Capital of India, Delhi is two cities in one – Old Delhi, capital of (very old) Islamic India, and New Delhi, built by the British as a spacious imperial capital. The resulting blend is an intriguing and captivating melting pot of architecture, languages, cultures and traditions.
As with all of India, Delhi is a constant assault on the senses – all of them, for most of the time. Brave the heat, noise, smells and endless crowds of people and traffic to discover the hidden wonders of this great metropolis.
From incredible monuments, inspirational museums and performance spaces, great shopping and a newly emerging restaurant scene that gives a fresh take on the traditional curry with added wider influences from around the world.
For what remains a deeply conservative culture, it is only the largest and the most metropolitan of Indian cities such as Delhi that have anything remotely resembling a gay scene as travellers from the West would know it.
There is now an emerging gay scene in Delhi – with a small but growing number of gay and gay-friendly venues, together with queer festivals and events.
Indira Gandhi International Airport has been transformed beyond recognition into a world-class major global hub facility, especially since the opening of Terminal 3 in 2010, and is a far cry from the ‘culture shock on landing’ of the original airport which was our first impression of India back in the early 1980’s.
The airport is now linked to central New Delhi by The Delhi Airport Metro Express (DAME) with a journey time of 20 minutes and a fare of Rs150. The line operates from 5am to 11pm.
For arrivals outside the operating hours of the train link, your best option is to take a taxi, ensuring you purchase a ticket from the prepaid booths in the international terminal. Look out for the booth run by Delhi Police and use this one if you can. An average fare to the city centre should be around Rs 200-300.
Your best option to get around this vast city is without question the new, clean and efficient Delhi Metro. The network is still growing, and currently has six colour-coded lines (including the Airport Express) which extend to all main districts of the city.
For just a couple of daily trips, your best option is to buy individual journey tokens of between Rs 8-30. If you are planning more than four longer journeys on the Metro per day, then invest in a tourist card for unlimited daily travel for Rs100 / 3 days Rs 250.
The best bus option is the Hop On Hop Off service provided by Delhi Tourism – a modern fleet of air-conditioned buses with English-speaking guides which link over 20 major tourist attractions. This service doesn’t operate on Mondays though as many venues are closed.
For a more traditional trip around the city, take a black and yellow liveried old Ambassador taxi. There is also now a radio taxi service of much newer cars which can be booked in advance.
For short local trips, travel like a local in an auto or cycle rickshaw.
For a list of recommended hotels, visit our New Delhi Hotels page.
The Red Fort – this brilliant red sandstone fort was built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan and is a top tourist site of the city.
Humayun’s Tomb – a UNESCO World Heritage Site in South Delhi, this tomb of the second Mughal Emperor combines Persian and Indian building crafts and is surrounded by immaculate gardens.
Qutub Complex – another UNESCO World Heritage Site has structures dating back to the Slave Dynasty of 13th Century; easily reached by Metro (Qutub Minar station on the yellow line).
Nizamuddin Auliya – one of Islam’s holiest tombs in the city; most magical to visit at sunset.
Of the city’s many museums, make time at least for the National Museum, to sample the incredible collection of Indian art on display.
The Kiran Nadar Museum of Art is also well worth a visit as the first private Museum of Contemporary and Modern Indian Art.
Delhi has many impressive monuments including the major landmark of India Gate and the adjacent Rajpath which is a major parade route.
Raj Ghat is the memorial to Mahatma Ghandi at the site of his cremation and provides a rare, truly peaceful haven in the city.
Major religious buildings include the stunning Bahai Lotus Temple and the huge temple complex of Chattarpur Mandir, both in South Delhi.
Gurudwara Bangla Sahib near Connaught Place and Gurudwara Sis Gan in Old Delhi are the most important Sikh places of worship in the city.
The Sacred Heart Cathdral, the Cathedral Church of Redemption and St Peter’s Cathedral are also worth visiting as gems of Colonial architecture.
Have tea or gin tonic at the Imperial Hotel for a taste of the Raj.
Head to Janpath, close to Connaught Place for genuine Indian craft shopping in Delhi’s government emporiums.
Wander the narrow bazaars of Old Delhi for a flavour of this ancient side of Delhi.
Make sure to sample delicious local treats such as Gujarati Thali and Masala Dosas, local coffee and the sweetest of cakes wherever you find them.
Finally, around 215km south of New Delhi is the world-famous Taj Mahal – about a 3-4 hour drive each way.
Located in the north of the subcontinent, Delhi experiences some extreme weather – getting very hot in April/May prior to the annual monsoon season. November to January are the coolest months and the most climate-comfortable time of the year to visit.
Tourist visas are usually issued for six months – starting from the date of issue, not the date of entry. Note that the six-month visa allows a maximum stay of 90 days per visit.
Check for details with your local Indian Embassy or Consulate as visa rules vary according to your nationality.
The rupee is the Indian currency. ATM’s are widely available throughout the city. Debit and credit cards are widely accepted in hotels, major restaurants and stores.