian bazaar - "babu-dom" (Indian-style bureaucracy) at its very best!

35. Marvel at the incredible Rashtrapati Bhavan, a fantasy palace built by the British shortly before they were made to leave India and now the residence of the Indian President. You can visit the Mughal Gardens at its back for a few weeks every year in February/March (exact dates change from year to year).

36. Immerse yourself in the crazy street life in Paharganj, where backpackers, touts, and shopkeepers mix freely.

37. Take a walk along the sacred Yamuna River and wonder why the city is turning its back towards it. One place to see is the ancient Nigambodh Ghat with Delhi's busiest burning ghat and a few temples.

Gurudwara Bangla Sahib of the Sikh faith
(c) by Sakeeb Sabakka
[http://www.flickr.com/photos/sakeeb/5391538707/]

38. Bangla Sahib and Sis Ganj Sahib are the most reverred gurudwaras of the Sikh faith. Especially people who haven't experienced the rituals at Sikh temples are usually amazed by the serene atmosphere and the beautiful chanting and music.

39. Explore the stunning colonial heritage in the northern parts of Delhi around the Cantonment and Civil Lines areas.

40. Discover Majnu ka Tilla, a Tibetan neighbourhood in the north of Delhi, and find yourself among Tibetan monks, music, shops, guesthouses, and restaurants.

41. Not really a sight in the classical sense, but utmost interesting nevertheless: explore the biggest basti (settlement) in Delhi, and one of the biggest settlements in the world for that matter: Sangam Vihar, with hundreds of thousands of people living in a small area of encroached land in the south of the city.


MIND AND BODY:

42. Rent a bicycle or borrow one from a friend and discover the city at your own pace - might make sense to stay on the backroads though...

Playing cricket in Mehrauli
(c) by Prasad Kholkute
[http://www.flickr.com/photos/kholkute/5583005407/]

43. Join your local cricket team - you will likely find them practicing at the next few square metres of open space a few metres from where you are living.

44. Run in the annual Delhi Half-Marathon! Though we don't know what prevents the organiser organise a full marathon, just 21.0975 km further into the suburbs...

45. Learn about Ayurveda by getting it applied on your body, maybe in the form of a rejuvenating massage.

46. Marvel at the sky full of kites on Independence Day - or better still, get your own kite!

47. Get into yoga, for example, learn traditional hatha yoga at Sivananda Center in Kailash Colony, which has a comprehensive aproach to asanas, breathing, diet, meditation, and yoga philosophy.

Enjoying a game of carrom
(c) by Madhav Pai
[http://www.flickr.com/photos/madpai/2350693669/]

48. Learn to play carrom ("Indian finger billiards") from the locals.

49. Join the Delhiites for their morning walk in the park - surprisingly many younger people join in, too.

50. Escape the hustle and bustle of Delhi for the personal chaos of your mind at the Vipassana Centre about 20km outside of Delhi (usually ten day long meditation stays on a donation basis).


EXCURSIONS:

51. For a glimpse of nature close to Delhi, go hiking in Asola Wildlife Sanctuary just south of Tughlakabad.

52. Make an excursion to the Braj area south of Delhi, the homeland of Krishna, and visit the many beautiful pilgrimage places all over Mathura, Vrindavan, Govardhan, Gokul, Barsana, and other towns and villages.

Angle on the famed Taj Mahal
(c) by null0
[http://www.flickr.com/photos/null0/4982195007/]

53. Ride India's fastest train, the Bhopal Shatabdi, and be in Agra in less than two hours, which leaves you all the more time to marvel at the Taj Mahal...

54. Next to Agra and Delhi the third corner of India's famed "Golden Triangle" Jaipur is also always worth a visit, especially Amber Fort, whose stunning location in the mountains is right out of a fairy tale book...

55. To see a less explored part of Rajasthan visit Alwar and Sariska National Park (with its many tribals living in and around it). If you like you can also visit Alwar in true style, by taking a steam train from Delhi, which features the oldest running steam engine in the whole world. The train runs every second and fourth Saturday of the month from October to March.

Putting the finishing touches on a piece of pottery at the Surajkund Crafts Mela
(c) by Koshy Koshy
[http://www.flickr.com/photos/kkoshy/3252158506/]

56. Pay a visit to the annual Surajkund Crafts Mela to see artists perform and artisans exhibit their skills. Surajkund also happens to be the most ancient site of Delhi dating to somewhere in the first millenium CE.

57. Visit Ajmer with the shrine to India's most famous sufi saint Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti, just 6 and a half hours away on the Shatabdi train. During his annual Urs festival, millions of people from all over India and dozens of other countries in the world pay their respect at his tomb.

58. Also the gateway to the holy Himalayas, Haridwar, is only 6.5 hours from Delhi on the fastest train. A short drive further into the mountains and you are already in the yoga capital Rishikesh with its jungli landscape and cooler climate...

59. Tughlakabad Fort is a less visited sight in the very south of the city, but maybe the most imposing of the many fortresses around town and also a great place to to explore in peace. On the opposite side of the street is the even more obscure Adilabad Fort and the wonderful tomb of Giyazuddin.

A glimpse of Keoladeo Ghana National Park
(c) by rachel in wonderland
[http://www.flickr.com/photos/rdale/5611644703/]

60. Rent a bike and cycle around the world-famous Keoladeo Ghana National Park in Bharatpur.


SEASONS:

61. Spring time is a very pleasant time of the year, but surprisingly short. As soon as it heats up, temperatures soon move beyond the comfort zone of most visitors. So, make the most out of the pleasant climate and enjoy exploring the city.

62. To cool off in the heat of Delhi's scorching summer try a sweet or salted lassi or find a good place to enjoy kulfi, the local ice cream, which many consider even better than Ben & Jerries. If that is not enough, follow the Delhi people to the cool of the high Himalayas.

63. With the first monsoon rains arrive, Delhi cools off considerably. That doesn't necessarily mean that the climate becomes more pleasant. In fact, quite a few people prefer the dry heat of the summer to the buggy humidity of the somewhat cooler monsoon months. Anyway, as soon as the rains set in, just get yourself soaked properly when it starts raining cats and dogs, and witness the city coming to an almost complete standstill!

64. The post-monsoon time is simply beautiful. Make the most of the outdoors at that time of the year as there is still the full hariyali (greenery) of the monsoons and a more temperate climate that allows you to enjoy without constantly reaching for your water bottle.

Winter wonderland in Kashmir
(c) by Dave Watts
[http://www.flickr.com/photos/wattsdave/412441738/]

65. In winter, have a go at skiing or snowboarding in the Himalayas - cheap flights are often available for Srinagar, Kashmir, for instance.


FESTIVALS:

66. Join the myriad religious festivals of the various local communities. Since religion is of such paramount importance in India, many festivities are of Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian, Jain, or Buddhist origin.

67. During the major Shia Muslim festival of the year, Muharram, visit the grand processions and ceremonies at Karbala Ground near Jafdarjung in the late afternoon.

68. A very beautiful Easter Procession is held in Mehrauli starting from St. John's Church - the local community will be very happy for you to join in!

69. Have a look at the Republic Day Parade if you want to get a glimpse on India's increasing military prowess - that is if you like that kind of thing...

70. For Janmashtami, Krishna's birthday, if you can't make it to his birthplace Mathura and its environs, you might use the opportunity to check out the giant ISKCON temple that is located just next to the serene Lotus Temple (of the Baha'i religion).

Playing the riotous colour festival Holi
(c) by FaceMePLS
[http://www.flickr.com/photos/faceme/2354419592/]

71. Play India's colour festival holi, but play it safe, especially if you are a woman (most Indian woman prefer to stay inside in the safety of their home). Wear your most worn and torn clothes and immerse yourself in the riotous colours in celebration of the arrival of spring.

72. During Dussehra at many venues around town Ramlila is held, stage performances depicting the life of Lord Rama and his adventures recounted in the Hindu epic Ramayana. The biggest Ramlila is held just next to the Red Fort and, in fact, the whole venue turns into a giant amusement park with many fun rides, houses of horror, and countless local snacks. The festival culminates with the burning of giant effigies of demon king Ravan symbolising the triumph of good over evil.

73. Guru Purnima is a great time to join one of the most amazing pilgrimage festivals around Delhi (if not the whole of India). Pilgrims from near and far all congregate on the holy town of Govardhan to circumbulate the holy mountain.

74. Participate in the annual Phoolkwalon Ki Sair ("Procession of the Flower Sellers") in Mehrauli and witness intercommunal harmony at its best: Hindus and Muslims paying respect to each others traditions.

The Muslim Sufi shrine at Nizamuddin
(c) by Varun Shiv Kapur
[http://www.flickr.com/photos/varunshiv/3544992335/]


75. Delhi has always been a center for the mystical branches of Islam that are referred to as Sufism. Their festivals abound in the city throughout the year, offering you the perfect chance to witness the love and devotion practiced by the Sufis. Festivals to look out for include the Urs of Nizamuddin Auliya, Amir Khusro, Mai Saheba in Adhchini, Chiragh Delhi (also a great neighbourhood to explore), and Hazrat Qutubuddin Bakhtiar Kaki (Qutb Sahib) in Mehrauli.

76. Unique is also Inayat Khan's Urs festival at his dargah in Nizamuddin Basti on the 5th of February every year. You will be amazed by the spirit of brotherhood and the many "white" Muslims from America that congregate here from afar…

77. During the Muslim holy month of Ramadan go to a Muslim mohalla (neighbourhood) for sunset and enjoy the many delicacies that people indulge in after the hardships of the day's fast. Unsurprisingly one of the best places to go is the Jama Masjid in Old Delhi. Towards the end of Ramadan also the Urs festival of Salim Chishti at Fatehpur Sikri is a wonderful place to visit. You can't help but feeling transported back into the Mughal times...

Durga Puja being celebrated in Delhi's CR Park
(c) by Jyoti Prakash Bhattacharjee
[http://www.flickr.com/photos/jn/4239986566/]

78. Join in the festivities of the many migrant communities that have established themselves in Delhi. For example, celebrate Pongal with the Tamils, Durga Puja at Chittaranjan Park with the Bengalis, and Chhath Puja (an ancient Hindu festival dedicated to the Hindu Sun God, Surya) on the banks of the Yamuna with the Biharis.

79. Try to visit all your friends, colleagues, and acquaintances during Diwali. Best of luck!


EVENTS/PARTIES:

80. Delhi has long been the cultural center of India, attracting the best of artists from all over the country and even abroad. The "cultural season" of the city generally lasts from October to March, when events and their attendance peak. India Islamic Cultural Centre, India Habitat Centre, India International Centre, Kamani Auditorium, Triveni Kala Sagam, FICCI Auditorium,Siri Fort Auditorium, and Pragati Maidan are among the most popular venues for events in the city and every day you will have multiple choices of exciting opportunities.

81. International cultural institutes such as Max Mueller Bhawan (as the German Goethe Institute is called in India in reverence to pre-eminent indologist Max Mueller), the Alliance Francaise, the Japan Cultural Centre, and the British Council are also very active in hosting a diverse range of events.

82. Check out delhievents.com, buzzintown.com, and burrp.com for interesting local events, whether it is a live music concert, a film shown in a café, or an art exhibition.

Festival hosted at the Garden of Five Senses
(c) by ZeePack
[http://www.flickr.com/photos/zeepack/4372794593/]

83. Also learn more about India's capital city from thedelhiwalla.com, which is run by Austen Mayank Soofi, an Indian who devoted his time to unravel the secrets of Delhi...

84. Grab a copy of Time Out Delhi Magazine. In it you will also find lots of opportunities to spend your leisure time.

85. Free festivals abound throughout the year, such as Music in the Park, held in Nehru Park from October to March.

86. Brush up on your Bhangra moves in any of the dozens of clubs and bars around Delhi. Many are located in the fancy hotels though, so leave those chappals (slippers) at home...

87. Delve into Delhi's emerging underground party scene, in places such as TLR (The Living Room) and Cafe Morisson. Places keep opening, closing, and changing their names all the time, so your best bet is asking around.


FOOD:

88. In Delhi you can try out virtually all of India's diverse cuisines, such as the royal Gujarati Thalis and South Indian Vadai-Dosai, but of course also local delicacies such as the heavenly kebabs at Delhi's historic Mughlai institution Karim's, for instance.

Street life in Paharganj
(c) by McKay Savage
[http://www.flickr.com/photos/mckaysavage/2086425262/]

89. Experiment with some of the more challenging foods that are locally available, such as the fresh green mirch (chilies) that are viciously spicy or brain plain fry.

90. Try golgappa (aka pani puri), a crispy round hollow ball filled with potato, chickpeas, chilli, tamarind, and many other ingredients, which is one of Delhi's popular street foods (but best go to a vendor that has a long line of customers in front of it in order to make sure that it's fresh and hygenic – but don't blame us if you still get the notorious "Delhi belly" ).

91. In general, to stay on the safer side and in order to be able to enjoy more of your time in Delhi, avoiding food from vendors that are not highly frequented or otherwise dubious will make good sense - especially for those untrained foreign stomachs...

92. Learn how to prepare typical Indian dishes from your local friends' mothers.

93. Visit or simply call "Swiss Gourmessa" for really yummy cakes, cookies, and breads. Run by a lady from Switzerland, they combine the best of German, French, and, of course, Swiss bakery magic...

94. For amazing views during lunch time, you might like to try the trendy Gunpowder Restaurant in Hauz Khas Village.

Preparing Paan
(c) by Dennis Jarvis
[http://www.flickr.com/photos/archer10/2214390537/]

95. Try out the local paan after heavy foods (a preparation of betel leaf with areca nut, lime paste, and different spices). Paan is chewed as a breath freshener, digestive and mild stimulant, and also holds immense importance in rituals in many places of India - you might want to stay away from its gutkha variant though, which includes chewing tobacco…

96. Some of the best quality style food in town for a reasonable price is available at the Swagath chain of restaurants. Their South Indian-style fish curries are almost as good as in Mangalore itself - surely an all-time favourite in Delhi!

97. Another local favourite is Andhra Bhawan, which is rightly famous for its "cheap and best" food.

98. If you crave for American-style burgers go to Hard Rock Cafe in DLF Saket and order the Legendary Burger.

99. If you want to try one of the most ridiculously tasty desserts anywhere, find the hole-in-the-wall shop selling delicious shahi halwar and kulfi (many customer mix both in one plate) near Jama Masjid just opposite Karim's.

100. For gluten free, organic and other special foods and diets have a look at the "Health is Wealth" store in Defence Colony Market. Lots of Indian brands and choices for a healthy tomorrow...

101. Would you like to feast while improving your karma? Go for blessed foods: prasad in Hindu temples, tabaruk in Muslim dargahs, and langar in Sikh gurudwaras!

--

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