Cover the lion’s share of New Delhi’s architectural marvels, garden paradises and culinary secrets over an exciting weekend.
If you find yourself in India’s regal capital city for just 48 hours, fret not. While you may not be able to explore every single landmark of Delhi, you can get more than just a taste of its atmospheric Mughal-era monuments and stately government headquarters.
Parliament, Ministries & President’s House
The Sansad Marg area, bordering the Southern Ridge Forest is a beautiful quiet neighbourhood full of manicured gardens and palatial political abodes manned by tight security. Citizens are free to stroll across the area and gawk at the magnificent Rashtrapati Bhavan, which serves as the President’s house, the Parliament of India and the Defence and Home Ministries, fronted by lovely fountains that serve as a great backdrop for photos. Yes, you can pose for pictures as long as you don’t cross the barricades. One thing to note is that vehicles cannot be parked in this area so it’s better to park elsewhere and come to Sansad Marg on foot, or keep driving around for a good view.
As you drive along Rajpath Marg, you’ll see the famous arch of India Gate slowly coming into view, until you’re at its very doorstep. The war memorial pays homage to the 82000 soldiers of the Indian Army who died between 1914 and 1921 during the First World War. Their names are inscribed on one side of the arch. Around the main arch, you’ll also find clusters of bright flowers, gardens, a fountain and minaret. Beneath India Gate is the Amar Jawan Jyoti, or the Flame of the Immortal Soldier, which has served as India’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier since 1971.
This is one of the most beautiful monuments in Delhi and deserves a detailed exploration. The stunning main structure may remind you of the Taj Mahal but here, the marble is interspersed with red stone and the turrets have azure tips. The tomb is housed inside this structure and there are various chambers and doorways that demand examination. Remember to look up, for the domed ceiling is surrounded by intricate latticed windows. There are many other tombs housed inside lovely structures in the Humayun’s Tomb garden complex. The octagonal Isa Khan Tomb enclosure predates Humayun’s Tomb by 20 years and is incredibly detailed as well.
Agrasen ki Baoli
This historical stepwell on Hailey Road has 108 steps and is made of red sandstone. Possibly named after the wealthy Agrawal community, the protected monument offers a stunning view from above. If you’re the adventurous kind, you may undertake the journey to its far-off depths, where bat nests and the dank smell typical of underground places await you. You can circle the stepwell at every level, admiring the inner arches.
End your first day in Delhi with a visit to the iconic Red Fort and perhaps a sound and light show at dusk. The fort complex is vast (over 250 acres) with over a dozen important structures that are often far apart, so be prepared for a lot of walking. You’ll often see eagles circling over the tall red sandstone towers, while happy tourists walk beneath the curved arches. Not all the structures inside the complex are red; some are pure white with grey patches due to age. On the pillars, you’ll often see Islamic style floral motifs. Don’t miss the Freedom-Struggle Museum, which lets you walk back in time to India’s fight for independence.
In case you decide not to go for any sound and light show (there’s a good one at Purana Qila as well), you can drive to the outskirts of Delhi to visit the Swaminarayan Akshardham Temple, the largest Hindu temple in the world. The opulence and perfection of this temple complex cannot possibly be described in words. Walking around its pools that reflect the surrounding towers is a sublime experience. For a fee, one can enjoy a cultural boat ride, watch the Sahaj Anand water show, visit the three exhibitions and the sunken lotus garden. Photography is prohibited.
The sprawling Qutub Complex, a captivating melange of ruins, gardens, tombs and temples houses the Qutub Minar, the tallest brick minaret in the world. You’ll have to walk quite a distance to get the entire minaret in your frame! Seen from up close, the minaret has various inscriptions in Arabic and Nagari characters, which tell the story of its origin. Other landmarks in the Qutub Complex include the Alai Darwaza, Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosquem, Tomb of Iltutmish, Ala-ud-din khalji Tomb and Alai Minar.
National Rail Museum
A one of its kind museum of trains and everything related to them, the Rail Museum is a wonderland for children and adults who are fascinated by vintage engines. You can walk among displays of actual steam locomotives built by different companies with placards displaying the details of their mechanics and lifespan. There is also a musical fountain, indoor museum and cafeteria at the museum. The interactive indoor museum is excellently built, featuring many games and quizzes that encourage you to explore India’s fascinating rail history.
At first sight, Jantar Mantar looks like a collection of interestingly shaped structures that seem to be oddly spiritual in nature. But it’s actually a set of 18th century observatories constructed by Maharaja Jai Singh II, a keen lover of astronomy. There are four main yantras, housed within six structures. Back in the day (around 1724 AD), these instruments gave quiet precise readings and enabled Jai Singh II to prepare a revised set of astronomical tables.
This impossibly vast garden and monument complex replete with storybook lakes, architectural marvels, lush foliage and rich biodiversity will truly charm your soul. While locals come here to walk, play, perform yoga, feed the swans or engage in bird-watching and photography, the tourist in you will be drawn to the three-domed Bara Gumbad Mosque full of Arabesque stucco decorations and paintings. Then there are the tombs of Muhammad Shah and Sikander Lodi, after whom the gardens are named. Watching the sun set beyond the Sheesh Gumbad is an ethereal experience.
End your two-day tour of Delhi with a visit to the lotus-shaped Baha’i Temple, a place of worship with no affinity to any one religion. 27 free-standing marble-clad ‘petals’ were arranged in triads to form nine sides and construct the temple. The temple complex is spread across 26 acres and includes nine pools and serene gardens. Though it’s not open to visitors at night, the temple looks arresting from the outside when it’s lit up.
Stay: Crowne Plaza Today Gurgaon and Holiday Inn New Delhi International Airport are convenient options for touring Delhi as they offer top-notch five star facilities, city tours in luxury cars and classy accommodation with excellent views. Both hotels have in-house spas where skilled masseurs can bring solace to your tired feet after a hectic day of sight-seeing.
Eat: Bella Italia, a cheerful Italian restaurant with woody interiors and kitschy wall art is a great option for lunch or dinner. Wildfire at Gurgaon is a part of the international chain of gourmet Brazilian restaurants and a must-visit for meat lovers. Enjoy a quick lunch buffet at Vito or Café G and evening drinks at Hangar, an aviation-themed bar in Delhi and Connexions, a 24 hour bar in Gurgaon.
Shop: A trip to Delhi is incomplete without a visit to Delhi Haat, famous for its collection of Punjabi juttis, jewellery, dress material and other artefacts.
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