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Travellers in Delhi will probably have to navigate through their fair share of sweaty crowds, persistent beggars and manic traffic. They are also likely to come face to face with some unpleasant smells, noises and sights. Regardless, the city is also home to astounding beauty, friendliness and wealth, with many treasures to be found amid the clamour of everyday life.
Delhi is a city of contrasts, where an elephant can overtake a snazzy Italian sports car on the streets, where commanding colonial mansions stand next to overcrowded slums, and where cows are revered but musicians are labelled 'untouchable'. The city's pace is chaotic, yet strangely relaxed, making it ideal for exploring. Visitors are almost certain to have some strange and exotic experiences.
With a long and troubled history, Delhi is full of fascinating temples, museums, mosques and forts, each with a distinctive architectural style. In Old Delhi, visitors will find a charming selection of colourful bazaars and narrow winding alleys. In comparison, New Delhi - the city created to reflect the might of the British Empire - consists of tree-lined avenues, spacious parks and sombre-looking government buildings.
While Delhi itself could fill many holidays, the city is also ideal as a base for visiting the Taj Mahal in Agra, and provides the best links for travelling to the hill stations in northern India.
The Red Fort, known locally as Lal Quila, is Delhi's signature attraction, rising high above the clamour of Old Delhi as a reminder of the power and prosperity of the Mogul Empire. The massive sandstone walls were built in the 17th century to keep out marauding invaders, and still dominate the city's skyline today. Inside is an array of exquisite buildings, which once provided the living quarters for Shah Jehan, his courtiers, family and staff of three thousand. Visitors can marvel at the intricate decoration and only imagine the scenes here at the empire's height, when the walls were studded with precious stones and a 'stream of paradise' drove an ingenious air conditioning system.
Shah Jehan, the architect of the Red Fort and much of Old Delhi, built Jama Masjid between 1644 and 1656. This grand structure is situated on a hill a few hundred yards west of the Red Fort, and towers over the mayhem of Old Delhi's sprawling streets. Jama Masjid is India's largest mosque and can hold 25,000 worshippers at one time. Wide red sandstone steps lead to entrances on the north, south and east sides of the mosque. Inside is a massive courtyard, dominated by two red-and-white striped sandstone minarets that cap the main prayer hall on the west side (facing Mecca).
The Qutub Minar is a mammoth tower that was built between 1193 and 1369 to symbolise Islamic rule over Delhi, and to commemorate the victory by Qutab-ud-din over the city's last Hindu king. Standing 238 feet (72m) tall, the tower is decorated with calligraphy representing verses from the Quran, and tapers from 50 feet (15m) at the base to just eight feet (2.5m) at the top. There are five distinct storeys, each encircled with a balcony: the first three are built of red sandstone, and the upper two are faced with white marble.
Humayun's Tomb is one of the best-preserved and most beautiful examples of Mogul architecture in Delhi, and is often seen as a forerunner of the Taj Mahal in Agra. Building on the tomb started in 1564 after the death of Humayun, the second Moghul emperor, and its construction was overseen by Haji Begum: his senior widow and the mother of Akbar. The tomb is an octagonal structure capped by a double dome that soars 125ft (38m) into the sky, and is set in a formal Persian garden. Some careful restoration work has been done on some of the buildings and art but nothing important has been altered.
After his visit in 1911, the Emperor of India, King George V, decreed that the capital should be moved from Calcutta to Delhi. Edwin Lutyens was commissioned to plan the new government centre, which he focused around Rajpath: the grand, tree-lined boulevard that runs between the Secretariat Buildings and India Arch, the war memorial built in 1921. Rashtrapati Bhavan was built by Lutyens and Sir Herbert Baker between 1921 and 1929 on the gentle slope of Raisina Hill, and is flanked by the Secretariat Buildings. This immense palace, larger than Versailles, was created for the Viceroy and is now the residence of the President of India.
No trip to Delhi would be complete without a visit to one of the bazaars that surround Chandni Chowk (Moonlight Square) in Old Delhi, where shops and stalls display a wonderful array of goods, and offer a pungent and colourful insight into everyday Delhi life. Chandni Chowk has a large number of galis (lanes) and each one is different, with its own atmosphere and selection of goods to buy. A wonderful range of seasonings, spices and condiments, and second-hand goods are among the items on offer.
Delhi is a city of contrasts, where an elephant can overtake a snazzy Italian sports car on the streets, where commanding colonial mansions stand next to overcrowded slums, and where cows are revered but musicians are labelled 'untouchable'. The city's pace is chaotic, yet strangely relaxed, making it ideal for exploring. Visitors are almost certain to have some strange and exotic experiences. The city is full of fascinating temples, museums, mosques and forts, each with a distinctive architectural style. In Old Delhi, visitors will find a charming selection of colourful bazaars and narrow winding alleys. In comparison, New Delhi, the city created to reflect the might of the British Empire, consists of tree-lined avenues, spacious parks and sombre-looking government buildings.
There's no question about it: Delhi is hot, crowded and intense - not the best place for kids on holiday. However, there are a number of interesting and exciting attractions for children in Delhi to enjoy. The Shankar's International Dolls Museum is located in Nehru House, on Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, and has one of the largest collections of costume dolls in the world - a wonderful tourist attraction for young girls. On the other hand, Delhi's National Rail Transport Museum, in Chanakyapuri, is a great attraction for young boys. There are a number of bowling alleys in Delhi to take the kids to, including the Kool Kidz Little Tikes Play Zone in Gurgaon, Leisure Bowl in Vasant Kunj, and Little Paradise in Faridabad. Other fun activities include camel and balloon safaris in the nearby Thar Desert. Whatever you end up doing with the kids, one thing is for sure - Delhi is a city that children seldom forget, providing an exciting and colourful experience that will live on in their memories forever.
The climate of Delhi is semi-arid, and there is a vast difference between summer and winter temperatures. During the long summers the city swelters at highs of 104ºF (40ºC) and lows of 79ºF (26ºC), often exacerbated by a dusty, dry wind. The hottest months of the year are May and June. Winter weather in Delhi arrives in November, with temperatures between 43ºF (6ºC) and 68ºF (20ºC). Delhi's winters are generally mild but the city's proximity to the Himalayas can result in cold spells. Winter also brings heavy fog, which can decrease visibility and disrupt air, road and rail travel; January is the worst month for fog. The rainy season in Delhi is heralded in June and lasts until the end of September, during which monsoons deliver most of the city's annual average rainfall. The city does not experience monsoons to the same extent as many other Indian cities.
The best time to visit Delhi is in October and November, or in February and March, when the nights are cool and the days filled with mellow sunshine. December and January can be a little gloomy in Delhi while mid-summer (May, June and July) is uncomfortably hot.
For centuries Delhi has been a thoroughfare for traders, and the city's status as an intersection between different cultures has strongly influenced the cuisine. North Indian cuisine is the most popular and has a strong Persian/Turkish influence, especially in Mughlai and Punjabi dishes. Traditional North Indian delicacies include various korma dishes, tandoori chicken, seekh kebabs, kofta (meatballs) and biryani. However, there are also a number of good international restaurants based in New Delhi. Some of the most common international cuisines on offer in Delhi are Chinese, Thai, Italian and American.
For those travelling to Delhi on a budget, or anyone who needs a comfortingly familiar meal on their exotic travels, international chain restaurants such as McDonalds, Dominos, Pizza Hut and Pizza Express can be found all over Delhi. Those on a budget who want to sample authentic local food can brave the road side dhabas, which sell things such as kababs, rotis and biryani to be eaten on the hoof; although some of the street vendors' food should be avoided for health reasons, there are also some wonderful dhabasand. Some of the best can be found around Jama Masjid and Nizamuddin. Trawling the food markets is also a good way for visitors to sample local delicacies and work out what they like. Vegetarian food is available in abundance.
Over the past few years Delhi's nightlife scene has undergone a major transformation, and there are now hundreds of trendy bars, nightclubs and lounges ready to roll out a good time to revellers in the nation's capital. Delhi has typically been known as a city that goes to sleep early because stand-alone bars, clubs and restaurants in the city proper must legally close by midnight. However, these days it is easy to sniff out a good time in Delhi and many places manage to stay open late. Hotel bars and clubs, for instance, are not subject to this rule and tend to close much later than midnight. Late-night revellers can also move the party to the suburbs of Noida and Gurgaon, which are technically in different states and not subject to the midnight law. Having said that, many of the best places are located centrally, in the areas surrounding Nehru Park (close to Niti Marg).
Note that some clubs in Delhi institute a couples-only entrance policy, and that some places might be a little unsafe for foreign tourists. Visitors should trust their intuition. It is a good idea to ask for recommendations from hotel staff or do some research into fun nightspots before travelling.
Delhi is a fantastic shopping destination, with shopping centres, malls and markets offering a variety of well-priced holiday buys. Sought-after Delhi souvenirs include local hand-woven oriental carpets and rugs, beautiful silk fabrics, and jewellery with precious gems and stones.
Authentic Indian handicrafts can be found in shops along Baba Kharak Singh Marg, available at affordable prices. Goods such as shawls, pottery, and paintings are available from the Crafts Museum on Mathura Road, while there are handicrafts and handloom items to be found at Dilli Haat, also a food bazaar. There are also a few antique shops to explore in Sunder Nagar, and a visit to the bustling Chandni Chowk shopping area is a must.
Dariba Kalan has some excellent jewellery stores, but be wary of gem scams: if an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. Fashion accessories and upmarket products can be found at the Connaught Place, Sarojini Nagar and Janpath shopping centres, among others. Ansal Plaza shopping complex is a very modern and trendy shopping destination, as is Hauz Khas, which is an unlikely mix of medieval ruins and posh shopping. Delhi's range of shopping centres and bazaars are sure to send bargain hunters home with mountains of excess baggage. Bargain hard in the markets and remember to shop around before committing to a sale.
Fleets of metered taxis, auto-rickshaws and cycle-rickshaws clog the streets of Delhi providing transport for locals and visitors. Rates fluctuate, but drivers should have rate charts available and tourists should ensure the meter is reset, or a price negotiated before departure. Uber operates in the city as well. A ring railway starts and ends at the Hazrat Nizamuddin Railway Station with trains running in both clockwise and anti-clockwise directions around the city. The Delhi Transport Corporation runs a large fleet of buses covering the entire city, but these are always overcrowded. There are night service buses on selected routes and from the three main railway stations between 11pm and 5am. The Mass Rapid Transit System (MRTS) covers 135 miles (280km) and 164 stations between Delhi and its satellite cities of Faridabad, Gurgaon, Noida, and Ghaziabad. It also has a fast airport line. It is not advised to hire a car in Delhi as the driving is frenetic and the traffic overwhelming. There are parts of the city where walking is the best way to take in the sights and sounds, but in general transport is required to get around.
Travellers visiting the magical city of Delhi will be overwhelmed by the sightseeing opportunities available to them; figuring out where to begin will be the hardest part of the journey.
Many visitors kick off their sightseeing at the Red Fort, Delhi's signature attraction, reminiscent of the Mogul Empire that once ruled the region. Other landmark attractions include the majestic Jama Masjid, in Old Delhi's bustling streets, which is India's largest mosque and a breathtakingly beautiful building to photograph; the Chandni Chowk market, the ideal place for an authentically Indian shopping experience; and Humayun's Tomb, another classic example of Mogul architecture, which is especially important to visit for those who are not making the trip to the famous Taj Mahal.
Another must-see while in Delhi is Rashtrapati Bhavan, a palace larger than Versailles and the residence of the Indian President. Here, visitors can watch the changing of the guard and marvel at the building's architecture, built by Herbert Baker and Edwin Lutyens between 1921 and 1929. Other worthwhile attractions include the beautiful Lotus Temple; and Rajpath, the main route leading from Rashtrapati Bhavan to India Gate, a memorial monument built for the Indian soldiers who died in World War I, where visitors can relax on the grassy lawns and soak up the scenery.
A great way to visit many of the sights around Delhi is on the Hop On Hop Off Bus, which leaves every 30 minutes and stops at close to 20 of Delhi's top tourist destinations. Tourists pay a once-off fee and can hop on and off at a variety of monuments, gardens, bazaars, museums and galleries.
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