Crazy, crazier, Delhi. The metropolis in the north of India can hardly be described in words. Over 28 million people live in the Delhi metropolitan region. Delhi is incredibly loud, incredibly chaotic and incredibly dirty. Delhi is pure sensory overload, we can promise that already.
We believe that Delhi is a must-see if you’re taking a trip through the north of India. In this blog article we will show you the most beautiful sights and highlights and of course, as always, reveal our personal tips.
1- Crazy Delhi: What Awaits You
The madness has a name: Delhi. We have never seen a city crazier than Delhi. Between cows and rickshaws, honking horns and engine noise, abject poverty and wealth, it’s hard to ignore the feeling of being overwhelmed.
Delhi is one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world. It is home to the largest airport in northern India, which is why Delhi is the starting point of many people’s journeys. Of course, you could skip Delhi and travel right on, but we’d really recommend you experience this chaos for yourself.
Delhi encompasses both New-Delhi (the current capital of India) and Old-Delhi (the historic district and old capital during Mughal rule). Old Delhi, with its narrow, lively streets, is the part of the city that tourists usually visit first: Delhi’s most famous sights await you here, including the Red Fort and the gigantic Friday Mosque.
How much time should I plan for Delhi?
We stayed two nights in Delhi and had only one full day for sightseeing. In this time you can see the most important sights and highlights in Delhi. For more than a first insight, however, the time is not enough.
Personally, we would rather recommend three nights. This way you have a little more time to arrive and adjust to the country. Especially at the beginning of the trip, the jetlag and the climate can be quite merciless. Not to mention, of course, that India is a very tiring travel destination and you’re always quite grateful for a break or two in a quiet hotel room.
Travel guide for India: Our tip
Does your trip take you through Delhi and Rajasthan? Then we have a tip for you: The Lonely Planet Rajasthan, Delhi & Agra (English) is very clearly and attractively designed. The new edition was published in 2019 and is therefore quite up to date. Clear recommendation!
2- Sights in Delhi
Jama Masjid: The Friday Mosque
The Jama Masjid – also called the Friday Mosque – is the largest mosque in India. The dimensions are enormous: 25,000 people can be seated here. The mosque is located in the center of Old Delhi and is one of the most important sights of the city.
With its characteristic construction of red sandstone and white marble, the mosque is considered a masterpiece of Mughal architecture. The two 40-meter-high minarets also catch the eye. You can climb one of them and enjoy a panoramic view over Delhi from the top.
We highly recommend visiting the mosque early in the morning. We were there shortly after the opening and apart from us there were only a few other believers who had come to pray. Perfect light, perfect atmosphere!
Info about visiting the Jama Masjid
Entrance: Officially free, but for taking pictures (with mobile phone/camera) you pay 300 Indian rupees per person. (Looking at it this way, you can hardly get around this amount).
Opening hours: 7 am to 6:30 pm (lunch break between 12 and 1:30 pm)
Clothing: Capes for cloaking will be handed out on site. You will have to take off your shoes and the floor is – as you would expect in India – anything but clean. It’s best to bring an old pair of socks because the floor can also get really hot.
Red Fort (Lal Qila)
The landmark of Delhi and probably the most famous sight in Old Delhi is the Red Fort. It is located only a short walk from the Jama Masjid. The name says it all: this fortress complex was built of red sandstone. The Red Fort has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2007.
The entire complex is very extensive and of course worth seeing, but we think that something more could be made of it. Perhaps it was the midday heat that dampened our enthusiasm a bit.
Info about the visit of the Red Fort
Entrance fee: 550 Indian rupees
Opening hours: 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (closed Monday)
Other sights in Delhi:
This massive five-story victory tower is also a minaret, and more specifically, at 73 meters high, it is the tallest minaret in India. It is made of marble and red sandstone and towers amidst the ruins of the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque. Unfortunately, it is no longer possible to climb the tower.
Entrance fee: 550 Indian rupees
The Humayun Mausoleum reminds a little of the Taj Mahal and is said to have served as a model for it. The mausoleum is considered the oldest Mughal tomb in Delhi and one of the most magnificent structures in the city.
Entrance fee: 550 Indian rupees
This sprawling garden complex is a delightful retreat in otherwise chaotic Delhi. You’ll stroll past ancient mausoleums, temples, watering holes and bridges, among other things. If you want to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the old city: Here you are right! We can recommend a visit especially in the late afternoon. Then there is especially beautiful light for taking pictures.
Admission: Free of charge
3- Our personal tip: a guided city tour
An experience we can only warmly recommend is a city tour by the non-profit organization Salaam Baalak Trust.
The concept: Former street children guide guests through their city – through alleys that you would otherwise never enter. Past hidden temples that you would never notice. They take a break with chai tea and Indian cookies.
With us on the road were the two boys Lalid and Khursheed. They took care of us, guided us through the turbulent old town, made us laugh, but also made us think. When Khursheed told us his story, silence fell around us. The tour ended at his former home. Once he lived here – now he earns his own money as a guide and can afford a room in Delhi from his salary.
Our conclusion: What a unique, special experience! This tour was without a doubt our highlight in Delhi. We could not have dreamed of a better introduction to India.
Information about the city tour (“Old City Walk”) with Salaam Baalak Trust
Price: approx. 500 Indian rupees per person
Duration: 3 hours (daily except Sunday from 9 to 12 o’clock)
Booking: By e-mail to [email protected]
4- Food and drink in Delhi
Delhi is huge and the choice of restaurants is even bigger. If you’re looking for restaurants, we recommend you always look within the radius of your accommodation (or the sights). You can find great vegetarian or vegan restaurants with the app HappyCow. Here are a few specific restaurant tips:
Kitchen With A Cause: Very good food & great concept. Former street kids work in this restaurant. Serves international fusion cuisine.
Karim’s: Quite simple, but very tasty restaurant, which is also visited by locals. We paid a total of about 300 Indian rupees per person for our lunch (including drinks).
Travel Yoga Cafe: A cozy, vegan cafe to escape the hustle and bustle of India’s streets.
Want to try street food but don’t dare? Then we recommend a food tour. In about four hours, accompanied by an experienced guide, you will get to know a lot of culinary specialties from various street food stalls.
5- Transportation within Delhi: How to get from A to B
The traffic in India and especially in Delhi is pure chaos! You have to be prepared that it often takes much longer to get from A to B than you think. This is especially true during rush hour, when traffic is hair-raising. The following three options are the most common:
What you might not expect at first: Delhi has a fairly well-developed metro network with several lines, some of which run as subways and some as elevated trains. The metro in Delhi is super suitable to get from A to B as fast as possible. You can avoid the chaotic street traffic. However, especially at peak times, the metro can be extremely crowded.
For a one-way trip, you need to buy a token at the counter before your ride. The price depends on the distance. For short distances you pay only 10 Indian rupees, for longer ones up to 70.
As an alternative to the token, there is also a Metro Card, which you can recharge (quasi a prepaid card). If you often use the metro in Delhi, this is the better option. This way you save the queuing at the counter for every ride. The price starts at 150 Indian rupees (of which 50 rupees are the stake).
Unlimited rides you have with the Tourist Card. This is the most expensive option with 500 rupees for 3 days (of which 50 rupees are stake).
Motorized rickshaws (TukTuks) can be found on every corner. You can usually recognize them from a distance by their typical yellow-green paint. Rickshaws are usually equipped with a taximeter, but most drivers refuse to turn it on. So you have to negotiate the price in advance.
This is where bargaining comes in: assume that the driver will pretty much give you an exorbitant price first. We usually paid about 50 Indian rupees per ride (depending on the distance also 100 or a bit more). At night you have to expect a surcharge.
In some parts of the city there are also bicycle rickshaws, but they are only suitable for shorter distances. Here you usually pay between 20 and 50 Indian rupees.
Last but not least: In Delhi you can also take a cab. A ride costs about twice as much as a ride with the rickshaw. As far as possible, we always ordered the cab through the hotel or the restaurant. This seemed to be the safest option.
6- Overnight stay in Delhi: Our tip
In Delhi we can highly recommend the Hotel Bungalow 99. This modern, very stylish boutique hotel is really a little oasis of well-being away from the hustle and bustle of Delhi’s streets. It is located in a quiet side street in the New Delhi district.
The rooms are very stylish and furnished with great attention to detail. They are also very comfortable and well equipped. The breakfast is freshly prepared and very tasty. There are also some good restaurants around the hotel.
Our conclusion: Great value for money and highly recommended! Here you feel really welcome, which is not least due to the helpful and courteous staff.