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Ultimate guide: Best of New Delhi
An in-depth look at India's capital. What to do, and where to eat, sleep and party
The very best of New Delhi:
In recent years New Delhi has flagged off a new metro line, and hosted the Commonwealth Games and India’s first F1 Grand Prix.
More on CNNGo: The 101 on Formula 1 India
Plenty of new restaurants and hotels have timed their opening to these events.
As a result, the new New Delhi is much improved, say locals.
This ultimate guide to the best of New Delhi presents a cross section of current and classic Delhi hot spots for eating, partying, playing and sleeping.
Best of New Delhi: Where to play
1. Monument watch
Ask any Dilliwala what’s most beautiful about their city and you will be pointed in the direction of New Delhi’s many Mughal-era monuments.
Outside the usual monument circuit of the Lal Qila (Red Fort) and Purana Qila (Old Fort) -- which stage impressive state of the art son-et-lumière shows every evening -- you can also pack a lunch for the lawns around the Humayun’s Tomb, the grassy hill behind Hauz Khas Village or the Lodi Garden mausoleums.
Wander around the tallest brick minaret in the world, the 72.5-meter Qutab Minar, then head into The Olive Bar & Kitchen for lunch, which lies in its shadow. Then pop by the nearby Crescent Mall for some high-octane Indian designer wear.
Recommended: HoHo bus ride. Taking off from the Coffee Home on Baba Kharak Singh Marg, the newly introduced HoHo bus stops at 18 tourist destinations on a 65-kilometer loop of Old and New Delhi, taking in the Red Fort, National Gallery of Modern Art, Humayun's Tomb, Purana Qila, Lotus Temple, Qutab Minar, Hauz Khas Village, Dilli Haat and the National Museum.
A little touristy, but a highly efficient way to see the sights.
Crescent at the Qutab, Lado Sarai Village, Qutab Minar Road, Mehrauli, New Delhi; +91 (0)11 2952 1568
Red Fort; tickets Rs 10 for Indian nationals and Rs 150 for foreign nationals. Light and sound shows presented every evening. Summer: Hindi 7 p.m.-8 p.m., English 8 p.m.-9 p.m.; Winter: Hindi 6 p.m.-7 p.m., English 7 p.m.-8 p.m.; Tickets available at DTTDC Office, N-36, Connaught Place, New Delhi; +91 (0)11 3315322
2. Village life
New Delhi’s “urban villages" are a reminder of the capital’s rural beginnings. Of the 275 documented villages, most are low-income shantytowns, some are remembered only as street names, and a select few have become nerve centers of culture and fashion.
Walk down Hauz Khas Village’s main road past construction debris, into the daytime bustle of an eclectic creative urban center, with indie artist studios, cafés, restaurants, stores and bookshops.
At Shahpur Jat village, only two blocks away, the vibe is supplied by boutique stores. Fancy an anarkali suit or gota sari, but don’t feel like lining some designer’s pockets? Navigate Shahpur Jat’s narrow lanes and bowers of overhead wires, to Jangi House Lane, where rows of windows are full of ethnic Indian clothes.
Five minutes' walk further south, a small urbanized village called Khirki stands opposite a row of great Indian shopping malls in the Saket area.
Walk up to the terrace of the Khirki Masjid, a little-known, archeological monument whose latticed windows give the village its name, and then have a coffee under the wide embracing branches of a banyan tree spread across O Palacio restaurant's very Portuguese courtyard.
Recommended: CNNGo’s Definitive guide to New Delhi's Hauz Khas Village
O Palacio, Khirki Village, opposite DLF Place Mall, Saket, New Delhi; +91 99581 47677
3. Art capital
Guidebooks will point you to the National Gallery of Modern Art, National Museum and maybe even the National Handicrafts and Handlooms Museum, but these days it's private galleries and collectors who exhibit the most exciting contemporary Indian art.
In the New Delhi satellite town of Gurgaon, The Devi Art Foundation is run by mother and son Lekha and Anupam Poddar who have a reputation for showcasing India's upcoming artists.
Her museum houses other leitmotifs of India’s social fabric, including Subodh Gupta’s “Family on Scooter” and A. Ramachandran’s “Genesis of Kurukshetra.”
Recommended: The Alkazi Foundation for the Arts owns one of the largest collections of archival photographs in South Asia.
National Gallery of Modern Art, Jaipur House, India Gate, New Delhi; +91 (0)11 2338 4640, 2338 2835; open 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; closed Monday and national holidays.
National Handicrafts and Handlooms Museum, Pragati Maidan, Bhairon Road, New Delhi; +91 (0)11 2337 1887/2337 1641; www.nationalhandicraftsmuseum.nic.in; open 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; closed Monday and national holidays.
The Alkazi Foundation for The Arts, M 141, Greater Kailash II, New Delhi; +91 (0)11 5143 7426; www.acparchives.com
Devi Art Foundation, Sector-44 Sirpur House, Plot-39, Gurgaon, Haryana; +91 (0)11 4166 7373; www.deviartfoundation.org; open 11 a.m.-7 p.m.; closed Monday and national holidays.
Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, 145, DLF South Court Mall, Saket, New Delhi; www.knma.in; open 10 a.m.-6:30 p.m.; closed Monday and national holidays.
4. Spiritual cleansing
Holidays with an "Eat Pray Love" theme might be the vogue reason to travel to India, but if you don’t have time for a proper Beatles-style Rishikesh ashram wash, New Delhi has a heap of spiritual-cleansing options.
At the Prerna School of Inspiration, you can regress to your previous lives.
If you’re just in it just for some simple aura cleansing, sign up for the twin heart meditation or chakra cleansing at the MCKS Yoga Vidya Pranic Healing Trust.
Recommended: MCKS Yoga Vidya Pranic Healing Trust’s free, monthly healing camps at Lodi Garden.
MCKS Yoga Vidya Pranic Healing Trust, B-43 Hill View Apartments, Vasant Vihar, New Delhi; +91 9560 900900, +91 (0)11 2614 8811; email@example.com
Prerna School of Inspiration, C-211-B,Chattarpur Enclave; New Delhi; www.prernaschoolofinspiration.com
Best of New Delhi: Where to stay
1. New Delhi's best new hotels
Enter The Leela Palace, Delhi’s new five-star hotel, via its stunning porte cochere. This gilded Rs 900-crore hotel even has suites with private pools.
Rack rates start at US$500 for a standard room.
In contrast, the Aman is stark, serious and minimalistic.
The private plunge pools in each room and in-house hammam spa are characteristic Aman luxuries.
Rack rates start at US$650 for a standard room.
Hiding behind immense foliage in Delhi’s satellite town and business center, Oberoi’s newest hotel in Gurgaon is seductive and exclusive.
The hotel is all glass and metal, and its rooms break industry norms for generous size: the smallest start at 58 square meters.
Rack rates start at US$600 for a standard room.
The Leela Palace, Chanakyapuri, Diplomatic Enclave, New Delhi; +91 (0)11 3933 1234; www.theleela.com
Aman New Delhi,
Lodhi Road, New Delhi; +91 (0)11 4363 3333; www.amanresorts.com
The Oberoi, 443 Udyog Vihar, Phase V, Gurgaon, Haryana; +91 (0)124 245 1234; www.oberoihotels.com
2. New Delhi’s best boutique hotels
Private homes and properties converted to boutique hotels can be an inexpensive way to experience Delhi.
If clichéd Indian kitsch (read: eye-popping colors and eclectic regional decor) is your cup of chai, consider the Amarya Haveli in Haus Khas Enclave.
Run by French couple Alexandre Lieury and Mathieu Chanard, this boutique bed-and-breakfast is centrally located and provides home-cooked meals. Take your computer to their wicker-furnished, sunny terrace and catch up on emails.
Rack rates start at US$130, single occupancy.
in tree-lined Safdarjung Enclave, Colaba House is another expat operation run by Frenchman Pio Coffrant. It's everything you’d wish a South Delhi bungalow to be.
This boho boutique lodging done over in generous doses of white, interspersed with bolts of India-inspired colors, is warm and comfortable.
Rooms are bright, spacious and airy. The Greenhouse is a lovely lounge-dining area, which the owners encourage guests to treat as their own home.
Don’t be afraid of hosting a dinner party here.
Rack rates start at US$100, single occupancy.
Opulent boutique hotel The Visaya, run by mother and daughter Gita and Eisha Chopra, has a slightly loud understanding of design and art.
Rack rates start at US$190, single occupancy.
Rack rates start at US$111, single occupancy.
Amarya Haveli, P5 Hauz Khas Enclave, New Delhi; +91 (0)11 4175 9268; www.amaryagroup.com
Colaba House, B2/139 Safdarjung Enclave , New Dehi; +91 (0)11 4067 1773, 4615 0101, +91 (0) 97118 38476; www.colabahouse.com
The Visaya, N-82 Panchshila Park, New Delhi; +91 (0)11 4319 0000; www.thevisaya.com
The Amber, 198 Sukhdev Vihar (near Escorts Hospital), New Delhi; +91 (0) 98186 33212; theamber.in
Mantra Amaltas, 23 Friends Colony (W), New Delhi; +91 (0)11 4966 4966; www.mantraamaltas.com
3. Serviced apartments
The Leela Residences Kempinski in Gurgaon is a nine-story building with 90 apartments equipped with rain-shower bathrooms, modular kitchens and a spa. You can also order from the hotel’s fine-dining menu.
In South Delhi, Svelte sits atop the city’s most popular street mall, Select Citywalk in the Saket area. Svelte’s 83 suites have rain-shower cubicles and customized pillow menus. There's also a rooftop pool.
The Leela Residences Kempinski Gurgaon, Ambience Island, National Highway 8, Gurgaon; www.theleela.com
Svelte Hotel & Personal Suites, A-3, District Centre, Select Citywalk, Saket, New Delhi; +91 (0)11 4051 2000; www.svelte.in
4. Classic New Delhi hotels
Traditionalists will appreciate these four classic New Delhi hotels: The Oberoi, Taj Mahal Hotel, The Imperial and Trident.
The Oberoi epitomizes classic sophistication, and its services are rated among the best in the world -- each room has a dedicated butler. Business travelers love it here.
Locals, on the other hand, are obsessed with The Oberoi’s 370-square-meter patisserie and delicatessen, as well as 360, the all-day restaurant.
Rack rates start at US$360 for a standard room.
New Delhi’s Imperial Hotel is an art deco jewel. Its grand white columns and rococo interiors remind guests of India’s colonial era. Rooms have every imaginable luxury including Fragonard and Bvlgari toiletries.
Rack rates start at US$300 for a standard room.
The ultimate in New Delhi hospitality is The Imperial’s all-white Royal Imperial Suite, among one of Asia’s largest luxury suites (approximately US$4,000 per night).
The Taj Mahal Hotel is an ode to Mughal traditions. The hotel bar, Ricks, is a mainstay in Delhi’s nightlife. The prohibitively priced Japanese restaurant Wasabi by Morimoto is the choice for the capital’s high rollers.
Rack rates start at US$414 for a standard room.
Outside the city center, Gurgaon’s 136-room Trident hotel is New Delhi’s best business hotel. It's interesting to look at, as well, with elegant beige domes and deep blue pools.
Rack rates start at US$380 for a standard room.
The Imperial, Janpath, New Delhi; +91 (0)11 2334 1234, 4150 1234; theimperialindia.com
The Oberoi, Dr. Zakir Hussain Marg, New Delhi, +91 (0)11 2436 3030; www.oberoihotels.com
The Taj Mahal Hotel, 1 Mansingh Road, New Delhi; +91 (0)11 2302 6162; www.tajhotels.com
Trident Gurgaon, 443 Udyog Vihar, Phase V, Gurgaon; +91 (0)124 2451234, +91 (0) 95829 44202; tridenthotels.com
Best of New Delhi: Where to eat and drink
1. Hot restaurants
At the psychedelic new Smoke House Room at the Crescent, a stark white restaurant highlighted with pink and purple contours, an entire sepia-tinted glass wall frames a panoramic view of the pillared 12th-century monument Qutab Minar.
Perforated walls lead to a 40-seat fine-dining space where the degustation menu is incomprehensibly flavored, experimental and totally fun.
Nearby, and with views of the Qutab, is Circa 1193, which serves a contemporary variety of pan-Asian foods. Try the slow-cooked pork belly, buta no kakuini and a drink at the rooftop bar.
Also new in New Delhi is New York-based French restaurant, Le Cirque, which does a neat line of comfort food for people who don't mind dropping a lot of money for a memorable meal.
The top floor of the palatial new Leela Palace Hotel sees Delhi’s wealthy dining on signature Le Cirque dishes such as black cod, foie gras, lobster risotto and chocolate soufflé.
Royal China, India’s Cantonese cuisine leader, is a favorite with lunching Delhiites. The dim sum lunches are a good value.
In Hauz Khas Village, bohemian Grey Garden’s shadowbox tables are filled with vintage knickknacks, and stand under rows of billowing white fabric. The five-dish menu changes every week.
Amour, The Patio Restaurant occupies the Hauz Khas Village's largest outdoor space. Here, Italian star chef Gennaro Rociola creates homemade risottos.
Down the street, Yeti, a meaty “Himalayan kitchen,” serves one of the city’s best Bhutanese and Nepalese thaalis.
Smoke House Room, The Crescent, New Delhi; firstname.lastname@example.org
Circa 1193, 1580 Kalkadas Marg, New Delhi; +91 (0)11 2664 4329
Le Cirque, The Leela Palace, New Delhi; +91 (0)11 3933 1234, 3933 1390
Royal China, Eros Corporate Towers, 16/F, Nehru Place, New Delhi; +91 (0)11 4981 8000
Grey Garden, 13A Hauz Khas Village, New Delhi; +91 (0)11 2651 6450
Amour, The Patio Restaurant, 30 Hauz Khas Village, Hauz Khas, New Delhi; +91 (0) 92121 26687
Yeti, The Himalayan Kitchen, 50 A, 2/F, Hauz Khas Village, Hauz Khas, New Delhi; +91 (0) 98119 90608
2. Three classic New Delhi restaurants
The Mediterranean-themed Olive Bar & Kitchen at the Qutab is a favorite for winter brunches with the capital’s fashion industry workers. Their Greenhouse section cooks up a delectable truffle risotto and lobster.
For the richest northwestern Indian food this side of the Pakistani border, no one has really ever come close to ITC Bukhara’s raan, kaali dal and malai tikkas.
Olive Bar & Kitchen, One Style Mile, Mehrauli, New Delhi; +91 (0)11 2957 4444
Bukhara, ITC Maurya, Diplomatic Enclave, Sardar Patel Marg, New Delhi; +91 (0)11 2611 2233
360, The Oberoi, Dr. Zakir Hussain Marg, New Delhi; +91 (0)11 2436 3030
3. Big mini New Delhi street-food guide
Built under the aegis of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, the old city streets of Chandni Chowk are a hub for the city’s best street food.
Begin with an eye-wateringly piquant dahi bhalla (spiced yogurt snack) from Natraj Dahi Bhalle Walle, then head into the rambunctious lanes to Pandit Baburam Devidayal or Kanhaiya Lal Durga Prasad’s in what’s known as Paranthe Wale Gulli.
Paranthe Wale Gulli’s fried, crisp parantha breads come stuffed with the usual (potato or paneer) and unusual (banana or rabdi, a creamy Indian dessert). If the sound of that makes you queasy, ask for the thin papad paranthas.
Nearby in Chawri Bazaar, Hira Lal Chaat Corner and Jugal Kishore Ramji Lal have perfected variations of fruit chaat. Ashok Chaat and Shree Balaji Chaat Bhandar are go-to options for gol guppas and crispy papri chaat.
Finish up with some sohan halwa from the 200-year-old Ghantewala, Chandini Chowk’s oldest sweet shop. Or try the lighter seasonal fruit-filled sandwich and cheeku fruit shake at Anil Kumar Jain.
South Extension’s back alleys are one of the best places in Delhi for Mumbai-quality bhel puri.
Khan Chacha’s rise from a little corner shop to a full-fledged restaurant is now part of Khan Market’s legend. Drop in for the city’s best mutton kebab rolls.
Natraj Dahi Bhalle Walle, 1396 Main Road, Chandni Chowk, Delhi; +91 (0)11 6536 4631, +91 (0) 98111 67400
Pandit Baburam Devidayal, 9074 Gali Paranthe Wale, Chandni Chowk, Delhi
Kanhaiya Lal Durga Prasad, 36, Gali Parathe Wali, Chandni Chowk, Delhi, +91 (0) 98916 64131
Hira Lal Chaat Corner, Chawri Bazar, Hauz Qazi Chowk and Nai Sadak, near the entrance of Gali Lohe Wali; Delhi
Jugal Kishore Ramji Lal, 13 Dujana House, Chawri Bazaar, Chandni Chowk, Delhi; +91 (0) 98113 53076
Ashok Chaat, 3488 Chowk Hauz Qazi, Chawri Bazar, Chandni Chowk, Delhi; +91 (0) 98917 64351
Shree Balaji Chaat Bhandar, 1462 Chandni Chowk, Delhi; +91 (0)11 2328 0579
Ghantewala Halwai Sweets, 1862-A Chandni Chowk, Delhi; +91 (0)11 232 80490
Jain Coffee House, Raghu Ganj, Chawri Bazaar; Delhi; +91 (0)11 2391 8925
Bengali Sweets, G-19, South Extension Part 1, New Delhi; +91 (0)11 2462 1022
Haldirams, 45 Lajpat Nagar 2, New Delhi; +91 (0)11 2889 8030
Evergreen, S-29-30, Green Park Market, Green Park, New Delhi; +91 (0)11 26521615
Bombay Bhel Puri, G 7, South Extension Market Part 1, New Delhi; +91 (0)11 2461 0121
Khan Chacha, Flat 50, 1/F, Khan Market, New Delhi; +91 (0) 98106 71103
4. New Delhi’s best pubs, clubs and sports bars
Though Kitty Su has made all the right noises since opening in August -- iIt has a pseudo-erotic Kamasutra vibe, Champagne lounges and dodgily large bathrooms -- Shiro’s gets our vote for a hectic night out.
Its Japanese name means castle and the nightclub/restaurant has its own share of drama. Regulars land up every weekend for the cool drinks menu and pan-Asian bites.
Club Sirrocco is the new mecca for electronic and psychedelic deejays, both Indian and visiting.
Another al fresco bar that affords a great urban reprieve for leisurely drink sessions is the Blue Bar at the Taj Hotel.
Defence Colony’s ultra-casual and friendly neighborhood bar Red Monkey has barely enough room to swing a cat, but it’s got positive energy every night of the week.
And as F1 sporting fever hits a frenzied pitch by end of October, fans not in the grandstands can check out Gurgaon’s two new sports bars, Underdoggs and Striker.
Kitty Su, Barakhamba Avenue, Connaught Place, New Delhi; +91 (0)11 4444 7777
Shiro's, Samrat Hotel, Kautilya Marg, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi; +91 (0)11 2611 0606
Lap, Samrat Hotel, Kautilya Marg, Chanakya Puri, New Delhi, +91 (0)11 2410 3762
Hype, Shangri-La’s Eros Hotel, 19 Ashoka Road, Connaught Place, New Delhi; +91 (0) 99100 07320
Club Sirrocco, RZ34, Aruna Asaf Ali Marg, Sector B, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi; +91 (0) 99716 00421
Red Monkey, 47 Defence Colony Market, Defence Colony, New Delhi; +91 (0) 99108 08653
Out Of The Box, 9-A Hauz Khas Village, New Delhi; +91 (0) 965017 7778
Blue Bar, Taj Palace, Sardar Patel Marg, Diplomatic Enclave, New Delhi; +91 (0)11 4981 5086
Striker Pub and Brewery, Unit No. 23, Global Foyer, Sector 43, Golf Course Road, Gurgaon; +91 (0) 99903 83131
Underdoggs, Ambience Mall, Vasant Kunj, Nelson Mandela Road, New Delhi; +91 (0) 981870 0006
Best of New Delhi: Insider tips
1. Scouting for finds in New Delhi’s bazaars
Put on your most comfortable clothes and your hardest bargaining face because street shopping in this city will bring you some of your most memorable adventures.
Along with jostles and sharp elbows, you’ll find everything from collectible LPs to vintage cameras, antique silver jewelry, and colorful spice and sweet markets.
Vintage junkies can head to Krishna Opticians in the murky, hippie café-lined lanes of Pahargunj for rescued old-school spectacles, or Hauz Khas Village for rare classic Hollywood and Bollywood film posters.
Sarojini Nagar is an export surplus market favorite with everyone from chi-chi socialites who can flaunt a fake, and housewives looking for everyday kaftans and kurtas.
A good buy are juttis, Indian embellished slippers. Avoid the cheap juttis at touristy Janpath and look instead in Pahargunj for Vishal Shoes, which stocks exquisite handmade juttis, many of which are made-to-order by Delhiites.
Vishal Footwear, 5083, Main Bazaar, opposite Khanna cinema, Pahargunj, New Delhi; +91 (0)11 2358 1960, 98993 35010
Krishna Opticals, Rajnish Sharma, 1568, NR Khanna Cinema, Main Bazaar, Paharganj, New Delhi; +91 (0)11 6514 1995, +91 (0) 92132 99332
2. Urban transport
There's no better way to navigate New Delhi’s heavily trafficked roads than the spanking new Metro line.
Crisscrossing the city’s skyline and diving deep into neighborhoods, the Delhi Metro is a gleaming symbol of the city’s accent to the rank of global metropolis.
Its latest addition, the Delhi Airport Express shuttle, brings you to Connaught Place in 18 minutes flat, otherwise a harrowing one-hour-plus road journey.
While the Metro lines swiftly connect north and south, east and west, good intra-line connectivity is sorely lacking, meaning commuters still have to rely on radio cabs and autorickshaws to move within some sections of the city.
Insist on the meter for autorickshaws. It's not a given that drivers will turn them on when you get in. Or log onto www.taxiautofare.com to figure out your approximate fare before hand.
New Delhi is also proud of its new line of buses, which were rolled out for the 2010 Commonwealth Games. The air-conditioned Red Line is a great way to get around once you have a hang of its routes. Pay Rs 50 for an all-day pass to anywhere in the city.
3. Insider blogs and websites
On New Delhi: thedelhiwalla.com
Author of The Delhi Walla, Mayank Austen Soofi owns a private library, four blogs and a certain obsession with writer Arundhati Roy. He spends his time in Delhi’s most obscure streets looking for endangered chaiwallahs making tea or other cultural touchstones.
On food: eatanddust.com
Food writer, columnist, blogger and cook Pamela Timms is a compulsive baker, and has the most delectable secrets on New Delhi street food hidden up her blog.
On style: theunrealbride.wordpress.com
In New Delhi, weddings are obsessions. Bridal bloggers, Kismet Nakai and April Sher, photographer and stylist respectively, lend their expertise to weddings and then blog about them.
On gossip: fashionscandal.com
Fashionscandal likes to be the first blog to break the latest, cattiest gossip, from New Delhi and Bollywood.
On expat life: ourdelhistruggle.com
When the Big Apple no longer felt big enough, Dave and Jenny moved to a city of 16 million people. Today, with a baby here and a book on their various best of New Delhi experiences on the way, they're certainly not short of material.