Welcome to Delhi
Delhi is India’s capital city and the home of executive, legislative, and judiciary branches of the Government of India. Delhi is a large metropolis with strengths in arts, commerce, education, entertainment, fashion, finance, healthcare, media, professional services, research and development, tourism and transport all contributing to its prominence
Things to do in Delhi
A great city is measured by the character it has and the conversations it starts. And Delhi, the capital city of India, scores high on both these counts. With its many historical monuments, parks, temples, heritage sites, and entertainment zones, the city exudes certain magnetism that is hard to resist. From sightseeing to shopping to pub hopping, there is no dearth of things to do once you have checked in at your hotel in Delhi.
Founded by Emperor Shah Jahan and surrounded by a magnificent 18m-high wall, this fort took 10 years to construct (1638–48) and is rumoured to have had the decapitated bodies of prisoners built into the foundations for luck. It once overlooked the Yamuna River, which has now shrunk to some distance away. A tree-lined waterway, known as nahr-i-bihisht (river of paradise), once ran out of the fort and along Chandni Chowk, fed by the Yamuna.
Shah Jahan never took up full residence here, after his disloyal son, Aurangzeb, imprisoned him in Agra Fort.
Humayun’s tomb is sublimely well proportioned, seeming to float above its symmetrical gardens. It’s thought to have inspired the Taj Mahal, which it predates by 60 years. Constructed for the Mughal emperor in the mid-16th century by Haji Begum, Humayun’s Persian-born wife, the tomb marries Persian and Mughal elements. The arched facade is inlaid with bands of white marble and red sandstone, and the building follows strict rules of Islamic geometry, with an emphasis on the number eight.
A beautiful pocket of calm at the heart of Old Delhi’s mayhem, the capital’s largest mosque is built on a 10m elevation. It can hold a mind-blowing 25,000 people. The marble and red-sandstone structure, known also as the ‘Friday Mosque’, was Shah Jahan’s final architectural triumph, built between 1644 and 1658. The four watchtowers were used for security. There are two minarets standing 40m high, one of which can be climbed for amazing views.
Visiting the marble shrine of Muslim Sufi saint Nizam-ud-din Auliya is Delhi’s most mystical, magical experience. The dargah is hidden away in a tangle of bazaars selling rose petals, attars (perfumes) and offerings, and on some evenings you can hear the qawwali (Sufi devotional singing), amid crowds of devotees. The ascetic Nizam-ud-din died in 1325 at the ripe old age of 92. His doctrine of tolerance made him popular not only with Muslims, but with adherents of other faiths, too.
A triumphal arch where all of India’s national parades are held, India Gate is a memorial to fallen British Indian troops of the First World War. It is also where you can pay your respects at the Amar Jawan Jyoti, the eternal flames dedicated to the Indian soldiers who have died in the many wars and battles since independence. Visit this landmark in the evenings to spend some leisurely hours in the green lawns surrounding the area, playing cricket or flying kites or take a stroll on Rajpath. The majestic structure looks spectacular in the night when illuminated with spotlights, making it one of the top places to visit in Delhi at night.
If you only have time to visit one of Delhi’s ancient ruins, make it this. The first monuments here were erected by the sultans of Mehrauli, and subsequent rulers expanded on their work, hiring the finest craftspeople and artisans to set in stone the triumph of Muslim rule. The complex is studded with ruined tombs and monuments, the majestic highlight of which is the Qutab Minar, a 73m-tall 12th-century tower, after which this complex is named.
An equinoctial sundial and observatory that features 13 astronomical apparatuses built on a scale that is hard to imagine, Jantar Mantar is one of the best places to visit in Delhi with family and kids. Though the complex was built way back in 1724, some of the instruments are still well-preserved. The Samrat Yantra can pinpoint the location of planetary bodies and the direction of the North Pole while the Rama Yantra was meant to study the heights of stars from the surface of the earth.
Shh, whisper it quietly: this place is better than the Red Fort. Delhi’s ‘Old Fort’ isn’t as magnificent in size and grandeur, but it’s far more pleasant to explore, with tree-shaded landscaped gardens to relax in, crumbling ruins to climb over (and even under, in the case of the tunnels by the mosque) and no uptight guards with whistles telling you not to go here and there.
There are extraordinary riches scattered around Mehrauli, with more than 440 monuments – from the 10th century to the British era – dotting a forest and the village itself behind the forest. In the forest, most impressive are the time-ravaged tombs of Balban and Quli Khan, his son, and the Jamali Kamali mosque, attached to the tomb of the Sufi poet Jamali. To the west is the 16th-century Rajon ki Baoli, Delhi’s finest step-well.
At the northern end of Mehrauli village is Adham Khan’s Mausoleum, which was once used as a British residence, then later as a police station and post office. Leading northwards from the tomb are the pre-Islamic walls of Lal Kot.