India’s capital bridges the new and the old, and is the gateway to one of the world’s modern architectural marvels.
New Delhi is the seat of the executive, legislative and judiciary branches of the Government of India. Inaugurated as India’s capital in 1931, it became the centre of the British Raj, a legacy that the city’s wide avenues and grand colonial structures attest to. The city is situated within the metropolis of Delhi which also includes Old Delhi, once the capital of Mughal empire.
New Delhi stands in contrast to the labyrinthine lanes and majestic monuments of its much older neighbor, Old Delhi. Delhi’s duality celebrates its heritage as the seat of empires; its storied past is visible in its monuments and on the faces of its diverse population. The city is a fascinating tableau of modern India with skyscrapers and apartment blocks towering over crumbling but still standing havelis (mansions) and boasts bustling bazaars, fascinating structures as well as burgeoning art and music scene.
- Red Fort, with its towering red sandstone walls, was built between 1638 and 1648 to guard Shahjahanabad, the capital founded by the fifth Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan. Although the fort lost most of its lustre when it was later turned into barracks for the colonial British forces, it still remains a magnificent display of Mughal architecture. A sound and light show spotlights the building’s history for the benefit of visitors.
- Jantar Mantar is a collection of curved buildings that once served as an astronomical observatory. Built by Maharaja Jai Singh II of Jaipur in 1724, the carefully calibrated buildings formed an observatory to monitor planetary movements. Jantar Mantar refers to the Sanskrit word for an instrument; the Maharaja, a keen star-gazer, found astronomy instruments available at the time to be inaccurate and thus designed the Jantar Mantar.
- Humayun’s Tomb was built in the mid-16th century in honor of the Mughal emperor Humayun (1530-40, 1555-56). Its construction was overseen by Humayun’s senior wife, Haji Begum, and combines elements of Mughal and Persian architecture. Its perfect symmetry is said to have influenced the design of the Taj Mahal and other majestic mausoleums. Set amidst a lush garden, the newly restored building offers respite from the buzz of the city.
- Hauz Khas Village, a former residential enclave in South Delhi, is now lined with cool boutiques, curio shops, and trendy cafés. Explore its narrow alleyways for fantastic finds from handmade furniture to old Bollywood movie posters, and when your feet get tired, duck into a café for a spot of chai and people-watching.
- Taj Mahal, the majestic marble tribute to eternal love, is perhaps one of the world’s most recognizable buildings. Located in Agra, it is less than four hours by road from New Delhi, Commissioned in 1632 by Shah Jahan and completed after more than two decades, the Taj Mahal was built in memory of Shah Jahan’s beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who passed away while delivering their 14th child. The architectural marvel with a 73 meter-high central dome, is constructed of white marble inlaid with semi-precious stones. Inside the mausoleum, a marbled chamber houses the cenotaph or false tomb of Mumtaz Mahal (her actual remains are housed in sarcophagus below the building).
Chaat, snacks served by push-carts and at street stalls, are probably the most popular street food in the city. While chaat refers to a variety of snacks, typically with fried bread, potatoes, dahi (yogurt), gram, chickpeas, and spices. The flavorful mix is then garnished with a variety of toppings from yogurt to fresh coriander. The best chaat can be found along the bustling Chandni Chowk.
Windsor Palace Janpath, New Delhi, 110 001.
Barakhamba Avenue Connaught Place, New Delhi, 110 001.
7 Sham Nath Marg, New Delhi, 110 054.
I’m always on the lookout for new restaurants that are doing something a little different. As a child, I remember eating at the gymkhana (Indian social or sports club) and have fond memories of the food. Delhi Club House transforms standard gymkhana fare into fine-dining options. Delhi Club House also boasts an impressive cocktail menu to boot!
When in Delhi, you must also try Indian Accent at The Manor, a classy restaurant providing the best Indian fusion cuisine in the city. Helmed by acclaimed Chef Manish Mehrotra, the menu features some unusual, but extremely delicious dishes, including goat cheese khandvi (snack), meetha achar (sweet pickle), and warm doda burfi (fudge) treacle tart.
At Café Lota, the outdoor restaurant of the New Delhi National Craft Museum, visitors will find contemporary versions of regional Indian favorites paired with a variety of grains, such as red rice and millet, in keeping with the museum’s back-to-the-roots ethos.
When the sun goes down, head to The Piano Man, Delhi’s first artist-focused jazz bar located at Safdarjung Enclave Market. A jazz club, bar and fine dining restaurant, The Piano Man offers great F & B and jazz performances.
If jazz isn’t your thing, PCO, Delhi’s first speakeasy in Vasant Vihar, is one of the finest watering holes in the city. There is a catch though; the only way to get in if you know the right people. The entry is through a nondescript phone box into which you key in a secret password, which changes daily. Inside, patrons are transported back to the Prohibition era in the United States, where mismatched furniture, vintage telephones, transistor radios, and red telephone box restrooms are the order of the day. The true highlight, however, are the talented mixologists and bartenders, who artfully prepare some of the best cocktails in Delhi.
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