48 Hours In: Delhi

Join Anthony Lambert for a tour of India's multi-faceted and bustling capital as it prepares to celebrate the Hindu spring festival

Travel essentials

Why go now?

Holi, the Hindu spring festival, takes place on 17 March. It is always a spectacular affair, during which people throw coloured powder and water at one another, accompanied by traditional music, bonfires and celebratory meals. On 8 April, Rama Navami celebrates the birth of Lord Rama with costumed parades around Connaught Place (1).

Touch down

Air India (020 8745 1005; airindia.com), British Airways (0844 493 0787; ba.com), Virgin Atlantic (0844 209 7777; virgin-atlantic.com) and Jet Airways (0871 226 1737; jet2.com) fly from Heathrow to Delhi. The airport is served by the Red Line of the six-line Metro. Between 6am and 11pm, the airport is served by a train every 20 minutes for the five stops to New Delhi metro station interchange (2) for a fare of 120 rupees (R120/£1.20). Taxis take much longer; the fare varies from R600-1,500 (£6-15).

Get your bearings

The labyrinth of teeming narrow streets and alleys that forms Old Delhi contrasts with the imperial city of New Delhi, created under the British Raj (the period of colonial rule) where broad tree-lined roads and large areas of trees, gardens and fountains frame government buildings. The Delhi seen by most visitors lies on the west bank of the River Yamuna in the old part of the city, though it is no Seine or Thames in enhancing the city. If such a vast city has a centre, it is the concentric circles of Connaught Place, the central business and shopping district built in 1929–33.

The main tourist office (3) is at 88 Janpath (00 91 11 2332 0005; delhitourism.gov.in). Open Monday-Friday 9am-6pm, 9am-2pm Saturday. For visitors wanting further help in exploring Delhi, Greaves Travel (020 7487 9111; greavesindia.co.uk) can design guided itineraries.

Delhi: click to enlarge Delhi: click to enlarge Check In

For character and luxury, the Imperial Hotel (4) on Janpath (00 91 11 2334 1234; theimperialindia.com) is without peer. Designed by F B Blomfield, who worked on New Delhi with Edwin Lutyens, the hotel was opened in 1936 by Lord Willingdon and has a pool and a lovely garden. The walls are hung with 18th- and 19th-century paintings and prints depicting the subcontinent, including a room devoted to the work of Thomas Daniell, whose 144 prints of "Oriental Scenery" were published from 1795 to 1808. Doubles start at R17,500 (£175), room only.

Opened in 1903, Maidens Hotel (5) at 7 Sham Nath Marg (00 91 11 2397 5464; maidenshotel.com) retains its colonial architecture and unforced charm, with a Garden Terrace for light meals and the outstanding Curzon Room restaurant. It has 55 rooms, and within its eight acres is a large sheltered pool. Doubles start at R6,500 (£65), room only.

In a prime position near Rajiv Chowk metro is the Corus Hotel (6) at 3 Radial Road, Block B, Inner Circle, Connaught Place (00 91 11 4365 2222; hotelcorus.com) with 30 well-appointed rooms and a café. Doubles start at R5,000 (£50), room only.

Day one

Take a view

The top of the minaret of the Jama Masjid (7), reached after 120 steps up a spiral staircase, offers an unrivalled view over Old Delhi, home to four million people in India's most densely populated area. Begun in 1650 by Shah Jahan, the red sandstone mosque took 5,000 workers six years to build and cost one million rupees.

The walled Red Fort (8), built largely by Shah Jahan, occupies a large oblong site and contains palaces, audience chambers, gardens, hammams and shops. While it remains largely closed for restoration, Jama Masjid (7) has inherited the mantle of Delhi's most important tourist site.

On the road: rush hour in New Delhi On the road: rush hour in New Delhi Take a hike

Delhi is not a good city for walking: its anarchic traffic, vehicle pollution and fractured pavements diminish both pleasure and safety.

One area where it is still a joy to walk is beside the avenues of trees, canals and fountains that run the length of Rajpath. Start at India Gate (9), designed by Lutyens to commemorate Indian soldiers killed in the First World War, and British and Indian soldiers killed in the Third Anglo-Afghan War of 1919.

The 340-room palace was built by Lutyens for the Viceroy. By approaching, from the east, one can appreciate why Lutyens was angered by its diminished impact through the slope of the ground. Today the Rashtrapati Bhavan (10) is the Indian president's residence. The long, colonnaded front is dominated by the vast copper dome, and the decoration marries Western and Eastern styles, acanthus leaves with bells, capitals with chhatris.

Lunch on the run

The well-sheltered Café Lota (11) at Pragati Maidan, within the The National Crafts Museum compound (00 91 11 2337 1641; nationalcraftsmuseum.nic.in) has become a popular venue with locals.

It's good value, with smaller vegetarian plates at R160 (£1.60) and larger non-vegetarian plates such as Konkan fish curry at R375 (£3.75). Try Palak patta chaat – crispy spinach leaves, potato and chickpeas topped with spiced yogurt and chutneys – for R160 (£1.60).

Window shopping

Once you've filled up at Café Lota (11) you can explore the museum's displays of historic crafts and reconstructed houses. For the shopper, it is the courtyard of current crafts that is of most interest, with Kashmiri shawls, wood carving and jewellery on offer. Expect to haggle (open daily 10am-6pm, except Monday).

Alternatively, try Cottage Industries (12) (00 91 11 2680 6510; cieworld.com) at the DCM Building, 16 Barakhamba Road. This co-operative draws on the work of 1,800 Kashmiri families, principally making silk carpets and beautifully soft pashminas of goat hair. Jewellery, carvings and silverware are also on sale (open daily 9.30am-8pm).

An aperitif

The F Bar (13) at 50-B Diplomatic Enclave in the Ashok Hotel (00 91 11 2611 0101; theashok.com) provides a taste of where the Delhi elite go to be seen. Oozing bling, it is sleek and modern. Cover charge: R2,000 (£20).

For a good selection of whisky in a quiet setting modelled on a country club, try the Golf Bar (14) in the TC Maurya Hotel at Sardar Patel Marg in the Diplomatic Enclave (00 91 11 2611 2233; itchotels.in).

Dining with the locals

Kashmiri dishes are the speciality of Chor Bizarre (15) at 4/15A Asaf Ali Road in Hotel Broadway (00 91 11 4366 3600; hotelbroadwaydelhi.com). Try a vegetable tarami – potatoes, aubergine in a sauce of tamarind and Kashmiri spices, lentils in spiced yogurt, spinach leaves and red beans from Kashmir (R525/£5.25), or mutton rogan josh (R450/£4.50).

Day two

Sunday morning: go to church

St James's Church (16) by Kashmere Gate was built in 1836 and paid for by the colourful Colonel James Skinner (1778–1841), best known for his 14 wives and the irregular regiment of Skinner's Horse. Its walls and graves in the grounds record the deaths of eminent servants of the East India Company and the Raj. Skinner himself is buried in the chancel (open daily 8.30am to 12.30pm and 4-7.30pm; services 8.30am Sunday April-September, 9am October-March).

Out to brunch

Brunch, though not as we know it, is beginning to catch on and one of the first to serve it is in Lodi – The Garden Restaurant (17) near Gate No 1 on Lodi Road (00 91 11 2465 5054; sewara.com) – a courtyard surrounded by tented eating places and lush greenery, with European, Mediterranean and Lebanese cuisine for around R2,200 (£22) for two.

Mughal marvel: a tomb in Lodhi Gardens Mughal marvel: a tomb in Lodhi Gardens A walk in the park

Opposite is Lodi Gardens (18), created from 1936 by Lady Willingdon around three tombs and a ruined mosque. Within the wooded 90 acres are a herb garden, rose garden and bonsai park. The most important tomb is that of Mohammed Shah Sayyid from a dynasty that reigned for only 37 years. His octagonal tomb on the roof is a rare example of their architecture.

The Bara Gumbad Mosque of 1494 illustrates the combination of Islamic script around the door with elements of Hindu decoration. The gardens can get crowded at weekends (daily 5am-8pm April-September, 6am-8pm October-March; free).

Cultural afternoon

The National Museum (19) at Janpath (00 91 11 2379 2775; nationalmuseumindia.gov.in) has greatly expanded since opening in 1949. It has exceptional items from the Indus Valley civilisations (2,700-1500BC). There are galleries on three floors encompassing crafts, coins, musical instruments and paintings.

Among the subjects depicted are the first Mughal Emperor, Babur, inspecting Gwalior fort in the early 16th century and the wedding procession of Shah Jahan's son Dara, who was later defeated, humiliated and killed by his brutal younger brother (daily, except Monday, 10am -5pm; R300/£3).

Icing on the cake

Seldom visited is the Mutiny Memorial (20) on Kamla Nehru Ridge on Rani Jhansi Marg. The high Gothic spire commemorates the officers and soldiers of the Delhi Field Force killed in the Sepoy uprising between May and September 1857.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Voices
Oscar Pistorius is led out of court in Pretoria. Pistorius received a five-year prison sentence for culpable homicide by judge Thokozile Masipais for the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp
voicesThokozile Masipa simply had no choice but to jail the athlete
Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004
music

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

News
i100
Life and Style
The Tinder app has around 10 million users worldwide

techThe original free dating app will remain the same, developers say

Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    SCRUM Master

    £30 - 50k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a SCRUM Master to joi...

    Franchise Support Assistant

    £13,520: Recruitment Genius: As this role can be customer facing at times, the...

    Financial Controller

    £50000 - £60000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: A successful entertainment, even...

    Direct Marketing Executive - Offline - SW London

    £25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A fantastic opportunity h...

    Day In a Page

    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Let's talk about loss

    We need to talk about loss

    Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album