Delhi - Abbey Travel, Ireland



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Welcome to Delhi


Through a sweltering bazaar with each vendor crying out louder than the next, clamouring through a sweaty crowd, a beggar tugs at your shirt as the sticky stench of the city pierces your nostrils. Navigate your way across the road through a perennial traffic jam of blasting horns and angry shouts, and suddenly you'll find yourself stepping through the trees into a deserted courtyard, flanked by gurgling ponds below the huge glittering dome of an ornately patterned mosque. This is Delhi, city of contrasts, where an elephant can overtake an overheated Italian sports car on the streets, where colonial mansions stand next to squatter slums, and where cows are revered, but musicians are labelled 'untouchable'. The city's pace is chaotic, yet strangely relaxed, making it ideal for exploring. You're certain to be confronted with some strange and exotic sights. With a long and troubled history, Delhi is full of fascinating temples, museums, mosques and forts, each with a distinctive architectural style. In Old Delhi, visitors will find a charming selection of colourful bazaars and narrow winding alleys. In comparison, New Delhi - the city created to reflect the might of the British Empire - consists of tree-lined avenues, spacious parks and sombre-looking government buildings. While Delhi itself could take a lifetime to explore, it's also ideal as a base for visiting the Taj Mahal in Agra, and it provides the best links for travelling to the hill stations of the North.

Information & Facts


The best time to visit Delhi is in October and November, and in February and March, when the nights are cool and the days filled with mellow sunshine. December and January can be a little gloomy in Delhi while mid-summer (May, June and July) is very hot with temperatures over 113°F (45°C); it is a dry heat and is sometimes accompanied by dusty desert winds. Most of the rain falls between July and September but they are not the tropical rains you'll experience in India's coastal cities.

Eating Out

For centuries, Delhi has been a thoroughfare for traders, and this interaction between different cultures has strongly influenced the cuisine in the city. North Indian cuisine is the most popular and has a strong Persian/Turkish influence, especially in Mughlai and Punjabi dishes. However, there are also a number of good international restaurants based in New Delhi. Traditional North Indian delicacies include various korma dishes, tandoori chicken, seekh kebabs, kofta(meatballs) and biryani.

Getting Around

Fleets of metered taxis, auto-rickshaws and cycle-rickshaws clog the streets of Delhi providing transport for locals and visitors. Rates fluctuate, but drivers should have rate charts available and tourists should ensure the meter is reset, or a price negotiated before departure. A ring railway starts and ends at the Hazrat Nizamuddin Railway Station with trains running in both clockwise and anti-clockwise directions around the city. Delhi Transport Corporation runs a large fleet of buses covering the entire city, but these are always overcrowded. The frequency of buses drops during the off-peak time between 1pm and 2.30pm. There are night service buses on selected routes and from the three main railway stations between 11pm and 5am. The first line of an ambitious Mass Rapid Transport System (MRTS) was recently opened covering 14 miles (22km) and18 stations between Shahdara, Tri Nagar and Rithala. A further two lines are under construction and the entire project is scheduled for completion by 2021.

Kids Attractions

There's no question about it: Delhi is hot, crowded and intense - not the best place for kids on holiday. But there are a number of interesting and exciting attractions for children in Delhi to enjoy. The Shankar's International Dolls Museum is located in Nehru House, on Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, and has one of the largest collections of costume dolls in the world - a wonderful tourist attraction for young girls. On the other hand, Delhi's National Rail Transport Museum, in Chanakyapuri, is a great attraction for young boys. There are a number of bowling alleys in Delhi to take the kids to, including the Kool Kidz Little Tikes Play Zone in Gurgaon, Leisure Bowl in Vasant Kunj, and Little Paradise in Faridabad. Other fun activities include camel and balloon safaris in the nearby Thar Desert. Whatever you end up doing with the kids, one thing is for sure - Delhi is a city that children seldom forget, providing an exciting and colourful experience that will live on in their memories forever.

Although English is generally used for official and business purposes, Hindi is the official language and is spoken by about 40 percent of the population. Urdu is the language common with the Muslim demographic. India has a total of 22 official languages

The currency is the Indian Rupee (INR), which is divided into 100 paise (singular paisa). Major currencies can be changed at banks, and authorised bureaux de changes. It is impossible to obtain rupees outside India, but no matter what time you arrive in India there will be an exchange office open at the airport. It is illegal to exchange money through the black market and it is advisable to refuse torn notes, as no one will accept them apart from the National Bank. It is best to change money into small denominations. Travellers cheques and major credit cards are widely accepted, particularly in tourist orientated establishments. ATMs are not generally available.


Over the past 15 years or so, Delhi's nightlife scene has undergone a major transformation - and there are now hundreds of trendy bars, nightclubs and lounges ready to roll out a good time to revellers in the nation's capital. Most of the best places are located centrally, in the areas surrounding Nehru Park (close to Niti Marg). Vibey spots, usually full of student-types and keen dancers, include Orange Room, Dublin Nightclub, Decibel and Athena Bar. Note that some clubs in Delhi institute a couples-only entrance policy, and that some places might be a little unsafe for foreign tourists. Trust your intuition: if a place feelsseedy, don't hang around.


Delhi is a fantastic shopping destination, with shopping centres, malls and markets offering a variety of well-priced holiday buys. Sought-after Delhi souvenirs include local hand-woven oriental carpets and rugs, beautiful silk fabrics, and jewellery with precious gems and stones. Authentic Indian handicrafts can be found in shops along Baba Kharak Singh Marg, available at affordable (government-controlled) prices. Goods such as shawls, pottery and paintings are available from the Crafts Museum on Mathura Road, while there are handicrafts and handloom items to be found at Dilli Haat, also a food bazaar. There are also a few antique shops to explore in Sunder Nagar and a visit to the bustling Chandni Chowk shopping area is a must. Dariba Kalan has some excellent jewellery stores, but be wary of gem scams: if an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. Fashion accessories and upmarket goods can be found at the Connaught Place, Sarojini Nagar and Janpath shopping centres. Ansal Plaza shopping complex is a very modern and trendy shopping destination, as is Hauz Khas, which is an unlikely mix of medieval ruins and posh shopping. Delhi's range of shopping centres and bazaars are sure to send you home with mountains of excess baggage. Bargain hard in the markets and remember to shop around before you commit to a sale.


Travellers visiting the magical city of Delhi will be overwhelmed by the sightseeing opportunities available to them. Figuring out where to begin will be the hardest part of the journey. A holiday to Delhi is best enjoyed between the months of November and March, when the weather is warm, sunny and tolerable in comparison to the rest of the year.

Start off at the Red Fort, Delhi's signature attraction, reminding travellers visiting the city of the Mogul Empire that once ruled here, before checking out the majestic Jama Masjid in Old Delhi's bustling streets - India's oldest mosque, and a breathtakingly beautiful building to look at or photograph. While you're in the area, stop in at the market in Chandni Chowk for an authentic shopping experience; or, and especially if you can't quite make it to the Taj Mahal in Agra, visit Humayun's Tomb, another classic example of Mogul architecture. A must-see while visiting Delhi is Rashtrapati Bhavan, a palace larger than Versailles and the residence of the Indian President, where visitors can watch the changing of the guard and marvel at the building's architecture, built by Herbert Baker and Edwin Lutyens between 1921 and 1929. Other worthwhile attractions include the beautiful Lotus Temple; and Rajpath, the main route leading from Rashtrapati Bhavan to India Gate, a memorial monument built for the Indian soldiers who died in World War I - and where visitors can relax on the grassy lawns and soak up the scenery.

A great way to visit many of the sights around Delhi is on the Hop On Hop Off Bus, which leaves every 30 minutes and stops at close to 20 of Delhi's top tourist destinations. Tourists pay a once-off fee of Rs 300, and can hop on and off at a variety of monuments, gardens, bazaars, museums and galleries.

No trip to Delhi would be complete without a visit to one of the bazaars that surround Chandni Chowk (Moonlight Square) in Old Delhi, where shops and stalls display a wonderful array of goods, and offer a pungent and colourful insight into everyday Delhi life. Chandni Chowk has a large number of galis (lanes) and each one is different, with its own atmosphere and selection of goods to buy.

Naya Bazaar, on Khari Baoli, is the spice market, displaying a wonderful range of seasonings in neat, colourful piles. The nearby Gadodia Market is the wholesale spice market. Hundreds of spices and condiments can be found there, including aniseed, ginger, pomegranate, saffron, lotus seeds, pickles and chutneys, to name just a few.

Chor Bazaar sits behind the ramparts of the Red Fort and comes to life on Sundays to trade a collection of 'second-hand' goods. Chawri Bazaar was once notorious for the ladies who beckoned men from the arched windows and balconies above the street - but today, these houses have made way for shops specialising in brass and copper Buddhas, Vishnus and Krishnas. Some of the busiest galis (east of Kalan Mahal) house the poultry and fish markets, but most tourists wisely avoid these areas.

Humayun's Tomb is one of the best-preserved and most beautiful examples of Mogul architecture in Delhi, and is often seen as a forerunner of the Taj Mahal in Agra. Building started on the tomb in 1564 after the death of Humayun, the second Moghul emperor - and its construction it was overseen by Haji Begum, his senior widow and the mother of Akbar. The tomb is an octagonal structure capped by a double dome that soars 125ft (38m) into the sky, and is set in a formal Persian garden. In the grounds are some other monuments, including the Tomb of Isa Khan.

Shah Jehan, the architect of the Red Fort and much of Old Delhi, built Jama Masjid between 1644 and 1656. This grand structure is situated on a hill a few hundred yards west of the Red Fort, and towers over the mayhem of Old Delhi's sprawling streets. Jama Masjid is India's largest mosque, and can hold 25,000 worshipers at one time. Wide red sandstone steps lead to entrances on the north, south and east sides of the mosque. Inside is a massive courtyard, dominated by two red-and-white striped sandstone minarets that cap the main prayer hall on the west side (facing Mecca). There are smaller towers at each corner of the mosque, and energetic visitors can climb the 122 narrow steps of the southern one to be rewarded with magnificent views of Old and New Delhi. Those wearing shorts or skirts can hire a lunghito cover their legs; women wearing T-shirts should bring a scarf to cover their shoulders.

The Qutub Minar is a mammoth tower that was built between 1193 and 1369 to symbolise Islamic rule over Delhi, and to commemorate the victory by Qutab-ud-din over the city's last Hindu king. Standing 238ft (72m) tall, the tower is decorated with calligraphy representing verses from the Koran, and tapers from a 50ft (15m) diameter at the base to just 8ft (2.5m) at the top. There are five distinct storeys, each encircled with a balcony: the first three are built of red sandstone, and the upper two are faced with white marble. At the foot of the minhar stands Quwwat-ul-Islam - India's oldest mosque, largely built from the remains of 27 Hindu and Jain temples destroyed by the Muslim victors. The cloisters that flank the nearby courtyard are supported by pillars that were unmistakably pilfered from Hindu temples - but fascinatingly, the faces that would have adorned these pillars have been removed to conform to Islamic law, which strictly forbids iconic worship. Somewhat incongruously, in the corner of the mosque stands the Iron Pillar, bearing fourth-century Sanskrit inscriptions of the Gupta period dedicating the structure to the memory of King Chandragupta II (373-413). It is said that anyone who can encircle the pillar with their hands whilst standing with their back to it will have their wishes fulfilled.

After his visit in 1911, the Emperor of India, King George V, decreed that the capital should be moved from Calcutta to Delhi. Edwin Lutyens was commissioned to plan the new government centre, which he focused around Rajpath - the grand, tree-lined boulevard that runs between the Secretariat Buildings and India Arch, the war memorial built in 1921. Rashtrapati Bhavan was built by Lutyens and Sir Herbert Baker between 1921 and 1929, on the gentle slope of Raisina Hill, flanked by the Secretariat Buildings. This immense palace, larger than Versailles, was created for the Viceroy and is now the residence of the President of India. With the exception of the central copper dome there are few concessions to Indian architectural style: despite its Classical columns, the building is unmistakably British and remains a potent symbol of imperial power. Every Saturday morning between 9.35am and 10.15am guards parade before the iron gates, in Delhi's answer to London's Changing of the Guard. The gardens are open to the public every year in February and March.

The Red Fort, known locally as Lal Quila, is Delhi's signature attraction, rising high above the clamour of Old Delhi as a reminder of the power and prosperity of the Mogul Empire. The massive sandstone walls were built in the 17th century to keep out marauding invaders, and still dominate the city's skyline today. Inside is an array of exquisite buildings, which once provided the living quarters for Shah Jehan, his courtiers, family and staff of three thousand. Visitors can marvel at the intricate decoration and only imagine the scenes here at the empire's height, when the walls were studded with precious stones and a 'stream of paradise' drove an ingenious air conditioning system. The fort was the scene of the Indian Uprising of 1857 and the mighty Lahore Gate, on the west side of the fort, remains a potent symbol of India's fight for independence.

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