New Delhi is not new at all. Sprawling ruins of dynasties intrude on the modern side of the city and surprisingly appear in gardens and at every corner. Making it a fascinating necropolis. It’s not like you can choose between New or Old Delhi, India’s capital has somehow continually evolved keeping track of its past. To our great delight, history is everywhere. Delhi was also home to Gandhi , the “father of the nation” who had spent his last days in the Birla house before he was assassinated. So Delhi green city, historical Delhi, lifestyle Delhi, you can experience those all at once.
HAUZ KHAS VILLAGE
Here’s where you’ll feel the beating heart of trendy and old Delhi. The main road is filled with restaurants and bars, surrounded by medieval history, a madrasa and a 13th century water reservoir.
At Social, part a work space, a café restaurant and a night club (helmed by famous bollywood DJs), you’ll be overlooking the historic side from the terrace. And sipping a cocktail on old hospital beds converted into cosy dining tables. How unlikely.
ASK: For some tandoori to go with your drink, the paneer is simply delicious.
Paintings, old books, Maps, Prints and movie posters, this little shop has it all and has been in this location for more than 26 years.
ASK: to meet endeering Mrs Kusum Jain. She has great anecdotes to tell. Among them, how she shook former Czechoslovakia’s President Vaclav Havel’s hand.
IN AND AROUND MEHAR CHAND MARKET
A taxi driver told me about this place. Saying you could find the best Masala tea in town. If you don’t know how to boil Masala tea properly, no panic they sell teabags. Once back home, time travel to India by simply adding milk to the infusion, Masala Chai here you go!
ASK: For the Darjeeling, an affordable classic.
IN SHAHPUR JAT
A French concept store boudoir in the heart of Shapur Jat? A brilliant idea by Catherine Prakash and Lucie Salaun. Tucked in a 1930’s haveli (private mansion), the boutique curates their home brand homeware and fashion, Parisian brands like Laurence Doligé and Petite Mendigote at very reasonnable price (cheaper than France). Enjoy pasta, salads, quiches, cakes or crêpes at their lovely café.
IN KHAN MARKET
A desire to wear traditional textile but a bit scared to look ridiculously “Indian wannabe”? Humm no worries, head to Anokhi. Affordable, modern yet exotic (just enough but not too much) this fashion and homeware brand has been environmental friendly for more than 40 years.
Anand book sellers and stationers
This store is not only about books, it’s about paper. Handmade paper products. And it’s been going on, father & son for more than 50 years. The gift cards are lovely.
IN OLD DELHI
Ok here’s the thing, Delhi is not considered a safe city. Getting lost in the narrow lanes especially when it’s dark can be a bit dodgy. That’s what happened to us after diner at Karim’s. But let’s get back to cheerful food… Karim is not a fancy place, nor charming nor cosy. But it’s Delhi’s iconic place for Kebab. And it’s in the middle of Old Delhi, where it’s very interesting to go to when you don’t get lost at night.
ASK: for the butter chicken. So tasty.
IN THE CRAFTS MUSEUM
Two in one go. After a visit to the Crafts Museum (don’t forget to check out their shop), find shelter in Café Lota’s patio. The indian dishes are absolutely delicious and can be healthy too. With a preference for the “dal ka chilla”, lentil crêpes, tempered spinach and cottage cheese.
ASK: For the kumaoni raita, cucumber yoghurt flavored with mustard seed. It’s a drink!
TRIVENI TERRACE CAFE
The owners of Café Lota transformed the intellectuals much loved “Triveni tea terrace”, into “Triveni Terrace Cafe”. A place where artists and thinkers still gather as it is nestled in Triveni Kala Sangam, a cultural and dance complex since 1950, which contains 4 art galleries. The Aloo Tikki Chaat, a traditional snack was amazing.
ASK: to order the special today written on the black board.
Walking through this garden is an enchantment. You can practice Yoga at the feet of a 15th century monument built during the Lodhis Afghan dynasty. If you look carefully, you’ll probably see some of the birds (dozens of species) living in the park.
Residence of the Mughal Emperor for almost two centuries, this city within the city is a must-do. Incredibly red ramparts and magnificent architecture. Every August 15th (Independance day), this is where the Prime Minister hoists the national flag.
Concrete slabs lead to the spot where Ghandi was shot in 1948. Visit the Eternal Gandhi Multimedia Museum and the room where the Mahatma lodged, preserved as he left it. Poignant.
India Gate is a memorial to the soldiers of the Indian British Army who died in the first world war. It’s also a popular place surrounded by a lawn where locals like to picnic or gather at dusk in summer.
Rashtrapati Bhavan - Presidential House
Rashtrapati Bhavan or today’s Presidential residence was formerly the residence of the Viceroy when the Indian capital was shifted from Calcutta to Delhi. Quite impressive, it used to be the largest house of a head of state before Turkey got the first position.
Blooming in the middle of nowhere, this realistic design Bahai house of worship is one of the most visited in the world. Just a look from the outside is worth the go.
It would be a waste to travel all the way to New Delhi and not take the time to visit the Taj Mahal and its surroundings. Agra, city of love, capital of the Mughal Empire has a lot to offer. If you have time, take three hours to go to Fathepur Sikri. It’s possible to fit all this program in one day (leave around 7 and come back around 9). There are daily trains that take less than 3 hours but as mine was cancelled last minute, I’d suggest to rent a car ( 3 hours drive by express way).
This mausoleum was built in the 17th century by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan for himself and his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal. Wonder of the world, made of white marble inlaid with semi-precious stones, it changes colors with the natural light. Avoid to go on sundays as it can get very crowded…
The Agra fort is less iconic but can be more impressive than the Taj Mahal. It’s huge and represents Mughal style of art and architecture at its best. Plus, it has a wonderful view on the Taj.
The Oberoi Armavilas
This palace is located just 600 meters away from the Taj Mahal, on which each of the rooms has a view. The beauty of its architecture is breathtaking, especially on the pool side. Rooms are very very expensive, but a drink at the bar is affordable.
ASK : For their house ice tea, delightful
Fatehpur Sikri was Mughal Empire’s capital in the late 17th century. It’s unbelievably well preserved and its architecture is incredibly subtle and refined.