The capital city of India, Delhi is often regarded as the jewel in the country’s crown. From the 17th century neighbourhood of Old Delhi to bustling, modernised New Delhi, the city tells a tale of India’s journey from past to present; from poverty into wealth. In order to capture the essence of Delhi and understand what sets this city apart from the rest of India, however, you need to delve deeper into its culture, history, and lifestyle.
Travel through time
Delhi hasn’t always been the capital of India. In 1911, the British Raj moved from Kolkata (Calcutta) to Delhi and began building a new city – New Delhi. It wasn’t until 20 years later that New Delhi was completed, but just 16 years later, in 1947, the British were forced to leave India and Delhi became the capital.
The culture and history of Old Delhi and New Delhi stand in stark contrast to each other. Take a step back in time and enjoy a history lesson in Old Delhi, home to the Red Fort and India’s biggest mosque, Jama Masjid.
Journey on to the present day in New Delhi: the epicentre of India’s government. Explore Humayun’s Tomb- said to be the inspiration for the Taj Mahal, and marvel at the beauty of the Lotus Temple; a beautiful structure built entirely in marble in the shape of a lotus flower. See the stately buildings where the Prime Minister of India lives and works and stop off at war memorial, India Gate along the way.
For an insight into what the future may hold for the capital, head to Gurgaon. With its towering skyscrapers, palatial hotels, and glamorous malls, this trendy business district feels worlds apart from Old Delhi. Although in reality, it is just a short drive away.
Getting around Delhi
As Delhi is at the heart of India, it has excellent transport connections and a thriving public transport system. Home to one of the biggest airports in India, the city benefits from the metro system, buses, rickshaws, tuk tuks, cabs, and even Uber.
With so many vehicles on the road and over half of the city relying on public transport for their commute, the traffic often comes to a standstill, especially during rush hour. Always allow a little extra time for your journey and take care when crossing the roads – it’s not always safe to hold your hand up and walk out in the road like you would elsewhere in India!
Something to suit all tastes
Walking the labyrinth of narrow lanes that make up the old city, it’s impossible to ignore the irresistible aromas wafting over from the food vendors pitched at the side of the road. The busy and vibrant Chandni Chowk market is widely regarded as India’s food capital, selling a range of Indian street food snacks like savoury chaat, in addition to shops selling homemade Indian sweets and paranthas (rich, ghee-soaked bread).
If you’re craving a touch of class and willing to pay a little more for your food, head to New Delhi and visit the likes of Moti Mahal, Darya Ganj, said to be the first restaurant to have served butter chicken, back in the 1950s.
What makes Delhi, ‘Delhi’?
A window to India, both within the country itself and across the whole world, Delhi is a city that transcends time, presenting the opportunity to take the most interactive and engaging history class you will ever experience. It is precisely this diversity and variety that helps to shape the character of the city, cementing its place at the heart of India.