Visiting Delhi? Make sure that your experience is an “authentic” local one—not the typical touristy one recommended by Lonely Planet and other guides. Experience Delhi as Delhiites do and while you may go shopping at Paharganj, that can’t be the only memory you’ll take back:
1. Phirni (rice “custard” like sweet) at Karim’s at Jama Masjid: in the old City built by Shahjahan in the 17th century is an experience to savour. The cooks trace back their ancestry to the royal cooks in Mughal kitchens and you can indeed get the best kormas and kebabs here. But do not miss the special sweet served in quaint earthen saucers. It’s a treat that you will not find in other restaurants—or homes for that matter.
2. Where to get “Indian” food… in smart surroundings: The streets of Delhi are full of aromas and flavours. But even if you don’t mind getting the notorious Delhi Belly, you may be keen to try out some modern Indian cuisine in a classy ambience, paired with wine. Three restaurants are recommended. Try Ignis at Connaught Place, Indian Accent at a very quiet and out of the way The Manor in New Friend’s Colony or visit Fire at The Park in New Delhi, a 5-star hotel. All three places reinterpret traditional cuisines of India—from a Malabari Fish curry to the Haleem—and present them in a contemporary manner. They also take care to serve healthy bites, with less chillies and oil.
3. Shopping at Dilli Haat: Near INA Market. A haat is a weekly bazaar held in a village. But this haat is an urbanized phenomenon, yet loved by all of us who like the al fresco setting for stalls set up by craftsmen from all over the country. You can buy fabric, Madhubani paintings, marble pots with inlay work, papier mache goods and so forth. Shopping over, eat a hot dosa or a Rajasthani thali or the ever popular momos (steamed wontons) from one of the state stalls.
4. A visit to Khan Market: The real estate here is pricey and commands more value than at Manhattan. So this is not a place for cheap shopping. Indians come here to buy imported groceries, cheese, et al that they will not find anywhere else. But the market has some amazing and classy shopping to offer when it comes to home interiors, art by upcoming artists, shoes, Indian-style kurtis and even stationery. Lately, one big draw is the Dastakari Haat, a shop that offers hand-picked craft items from all over the country. The market is also a foodie paradise with charming cafes all around. Check into Big Chill café for American-style Italian, to the Market Café (with your laptop, it is WiFi enabled) for food from all over the world with some amazing drinks or the Full Circle café, atop a book shop (their USP is books on spiritualism), for all-veg organic food and some of the best home-made cakes in town.
5. Shopping at Lajpat Nagar and Sarojini Nagar markets: This is where Delhiites go to get the latest in cuts and styles in apparel but at budget prices. From shoes to cosmetics and handbags, T-shirts, lovely cotton shirts, wrap around skirts, dresses… everything is available at seriously low prices. The clothes are usually export rejects but the flaws are so tiny that you wouldn’t notice or care. Bargain hard. It is acceptable to quote at least 50 per cent less than the asking price, settle somewhere in between.
6. Mall crawl: Select City Walk, Saket: Malls are much reviled, but to the inexperienced traveler, they can also be comfort zones—comfortable in their uniformity around the world. This one is Delhi’s best mall (even though if you do want to buy serious brands, you’ll find them at the Emporio in Vasant Kunj) with hassle-free parking, a lovely food court, standarised stores, and even exotic stuff like a fish pedicure (that you’d otherwise find in Singapore) and a Turkish coffee bean reader. At the food court, try some chaat, savouries that are otherwise prepared quite unhygenically at streetsides.
7. National Gallery of Modern Art, Janpath: Are you an art lover and would like to see some of the masterpieces of Indian contemporary art? The best place would be to visit the NGMA, which has recently acquired a new look and a new wing. Apart from studying the Modernists and the Contemporaries, you could also buy some curios—coasters, T-shirts et al—from the newly opened store.
8. Ice cream at India Gate lawns: This is where Delhi families come for a picnic, during the pleasant, sunny days in winters and the cool, breezy nights in summer. It is an experience, to be surrounded by the sea of humanity, kids playing ball, families sharing their home-cooked meals, others eating pop corn or ice-cream from the many vendors around in the sprawling greens within site of the Rashtrapati Bhawan, or the grand Presidential “house” that was, in fact, the seat of imperial power during British-India.
9. Theatre at Mandi House: Delhi has a small but vibrant theatre community too. Amateur troupes regularly put up performances at Kamani auditorium or Sri Ram Centre and you can buy a ticket and walk in most evenings.
10. Thursday night qawwali at Nizamuddin Dargah: It is impossibly crowded but the crowd is well behaved. At the grave of Delhi’s patron saint, wishes come true and some people discover the realm of the other. Say your thanks by offering a chaddar or just sit and enjoy a lively performance of qawali, a lyrical form of medieval poetry. And when you come out, try one of the sizzling kebabs from a roadside grill.
India – Food and Travel Guide can draw up a personalized itinerary for you depending on your interests of your India visit or even engage a local expert to guide you through your art, food or shopping tours. Contact us.