Things to Do in New Delhi
Widely considered to be one of the most beautiful buildings in the world and certainly one of India’s most famous landmarks, the Taj Mahal is a living testament to the grandiose and the romantic. Lovingly built from white marble by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favorite wife, the structure is decorated with carvings of flowers and inlays of precious stone arranged into intricate patterns that can be admired both from its impressive exterior and interior. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a must-see for every traveler to northern India.
Designed by British architects Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker, the Parliament House (Sansad Bhavan) is a striking sandstone building and home to both houses of the Parliament of India. This round building was inspired by the Great Stupa of Sanchi and the Ashoka Chakra—the same circular symbol found in the center of the Indian flag.
India Gate is a 138-foot (42-meter) war memorial in the heart of New Delhi, reminiscent of Paris’ Arc de Triomphe. Built in 1931 and designed by British architect Sir Edwin Lutyens, designer of most of New Delhi, it’s a must-visit photo stop on a Delhi tour.
The Qutub Minar is a brick minaret built in 1193 by Muslim conquerors of Delhi. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of Delhi’s most visited tourist attractions. At 240 feet (73 meters) high, it’s also an impressive engineering feat—all the more notable for surviving for so many centuries.
Known as the Lotus Temple for its unusual, 9-sided floral shape, the Delhi Bahá'í House of Worship is one of the most visited architectural sites in the city, if not on the planet. Constructed entirely from white marble imported from Greece, this impressive structure stands in a 26-acre (10.5-hectare) garden featuring extensive landscaping and nine ponds.
According to local Sikh belief, a boy prophet by the name of Sri Guru Hari Krishan Sahib moved among poor Hindu and Muslim communities during a time of small pox and cholera in New Delhi in the seventeenth century, distributing sanctified water to the sick which was believed to cause miraculous healing. Gurudwara Bangla Sahib his dedicated to his memory.
The most important place of worship for Sikhs in New Delhi, this golden-domed gurudwara still distributes sanctified water to devotees who come from around the world seeking its healing properties. Unlike many Hindu temples, non-Sikhs are welcome into the gurudwara, where it’s possible to listen while hymns are sung from the Granth Sahib (the Sikh scriptures) or take prasad, the Sikh equivalent to Communion.
The UNESCO World Heritage–listed Red Fort (Lal Qila) traces its roots back to the middle of the 17th century, when Mughal Emperor Shahjahan moved his base from Agra to Delhi. For the two centuries that followed, this gargantuan sandstone complex served as the royal residence of the Mughal Empire. Today, it’s one of the city’s most popular attractions, often visited in tandem with nearby Chandni Chowk.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Humayun's Tomb is the final resting place of Humayun, whose father Babur founded the Mughal Empire. It's considered one of the earliest examples of true Mughal architecture; ironically, the last Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah II, was captured here during the 1857 Indian Rebellion.
At the heart of New Delhi is one of its most remarkable buildings, the Office and Residence of the President of India (Rashtrapati Bhavan). The 320-acre (130-hectare) complex comprises a palatial 340-room main building and sprawling Mughal gardens. Many visitors come to witness the Changing of the Guard ceremony, complete with horses and a brass band.
Old Delhi’s Jama Masjid(Masjid e Jahan Numa) is the largest mosque in India and an unmissable stop on any Delhi itinerary. Built between 1644 and 1658 by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, the mosque’s red sandstone and white marble domes, minarets, gateways, and arches are both grand in scale and elegance. Devout Muslims still come here to pray five times a day, while travelers stop by to marvel over the details.
More Things to Do in New Delhi
Known locally as “Baby Taj,” the Tomb of I'timad-ud-Daulah is a gorgeous white structure that actually predates the larger and more famous Taj Mahal by a few years. It was the first Mughal building created entirely in marble, and its existence marks the transition from sandstone to marble in Mughal architecture.
One of India’s oldest markets, Old Delhi’s Chandni Chowk (Hindi for moonlight square) is a perpetually busy area filled with narrow, congested lanes, each specializing in a different product such as spices, jewelry, hardware, and stationery. It’s also a great spot to practice your haggling skills—and the photo opportunities are extraordinary.
Delhi Zoo opened its gates in 1959, changing its name to the National Zoological Park of Delhi in 1982. Located near India Gate in the heart of New Delhi, the zoo is spread out across more than 170 acres and is home to almost 130 species of animals and birds from around the world.
The National Zoological Park aims to house animals in a similar way to which they would live in their natural environments. It houses a number of endangered species, which it helps to breed in captivity with the aim of eventually releasing them to thrive again in the wild.
The grounds can be explored either on foot or by using one of the zoo’s electric buggies. Just some of the larger mammals visitors can expect to encounter include chimpanzees, lions, hippopotamus, African buffalo, Indian elephants, giraffes, spider monkeys, and zebras. There are also a number of migratory bird species of note, along with water birds, crocodiles, hyenas, macaques, and jaguars. An underground reptile house is located at the center of the zoo.
One of Delhi’s biggest, newest, and most grandiose attractions, Swaminarayan Akshardham is a gorgeous temple complex. The vast grounds house not only a place of worship, but also an animatronics experience, an IMAX-style theater showing a film about the temple’s namesake, and a theme park–style boat ride.
Raj Ghat is a large outdoor complex that houses the memorial of Mahatma Gandhi, who was cremated here in 1948. His cremation spot is marked by a black marble memorial, and an eternal flame is kept burning here in his honor. The words "Hey Ram" are inscribed on the side of the memorial, allegedly the mahatma's last words.
Spread out over 90 acres (36 hectares), Lodhi Gardens is a gorgeous and lush park full of meandering pathways, beautiful greenery, and four Lodhi-dynasty tombs. Many locals and visitors alike find refuge here from the dust and noise of Delhi, and you’re likely to come across picnickers, joggers, and elderly Delhiites on morning walks.
Delhi’s ISKCON Temple is a large, contemporary temple complex that features a modern take on an eclectic array of traditional Indian architectural styles. It's the local hub of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (aka the Hare Krishnas) and provides a good introduction to Vedic beliefs, especially for Westerners.
Officially known as the Lakshminarayan Temple in honor of the god Vishnu (the preserver in the Hindu trinity) and his consort Lakshmi, the beautiful Birla Mandir complex centers around one of the most significant temples in the Indian capital. Though built in the 1930s, it remains one of the finest local examples of modern temple architecture.
Chhatarpur Temple (Chhatarpur Mandir) is one of the largest such complexes in India, and it’s also relatively new by Indian standards, having been built in 1974. It’s dedicated to the goddess Katyayani, one of the nine forms of the warrior goddess Durga. The Hindu temple is made entirely of marble, and its intricately carved screens are especially impressive.
One of the largest wholesale spice markets in Asia, Old Delhi’s Khari Baoli is well worth a visit for the intensity of its sights and smells alone. Along with fresh spices of all shapes, sizes, and colors, this market sells myriad nuts, herbs, dry fruits, and grains—often displayed in heaping, photo-worthy mounds.
The 19th-century Banke Bihari Temple (Banke Bihari Mandir)—one of India’s most famous temples—in Vrindavan houses an idol of Lord Krishna that devotees believe will cause them to faint if they look into its eyes. As such, the idol is kept behind a curtain that’s swiftly opened and closed, allowing worshipers to catch quick glimpses of the god safely.
Tucked among the bustling lanes of the Nizamuddin West neighborhood, Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya Dargah (Nizamuddin Dargah) is the mausoleum of Sufi saint Nizamuddin Auliya, who lived in the 13th and 14th centuries. It attracts religious pilgrims from across India as well as music lovers who visit to listen to traditional Sufi qawwali music performed here on Thursdays.
If you’re looking for the quintessential Delhi bazaar experience, the vibrant Central Market area of South Delhi’s Lajpat Nagar might be your ticket. Here you’ll find everything from multihued bangles to umbrella repair shops, not to mention beautiful saris, discount shoe shops, and a huge variety of Indian street food carts.
Located in the heart of Old Delhi's Chandni Chowk area, Gurudwara Sis Ganj Sahib is an important gurudwara (Sikh temple) that was built in honor of the guru Tegh Bahadur, who was beheaded here by Emperor Aurangzeb for refusing to convert to Islam. The trunk of the tree under which Bahadur was beheaded remains in the complex to this day.
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