Delhi is intense, chaotic, and beautiful. It’s one of those places that you have to see before you die. On this basis, here are the best things to do in Delhi, India.
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Welcome to Delhi: The Intense Indian Megacity
Home to over 28 million people, Delhi’s metropolitan area is one of the largest agglomerations in the world. The region has several sub-sections, including New Delhi, India’s capital.
Delhi has thousands of years of history, and you can see remnants of the different eras all over the city.
Historically, seven different cities made up the region of Delhi.
One of those cities was Shahjahanabad, built by the famous Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in the 17th century. Today, people refer to that city as Old Delhi, and it’s here where you’ll find impressive historic structures like the Red Fort and Jama Masjid.
Delhi is nowadays a chaotic ensemble of wealth disparities, historic beauty, and never-ending traffic.
As a first-time visitor, it’s best to start with some of the highlights of Delhi that I will list in this post. Most of them are in Old Delhi. Visiting the old city is an intense experience – and tiring, but worth it thanks to the sites.
On this basis, here are the best things to do in Delhi, India.
The Best Things to do in Delhi, India
Delhi is massive, and you’ll need at least five days to see all the places listed here. I recommend starting with the sights in Old Delhi before making your way further outside the old core.
The Red Fort or Lal Qila was built between 1639 and 1648 during the reign of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. It’s one of the most impressive forts in the city, with various parks, markets, and museums.
If you don’t have a lot of time, the Red Fort is one of the most unmissable places to visit in Delhi.
The Qutub Minar (or Qutb/Qutab) is a stunning collection of Islamic monuments from the Sultanate of Delhi (1206-1526).
Located close to the area of Hauz Khas, this site is among the most fun places in Delhi because it showcases the Islamic history of India.
Fun fact, the Qutub Minar served as architectural inspiration for the Petronas Towers in Malaysia.
Another Muslim place to visit in Delhi is Jama Masjid. It’s one of the largest mosques in India and was completed during the rule of Shah Jahan in 1656.
Humayun’s tomb is one of the most impressive mausoleums in all of India.
Finished in 1560, the UNESCO World Heritage site is like a smaller, more colorful version of the Taj Mahal and another symbol of Mughal architecture.
If you’re looking for the most beautiful Hindu temples in Delhi, Swaminarayan Akshardham should be high on your list.
Located close to the border with Noida in New Delhi, the temple showcases millennia of Hindu culture, spirituality, and architecture.
The India Gate is a war memorial dedicated to the Indian soldiers who lost their lives during the First World War when they fought for the British Empire.
Today, the triumphal arch is a symbol of independence and a popular gathering point for locals and tourists alike.
Also called “Moonlight Square,” Chandni Chowk is one of the oldest markets in Delhi. It’s teeming with vendors selling everything from spices to clothes and electronics.
South of the city’s core, you’ll find the unique Lotus Temple.
The Lotus Temple is a special location because it’s a Bahai temple that serves all faiths. As such, it’s not built to accommodate one particular religion, but all of them.
Strolling around the pristine Lodhi Gardens in South Delhi is one of the most fun activities in Delhi.
The park stretches over 90 acres (360,000 m2) and contains several tombs and historic structures. As such, it’s a great spot of peacefulness that takes you away from the hustle and bustle of the megacity.
Connaught Place is a circle with several rows of Georgian-style houses around it. It was designed by the British during the colonization in the 1930s. The area is home to upscale hotels, restaurants, and shops.
Where to Stay in Delhi
Many first-time Delhi visitors stay in Paharganj, a budget-friendly area close to the train station. In all honesty, I cannot recommend this area. It’s dirty, sketchy, and full of scammers. The plus points are its cheap hotel rates and strategic location.
Paharganj out, here are the best neighborhoods in Delhi.
Connaught Place is a suitable choice if you want to be in the center and have a higher budget. The location is excellent, and the area is relatively safe and clean. Hotel rates here are high for Delhi standards.
Another recommendable option is Hauz Khas. Located in South Delhi, the area is slowly replacing Paharganj as the backpacker hotspot. It’s cleaner – and there aren’t as many hustlers, but it’s still Delhi.
Finally, my favorite area (by far) is Delhi Aerocity. It’s an uber-modern neighborhood next to the airport but not too far away from the center. Thanks to Delhi’s super-efficient metro system, it’s easy to get from the Aerocity to the tourist attractions.
On my second visit to Delhi, I stayed at the Novotel Aerocity (watch the video below), and being in such a peaceful area considerably improved my experience in Delhi.
Find more places to stay in Delhi here.
Things to do in Delhi: Know Before You Go
To make the best out of your trip to Delhi, here are some FAQs about the Indian megacity.
Is Delhi Safe?
Overall, Delhi is a relatively safe city. There are, however, a few things to keep in mind.
First, you’ll get hassled a lot in Old Delhi (especially as a Westerner). The best course of action is to just ignore all the touts.
They usually start conversations and then try to get you into a shop where they get a commission. Others will tell you that the place where you are walking is not safe. Again, just ignore them.
Apart from the touts, it’s best not to walk around too much at night, especially in Old Delhi. Taxi and tuk-tuk scams are common. In this context, it’s best to call tuk-tuk drivers that your hotel knows or simply use Uber.
Female readers will ask the following: Is Delhi safe for women? Well, from what I heard, Western women feel very uncomfortable walking the streets of Delhi.
In the center, 90% of the people you see on the streets are men who like to stare at foreigners. As a man, that is annoying, but as a woman, it’s a tad more uncomfortable.
Overall, you shouldn’t have any trouble in Delhi as long as you keep your wits about you and don’t wander into unknown neighborhoods.
How to Get Around Delhi
Hands down, Delhi’s metro is one of the best I’ve seen anywhere around the world. It’s clean, safe, and efficient. As such, the metro is arguably the best way to get around.
Aside from the metro, tuk-tuks are great for short distances, and Uber is best for longer journeys.
The Best Time to Visit Delhi
The best time to visit Delhi is between October and March. The weather is generally pleasant during those months. Summers are unbearably hot, and pollution peaks between June and August.