Culture, food and shopping: The best of Delhi in 24 hours
Here’s the ultimate guide to knowing Delhi–up, close, and personal in just 24 hours.
‘Ye Delhi hai mere yaaar,
Bas ishq, mohabbat, pyaar’
(This is Delhi, my friend,
There is love and romance here)
These lyrics from the 2009 Bollywood drama Delhi-6 perfectly encapsulate India’s capital city, Delhi. As cliché as it may sound, Delhi is not just another city; it is an emotion. It is where the past and present beautifully co-exist, presenting a shining example of unity in diversity.
On one hand is the expansive Old Delhi, famously known as Dilli-6, with its most iconic landmark being Chandni Chowk. From the red sandstone structure of Red Fort to the fabled paranthe wali gali, large spice markets to jewellery havens–there’s so much that will take you back in time.
A stark contrast to Old Delhi is the newer part of the city, filled with showrooms and fashion boutiques, massive shopping malls, museums, restaurants and bars, and nightclubs.
With so much happening in Delhi, it may be a little difficult to squeeze in everything within 24 hours. Worry not, we’ve got you the best recommendations that will satiate your appetite for the city, until your next visit.
Experience a slice of culture in Old Delhi
The old part of Delhi may have gained recognition for its street food like dahi bhalla, jalebi, matar kulcha and the like. However, it is a treasure trove of cultural heritage waiting to be discovered.
The alleys of Dilli-6 are dotted with magnificent havelis where visitors can soak in the architecture, hear of tales bygone and at the same time, enjoy a lavish meal in opulent settings.
Begin your exploration with Kathika Cultural Centre, a haveli-turned-museum, nestled in the heart of old Delhi, where history comes alive through the mesmerising art of dastangoi and kathawachan storytelling traditions. Visit this centre for its interactive exhibits, immersive audio-visual presentations and live storytelling performances.
Next, head to Mirza Ghalib ki Haveli in Ballimaran, Chandni Chowk, which is dedicated to the life and work of the 19th-century Urdu poet, Mirza Ghalib. Legend says that the 300-year-old structure that is generously adorned with stone lakhori work was gifted to Ghalib by an admirer, who was in awe of the poet. It is believed that the haveli was once a wedding hall and was granted heritage status as recently as 1997.
Walk through the haveli and learn more about the illustrious figure through the many boards here that speak of Mirza Ghalib and his couplets. You can also enjoy the words of his contemporaries, including Ustad Zauq, Abu Zafar, and Momin Khan Momin.
The last stop on this trail should be Haveli Dharampura and Golden Haveli. A 200-year-old structure, the Haveli Dharampura underwent six years of restoration that began in 2011. Acknowledged by UNESCO and awarded with the Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation, Haveli Dharampura is punctuated with intricate woodwork on the rooftop. Its antique balconies and jharokas are often populated with a swarm of pigeons cooing away.
While a walkthrough of the haveli is a good idea, it’s also a must to indulge in street food and rich Mughlai cuisine at Lakhori, the on-premise restaurant.
If you happen to be in Haveli Dharampura over a weekend, make sure to book the Kathak performance that is paired with Hindustani classical music. The performances are visible from every floor of the haveli, bringing the corridors alive like nothing else.
In the vicinity is the Golden Haveli, which is now ready to welcome guests with its well-appointed and luxurious rooms.
Immerse yourself in the magic of museums
While the National Museum, Shankar’s International Doll Museum and the Railway Museum feature on the itineraries of most travellers, how about visiting a few that are Delhi’s best-kept secrets?
Make a stop at The National Philatelic Museum, which is set within the Dak Bhavan near Connaught Place. The museum has been segregated into various sections – sheetlets, themes, stamps from various countries and more. It also has the first stamp issued in India by the Sindh Dak (1854) and stamps issued before Independence by the rulers of the princely states.
After immersing yourself in the world of stamps, learn more about toilets. Yes, you read it right. The national capital has the Sulabh International Museum of Toilets that has a rare collection of facts, images and objects, showcasing the historic evolution of toilets from 2500 BC to date.
According to Time magazine, the museum is one of the weirdest among ‘the 10 museums around the world that are anything but mundane’.
While the idea may seem bizarre, the founder of the museum–Dr Bindeshwar Pathak, a social activist and the Founder of Sulabh Sanitation and Social Reform Movement, wanted to highlight the need to address the issues that have plagued the sanitation sector in the country.
What’s a visit to Delhi if you don’t get an opportunity to sample its food? Of course, the street food is the showstopper but don’t just try it in popular areas like Chandni Chowk or Lajpat Nagar. Instead, try the paranthas near Moolchand flyover, the rajma chawal at Shankar Market in Connaught Place, and south Indian fare at INA. You could also enjoy a large plate of piping hot momos and a mug of fruit beer at the Sikkim stall in Dilli Haat.
While Tibetan food is available in every nook and cranny in Majnu ka Tila, you don’t have to trek all the way to north Delhi! Instead, head to Lha Kitchen in Safdarjung Enclave for its soupy thukpa or jhol momos.
If street food is not for you, head to any of the plush cultural districts in the city—from Chanakyapuri, Khan Market to Lodhi Road, or Delhi’s close cousin Gurugram where you have several complexes from DLF CyberHub, One Horizon Centre, and 32nd Avenue serving Indian, Asian, Burmese and Continental cuisines.
Looking for some of the best watering holes in Delhi? Your search ends at Sidecar which ranked at the 18th spot in Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2023. There’s also Home, Lair, and PCO that come close and offer an eclectic range of cocktails.
Don’t leave the city without visiting some of its most vibrant markets! There’s Sarojini Nagar and Janpath for street shopping, Mehrauli, Shahpur Jat and Dhan Mill for designer wear, and Connaught Place to take a walk through some of the biggest showrooms.
You could also head to Select CityWalk mall in Saket or DLF Promenade, as well as the luxurious Emporio for a dose of retail therapy.
What are you waiting for? Pack your bags and head to Delhi today. After all, Dilli door nahin!
(All the images are sourced from Shutterstock.)
Edited by Affirunisa Kankudti