Insider’s Guide to Dehli: Where the Ancient and Ultramodern Collide

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Why Delhi
Dehli, the national capital territory of India, is massive. It is the third largest urban settlement in the world by area and the second most populous city in India. And this one place has so much to offer that anyone will certainly get carried away by its magnificence.

Delhi gives you an experience of both age-old Indian culture and today’s ultramodern lifestyle. The city’s exquisiteness results from the confluence of a kaleidoscope of cultures from all over India; there Delhi embodies the spirit of unity in diversity. Its culture has been influenced by its illustrious history and its association as the capital of India.

To do | Eat | Drink | Where to stay | Getting there and about | What to avoid | Top tip

To do

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Humayun’s Tomb, a garden-tomb constructed from red sandstone in the 16th Century for the Mughal Emperor Humayun.

Dehli is the home to three world heritage sites – the Red Fort, the Qutub Minar and Humayun’s Tomb. These architectural masterpieces were built by the Mughal and Turkic Rulers. They also left behind as part of their legacy the Jama Masjid – India’s largest mosque, and the Safdarjung Tomb, just to name a few. The Iron Pillar of Mehrauli near Qutub Minar is notable for its corrosion resistant composition of metals – a testimony to the skill of ancient Indian blacksmiths from over 1500 years ago. The Jantar Mantar, an astronomical observatory is another famous monument.

Dehli also houses several government buildings that are a legacy of the colonial British Architecture. These include the Parliament and the Rashtrapati Bhavan, the official residence of the President of India, a majestic 320 acre campus with include the breath-taking Mughal Gardens. Facing it is the India Gate, a memorial of Indian soldiers who sacrificed their lives in the First World War. The Rajghat and associated memorials houses (you guessed it) memorials of Mahatma Gandhi and other important personalities. The Connaught Place, the headquarters of the British Raj in the pre-independence era is now a very popular shopping complex and one of the largest commercial centres in Dehli.

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Akshardham Temple – its splendour is beyond words.

The best of Dehli’s modern architecture includes the Akshardham Temple, a most exquisite achievement, the splendour of which is simply beyond words. The Baha’i Lotus Temple, famous for its striking flower-shaped architecture is open to people of all faiths and is the mother temple of the Indian Subcontinent.

Dehli has no lack of modern shopping complexes where one can find the world’s biggest brands, from swanky Rolex watches to Versace and Giorgio Armani. Meanwhile, traditional Indian Handicrafts can be found in Dilli Haat, a bazaar which sells rosewood and sandalwood carvings, brassware, metal crafts, gems and silk and wool fabric. Chandni Chowk, a market visited by shoppers from around the world since the 17th century is famous for jewellery and Zari sarees, which are embroidered with gold and silver thread. One can find local art pieces at all popular tourist spots.

Dehli also holds the Auto Expo, Asia’s largest Auto Show and the World Book Fair, the second largest book exhibition in the world.

Food

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Dehli, home to authentic lamb biryani.

The Mughlai cuisine originated here, therefore kebabs and biryani will always be a speciality. The fast living habits of people have given rise to a humongous number of street food outlets that sell chaats, jalebis, tandoori, kulfi and all kinds of food from across the length and breadth of India. The Paranthe Wali Gali in Chandni Chowk is one street that it is visited by influential personalities like Bollywood stars and politicians time and time again, probably to relish its celebrated paranthas (flatbread)!

One can very easily find food from any part of the world in the uncountable number of restaurants and lavish hotels that serve cuisines from all over the world, for example Bukhara, The All American Dinner, and the Asian restaurant chains Mainland China and Pan Asian. While in Pan Asian the food has no trace of Indian-ness, Indian-style Chinese food is big business in India. Its major difference with traditional Chinese food is that besides traditional Chinese ingredients, Indian spices like coriander, turmeric etc. are also used. Often ingredients like paneer (cottage cheese) are used, which bear very little resemblance to traditional Chinese cuisine. Also non-vegetarian ingredients like chicken may sometimes be replaced by vegetables like cauliflower. And for the icing on the cake, several food joints also serve fusion-food, where Indian meets other cuisines to produce something amazing!

Not to mention one can definitely find the popular brands like Mc. Donalds’, KFC, Dominos, etc. and Indian favourites like Haldiram’s and Bikaner with great ease. Haldiram’s and Bikaner are very popular sweets and snacks brands; however, they also have their own chain of restaurants throughout India which serve, in addition to sweets, all kinds of vegetarian Indian food, popular Chinese and Italian dishes (of course with some Indian-ness). At these establishments visitors should try sweets which are completely unique to Indian cuisine. The most popular ones are jalebi, rabdi, gulab jamuns, rasgullas, halwa, not to mention many, many more.

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Jalebi is made by deep frying the flour batter, then soaking it in syrup.

Drink

If Dehli has so much to offer in terms of food, then finding drinks that are friendly to your pocket is obviously no big deal! Some popular bars are Castle9, Thugs, Pebble Street, My Bar Square, equipped with king size sofas, screens and game tables that really spoil you!

Where to stay

As Dehli is a major tourist attraction, one can easily find decent, affordable, yet comfortable hotels all over Dehli. There are several popular hotels like Holiday Inn, Radisson Blu, JW Marriott etc. in close proximity to the international airport. And of course there are also the luxurious and expensive hotels like the Taj, Oberoi, Eros and ITC Maurya, where President Obama stayed with his wife during his visit to India!

Transport

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Explore Dehli by rickshaw.

The Indira Gandhi International Airport has direct and connecting flights to all major cities in the world and domestic flights to every major city in India. Also there are trains to nearly every Indian city and town. One can easily find auto-rickshaws, e-rickshaws, taxis, radio cabs, buses and metros to travel around the city. Also a good highway network offers easy access to neighbouring states like Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Haryana- which are also important tourist destinations. Travelling to these states is a matter of just few hours!

What to avoid

Don’t trust anyone blindly. Some locals pose as tourist guides and charge tourists while giving incorrect information. Make sure to check the guide’s licence issued by the Government of India. Do not let local shopkeepers charge exorbitant amounts. You should consult local citizens if doubtful. Tourists, especially women, must avoid travelling alone at night. Also, beware of pick-pockets in crowded places.

A top tip

Most of the monuments and even temples have their own restaurants which are hygienic and cheap. They’re vegetarian, but regardless really good. One does not really need to hunt for good food in Dehli. The city has no dearth of awesome food, so don’t spend too much time searching for the right place, as there are nice food joints on nearly every square kilometre!

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Soumya Singh

A first year Computer Science undergraduate at Durham University

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