Delhi, known as India’s “capital territory”, is a sprawling, fast-paced metropolis of over 30 million people. It is India’s largest metropolitan area and one of the biggest in the world. Since it was my first time here, I didn’t know what to expect. Spoiler alert: I was blown away. If you have never been to India’s capital territory, I suggest booking a trip as soon as you can. Navigating this massive city can be a little tricky, which is why I’m here to help you out.
Let’s start with the tastiest part of the guide, the food. Delhi is a great town to sink your teeth into, especially if you are vegan/vegetarian, like me. Delhi is in North India, so you can expect to find lots of breads and creamy curries. That said, since it’s India’s capital, all regional cuisines are represented (as well as many international cuisines). Delhi also has a sizable Muslim population, so you can expect to see lots of halal food as well. I pretty much had my fill of all of the above.
Delhi is one of the world’s great street food cities, so the food portion of this guide will focus heavily on that (street food also happens to be one of my favorite types of food, so it works out!). The wholesale market known as Chawri Bazar is a great place to get street food. It is also a great place to get chaat: the salty, savory, often crunchy snack mix that Delhi is famous for. At Chawri Bazar, the Ashok Chaat Bhandar shop has been serving it for over 100 years. Chaat was the fuel that helped me explore Delhi. And what delicious fuel it is.
Jama Masjid Street
Delhi was the longtime seat of the Mughal Empire, which ruled the Indian subcontinent for centuries. Mughal influence can still be felt all over the capital, but especially at the beautiful Jama Masjid mosque, which was completed in 1656 CE. The centuries-old mosque – reminiscent of the most famous Mughal building: the Taj Mahal – is worth checking out for its own sake. But my fellow foodies will especially love the stroll down Jama Masjid’s surrounding streets, which are fragrant with grilled kabobs and other Mughlai delicacies. I have to admit, walking down these aromatic streets was low-key torture for me, since I couldn’t have the mouthwatering meat. But I am always looking for delicious places to send my friends!
Delhi’s Best Restaurants
No trip is complete unless I hit up a few good restaurants. For me, the great thing about restaurants in Delhi is that many of them have a ton of vegan and vegetarian dishes. One of my favorites was Indian Accent, which offers a hip, contemporary take on Indian cuisine. Chef Manish Mehrotra’s six-course tasting menu serves up traditional Indian cuisine with creative twists, alongside an extensive wine list. And if you can’t make it out to Delhi, don’t worry: the restaurant recently opened a second location in New York (I’ve already booked my reservation).
For a more classic take on Indian cuisine, I like Minar Restaurant, located in crowded Connaught Place. I loaded up on vegetarian classics, but the restaurant is best known for that most iconic Delhi dish, butter chicken. I am told that the butter chicken here is tender and juicy, served in a rich, buttery, tomato-based sauce. Seeing this tasty dish go out to hungry customers, I was tempted to hop off the vegan wagon (let’s pretend that’s an actual wagon). Don’t worry though, I stood strong, with a little help from my delicious mushroom tikka.
Not surprisingly for a city this old and this big, Delhi is rich in cultural attractions. Despite the incredibly hot temperatures (I seriously think I sweated out half my body weight), I made sure to get out and see as many of Delhi’s famous landmarks as I could. Here were some of my favorites.
I’ve always had a thing for forts. I think my obsession goes back to age five, when I was known to construct some of the most impenetrable pillow forts on my block. Well, Delhi’s Red Fort puts them all to shame. Built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in the mid-17th century, this massive sandstone fort was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007.
Speaking of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Humayan’s Tomb is another Delhi landmark that has achieved this important distinction. This beautiful marble-domed tomb was built in the mid-16th century for a Mughal emperor (it was commissioned by his first wife). This iconic work of Mughal design influenced many future projects, including the even more iconic Taj Mahal, which was built 80 years later. Admission to the tomb comes out to about $7 and is well worth it.
National Rail Museum
Little known fact about me: I’m a sucker for rail travel. I love sitting back and watching the country fly past my window—without the added stress of having to drive through it. I take trains whenever I can and took several long rail trips during my time in India. Trains played an integral part in connecting the vast Indian subcontinent and New Delhi’s National Rail Museum pays homage to this important technology. This sprawling indoor/outdoor campus features model trains, historic locomotives, a 3D virtual train ride, and what is believed to be the world’s oldest monorail. It’s worth a visit, even if you’re not a huge train nerd like me.
Shopping in Delhi is all about the markets and I hit several during my time there. Here are some of my favorites.
Located in the heart of New Delhi, this is the area’s financial hub. It is also one of the area’s best shopping destinations. Beautiful Georgian-style buildings – which look like something out of 18th-century London – house international chain stores like Nike and H&M, as well as high-end boutiques and street vendors selling everything from clothing to handicrafts. Even during those rare moments when I wasn’t in a shopping mood, I loved strolling through this busy-but-scenic hub of New Delhi.
This popular market is known for its affordable fashion, particularly for women’s clothing. You can find trendy clothing, bags, and accessories at bargain prices here. Never one to shy away from a bargain, I seriously loaded up at Sarojini Nagar—to the point where I almost had to check another bag on the flight home. Luckily, all this global travel has made me an expert packer.
While my days in Delhi were packed with eating, shopping, and culture, my nights were for dancing. Delhi’s nightlife scene has something for everyone. Whether you’re looking for a night of partying or a more laid-back experience, you’re sure to find it here. Here are my top picks.
Hauz Khas Village
Hauz Khas Village is one of the most popular party destinations in Delhi. It is known for its picturesque setting, with a lake and ruins of an ancient fort as a backdrop. The area is filled with trendy bars, nightclubs, and restaurants. The atmosphere is lively, and the music is eclectic, ranging from Bollywood to electronic. Sidenote: I’ve always loved Bollywood movies and music so it was great to come here and learn some Bollywood dance moves. Much like all my other dance moves, they need work (#TwoLeftFeet).
Named for India’s first prime minister, Nehru Place is primarily known as a hub for technology and gadgets. It’s also known for its burgeoning nightlife district. It’s especially popular among the capital’s younger partygoers. Even though those days are getting further and further behind me, I love the youthful energy that a neighborhood like this gives off. One of my favorite bars here was The Chatter House: a lively wood-and-brick pub that’s the perfect place to sip a cold pint (I’m told the pizza is pretty good as well). I also loved The Flying Saucer Café, an eclectic restaurant/bar with a beautiful outdoor patio and occasional live music.
Delhi Has Something for Everyone
Whether you’re a culture vulture, a party animal, a shopaholic, or (most likely) a consummate foodie, India’s teeming capital has something for you. Amidst all the hustle and bustle, I cherished the moments of tranquility I found here, at awe-inspiring historic sites like the Red Fort, or elegant restaurants like Indian Accent. It’s crowded (even for this would-be New Yorker) – and the gridlock is notorious – but walking Delhi’s lively streets, you soon realize that there is a reason so many people want to be here.
If you enjoyed this article or have suggestions on how we can improve it, please leave us a comment below. Also, make sure to check out other articles I’ve created or stories I’ve written about food culture – here.