Flying to Delhi is like jumping into culture’s deep end, immersing you in a frenzied atmosphere of diverse colours, sights and scents. Seemingly every corner of both Old and New Delhi will reveal evidence of a different chapter in the region’s dramatic past. You’ll find ancient ruins and historic tombs and temples, as well as traditional markets and modern malls, all interspersed with authentic, mouth-watering flavours from its street-food vendors to its upmarket restaurants.
The collection at Delhi’s National Museum is as diverse as it is immense, with a collection that spans almost the entirety of the region’s history. Elaborate artworks and impressive archaeological finds illustrate just how advanced the subcontinent’s civilizations were as far back as 5,000 years ago. Follow that by taking in a show at one of Delhi’s best theatres. The Kamani Auditorium hosts some of the region’s leading productions, while the wonderful Little Theatre Group Auditorium provides a more intimate and authentic experience.
There’s no denying that Delhi’s culture is firmly rooted in its religious life. To truly understand the culture of the city, you’ll need to take a tour around some of its most significant temples. Among the most enchanting are the Swaminarayan Akshardham, the Gurudwara Bangla Sahib and the modern Bahai Lotus Temple. Another must-see is Humayun’s Tomb, which was a key influence on the Taj Mahal. You can also visit the ruins of the Quwwat-ul-Islam Masjid – the first mosque to be built in India.
People and Traditions
The motto of Delhi is “Unity in Diversity”. It’s a huge city at the crossroads of four states and comprised of multiple migrant cultures, largely from the Indian subcontinent, with many of its people having fled wars and political instability, resulting in a strong survival instinct and work ethic. This attitude of self-preservation can sometimes seem cold to visitors, but getting to know the people will reveal them to be hospitable and fiercely loyal.
Delhiites are incredibly proud of their traditions so the friends you make will be an invaluable source of cultural knowledge. Catch them at their most festive during the city’s religious celebrations, be it Holi, Diwali, Eid, Gurpurab, Buddha Purnima or Christmas.
Delhi is generally warm to hot, although the months from November to March do sometimes experience uncharacteristically cold temperatures, even if highs tend to remain in the low to mid-20s (ºC). From April to October, daytime temperatures will usually exceed 30ºC, and sometimes even 40ºC. Watch out for monsoon season, which arrives around the end of June and continues through to August.
The Rajpath is the city’s grand boulevard and a wonderful place for a stroll. It runs from the magnificent India Gate to the Presidential Palace, passing the Parliament building and flanked by masses of green space. Shopaholics will want to visit the Select Citywalk for high-end brands or the more family-friendly Pacific Mall. Or for a more authentic slice of Delhi’s market culture, check out the Chandni Chowk, Paharganj or Dilli Haat. You also shouldn’t pass up a chance to visit Hauz Khas. This medieval village located on a scenic reservoir is the city’s creative hub, with many small galleries, museums and handicraft shops having sprung up around its historic buildings. The district park also has a beautiful deer enclosure that children will love.
One of Delhi’s most important monuments is the Gandhi Smriti. This is the site where Gandhi spent his last days and his final footsteps before being assassinated are marked on one of the paths of its garden. However, this isn’t just a place to learn about the great man’s death, but also his life. If you’re hungry for more, visit the National Gandhi Museum too.
The Red Fort is arguably Delhi’s foremost attraction and won’t disappoint. Dating back to the 17th century, this breathtaking fortress maintains a lively atmosphere and is home to the Indian War Museum and the Archaeological Museum, as well as several temples and the Chhatta Chowk Bazaar.