14 brilliant things to see in Delhi + four-day sample itinerary

Most travellers I meet tell me they hate Delhi. “Get out of there as soon as you can!” is a well-known advice amongst travellers. I get that. Especially when it’s your first visit to India, and Delhi is where your touch ground. Delhi is hectic, badly polluted, extremely crowded, enormous and very much in your face.

It wasn’t until I spend a full month in Delhi that I truly fell in love with this place. There are so many things to do, to see and to eat in this city - that it might be hard to figure out where to even begin.

Here is a list of must see things in Delhi - from the main attractions to the lesser visited places. To make it easier, I’ve turned it into a 4-day itinerary for you - to get the most out of your visit to Delhi.

What to do and see in Delhi : DAY ONE

#1 - Lodi Gardens

Lodhi Garden Delhi

Still jet-lagged from your flight to Delhi? Excellent! Get up early morning and see sunrise from the Lodi Gardens. Spread over 90 acres, this beautiful historical park is a great heaven of tranquility within Delhi.

The four monuments within the gardens are from the Lodi Dynasty, hence the name of the gardens. They were built in the 15th century. Two of them are tombs: Mohammed Shah's Tomb and the Tomb of Sikandar Lodi. The Bara Gumbad (“big dome”) is a gateway to an attached three-dome mosque. The fourth monument, the Shisha Gumbad actually contains the remains of an unknown family.

Locals like to come in weekends, have picnics, play their guitars and have their children play on the grass. For us tourists - it’s a beautiful and quiet spot to watch the sunrise, sunset - or anything in between really.

How to get here?

I’m a massive fan of navigating Delhi by metro - as it is the cheapest, fastest and quietest mode of transport around Delhi. Around rush hour it can get quite crowded, but the rest of the day there is plenty of space and even seating available. To get to Lodi Gardens, you can take either the yellow line and get out at Jorbarg or take the violet line and get off at Khan Market. The park is open from sunrise to sunset and entrance is free. If you do get off at Khan Market, check this market out before going to Lodi gardens (see next item).

I’ve been to the Lodi gardens several times, by motorbike as well. If you come with your own transport - you can park at Entrance Gate #1 only.


#2 - Khan Market

Khan Market in New Delhi - India

If you’re not much of a shop-a-holic (like me) - but need to scramble together the obligatory souvenirs and gifts - go to Khan Market. This market is small enough to navigate easily without getting lost and it has everything.

Beautiful fabrics, local dresses, hand-made shoes and handicrafts. It’s all there. There are also several up-market eateries spread around Khan Market. You can devour delicious cheese-cakes and western food, which is a good option to try and reduce the risk of delhi-belly when you’ve just arrived in India. No guarantees though.

How to get here?

Metro Station Khan Market on the violet line is literally a minutes walk from the market. Coming from Lodi Gardens, its a 2-kilometer ride with a rickshaw. The market is open daily from 10:00 until 23:00 hours. Keep in mind it’s closed on Sundays!

#3 - Humayun’s Tomb

Humayun's Tomb

This pretty impressive piece of architecture is the tomb of the Mughal Emperor Humayun. It’s a UNESCO heritage site and with reason.

Besides the emperor himself, his wife, great-great-grandson and several subsequent emperors are buried here. Humayun’s father started the tradition of being buried in some sort of paradise garden - a tradition that reached it’s climax with the famous Taj Mahal in Agra.

The Persian-style-gardens are spread over 30-acres and have several other tombs and mosques dotted around the place. You can wander around here for about 30-45 minutes and you'll have explored all monuments.

Good to know

You can visit Humayun’s Tomb everyday between 06:00 and 18:00 hours. Entrance fee is 30 rupees for Indians and a whopping 500 rupees for a foreigner!

How to get here?

Coming from Khan Market, it’s fastest to just take rickshaw or Uber to Humayun’s tomb - it’s 3,5 kilometers away.


#4 Nizamuddin Dharga

Nizamuddin Dharga Delhi

Perhaps one of the most colourful places in Delhi can be found around the Nizamuddin Dharga. You can visit the shrine on every time or day in the week, but Thursdays are particularly vibrant because of the music sessions.

This dharga (mausoleum) is of Khwaja Nizamuddin Auliya - a Sufi saint. Every Thursday evening from 18:30 until 20:30 there is an evening qawwali. Devotees gather here and traditional songs are sang in Arabic. The complex is right in the middle of a very lively muslim area, dotted with kebab stalls on the streets and tiny eateries.

Women are not allowed to enter the shrine, but can only peek through the lattice screens that surrounds it. If you buy one of the plates with flowers on it, you’ll just have to give it to any man that is entering the shrine. He will then place it inside for you.

The shrine is beautiful, but to me, just getting there perhaps the best part. There is a small gate tucked in a bustling street, where you need to take your shoes off. You are then entering a long tiled corridor which snakes it’s way through the neighbourhood towards the shrine.

Small shops, candles, flowers and rows of beggars line the corridor. You can give the people something if you like, but they won’t harass you nor ask you for anything.

How to get here?

Coming from Humayun’s tomb, it’s a matter of crossing the street into Lodi Road and you are practically there. The shrine is not visible from the road but ask around and everyone will point you in the right direction.


What to do and see in Delhi: DAY TWO

#5 - Akshardham Temple

Akshardham Temple Delhi

This temple is mentioned in the Guinness Book of Records as the Largest Comprehensive Hindu temple in the world. And it was built in only 5 years time. It took more than 8,000 volunteers to complete the pink sandstone and marble stone carvings that decorate it.

The temple is the eternal rest place of Bhagwan Swaminarayan - a yogi and -according to his followers- a manifestation of God himself. He was born in 1781 and left his home at age 11 after his parents died. He went on a 7-year pilgrimage through India, mastered Astanga yoga on the way, met with wild animals in dense Indian jungle and gained a lot of followers.

I’ve visited many (Hindu) temples over the years, but the Akshardham temple is seriously jaw-dropping impressive.

Walking around the 100-acres site and you’ll pass the Das Dwar (The Ten Gates), the Bhakti Dwar (Gate of Devotion), Mayur Dwar (The Peacock Gate) and the Sacred Footprints first. After that, you’ll stand in front of the Akshardham Mandir itself. The mandir represents the place where the mind becomes still and the soul connects with the Divine.

Just to throw some impressive numbers around - it has 300,000 hand-carved stones, 20,000 statues, 9 domes and 20 pinnacles. The water surrounding the temple comes from 151 different lakes in India and there are 108 faces of cows placed along the borders which represent 108 Hindu deities. Wow.

Good to know

The Akshardham temple is closed on Mondays.

Unfortunately, it’s not allowed to bring a camera or cellphone into the temple grounds - so you’ll have to get here yourself to admire the beauty. The only place to take a photo is standing on the side of the highway - and when the pollution is particularly bad, you’ll get something like the photograph above. Disappointing.

To avoid the crowds and cues - come early. The complex opens at 09:30 and every hour that you arrive after that, the cues will be longer. There are cues for the cloakroom (try not to bring anything with you except some money and skip this cue), the security check and the shoe storage place (you’ll have to take your shoes off to enter the mandir).

Besides gawking at the carvings inside the mandir, there are lots of other things to do and see around the complex:

  1. Walk-through 3D diorama (50 minutes)

  2. Large format film on the life of Bhagwan Swaminarayan (40 minutes)

  3. Boat ride through 10,000 years of Indian civilisation (12 minutes)

  4. Water Show, with lasers, lights, fire and fountains. There are multiples shows, all starting after sunset. (24 minutes)

  5. See worshippers chant sacred Vedic verses while pouring water over the sacred image of Shri Neelkanth Varni in the Abhishek Mandir. (full ceremony - 15 minutes)

Item 1-3 will cost 170 rupees per person, item 4 costs 80 rupees. Item 5 is free.

It will take around 1 hour just to see the mandir and explore the temple grounds. But if you go for the exhibitions mentioned above, you can easily spend half-day at the Akshardham temple complex. Coming early and beat the crowds does mean you’ll miss out on the water-light show though.

How to get here?

Take the blue metro line to Akshardham Temple Metro Station. From here, it’s about a 10-minute walk to the entrance of the temple. If you’re coming from Humayun’s Tomb, you’d have to change metro lines twice, so you could opt for a rickshaw as well.


#6 - Purana Qila

Purana Qila - New Delhi, India

As one of the oldest forts in Delhi - the 16th century Purana Qila is worth checking out. The name itself actually means ‘old fort’. Duh. Until 1913 a village called Indrapat actually existed within the walls of the fort. For reasons I don’t know, they left.

There are three gateways to admire, the Qila-i-Kuhna mosque (see above photograph) and the Sher Mandal, made with red sandstones. Funny fact - Great Mughal Emperor Humayun died because he fell from second floor of the Shed Mandal. Yes, that’s right. That same emperor whom you ‘visited’ yesterday at Humayun’s tomb. OK, not very funny. But definitely interesting.

Just like Hauz Khas Fort which you’ll visit on the last day - this place is a popular hiding place for young couples who want to.. uh.. get to know each other a bit better.

How to get here?

From the Askhardham temple, hop back on the blue metro line and get off at metro station Indraprastha. It’s a 2.7 kilometer rickshaw ride to the entrance of Purana Qila. If you’re very much into zoo’s, or don’t want to leave India without having seen a tiger (wild or not), the entrance of Delhi’s zoological park is right next to the Purana Qila.


#7 - India Gate

India Gate Delhi

The India gate is possibly the most famous landmark in Delhi. It’s a war memorial to 82,000 soldiers of the Indian Army who died in the period 1914-21 during the First World War. It’s 42 meters high and build in a Arc de Triomphe kind-of-way.

It draws massive crowds and is a great place to watch the sunset and have an ice-cream. Be prepared to be met by plenty of vendors who all try to sell you stuff you don’t need. Really, you don’t need that crap!

If you’ve got some more time to spare, check out the Central Secretariat too. This gigantic building is visible from India Gate - that is, depending on how bad the pollution is that day. Walk the two kilometers or hop on a rickshaw (don’t pay more than 20 rupees!).

How to get here?

Coming from the Purana Qila, it’s about 2 kilometers to the India Gate by rickshaw. If you want to visit the India Gate at any other time, you can also get off at either Janpath, Udyog Bhawan or Khan Market on the violet metro line, or the Central Secretariat metro station on the yellow line.


What to do and see in Delhi: DAY THREE

#8 - Red Fort

Red Fort Delhi - one of the most visited sites in Delhi.

The Red Fort is a historic fort that acted as the main residence of the emperors of the Mughal dynasty for nearly 200 years.

You really can’t miss this place as it has massive red sandstone walls of up to 33 meters high and almost 2.5 kilometers long- enclosing a large complex of entertainment halls, palaces, indoor canals, a mosque and gardens.

The private palace of the Emperor, the Khas Mahal, had a special area below the building where animal fights between lions and elephants took place. Insane!

The Pearl Mosque (Moti Masjid) made of white marble, was built for personal use. It was also used by ladies from the Harem who entered through a passage in the northern wall of the enclosure. The main gate, Lahore Gate, is particularly impressive and draws massive crowds around India’s Independence Day.

This is a place where you can easily spend 1-2 hours to explore all palaces and buildings!

Good to know

On Mondays several of Delhi’s attractions are closed - so are the Red Fort and Gandhi Smriti so make sure you won’t attempt to do this day’s itinerary on Mondays..

Entrance fee for Indian nationals is 35 rupees per person, and 500 rupees for foreigners. For 80 rupees you can rent an audioguide, but note that you’ll have to leave your driving license or 2000 rupees as ‘security deposit’.

How to get here?
Metro Station Lal Qila on the violet line is pretty much right in front of the entrance to the Red Fort. Alternatively, you can get off at Chandi Chowk coming from the yellow line. From there, the Red Fort is about a 10-minute walk through a pretty hectic part of Delhi.

#9 - Jama Masjid

Jama Masjid - Delhi. This is the largest mosque in Delhi and its courtyard has space for a whopping 25,000 devotees!

The Jama Masjid, or the Masjid-i Jahan-Numa, is a very popular tourist attraction in Delhi. It is amongst the largest mosques of India.

Built in 1644 by Mughal emperor Shah Jahn, the mosque has two 40-metre high minarets, four towers and three gates. The huge tiled courtyard can host more than 25,000 people.

For more detailed information on visiting this mosque - read this.

Good to know

The streets opposite the main entrance of the Jama Masjid are a great place to grab lunch. Don’t miss out on either one of the neighbouring restaurants Al Jawahar or Karim’s hotels - their food is some of the best in Delhi!

How to get here?

Metro station Jama Masjid on the violet metro line is located on the backside of the Jama Masjid.
Coming from the Red Fort, you can either hop on the metro and get off the next stop. Or just walk to the Jama Masjid - it’s less than 1 kilometer from the Red Fort.

#10 - Gurudwara Bangla Sahib

Gurudwara Bangla Sahib in Delhi - the largest Sikh temple in Delhi.

A Gurudwara is a place of worship for people following Sikhism - the Sikh people. Delhi counts a dozen different Gurudwaras, but the Bangla Sahib is the largest and most well-known of all of them.

This Sikh temple is dedicated to Guru Har Krishan. He was the eighth of the ten Sikh Gurus (spiritual head of the Sikhs). He became the youngest Sikh guru in Sikhism at the age of 5, succeeding his father. Sadly, he passed away after contracting smallpox at the age of 8. 

More than a decade after his death, a small shrine was built on the exact location where he had lived and died. Later this became the great Bangla Sahib that is there today.  

A great way to mingle with the local worshippers is attending langar - a free lunch meal. It is served to thousands of people every day from 09:00 hours onwards. For more important information on visiting this temple - read this.

How to get here?

Take the yellow metro line to Patel Chowk Metro Station. From here, it’s 750 meters to the Bangla Sahib. Walk it or take a cycle-rickshaw for a short hop.


#11 - Gandhi Smriti

Gandhi Smriti - New Delhi, India

To get a break from historical buildings and monuments - visit the Gandhi Smriti. This is the place where Gandhi spent the last 144 days of his life before being shot to death. At this exact place.

In the 1970s, the house and gardens were turned into a museum. You can walk through the room where Gandhi stayed - his belongings still intact. There is a movie you can watch on Gandhi’s life, there are displays on the major events of his life and lots of Gandhi quotes and stories on the wall.

It’s a moving place, very rich with history and worth spending some time to learn more about Gandhi’s incredible life.

How to get here?

Bare in mind that it’s closed on mondays. Coming from the Bangla Sahib - hop back on the yellow metro line at Patel Chowk and get off again at Lok Kalyan Marg. From here it’s 1 kilometer to the Gandhi Smriti.


What to do and see in Delhi: DAY FOUR

#12 - Mehrauli Archeological Park

Baoli at Mehrauli Archeological Park - Delhi.

This HUGE archeological park close to Qutb Minar counts more than 100 monuments. This area was continuously occupied for 1,000 years and you can see tombs, mosques, step wells, pillars and remains of old temples.

Probably the best part about the park is that it’s off the main-tourist radar. I had the entire place to myself, which is great if you’re looking to do some photography. The step wells in this park are of equal beauty as the ones near Connaught Place (Agrasen ki Baoli), but without the crowds.

How to get here?

Take the yellow metro line and get off at Qutb Minar Metro Station. From here, it’s a 5-minute rickshaw ride to the entrance. You can walk through the park and exit on the other side, but there you’ll enter a maze of tiny streets and alleys. Better is to exit the same way you came in. The park is open daily from 05:00 until 18:30 hours.


#13 - Qutb Minar

Qutb Minar - Delhi

This enormous structure is the second tallest minaret in the world made up of bricks. Understandably, it’s an UNESCO World Heritage Site. The tower is 73 meters high and was built in 1193 by Qutab-ud-din Aibak, immediately after the defeat of Delhi's last Hindu kingdom.

You find this place on the outskirts of Delhi and it’s surrounded by other monuments - all part of the Qutb complex: the Iron Pillar of Delhi (which has been rusting for over 2000 years - impressive!), several tombs and a mosque.

You are not allowed to enter the minaret anymore. In 1981, 45 people were killed in a stampede after an electrical power failure that left the staircase of the tower into darkness. Understandably - access to the tower got banned after that..

The minaret almost made it to Bollywood though, when actor and director Dev Anand wanted to shoot a song here. Unfortunately, the camera’s were too big to fit inside the narrow staircase and they shot the song inside a replica of the Qutb Minar.

How to get here?

Coming from Mehrauli Archeological Park it’s only a short rickshaw hop away - some 5 minutes and you’ll be standing in front of the Qutb Minar!


# 14 - Hauz Khas Village

Hauz Khas Village Delhi

The ruins of the Hauz Khas Fort nowadays make for a popular hangout place for young Indian couples. You’ll find them huddled together in the dark corners of the complex, whispering sweet words to each other. I think.

But the Hauz Khas Fort Complex was originally erected by the construction of a water-reservoir (“the Royal Tank” - now known as “Hauz Khas Lake”). The reservoir had to provide continuous supply of water to the inhabitants. Later, several monuments such as Mosques, Madrasas, Pavillions and Tombs were built next to the water-reservoir by several different emperors.

This once majestic place is now crumbling away and the Royal Tank is now a shade of green that cannot be healthy. It still makes for a great visit and if you happen to be there around lunchtime - try out some great South Indian food at restaurant Naivedyam.

How to get here?
I can recommend taking the magenta metro line and get off at I.I.T station. From here, it’s a very pleasant 10-minute walk through a park to the entrance of Hauz Khas Fort. Alternatively, you can grab a rickshaw from the Hauz Khas metro station (also magenta line).

All these 14 sights should keep you busy around Delhi for 4 days I would say. But if you are one of those extremely fast travellers that tick off 5 or 6 sights in a day - there is plenty more to do and see in Delhi. Check out the Lotus temple, float around in a Venetian gondola inside a mall (WHAAAT?) or go on a gastronomical tour around Delhi.


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