New Delhi is not exactly a weekend getaway, but is definitely a fun way to spend it!
I have been here a few times, and have decided to give some of the places that I found were worth the visit!
Also let me mention here that there is a lot more to Delhi that what I have mentioned here. These are just the places that I have visited.
The best way to get around major places in Delhi is by the Metro. Its clean, prompt, safe, and very cheap! The initial visits to Delhi had been by cab. Mostly we took an all-day service, to go wherever we wanted. Since Metro stations have come up in Gurgaon, going to Delhi has been so much easier. Within areas, one can opt for the auto-rickshaws or the ubiquitous cycle-rickshaws.
- India Gate :
India Gate of Delhi is 42m high, situated at Rajpath, New Delhi. India Gate is also called All India War Memorial, because it was made in the memory of 90,000 soldiers, who fought for the British Indian Army during WWI. It was built in 1921 and was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens . Amar Jawan Jyoti (Flame of the Immortal Soldier) is situated under and arch of the India Gate, and has been kept burning since 1971. This is dedicated to the Indian soldiers who were killed in Afghan War in 1919.
India Gate is also a popular picnic spot. Families and tourists alike gather here in the evenings, esp on weekends.
This is also an important part of the Republic Day Parade. The Parade starts from Rashtrapati Bhavan and passes through India Gate to reach Red Fort.
- Qutub Minar
Qutub Minar is a tower that is, along with other medieval structures, located within the Qutub Complex. Its foundation was laid down by Qutub-ud-Din Aibak but was completed by his son-in-law Iltutmish and further added to by Firoz Shah Tughlak. Qutub Minar was built in 1193 A.D. Built in red and buff sandstone, the Qutub Minar is the tallest tower in India. It is 72.5 m high and has 399 steps leading to the op.
Qutub Minar is honored as one of the earliest and most prominent examples of Indo-Islamic architecture. Qutub Minar has five distinct storeys, each with a distinctive style of architecture. The first level was built by Qutub-ud-Din Aibak, the next 3 by Iltutmish, and the final storey by Firoz Shah Tughlak.
The purpose of the Minar has never been very clear. However, it is though to be used for calling people to prayer. But the minar is so tall that one cant hear the person standing on top.
Apart from Qutub Minar there are many more historic complexes in Qutub complex. Among othe structures, some buildings within the complex are:
- Tomb of Iltutmish: Tomb of Iltutmish was built in 1235 AD with red sandstone.
- Alai Minar: Alai Minar was started by Alaud-Din-Khalji. It stands north to Qutub Minar. Alai Minar is 25m in height, and remained unfinished due to the death of Alaud-din Khalji. It was meant to be double the size of the Qutub Minar.
- Quwwat-ul-Islam: Quwwat-ul-Islam is a mosque constructed by Qutub-ud-din in 1198 also stands in the Qutub complex.
- Iron Pillar: Iron Pillar is 7m in height and has been made up of 98% wrought iron. This is pillar has remained uncorroded though time. The inscription at the pillar is dated at around 4th Century AD, and was erected as a Vishnudvaja (standard of Lord Vishnu). There is, however, a legend that states that the person to can wrap both arms around the pillar will have his/her wishes fulfilled. Hence, the Govt of India has fenced it off due to the corrosive nature of sweat.
- Red Fort
Red Fort, also known as Lal Quila, was built by Emperor Shah Jahan. The foundation of Red Fort was laid down 1639 and it was completed in 1648. The total covered area by Red Fort is around 2 km. It is the biggest monument in Old Delhi.
Red Fort has two important entrances, the Delhi Gate and the Lahori gate. Red fort also has three more gates which remains closed now. The main entry point of Red Fort is Lahori gate. Beyond the gate, there is a roofed passage, flanked by arcaded apartments leading to the palaces, known as Chhatta Chowk. These apartments are now being used as shops. The shops here sell mostly trinkets and handicrafts, but one can get a good deal if you know the art of bargaining! 🙂
Red Fort, a World Heritage Site, is the most visited places in Delhi by tourists and local people alike. However, now visitors are allowed to visit only some areas of Red Fort. Most of the areas within the fort are closed off to public. The important buildings of Red Fort are Diwan-i-Am, Hamam, Moti Masjid, Mumtaz Mahal. However, these are not maintained either. Most of the inlays are missing, having been stolen by vandals and thieves. The elaborate fountains on the grounds are unused and dry. Every evening there is a sound-and-light show. However, we were quite put off by the sight of the fort being so badly maintained, and did not wait for it to start.
Red Fort is also the venue from where the Prime minister of India addresses the nation on 15th August, Independence Day.
- Lotus Temple
Bahai House of Worship is one of the most beautiful temples of India. This temple is about 40m high. It is better know as the Lotus Temple as it is built in the shape of a half-opened Lotus flower.
Lotus Temple is situated in the south area of Delhi. The exact location of temple is Kalkaji, New Delhi. It was completed in 1986. The complete structure of temple contains 27 giant white marble petals and nine pools. The petals of the temple shows unifying spiritual paths of the Baha’i faith, which believes in oneness of all religions and mankind.
This temple is open for all religions. People from all around India visit here. Most important is that, this temple is visited by number of tourists everyday. As a holy temple, it contains Prayers four times a day. During these sessions Prayers of all religions take place there. Prayer timings in temple are as follows:
10:00AM to 10:15AM
12:00PM to 12:15PM
3:00PM to 3:15 PM
5:00 PM to 5:15 PM
When one steps inside, one is requested not speak, and instead meditate on God. One can sit there for however long one wishes. The whole temple is is well-maintained, and the gardens are a delight to look at.
The Akshardham temple, or Swaminarayan Akshardham as it is also called, is a beautiful structure made of pink sandstone and white marble, with no use of steel or concrete. The structure is a mixture of architectural styles from across, and with 7ooo carvers and over 3000 volunteers. It is situated on the banks of the Yamuna river, and adjacent 2010 Commonwealth Games Village.
Recently The Readers Digest magazine voted the Akshardham among the “Seven Wonders of the 21st Century”.
The temple has very high security, and one has to deposit all their phones and cameras before entering. The security check is very strict, and efficient.
At the time we went, there was a lot of renovation work going on. So we were able to enjoy the grounds, but not the main temple. However, the base of the main temple is a work of Art. Called the Gajendra Pith, it features elephants and their interaction with Nature, Man & the Divine. No elephant is replicated. So each of the 148 full-sized elephants are unique in their presentation.
The other aspect of the complex is the Hall of Values, Neelkanth Darshan (a movie of the child-yogi Neelkanth Varni shown on a giant screen), and a boat ride. There is a charge here os Rs. 125/- per person to view these.
There is a yagna-kund that can be seen once you step out of the boat-ride exit. This is the venue of a musical fountain show every evening. Since we did not stay that long, we did not get to see this.
On our way back we stopped at the canteen for lunch. The meals served are mostly Gujarati, with some other North-Indian dishes also. The costs we felt were reasonable, and the food was definitely good!
On the way to the next, there is a shop selling memorabilia. We picked up some cell-phone pouches which were made with silk and had some nice embroidery on it, and found that it cost us only Rs. 20/-!! Other handicrafts originating from the Gujrat region can also be found here at very good rates.
We spent about 3 hrs within the complex, and hadn’t even seen the main temple. But the grandeur and scale of the artistic work on the temple is a definite must-see in Delhi.
- AP Bhavan Canteen
Based in a nondescript corner of Andhra Pradesh Bhavan on Ashoka Road, the canteen is by far one of the best places to have South Indian food in North India! The first time we went there, I was taken aback by the sheer crowd of people still waiting to be seated. But it didnt take too long for us to get seated. The meal itself costs only Rs. 110-/, and is an unlimitied thali. You can also order for some non-veg side dishes or biryanis. The service is fast, and the food is hot! On the table, gongura pickle is kept along with ghee and various podis that one can have with rice. The servers are polite, and are quick to serve any of the dishes you ask for.
Once the meal is done, you can buy a meetha paan at the counter for Rs 5/-.
If you still crave for more of AP, you can step out to the roadside stalls near the main gate of AP Bhavan. here you can get a variety of items from AP: magazines, pickles, DVDs, snacks and even coffee powder and idli rava if you wish. 🙂
- Palika Bazaar
Palika Bazaar is an underground market located between the inner and outer circle of Connaught Place, Delhi, India. Palika Bazaar hosts 390 numbered shops selling a diverse range of items; however, the market is dominated by electronic items and clothing. Palika Bazaar was set up in the late 1970s, but since the 1980s it has seen a decline in customers, in part due to the opening of several new, modern shopping malls all over Delhi.
Palika Bazaar is estimated to have some 15.000 people within its confines at any given time and also attracts many foreign tourists. It is known as a place with a very low level of prices. But one has to be careful not to be conned, as an equally wide variety of fakes are also available here.
- Chandni Chowk
This is one place that I visit time and again. Chandni Chowk is a shopoholic’s and foodie’s delight.
Chandni Chowk itself is the main street facing the Red Fort’s Lahori gate, and is a part of Old Delhi. Apparently, in the past, the road was lit by fountains and a canal that ran through the center of the street. It was named so for the moon reflected in the canal and fountains. It was originally built by Shah Jahan for his favourite daughter Jahanara, who is also creditied for designing this market. Today none of the original vistas remain, but it is definitely a bustling market still.
The most imposing first glimps on stepping out of the Metro station is the Gurudwara Sisganj Sahib. Standing in front of the Gurudwara, you can see the Red Fort to your left, and the market to your right.
We normally turn left to reach the Old Famous Jalebiwala. The jalebi’s served here are fresh out of the pan, and are deliciuos to taste! It is also the beginning of a lane that sells a lot of silver and costume jwellery. The designs are unique and tempt one to buy.
Normally we skip this part, and go across to the main markets which sell clothes. There is a huge variety of shops here for clothes. you can opt for designer shops (which come with designer prices) or regular shops which sell some pretty nice stuff, or the wholesale markets which sell clothes at a steal!
Once shopping is done, and the jalebi’s digested, we head to the Gali Parathe Wali, or the Lane of Parathas. This lane, as the name suggests, boasts of restraunts that have been around from the 1870s. The decor of the shops features pictures of polical leaders of the past, and film stars who have had food there. 🙂 The parathas served here are unique in taste and texture, and is normally acccompanied with a jumbo glass of lassi topped with a thick layer of cream. A gastronomical delight for sure, and a dieter’s nightmare!!!
You have a wide choice of what type of paratha you want, the most basic being the aloo paratha, mirchi paratha made of green chillies for those who can eat raw green chillies (not me!), or a choice of dry fruits paratha for those who want something different. If you take a plate, you have to eat at least 2 parathas. So you see many people who opt for only 1 plate per couple, and share the food. The sabzi and chutneys served with the parathas enhance the flavours. A definite must-try for all visiting Delhi.