If you’re travelling in India and thinking how many days you should spent in it’s capital Delhi I will tell you my honest opinion – not more then 3 days. Seriously. I don’t know if I had this opinion based on bad first impression or that I don’t really like big cities – not more than 3 days!
Delhi it’s charming in it’s own way and there is no one opinion about this big city. Some people like it some not that much. So I can only suggest you to go, spend some time there to explore it yourself and then you will have your own opinion about it.
We all know that big cities means a lot of activities and places to visit. So is Delhi. Lots of monuments, markets and street food to explore! Delhi is beautiful in it’s own way. Here you can meet glamorous and luxurious shopping malls, modern metro system along with a dusty spice markets and electric wires hanging all around your head and chaotic traffic. India’s capital is colourful, dirty (not to mention the pollution), delicious food, has it’s own unique culture and full of history.
This guide is my suggestion of what to see, do, how to get around and where to stay. I added something what I wish I would have done there too. So feel free to use it as a guide (or one of your guides) and don’t be afraid to adjust it for yourself. I share my own experience about travelling in Delhi so you would get a better image about it. It’s all about more confidence in travelling!
I arrived in Delhi early morning. I believe that you will start your journey here too (most of the international flights are based here duh). Overnight flight from Helsinki was a very good idea! I got on the plane at 8 pm, had dinner on the plane and then got a few hours of sleep. When we landed it was ~7 am – absolutely good time to start the journey. If you do not get scammed and reach your accommodation in a few hours – then you good to use this guide straight away. I started the real exploration just the next day. But again, early in the morning (because I’m a weirdo who can’t sit still or sleep when I’m in a new place haha).
Is Delhi safe?
First of all, travelling in India in general was a challenge for me. Especially the first few days were really rough (psychologically). I am not an experienced traveller and since I’ve never been in any country out of the Europe before this trip I had a really hard times acquire all that hectic lifestyle that they have here. But in general Delhi is safe place to travel. You will probably experience some staring and possibly get scammed a few times, but that’s about it.
Oh, I have more to say – for solo female travellers I would advise dressing conservatively (which means covering your legs, shoulders and everything else, yep) and do not recommend to go out alone at night in Delhi. And please be smart and use your common sense. Annnnnd if it sounds too good to be true, then it’s a scam, ok?
So what can you do in Delhi in two days?
Day 1 – Visiting Old Delhi
First things first – I was staying in the Old Delhi area. Which was pretty intense actually. I know that New Delhi side is a bit more clean and easier to coupe with but it was a good location as almost everything what I wanted to see was just a few minutes drive. So what to do there?
- Jama Masjid – it’s a mosque in Old Delhi, constructed in 1650-1656 by Shah Jahan, the same Mugal emperor who built Taj Mahal in Agra. So you can take a glimpse in one of his architecture masterpiece before going to see other of his works. This Jama Masjid is Delhi’s main mosque where city’s Muslims traditionally gather for Fridays prayer. Beautiful architecture and peaceful atmosphere.
The best time to visit is early in the morning, before all the crowds arrive. And do note that it gets busy quiet on Fridays! All visitors must pay 300 rupee ”camera fee” and if you want to climb one of the minaret towers, you will need to pay extra for that too (foreigners are charged 300 rupees while Indians have to pay 50 rupees). And please please please dress up conservatively – cover your legs, shoulders and head. You won’t be allowed to enter with the shoes in mosque. Remember that you are a guest here and respect other cultures!
- Red Fort – a second residence of famous emperor Shah Jahan after moving his capital from Agra (built in 1638-1648). The interesting fact is that this fort wasn’t built in red (as you might think hearing the name), but it was actually painted red by the British after the limestone started to chip off the original building. And just after that they called it the way we know this Fort today. This place is very big so keep in mind to spare some extra hours to explore. I love visiting forts and all the time I was in one I was going back in time and imagined myself being and living there. I have a goose bumps now. Anyway. Red Fort can be visited from 9.30 am to 4.30 pm. Tuesdays to Sundays. Red Fort ticket price is 35 rupees for Indians and 550 rupees for foreigners.
- Chandni Chowk – one of the oldest and busiest Delhi’s markets. You need to go there and see what the hell is happening there. Best street food, spices and all different kind of goods are found here. Interesting fact – Chandni Chowk once was a promenade and the route of Royal processions and it had a gate function connecting the outer wall of the city to the Red Fort. It’s hard to believe that now as it is so busy, dirty, crowded, but absolutely worth a visit as you can see a real face of life in Delhi. I bet you will find it hard to leave this place as everything looks super interesting, so give yourself some time to explore and wander around and maybe do your shopping here.
- Akshardham – or the Swaminarayan Akshardham complex (good luck with pronunciation) is a Hindu Shrine beautifully representing Indian culture, architecture and spirituality. The word ”Akshardham” means the divine residence of God so you can already imagine that peaceful energy that floods you from the inside while visiting it. You will see more than 234 carved pillars, 20 quadrangle spires, 9 elaborate domes and 20,000 sculptures of spiritual personalities from India. You know all of this complex is a great example of that real Indian culture that we all are looking for (all the carved motifs and images of deities, flowers, nature and people – absolutely magnificent!).
I recommend visiting this place in the afternoon not only because the golden hour is my favourite time of the day to take pictures but also when you finish exploring you can see the water show or take a boat ride during the sunset. About the price – entrance to the complex is free of charge, but if you want to see the exhibition it will cost you 220 rupees, water show – 80 rupees. And another important thing to know – you can’t take in any electronic device (that’s why I don’t have any pictures of it). Yes yes, you got me right. No phones, no cameras, no nothing. Have you have to leave all of your stuff in the cloakroom. You can take your wallet (as there is some things to buy of course) but nothing else. Oh and don’t forget to cover your shoulders and legs as it’s a hindu temple.
Day 2 – highlights of New Delhi
New Delhi is a bit different then the Old Delhi. Like, some parts of this part doesn’t even look like India. New Delhi is a bit more new and modern, also a bit richer and easier life. You can see that and you can definitely feel that.
- Connaught Place – a totally different view of Delhi. Circular area of shops, cafes and bars, art galleries, cinemas, located in the heart of New Delhi. This place was built by British in 1929 and now it is a financial centre located in a heart of New Delhi. After visiting Old Delhi you will have a feeling that it’s not India at all. Stroll around the streets, visit hidden temples, enjoy the modern part of the town.
- Agrasen ki Baoli – mystical ancient stepwell located in the heart of the city. It is a must visit place while you’re in Delhi so don’t skip it! They say that it’s a haunted place, that the water used to be black and somehow force people to commit suicide and even now nobody knows who and when was it built. Interesting right? It’s free to visit and it’s open every day from 7 am to 6 pm.
- India Gate – you haven’t been to Delhi if you don’t take a picture there! This 42 metres high ‘’Arc-de-Triomphe’’ like archway honours 70,000 Indian soldiers who lost their lives fighting for British Army in World War I. You won’t spend a lot of time in this place but it’s definitely one of the great monuments to visit while you’re in Delhi. (pssst there is no entry fee, just go and enjoy)
- Lotus Temple – a white marble lotus shaped House of Worship. Interesting thing that is has no religious pictures, no religious symbols, no idols. It’s a home for any kind of prayer, meditation and reconnecting to yourself. This place was design by Iranian architect Fariborz Sahba, completed in 1986 and now is one of the most visited places in the world. So be aware that it might be crowded at any time you visit. There is no entry fee and it’s open Tuesdays to Sundays from 9am till 5 pm.
- The Hauz Khas Village – where old meets new. Located in south Delhi this place is famous hangout spot for everyone. They say that most of Delhi’s top rated restaurants, cafes and bars are located in this area, as well as chic boutiques and weird shops makes it attractive to all shopaholics! But that’s not all – you will also get the feeling that you’re a part of Delhi Sultanate as the surrounding structures are back from 13th century! You will also find A.N. Jha Deer Park there which is everyone’s favourite place to enjoy lovely warm weekend days.
You know, Delhi is huge city and there is so much to see and do and to explore and to try, but as you travel, you don’t really have so much time and energy to do it all. So in my opinion this is perfect itinerary to get to know life in Delhi, it’s history and also get into Indian culture and connect with their religion.
How to get around in Delhi?
So there are a few options how you can travel around Delhi:
- Delhi, as well as most cities in India, has a lot of auto-rickshaws (tuk tuks) to offer and sometimes you don’t even have to look for them as they find you first. Practise your bargaining skills at home and hop on one of them to your destination.
- Taxis. As well as tuk tuks there are plenty of them with a bit of a bigger price.
- Uber or Ola. I would recommend downloading an Uber or Ola app as you will always know how much you have to pay well in advance and you will skip the bargaining part (which sometimes can get complicated if you just starting your journey).
- Metro. Another (and I think the best) way to go from one place to another is using the metro! it’s cheap and quick and metro system is all over the city so I am sure you will reach all of the places you want to visit.
- You can ask your hotel/hostel to arrange you transport for the day – personal driver is always a good idea.
- Delhi’s Hop on Hop off bus which is pretty cheap and will take you everywhere you want (you can check their site here).
Where to stay in Delhi?
They say that India is as expensive as you want it to be. So places to stay depends totally on your wishes. I will list a few top rated places to stay:
The Leela Palace New Delhi – 5 star hotel with spa and a panoramic view to the city’s skyline.
The Imperial, New Delhi – high rated 5 star hotel located in the city centre with outdoor pool and health club where you can enjoy Ayurvedic spa services and delicious Indian as well as western food.
The Lodhi – luxurious 5 star hotel located in New Delhi, a few minute drive from famous India gate. If you love taking care of your health this property is perfect for that as it has fitness club, spa and massage centre on site as well as beauty salon and beautiful dining areas.
Jr Residency – a family friendly 3 star hotel located in New Delhi. Lovely and spacious air-conditioned rooms with balconies and a la carte breakfast on site.
Hotel Premium – another 3 star hotel situated in New Delhi. Staff is ready to help you 24/7, you can enjoy your continental breakfast on the terrace!
Hotel TG Tashkent Hotel – located in Paharganj and is perfect for those who likes markets and shopping all day long (haha)! Air-conditioned rooms with private bathrooms as well as 24-hour front desk and cafe on site.
Where backpackers stay:
I think Delhi is the only place I didn’t like in India (I really said that loud), but it’s because I’ve been scammed there the first day when I landed and not to mention that cultural shock that I’ve got the first minutes I stepped out of the airport (it took me some time to get use to it). But I must say that it’s worth visiting as all the experiences and all the mess that we have to get through is a part of the beautiful journey in India. If you’re still thinking about going to Delhi or not – go and have a look, spend there a few days and it will be enough to get to know the city and Indian culture all together.
See you on the road!