Delhi – with its tenacious touts and crush of mechanical and human traffic – can be downright confronting and confounding for the first-time visitor. But don’t let petulant first impressions muddy the plus points of this truly multidimensional metropolis. Scratch beyond the gritty surface and you’ll swiftly discover that India’s capital is sprinkled with glittering gems: captivating ancient monuments, magnificent museums, a vivacious performing-arts scene and some of the subcontinent’s yummiest places to eat.
A vibrant melting pot, you’ll hear a jumble of vernaculars spoken in Delhi, the most common being Hindi, English, Punjabi and Urdu. In terms of its layout, Delhi encapsulates two very different worlds, the ‘old’ and the ‘new’, each presenting deliciously different experiences. Spacious New Delhi was built as the imperial capital of India by the British; rambunctious Old Delhi served as the capital of Islamic India. Visitors can easily dip into both, spending half the day immersing themselves in history at the dramatic Red Fort, Jama Masjid and medieval-flavoured bazaars of Old Delhi, and the other half reviving themselves over frothy cappuccinos or frosty cocktails at one of New Delhi’s swanky cafés and bars. Furthermore, Delhi’s recent global cuisine revolution means that hungry travellers can now feast on everything from meaty Mughlai curries and plump South Indian idlis (rice cakes), to crispy wood-fired pizzas and squishy sashimi.
For those here to catch a flight home there are some glorious last-minute shopping opportunities, with handicrafts from all around India – a real blessing if you regret not buying that twinkling mirrorwork bedspread in Rajasthan or striking Madhubani painting in Bihar.
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