We can’t say that New Delhi would make our list of favourite places (we didn’t overly enjoy our first few weeks in India: here’s why), but it is certainly worth spending a few days, especially for lovers of history, architecture and culture.
We aren’t big city lovers in general but are avid sightseers and New Delhi has plenty of sights to see! We think 2 days in Delhi is enough – you could probably stretch it out longer though if you like the manic vibes.
We would also suggest maybe adding a 3rd day, and utilising Day 3 to have a day trip to Agra to see the Taj Mahal if it’s on your list of must do’s in India (Agra has few sights or notable markets: most people would usually only see the Taj Mahal and perhaps Agra Fort, both of which can be done in a day).
Metro: New Delhi has an awesome metro system which will get you near most of the major sights. Used in conjunction with auto-rickshaws, we found it to be a good and budget option for getting around the city (the metro trains are all air conditioned, which is a great respite from the heat and pollution of the city).
The most we paid for a journey was around 40 INR each (£0.45/$0.60).
Rickshaw/Taxi: For using Auto-Rickshaws and Taxis, we suggest using the Ola App (available on iOS or Android). This app saved us so much time and effort: we never had to barter, we never got ripped off by those who I have lovingly named “The Vultures” and we could track our journey to make sure we weren’t taking stupidly long routes.
(We had some issues getting an Ola rickshaw around some sights, such as the Lotus Temple, as it was so far out. In this case, you can use Ola to get an estimate, so you have a price in mind when bartering)
Here is our suggested 2 day itinerary of New Delhi (and an extra day for Agra):
Mehrauli, New Delhi, Delhi 110030
Starting your adventure at one of the most southern tourist hotspots means you will have easier days travelling between the close attractions towards the north.
You can reach the Qutub Minar by metro (the closest station has the same name) or by rickshaw.
Built around 900 years ago, this minaret is part of the Qutub Complex, a mosque built by the first ruler of the Delhi Sultanate (For who it was named). Originally only 2 storeys, it was added on by a successor of Qutub, although it has been damaged and repaired multiple times.
Up until the mid 70’s, you could go up to the top of the tower, but during a lighting outage, around 300 people stampeded out of it in a panic. This resulted in around 45 people losing their lives. Mostly children.
Now off to the Lotus Temple – hop in a rickshaw for a 30 minute whiz through the south of the city!
Lotus Temple Rd, Bahapur, Shambhu Dayal Bagh, Kalkaji, New Delhi, Delhi 110019
Entry to the Lotus Temple is free for all. When we went, the information centre was closed, and so was the majority of grounds. You could probably spend an hour or two if everything was open.
Check out this article for more information.
Onwards to Humayun’s Tomb! You’ll probably be better off getting a rickshaw from here.
Mathura Road, Opposite Dargah Nizamuddin, New Delhi, Delhi 110013
The resting place of Mughal Emporer Humanyun is an UNESCO world heritage site which comprises of an imposing red sandstone building and surrounding gardens. There is plenty to see here and you will also come across some other smaller but none the less impressive buildings. For more information on location and entry prices, check out this post. You can expect to spend an hour or 2 here.
It will probably be around lunch time by now (or much later…)! Head over towards the Lodhi Gardens, via the All American Diner at the Indian Habitat Centre. This place is decked out in 50’s style and serves “typical” American food and shakes. Not quite your traditional Indian fayre, but it’s popular with locals!
Lodhi Gardens, Lodhi Estate, New Delhi, Delhi 110003
This historic garden has a little of everything you could need after the busy tourist traps. Nature, tombs, ruins and some peace and quiet!
The Lodhi Garden now has protected status and has tombs dating back as far as 1444. With a mixture of Hindu and Muslim architecture, the tombs and mosques in the grounds won’t disappoint the history nerds or architecture buffs! For more information on how the gardens came to be, check out this article!
Optional: Before heading off for dinner or back to the hotel, check out India Gate, an impressive monument to the Indian Soldiers who lost their lives in the First world War. In the evening (and especially at weekends), the locals flood the area.
Netaji Subhash Marg, Lal Qila, Chandni Chowk, New Delhi, Delhi 110006
Start Day 2 at the Red Fort, an imposing sandstone fort built in the 17th century. This complex was used as the main residence of Mughal Emperors for 200 years. The closest metro stations are Chandni Chowk on the Yellow Line or Lal Quila on the Violet Line. (Lal Quila is the closest, but Chandni Chowk is only a 20 minute walk and may save you having to change lines depending where you are coming from). Opening times, entry prices and more information can be found HERE.
Optional: If you have time (you probably will have), you could also go and see the Jain Temple (opposite the Red Fort).
After the Red Fort, cross over the main road and walk along to the Jama Masjid.
Meena Bazaar, Jama Masjid, Chandni Chowk, New Delhi, Delhi 110006
Completed in 1656, this mosque was built by Shah Jahan (if the name sounds familiar, it is because he is the fellow who built the Taj Mahal for his beloved wife Mumtaz and the Red Fort). This impressive mosque can accommodate up to 25,000 people in the courtyard during prayer times.
If you came from Chandni Chowk, you may have walked past the Jama Masjid on the way to the Red Fort. The map below will show you how to get between the two places.
Entry is free, and if you are not modestly dressed (knees and shoulders covered – also no tight fitting clothes for women), you will be provided with a sarong to cover up. If you take a camera, you will be charged 300 INR (£3.30/$4.50).
We got scammed into paying 300 INR each here – but if you go, just be firm, walk away and go to one of the other entrances (there are 3 in total).
Time for some shopping? Head into Old Delhi for some bargains! From the Jama Masjid, head south-west. You can either whip out good old Google Maps and do the 35-minute walk, or you can opt for a Tuk Tuk (20 minutes). If you have the Ola App, now is the time to use it!
Shopping in Old Delhi
Main Bazar Rd, Aram Bagh, Paharganj, New Delhi, Delhi 110055
Take a deep breath and get ready for the craziness of the Main Bazaar! Favoured by backpackers for its cheap accommodation and cheaper shopping, Paharganj is known for being busy, dirty and noisy.
The main street (Main Bazar Rd) is lined with crumbling buildings up to 4 storeys high, each holding up to 4 or more shops/eateries. You can definitely tell the shopkeepers are vying for more space as one shop seems to blend into another!
I won’t go into too much detail, but you can buy pretty much anything you could want or need in Paharganj. Popular with locals and tourists alike, you’ll be sure to find some cool trinkets to take back home as souvenirs!
Food: Old Delhi is rumoured to have some of the best street food in all of Delhi, it might be an idea to check a few stalls out along your way!
The early bird catches the…worm. Or first train out of New Delhi.
If you are heading to Agra, you should have already pre-booked your train tickets or organised for a Taxi.
Depending on your chosen mode of transport, you can be at the Taj Mahal entrance in 3.5-5 hours. Our preference would be the train. Although it might take longer, it can be cheaper than getting a taxi.
We actually stayed in Agra, but wished we didn’t, it was a waste of time for us. We only went to the Taj Mahal, but others opt to also visit Agra Fort.
You can be done with sightseeing and back on the train to Delhi by sunset or before).