New DelhiDelhi is a thoroughly inscrutable onion of a city: every layer you peel off reveals an even deeper layer of history. Rebuilt eight times by its many conquerors, it has been the seat of the Hindu, Muslim and British empires. All of them have left their mark in the architecture, customs, food and people of this relentless city; all are undergoing a transformation in the capital of modern India.
The CityThe plain area to the west of the Yamuna River, where Delhi lies today, has been a centre of civilisation for millennia. Indraprastha, the city of the Pandavas, is mentioned in the 3,000-year-old Mahabharata Hindu text, a city sited where the Old Fort now stands. Delhi is a city of metamorphosis in terms of physical buildings, people and culture from the early Hindu rulers to Islam. There was a succession of Islamic dynasties, reaching their zenith with the architectural wonders of the Mughals, and in particular Shah Jahan, builder of the Red Fort and Jama Masjid. His city, Shahjahanabad, is today’s Old Delhi with its tangled, intoxicating streets and bazaars. These contrast with the imperial project of the last rulers of India, the British, who in 1911 built their imperial capital to the south of Old Delhi. The broad boulevards and geometric order of New Delhi give the capital its other distinct half. Designed by Lutyens, the European classical grandeur now has a distinctly Indian flavour, and much of New Delhi is fast gaining the shiny glass-and-steel look of the modern Asian metropolises. You will find all races, faiths and customs of every region of India alongside one another on the streets of Delhi.
Do & See
New Delhi is a bustling city full of people and beautiful architecture. There are many temples spread over the region, all worth a visit for anyone interested in these architectural wonders. Just walking the streets of New Delhi is a unique experience. You soon notice that this city has many things to fall in love with.
Indian cuisine is justifiably famous throughout the world. With its use of spices, it conjures up the most subtle and explosive tastes. New Delhi is a feast for food lovers, bringing together not just the best in North Indian cuisine but also offering excellent regional styles, Far Eastern cuisines, and contemporary fusions.
In 2010, Indians drank 837,000 tonnes of tea and 108,000 tonnes of coffee. India has been a nation of tea drinkers for centuries, but in recent decades, coffee has been on the rise. There are cafés all over the place in New Delhi, and big café chains are appearing more and more around the city. However, you will still find small tea shops in every corner where you can grab your daily cup of tea.
Bars & Nightlife
Alcohol is not deeply ingrained in Indian culture, though New Delhi’s bar culture is fast becoming a world-renowned. The best bars are found in the more upmarket hotels with ordinary drinking holes, still very much all-male affairs. This area of almost 22 million people offers world-class nightlife, often increasingly glitzy and expensive. There are plenty of places to rub shoulders with the rich and beautiful in New Delhi’s hotel clubs and bars. If you are looking for something more traditional, you can also find some of the best in Indian music and dance here.
Delhi is a shopper’s paradise with just about anything you can think of available somewhere at some price. One thing that often intimidates visitors from abroad is the art of haggling, though, with a few days practices, it can become an integral part of the shopping experience and puts the hunt for a bargain in your own hands. The area around Connaught Place has several state-run emporiums where you can buy Indian handicrafts at fixed prices. The Central Cottage Industries Emporium on Janpath has six floors of merchandise, while the regional State Emporiums on Baba Kharak Singh Marg focus on the arts from their particular region. The thoroughfare of Janpath, running south from Connaught Place, is also a top spot for textile shopping.