Don’t have much time to spend in Delhi? You can still pack a punch in terms of what you do, see, eat and buy. The trick is to pick the right place to stay at, have a general idea of what you want to do and all the help you need to navigate through traffic and your plans for the one-day stopover.
What your itinerary ends up looking like depends on the kind of traveller you are but here’s a crowd-pleasing one we’ve put together that should satisfy most – with a little bit of something for everyone.
AM – Arrival
We recommend taking a red-eye to arrive in Delhi in the early morning. This ensures you have a full day ahead of you to enjoy as much as you can, with a bit of room for rest and relaxation as well.
Start by checking into a nice hotel, like the Andaz (pronounced “Andahj” by locals) in Aerocity. It’s close to the airport without having that uncool cache of being a sterile airport hotel. In contrast Andaz is hip, modern and close enough to a lot of nice places you might want to check out in your short time in the city.
It has all the creature comforts to pamper travellers too: a nice pool, toothsome buffet breakfast spread, nice big spa, cocktail bar and huge loft-style rooms.
BONUS: free coffee and cookies at the lobby (not to mention a library corner to just chill at) and the fabulous purple and red Ambassador cars that you can book for excursions (or at least take a pic with for your IG).
930am – noon
Grab a piping hot chai from a roadside stall along with some curry kachori (ask your driver to recommend a trusty place). Then start your authentic experience at the Jama’ mosque, the oldest and biggest mosque in India, built by Shah Jahan (him of Taj Mahal fame). Hop on a trishaw and ask the biker to detour at the Red Fort for photos and to marvel at the immensity of the UNESCO Heritage Site. Then, get ready to brave the nooks and side-alleys of Old Delhi market. You’ll see lanes selling wedding paraphernalia, bangles, home wares, fabric, bangles as well as a cacophony of people on the streets including fruit vendors, grassroot leaders inciting their audience, ladies in colourful sarees looking for bargain. It’s quite a sight to behold and an incomparable experience costing no more than a few hundred rupees and about 20 minutes of your time.
PM – Midday activities
Have lunch at Kareem restaurant, a little hole-in-the-wall biryani place that’s a bit of a secret spot for locals and a handful of in-the-know travellers since 1913. The signature dish is cooked in huge pots in an open kitchen that sits right in front of the tiny restaurant. Business is brisk and they’re currently renovating to expand the place. Must order items include the chicken biryani (of course) and the mutton seekh kebab for which they’re famous.
2 – 3pm
Take it easy by strolling the park area of Raj Ghat, which is also the memorial ground of the late, great Mahatma Gandhi. Many VIPs and political leaders who visit India are always invited there every time they visit and are asked to plant a tree on the grounds. Summer is challenging time to be in India, so it’s reasonable to retreat into your air-conditioned vehicle for a comfortable ride around the central Delhi area to see the most important monuments and government building in the city such as India Gate, the Presidential Palace and the Prime Minister’s offices.
3 – 6pm
It’s time to indulge in some retail therapy! Khan market has some of the coolest shops and cafes in the city, selling a variety of chic, ethnic and modern fashion apparel, toys, accessories, books, souvenirs, food items as well as many more. Some of the useful things you can cart home: masala chai tea tins, handbound notebooks, Barbie in India dolls and silk or cashmere shawls and stoles.
6pm and beyond
If you’re feeling adventurous, venture forth to a Bollywood club or be less predictable and check out a jazz or speakeasy style bar for some classy cocktails. Andaz hotel’s Juniper bar is a great choice and if you ask nicely, they’ll even make you something off the menu to match your mood. After a tipple or five, just make your way back upstairs to your room – easy peasy! All the better to rise and shine bright and early the next day in time for your flight out and the airport is just round the corner. But remember to grab some of the hotel’s excellent buffet breakfast before you go…