‘The air we breathe is full of the dust and fragrances of the past, and also of the fresh and piercing winds of the present…what a tremendous story is here.’ These were the words uttered by India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, when describing Delhi. India’s capital captures the past, lives in the present and looks to the future in a way that few other cities do.
With a population of over 18 million, Delhi is an international metropolis. Perhaps daunting at first sight, a little exploring soon reveals a rich, diverse and fascinating culture. Throughout most of its history it has served as the capital of various kingdoms and empires, captured and rebuilt time and time again. Every dynasty left its mark and as you start to explore, you’ll discover reminders and relics from this colossal game of pass the parcel.
A sprawling city, its boundaries are constantly changing, but at its heart are Old and New Delhi. Old Delhi was built for the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan and surrounded by more than 8km of ramparts. The walls crumbled long ago, but you can still delve into its past with a visit to the Red Fort and the Jama Masjid, India’s largest mosque. Join the flocks of birds that swarm around its minaret and climb to the top for a spectacular view over Old Delhi.
New Delhi was built by the British to serve as the capital of their empire. The area is characterised by broad avenues and tree-lined boulevards, the longest of which is the Rajpath, stretching from the Presidential Palace to India Gate. New Delhi is also where you’ll find most of the city’s museums and shopping areas, centred around Connaught Place.
As well as centuries worth of history to explore, Delhi is also one of the best places in India to experience the buzz of a city where its millions of inhabitants are going about their daily business. And if weaving your way in and out of the rickshaws and cyclists ever starts to get too much, turn the corner and you’ll find a tranquil garden or a quiet enclave in which to stop, gather your thoughts and recharge.
Marvel at the impressive Red Fort, stroll through the intoxicating spice market in Old Delhi and settle for a picnic in Lodi Gardens at sunset. Delhi is always bound to make a lasting impression.
What to do
- Explore Old Delhi, home to the Jama Masjid and the Red Fort
- Wander along the Rajpath in New Delhi towards India Gate
- Shop for goodies at Connaught Place and Chandni Chowk
- Visit the immense Qutb Minar and the peaceful Humayun's Tomb
- Take a rikshaw ride through the bustling streets
- Enjoy morning yoga in Lodi Gardens
When to go
The best time to visit is between October and March. September and April are considered the shoulder months when it is very hot in the middle of the day but mornings and late afternoons are lovely. From the end of December until the middle of January, mornings and evenings can be foggy and nights cold, but during the day the weather is great for sightseeing.