A tale of two cities, India’s exhausting capital pairs the neat order and colonial grandeur of New Delhi with the hectic street life and ancient monuments of Old Delhi to rip-roaring effect. Nope, two days isn’t nearly long enough here, but at least 48 hours in Delhi is better than nothing..
Think: exploring evocative markets and mind-blowing monuments while evading hawkers throughout the day; filling up on street food and chatting casually with locals in relaxed parks as the sun goes down.
How to Spend 48 Hours In Delhi
Get Acclimatised With a Stroll Around New Delhi
It’s a good idea to make orderly New Delhi your first port of call on day one. So, once you’re all checked-in at The Park, strike out with a decent sun hat and a few bottles of water and enjoy an extended stroll along the vast and Rajpath ceremonial boulevard, ticking off iconic landmarks like Parliament House and President’s House (the former residence of the British Viceroy) as you go.
When you reach the Arc de Triomphe-inspired India Gate, spare a thought for the 2.5 million Indian soldiers who lost their lives fighting for the British Empire in the First and Second World Wars.
Go see Gandhi
One of the 20th century’s most influential figures, Mohandas Gandhi is venerated throughout India as the ‘father of the nation’. The marble memorial at the site of his cremation at nearby Raj Ghat is simple yet utterly compelling. Be respectful and take off your shoes before approaching the memorial. If you have time then by all means check out the Mahatma Gandhi Museum just across the road.
Wind Down at Connaught Place
Bustling Connaught Place is where locals and tourists alike can dine, shop and entertain themselves for a few hours. Pitch up at the Farzi Cafe (in the inner circle) if you’d like to complement your people-watching with a refreshing drink and/or some decent eats.
Get up Early and Attack the Red Fort
Get an early start and beat the crowds that will invariably descend en-masse upon the massive sandstone 17th century Red Fort that stands resolutely in the incessantly busy heart of Old Delhi. Built in 1648 by Shah Jahan (he of Taj Mahal fame), this emblematic monument of Indian resistance is a vast mish-mash of Mughal and Islamic-inspired architecture.
Be prepared to be very popular with Old Delhi’s perseverant hawkers and drivers as you leave the exit.
Visit the Jama Masjid Mosque
One of the best ways to give the hawker boys the slip? Head directly for another stunning Mughal monument, the nearby Jama Masjid. As the largest mosque in the whole country, it’s one of India’s most sacred places. So, you’ll need to be respectful of your surroundings (ie, don’t disturb the faithful while they’re praying). Don’t leave without climbing to the top of the minaret. There’s a supplement to pay but the views over the city are well worth it.
Get Lost in the Markets of Chandni Chowk
Though there are plenty of markets to explore in Old Delhi, but Chandni Chowk – the city’s oldest – is undoubtedly the best. Words like ‘bustling’ and ‘vibrant’ simply cannot sum up this teeming warren of merchants and goods.
That said, it’s a gleefully absorbing place to get lost in. The street food is fabulous (you’ll become addicted to Dahi Bhalla!) and the nearby wholesale spice market is the largest in Asia. One word of caution… This is hunting ground for skilled pickpockets. So, be sure to keep a good grip on your valuables at all times.