Written by phileasfogg on 12 Aug, 2013
Till well into the 90s, Delhi wasn’t a very happening place when it came to non-Indian food. True, fancy five-star hotels did have good restaurants that served everything from French haute cuisine to the "best dimsums outside Hong Kong" (as a Chinese-born friend of mine…Read More
Till well into the 90s, Delhi wasn’t a very happening place when it came to non-Indian food. True, fancy five-star hotels did have good restaurants that served everything from French haute cuisine to the "best dimsums outside Hong Kong" (as a Chinese-born friend of mine once described them). But if you wanted to eat burgers or a pizza, you had no option but to go to the local Nirula’s. If you wanted ice cream, it was again Nirula’s (which still makes fantastic ice cream). If you craved doughnuts, you made them at home.
Then, sometime in the early 90s, economic reforms aimed at the globalization of the Indian economy slowly began to open the country up to food companies from abroad. Suddenly, imported foods—cheeses, meats, bottled and canned goods, wines and spirits, chocolates—began appearing in Indian markets. Equally importantly for those keen on dining out, multinational food service companies gradually started arriving in India. Delhi (and some of India’s other major cities, like Mumbai, Bangalore, Kolkata and Chennai) are now—or are soon going to be—home to everything from Yauatcha to Benihana, to Sakae Sushi.
While those are the bigger, less ubiquitous names to be seen in Indian cities, there are some which you’ll find all over the place: Domino’s, Pizza Hut, McDonald’s, Subway: these have a presence even in smaller towns, and are hugely popular. How do they stack up against their counterparts in the West?
While the rest of this journal reviews some of the newly-opened, less ‘everywhere’ chain eateries, in this note, I’ll discuss some of the very common ones—the places you’re likely to find in just about every major market in Delhi.
1. Pizza Hut : All you have to do is have a look at the Pizza Hut menu to realize that this is one chain that’s gone all out to appeal to the spice-loving Indian palate, which wants curry on its pizzas (I hasten to add: not all of us fall into that bracket). But, going by the popularity of Pizza Hut’s chicken kebab, green chilli, and chicken tikka-topped pizzas, they’re obviously a hit. There are vegetarian options too, both for pizzas as well as pasta. There are wings, potato wedges, and rolls. All of them (including the garlic bread, which you can order with a topping of chopped onions and green chillies mixed into the cheese!) are a rather predictable fusion of Western and Indian. Be warned: don’t opt for Pizza Hut if you’re a Westerner looking for familiar food.
(Do note, though, that the dine-in menu, as opposed to the home-delivery menu, is more extensive and offers more options for less spicy, less-Indianised dishes).
2. Domino’s: Unlike Pizza Hut (which has a substantial number of dine-in outlets), Domino’s remains primarily a pizza take-away or home-delivery place. Most of their stores do have a couple of tables where you can eat if you want, but it’s not as if the menu will be any different, or wider in scope, from what you’d get if you ordered in.
Like Pizza Hut, Domino’s too has ‘Indianised’ its menu—but not too the exclusion of all else, which is one reason I prefer Domino’s to Pizza Hut. For example, while there is a keema do pyaza pizza here (keema do pyaza is a classic North Indian dish of ground meat cooked with lots of onions), there is also a barbecue chicken pizza, and a pepperoni pizza. There are pastas, wraps, lots of vegetarian pizzas (not to mention wraps and rolls), and plenty of options that really pile on the heat, in the form of everything from jalapenos to paprika, to red chillies and green.
3. McDonald’s : McDonald’s was one of the first major chains to arrive in India, and became an instant hit among those who wanted a taste of the West without going too far out of their comfort zone, or having to pay too much for it. Keeping in mind the composition of much of the target audience, McDonald’s in India goes very heavy on the vegetarian: even all the mayo, and the sauces, are egg-free. There are plenty of vegetarian options, ranging from paneer burgers and wraps to the McAloo Tikki burger (with an aloo tikki, a spiced potato patty), Veg Pizza McPuffs, and even vegetarian breakfast items, like the Veg McMuffin.
Also, for those who don’t know: the non-vegetarian burger patties at McDonald’s in India are always either chicken, or (in the case of Filet-o-Fish), fish. There is no beef or pork in any dish here. Even the Sausage McMuffin consists of a chicken sausage, not pork.
The McDonald’s food is pretty much what one expects of food like this: assembly line, mass-produced stuff. To be fair, some of their burgers are not bad—the Chicken McGrill (with a mint chutney sauce) and the McSpicy Chicken are recommended, should you ever end up with no choice but to eat at the Golden Arches.
4. Subway : Like the rest, Subway too has a menu that’s been tailored to Indian tastes. For example, there are loads of vegetarian options, including a spicy potato filling and a spicy mixed vegetable patty. (Unlike McDonald’s, though, Subway do serve pork). However, to make life easier for customers, Subway arranges its menu in such a way that you can immediately spot the ‘Traditional’ dishes—the Italian BMT, Chicken and Bacon Ranch, Turkey, and other sandwiches are listed separately from the ‘Local’ dishes—the Chicken Tikka, Chicken Seekh, Chicken Tandoori, etc. Besides offering subs, they also do salads, a few breakfast dishes, soft drinks, and all of one dessert: a rich chocolate truffle, a Delhi favourite. In addition, jumping on to the ‘healthy’ bandwagon, Subway also have a ‘97% fatfree’ section.
Subway is, like Domino’s, a good place to go if you want familiar fast food: even though it has its fair share of Indianised menu items, there’s lots that will be familiar to palates that crave something non-spicy.
Written by phileasfogg on 17 Dec, 2012
Till about 15 years ago, the options for going out for a coffee were fairly limited in Delhi. All the five-star hotels, and some of the other upper-rung hotels, did have their own coffee shops, but these were (and still are) exorbitantly priced—especially if all…Read More
Till about 15 years ago, the options for going out for a coffee were fairly limited in Delhi. All the five-star hotels, and some of the other upper-rung hotels, did have their own coffee shops, but these were (and still are) exorbitantly priced—especially if all one wanted to do was meet up with old friends over a cup of coffee. Or if one was in a hurry and wanted to grab a sandwich somewhere along the way.
Then, in 2000, Barista made its debut in Delhi, bringing with it good coffee, cakes, sandwiches—better than what was formerly available at the government-run ‘coffee homes’, but nowhere as expensive as the coffee shops in hotels.
Over the years, more have opened. Some, like Café Coffee Day, are home-grown. Others, like Costa Coffee, Gloria Jean’s, and The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, are part of multinational chains. Almost every major market in Delhi now has at least one of these stores; some have multiple brands. Even small neighbourhood markets often have at least a Café Coffee Day.
How do they stack up?
1. Barista: Barista was the first major chain to set up coffee stores in Delhi, and they’re pretty prominent all across town—you’ll see Barista stores, both big and small, in most major shopping areas. There are generally two types of Barista stores: the regular ones, and the Barista Crème ones, the latter offering a wider range of dishes, including made-to-order stuff such as pastas and potato wedges: nothing fancy.
The usual fare at Barista consists of a range of readymade sandwiches (be ready for limp lettuce!), small pies and tarts, quiches, and a variety of muffins, cakes (cream and/or chocolate laden ones seem to predominate). A lot of their savouries tend to cater specifically to Indian palates, so if you see anything labelled ‘spicy’ or ‘masala, you can be pretty sure it will be spicy. The un-iced cakes and muffins are inconsistent: mostly, they’re fine enough if you’re visiting in the early part of the day; beyond that, you might end up something pretty dry.Strengths: Their range of coffees, which are pretty good, since they’ve tied up with Lavazza. Decent range of decaf too, and good cool drinks, including seasonal specialities like mango-based beverages in summer.
2. Café Coffee Day: A friend of mine, who’s a pastry chef, swears by Café Coffee Day’s espresso: he says it’s the best in town. Another acquaintance, also a chef, turned down an offer from Café Coffee Day to be their consultant chef for the food menu—because he thought the image of the chain was pretty downmarket. (He also happened to overhear a pimp brokering a deal with a customer while having coffee at a Café Coffee Day outlet, so that may have influenced his decision).
My main grouse with Café Coffee Day is… well, everything. For one, their food is the pits. Too many Café Coffee Day outlets list a number of sandwiches, puffs, pies, etc on the menu, but the display counter (which is essentially all they offer) will have a few greasy samosas, some aloo bondas (spicy potato croquettes), and a couple of other equally spicy, oily and unappetising items. Sweets are in a minority, and about the only un-iced ones you’ll find are brownies, mostly not great.
Also, their more exotic drinks (like a recent one that I tried, called a ‘cinapple’—a cold coffee with cinnamon and apple flavouring) can be disastrous. The one I had was prettily layered, but I wasn’t told to stir it. So, while I got so-so milky coffee for most of the drink, the last swallow consisted of a glug of nauseatingly sweet artificial apple-cinnamon flavour.Café Coffee Day have recently been renovating their outlets and opening more high-end stores (one in Khan Market, for instance). The menus sound a whole lot better and more extensive (we haven’t eaten a meal at one yet, though a brownie I had was a vast improvement on the usual Café Coffee Day brownie).Strengths: The hot coffees, especially the ‘usual’ ones, like the espresso, cappuccino, mocha, and latte, are decent enough.
3. Costa Coffee: Originally launched in the UK, Costa Coffee has a number of outlets in Delhi now, and is certainly a step up from Barista and Café Coffee Day. Perhaps not as far as the coffee goes—Barista and Café Coffee Day do sell coffee as good as Costa’s—but definitely when it comes to food.
Costa offers a wide variety of sandwiches (including ones not made with boring old sliced bread, but also panini (our favourites are the mushroom and cheese, and the herby roasted chicken panini). They also have savoury and sweet pastries, with good croissants, chocolate twists, and chilli-mushroom puffs, among others. And they keep revamping their menus, to add interesting new dishes now and then: the latest are a range of bite-size snacks you can order with your drink, such as tiny shepherd’s pies, chai latte custard tarts, etc.Strengths: The food, which is generally superior to that of Barista or Café Coffee Day. And their service, which tends to be mostly more efficient than I’ve noticed in the other chains. The fact that Costa Coffee actually make it a point to employ hearing disabled people as servers, thus giving greater opportunities to people who might otherwise be sidelined, is a major point in their favour, as far as I’m concerned!
4. The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf: Our favourite. Our absolute favourite—which is why my husband and I keep wishing The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf would open more stores in Delhi (I’ve only seen three stores so far, two in Delhi and one in NOIDA).
Besides the fact that it has a great range of coffees, The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf gets a thumbs-up from us because it also offers some lovely, unusual teas (vanilla Ceylon, anyone? Or Japanese cherry? Or some equally exotic, wonderful flavours?) Also, while the range of food isn’t huge, it’s wide enough to offer you several choices of pasta, sandwich, puff, etc—and it’s good. Our particular favourite when we’re really hungry is the delicious chicken pesto cream with spaghetti.
The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf also do the best cheesecakes I’ve had in any coffee store in Delhi, and their muffins and cookies are good, too.Strengths: The quality of both food and beverage, and the range of beverages on offer.
5. Gloria Jean’s: Like Costa Coffee and The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, Gloria Jean’s too isn’t homegrown: this one’s originally Aussie. It doesn’t have too many outlets that I’ve come across (and one that I particularly liked, at Basant Lok, has shut shop). While Gloria Jean’s do have some good things on their menu (a fantastic roast chicken sandwich, for example, and some good chocolate chip muffins), they’re terribly inconsistent. I’ve had excellent food at the Basant Lok outlet, and terrible food—stale lamingtons, dry-as-dust brownies—at the Vasant Kunj outlet, just a couple of kilometres away. Also, while their non-vegetarian food is generally good, the veggie options tend to be either swamped in spice or overcooked (or, worse still, both). Not a good choice if you’re vegetarian.Strengths: Not sure I’d put anything here, because you can never be sure, they’re so variable. Unfortunately, even the range of coffees they offer is rather limited. Tea drinkers can hope for maybe just a couple of options here.
Written by phileasfogg on 20 Sep, 2012
In the early 14th century, the Delhi Sultan Alauddin Khalji constructed a walled city that he named Siri. Siri’s fortifications (some of which can still be seen, and lend their name to the area known as Siri Fort) were built mainly to keep out Timur…Read More
In the early 14th century, the Delhi Sultan Alauddin Khalji constructed a walled city that he named Siri. Siri’s fortifications (some of which can still be seen, and lend their name to the area known as Siri Fort) were built mainly to keep out Timur and his invading armies. To provide water to the large settlement of Siri, Alauddin Khalji got a huge watertank created. This, named after the Sultan, was called the Hauz-e-Alai (‘hauz’ meaning ‘tank’ or ‘pool’).
As the decades passed by, the capital shifted (Delhi’s Sultans were notorious for creating new cities, often with each successive ruler building his own fortified city as a means of demonstrating his sovereignty). The population of Siri thinned, and the hauz gradually silted up. Fortunately for the hauz, in the 1350s, Delhi came under the rule of the Sultan Firozshah Tughlaq, a man renowned today as a major constructor and conservator – he built many monuments, and repaired a large number (including the Qutb Minar), during his reign. Firozshah Tughlaq took a great deal of interest in Alauddin Khalji’s old hauz, and gave it a new lease of life by having it excavated anew, adding channels, and desilting the tank. The tank was now named the ‘Hauz Khas’, the ‘royal tank’.
Firozshah Tughlaq’s fascination with Hauz Khas did not end at that. He built a sprawling madrasa complex around the tank – an institution of higher education that attracted scholars from as far as Baghdad. And he built his own tomb as part of the complex.
Today, the Hauz Khas complex is protected by the Archaeological Survey of India, and is one of Delhi’s most important historical sites. It makes for a very rewarding walk (and free, too! – no entry fee is charged). Plus, the stretch leading into the Hauz Khas historical area, known as Hauz Khas Village, is one of Delhi’s poshest places to shop, dine, groove, and be seen.
This is a very small and restricted area, and the only people allowed to drive into the village are those who actually live in the village. All visitors must park in the car park outside, and then walk in. Thankfully, Hauz Khas Village is a small area, so you don’t need to walk more than about a couple of hundred metres to get to any place within the village. Do note, though, that this means that there’s a lot of vertical expansion, with many of the shops and restaurants here being built two or three (or even more) storeys above ground – and invariably without lifts. Be ready to climb stairs.
Hauz Khas has some fancy designer shops that sell clothing, jewellery, and accessories; there are also art galleries (the Delhi Art Gallery has a particularly fine collection), furniture and lifestyle stores, and a couple of delightful old shops that specialise in old paintings and posters – from 19th century etchings of India to old movie posters and lobby cards, both of Indian cinema and Hollywood.
Then, of course, there are the eateries of Hauz Khas Village. The village has no dearth of places to eat, and just about every popular cuisine in Delhi – Italian, French, fusion, South Indian, Punjabi and North Indian, Oriental, and Mediterranean – is represented here. There are cafés, bistros, takeaway places – even a tea room. None are really budget places, but many are fairly affordable. Try and go early (about 12.30 or 1 for lunch, around 8 for dinner) if you want to avoid the fashionable crowds that descend on the area for late meals.
Written by phileasfogg on 28 May, 2012
While Lutyens, Baker and their retinue of architects, town planners, contractors and builders were creating the area that was to house the governmental structures of New Delhi, they also had to keep in mind the fact that a large number of British (and Westernised Indian)…Read More
While Lutyens, Baker and their retinue of architects, town planners, contractors and builders were creating the area that was to house the governmental structures of New Delhi, they also had to keep in mind the fact that a large number of British (and Westernised Indian) officials would be moving to this new city. For them, accommodation was already being built—many bungalows that still form Lutyens’s Delhi, for example—but a commercial complex befitting their status would be appropriate too. For a high official to live in New Delhi and have to go to Chandni Chowk to shop would have been inconvenient. And Chandni Chowk and its environs, while the ultimate in exotica, were bereft of much that was fashionable.
What resulted, therefore, was Connaught Place.
The Delhi Town Committee’s Chief Architect, WH Nicholls, was the man who came up with the idea of creating an arcade that would function as a commercial hub for New Delhi. Modelled on the Royal Crescent in Bath (in England), this would be a set of colonnaded buildings, all double-storeyed. The ground floor would house commercial establishments, such as shops, restaurants and cinemas; the first floor would be given over to residences. The land—between Old and New Delhi—for this commercial centre was acquired in 1928; by then Nicholls had left, so his successor, RT Russell (who designed many of the most important residential buildings in Lutyens’s Delhi) was given the task of designing this complex.
Between 1929 and 1934, construction proceeded on the commercial complex. It was named after the Duke of Connaught (who was uncle to King George V, and who had visited Delhi in 1921). Certain changes were made over time to the design of the complex. For example, the seven radial roads that fan out like the spokes of a wheel from the centre of the complex were originally supposed to be covered by archways. This idea was eventually dropped. What remains today is a vast circular area, consisting of two concentric circles of white-painted buildings, which form three distinct sections: the Inner Circle, the Middle Circle, and the Outer Circle (they’re actually officially and popularly known as that too). Between the concentric circles run major roads, which intersect with minor radial roads after every block of buildings.
The first shops—a gentlemen’s tailors, a toyshop, bookshops—began opening in Connaught Place in 1935. In 1932, Connaught Place’s first cinema (Regal, then also a venue for ballet and theatre performances, and concerts) had opened, to be followed a year later by another cinema, Plaza. By the end of the decade, more cinemas: Odeon, Rivoli and the Indian Talkie House—had opened. (Nearly all of these still exist, although they’ve been taken over by big companies and turned into multiplex cinemas).
In the large open space in its centre, Connaught Place originally had the aptly-named Central Park. This is still around, and is occasionally used for concerts and performances of dance and music. More well-known is Palika Bazaar, also in the centre. This is an underground marketplace, crowded with small shops that primarily deal in electronics and DVDs, especially of Indian cinema.
Till a couple of decades ago, Connaught Place was the hub of Delhi’s shopping and restaurants. Today, ever since more malls and markets (Khan Market, Greater Kailash, etc) have mushroomed, the number of people coming to Connaught Place—or CP, as it’s universally known—has fallen. You’ll still find the old restaurants here (including ones dating back to the 40s); you’ll still come across delightful finds in the old bookshops; and Palika Bazaar is the place to go if you’re looking for the DVD of an obscure Hindi film. Plus, there are vendors who sell odds and ends (especially very cheap clothing) in the shelter of the arcades.
Even if you don’t care to come to CP to shop or dine out, it’s worth a visit just for a feel of how so many elements come together in this one space. The white-painted Georgian arcades, with their very colonial arches, are delightfully old world; the plush new office buildings towering behind them are very modern. Thrown into this cocktail is everything from cinema to food (roadside stalls, KFC, Pizza Hut, and CP’s oldest restaurants)—to books, handicrafts, souvenirs, banks, airlines, travel agents, and more. It’s quite an experience.
Note: The official name of Connaught Place is now Rajiv Chowk, after India’s late prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi. Except for the Delhi Metro (for which the hub is the Rajiv Chowk Metro Station), nobody really refers to it as anything but CP or Connaught Place.
Written by tammyhayano on 18 Apr, 2011
About 15 of us gather at 10 am by the New Delhi train reservation office for the Salaam Walk. We are a medley group consisting of ex-pats, backpackers, locals, and a family. Our guide is Satender, a 19 year old former street kid who now…Read More
About 15 of us gather at 10 am by the New Delhi train reservation office for the Salaam Walk. We are a medley group consisting of ex-pats, backpackers, locals, and a family. Our guide is Satender, a 19 year old former street kid who now leads these two hour walks around the city to share what his life used to be like. Right away, he clears up several misconceptions. #1. [Street kids need money for food.] Food is usually available for free at temples and especially during festivals. Instead, money is used for drugs, playing in the video arcade, or to go to a movie theatre (often to sleep). Whatever money is gained that day needs to be spent, as there is the risk of being robbed. #2. [Street kids are runaways.] Some do leave abusive homes, but others simply get lost in a crowd. There are also those who are attracted to the street life, living by survival and not having to go to school. #3. [Street kids are all from the same area.] We met kids at the shelter who were from Bangalore. After hopping on trains after trains without any destination, sometimes street kids will end up quite far from their home. During our walk, we make several stops- to the recycling area where bringing kilos of empty PET bottles can earn cash; a small video arcade with two machines; and a day shelter where street kids can drop-in for games, TV, and health care. Our last stop is at an overnight shelter where we can spend time meeting the residents there (some as young as 8 years old) and hearing success stories of street kids reunited with their families or finding a job. Toward the end of our tour, Satender shares with us his own horrific life story. It's remarkable and inspiring that he changed his life and has big dreams ahead of him. With his easy smile and gentle manner, I am sure that Satender will make the most of his talents. http://www.salaambaalaktrust.com/street_walk_delhi.asp Close
Written by phileasfogg on 21 Dec, 2010
Delhi’s World Heritage Sites—the Red Fort, the Tomb of Humayun and the Qutub Minar—are ticketed monuments, so if you’re visiting them you’ll have to shell out money. Fortunately, Delhi has hundreds of other sights that aren’t ticketed. There are medieval tombs and mosques, temples, gardens,…Read More
Delhi’s World Heritage Sites—the Red Fort, the Tomb of Humayun and the Qutub Minar—are ticketed monuments, so if you’re visiting them you’ll have to shell out money. Fortunately, Delhi has hundreds of other sights that aren’t ticketed. There are medieval tombs and mosques, temples, gardens, museums and galleries, colonial churches and innumerable other attractions that are historic, interesting, beautiful—and free. I’ve written about many over the years I’ve been a member of IgoUgo, so the list that follows has links to my reviews of the corresponding attractions.
1. Museums: Delhi isn’t really bursting with museums, and in any case, you’ll have to pay to get into the premier museum, the National Museum. But there are other museums that welcome visitors for free. My favourite is the lovely Crafts Museum in Pragati Maidan, with a stunning range of Indian handicrafts, including sculpture, ivory, religious art, and an exquisite collection of textiles. On the road to Gurgaon, in the Sanskriti complex, are twin museums: The Museums of Indian Terracotta and of Everyday Art. Though privately owned, these don’t charge entry fees. In a different vein, but also arty is the National Gallery of Modern Art, which has a fine collection of works by some of India’s best modern artists.
If you aren’t particularly keen on crafts, try something wacky: the International Museum of Toilets, perhaps? Or, if you’ve got kids along and you want to give them a dose of education with a difference, there’s the National Science Centre.
2. Gardens: Delhi is one of the greenest national capitals of the world, with its own reserve forests and lots of parks and gardens scattered across the city. While the majority are modern plantations, some have been around for centuries and are also home to some fabulous monuments. The best of the lot is by far the vast Lodhi Gardens, which has some of Delhi’s most splendid medieval tombs—some half a dozen emperors are buried here. The gardens also include the National Bonsai Garden, and are popular with joggers, morning walkers and picnicking families.Other less fine medieval gardens include Shalimar Bagh and Qudsia Bagh, both dating back to Mughal times, and both with remains of Mughal pavilions and mosques. The Deer Park at Hauz Khas includes a number of interesting tombs and mosques, plus is adjacent to the imposing madarsa and tomb of the medieval Delhi Sultan Firuzshah Tughlaq—all with free entry.If you’re in Delhi during the early spring, do check if the Mughal Gardens at the Rashtrapati Bhavan (the President’s estate) are open: they open for a month for the public, are free, and are a mass of really gorgeous flowers.
3. Mosques: Along with tombs, the one type of monument which Delhi is really rich in, is mosques. Thanks to a very long period of domination by a Muslim ruling class (beginning with the Slave Sultans in the late 12th century, up to 1857, when the British formally took over), Delhi has dozens of mosques, some of them magnificent, and none of them requiring payment for entry. The oldest include the massive Begumpuri Masjid, so large that for many years it provided shelter to an entire village, and the fortress-like Khirki Masjid, with its 81 domes. There’s the smaller but more elegantly decorated Moth ki Masjid(‘the mosque of the lentil seed’), supposedly so named because it was made from the money made by cropping a single grain of lentil. There is India’s largest congregational mosque, the impressive 17th century Jama Masjid, with its eleven-arched facade and its three massive domes of white marble. The mosque can be entered free of charge if you aren’t carrying a camera, and do not wish to climb the tower of the mosque—both attract a fee. Also in the vicinity of the Jama Masjid are a couple of other smaller mosques that date back to later Mughal times: the Sunehri Masjid near the Red Fort; and the Zeenat-ul-Masajid in Daryaganj, superficially reminiscent of the Jama Masjid, but less elegant.
4. Tombs and dargahs: Like mosques, tombs too are a dime a dozen in Delhi. A dargah—the tomb of a holy person, which has acquired the status of a shrine, is typically supposed to confer sanctity on the surrounding area, so major dargahs, like those of Nizamuddin Auliya, Mahmud Roshan Chirag-e-Dehli and Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki, act as magnets for the tombs of the rich and famous. Nizamuddin’s dargah, especially, is worth a visit—not just because the dargah itself is highly venerated, but also because it’s surrounded by a number of other fascinating tomb, such as the gorgeously inlaid and carved one of the 16th century nobleman Atgah Khan, and the rectangular marble hall, with its carved screen ‘walls’, which is Chaunsath Khamba, the tomb of Atgah Khan’s son, Mirza Aziz Kokaltash. While the tomb of Mughal emperor Humayun—also buried near Nizamuddin—is a World Heritage Site and therefore ticketed, the eye-catching blue domed Sabz Burj outside is free, and worth a look: it has some of the best-preserved and loveliest painted plaster to be seen in Delhi. The nearby Sundarwala Burj (like Sabz Burj, the tomb of an unknown aristocrat) has arguably the most beautiful example of incised plaster in Delhi.Further south, away from the environs of Nizamuddin’s dargah, another small but spectacular tomb, its ceiling and walls decorated profusely with paint, is that of Jamali-Kamali. The mosque and tomb of Jamali-Kamali lie within the Mehrauli Archaeological Park, which also contains other sights worth a visit: the tomb of the pre-Mughal emperor Balban; a grand stepwell; some unidentified tombs, and a collection of structures dating from the early days of the British in Delhi. Scattered across south and central Delhi are other tombs too: for instance, the tomb of the ambitious yet ill-fated Adham Khan, in Mehrauli; the tomb of Yusuf Qattal, and the nearby tomb known as Lal Gumbad (‘red dome’, even though the dome is of blackened organic mortar), near Malviya Nagar; and the dargahs of the Sufi saints Mehmood Roshan Chirag-e-Dehli and Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki.
5. Miscellaneous Structures: Along with the tombs and the mosques, there are other structures, generally of a secular nature, that lie outside ticketed monuments. The range is pretty wide: Satpula, for instance, is a waterworks; Jahaz Mahal may have been a travellers’ inn; Zafar Mahal was a palace owned by Bahadur Shah, the last Mughal emperor. The madarsa of Ghaziuddin Khan—once a college—is even today a school. Bang next to the madarsa of Ghaziuddin is the Ajmeri Gate, one of the extant 17th gates of the walled city of Shahjahanabad. This, along with other gates such as Kashmere Gate and Delhi Gate, and a short stretch of wall punctuated by a mortella tower, is all that remains of the wall, even though this area of Delhi is still popularly known as the Walled City.
The Walled City, or Shahjahanabad, is among Delhi’s most colourful and interesting areas, with attractions as varied as 17th century mosques (like the Jama Masjid and the Fatehpuri Masjid) to colonial buildings, street food, and some of the best shopping in town. If you’re looking for saris, bolts of silk and satin, jewellery—this is where you come to get the best bargains and the most exhaustive range of goodies. Walk down Kinari Bazaar just for the glitter of it all; stroll through Katra Khushal Rai to catch a glimpse of the grand old mansions that used to once dominate this area—or feed the birds at the amazing Jain Bird Hospital.
Last but by no means the least, are the colonial buildings across Delhi, many of them grand official structures. India Gate, the memorial to the Unknown Soldier, commemorates the dead of the First World War and marks the centre of New Delhi. Around it are other buildings that comprise Lutyens’s Delhi: Parliament House, Rashtrapati Bhavan (the President’s Estate), and the Secretariat buildings, all very imposing and historical, though out of bounds for the average visitor. Also part of Lutyens’s Delhi (and open to visitors) is the Cathedral Church of the Redemption, ashlar-built of the same golden-buff stone as that used in all the official buildings. Another landmark church in Delhi is St James’s, near Kashmere Gate: it’s Delhi’s oldest church, and has a fascinating history to it.
This isn’t an all-there-is list, not by any stretch of imagination; but if you’re trying to save rupees but don’t want to skimp on sightseeing, make a start by visiting these places.
Obviously, if you’re visiting a place as a tourist, sightseeing isn’t all you’ll do. So the lists of free attractions are all very well, but how about some tips on surviving on a shoestring budget? On staying cheap, eating cheap, travelling cheap, and even—dare we…Read More
Obviously, if you’re visiting a place as a tourist, sightseeing isn’t all you’ll do. So the lists of free attractions are all very well, but how about some tips on surviving on a shoestring budget? On staying cheap, eating cheap, travelling cheap, and even—dare we hope?—shopping cheap. Here goes: some quick tips on making a few rupees go a long way in Delhi.
1. Accommodation: Steer clear of the five star hotels that are the most prominent in the city. Instead, look out for the many smaller hotels, B&Bs, homestays and guest houses that have emerged over the past couple of years. Among the neighbourhoods where you’ll find the biggest concentrations of these accommodations are Greater Kailash, Jasola, and Friends Colony. For a list of all the B&Bs in Delhi, check the Delhi Tourism web site. The site also includes lists of guest houses and budget hotels in the city.
2. Transportation: Delhi hosted the Commonwealth Games in October 2010, and the vast improvement in the city’s infrastructure has been a result of that. Part of that improvement is reflected in the way public transport systems have improved, making it much easier to get around Delhi than it was just 6 months ago. Two major tips here:
a. Use the Metro. Delhi’s Metro Rail transport system covers a large part of the city, and is by far the fastest way to get around—plus, it’s clean and efficient. You can buy through tickets at any station, or if you’re in town for longer, buy a Smart Card, which acts as a pass.
b. Use the HOHO buses. The Hop-On, Hop-Off (HOHO) bus service was introduced to coincide with the Commonwealth Games, and operates six days a week (except Mondays, when most tourist attractions in Delhi are shut). The deep blue buses go every half hour on a route that covers 19 of Delhi’s main sights, each of which has a special blue HOHO bus stop sign outside the sight, so you know where the bus will stop.
3. Events and Nightlife: The hookah bars and the lounges and night clubs do cost a packet, but if you’re keen on culture, you may just be able to enjoy a performance—free. Among the venues that hold exhibitions and performances of everything from theatre to dance, cinema and music are Habitat World (at the India Habitat Centre) and the IGNCA. Most exhibitions are free for all visitors, as are some of the shows.
4. Shopping: For souvenir shopping, easily the best place is the outdoor shopping complex, Dilli Haat. This plays host to craftspeople from all across India, who set up stalls for two weeks at a time (or more, if they wish) to sell their wares. You’ll find exquisite stuff here: paintings, textiles and readymade clothing, carpets, papier maché, woodwork, terracotta, and plenty more, all at relatively reasonable prices, since there aren’t any middlemen involved in the sale—which also gives you the assurance that the money you pay goes more or less directly to the person who created the item you’ve bought. Dilli Haat also has frequent cultural programmes, song and dance performances that go on in an informal way through the day and evening.
5. Eating: This can be a little tricky, because of the infamous Delhi Belly. Delhi’s street foods are among the most delicious and cheapest foods the city has to offer—but a sensitive tummy, not used to spice and grease, may not be able to quite bear that. If you’re among those who’d rather stick to sandwiches and similar fare, try the many coffee shops around town—Barista and Café Coffee Day are the two most popular brands and have dozens of stores across town. Their food isn’t fantastic, but it’s generally dependable and safe, and not too expensive. Among the Indian restaurants that serve good (read also hygienically prepared and not too spicy) food are other chain restaurants like Rajdhani, Saravana Bhavan (both of which have outlets in Connaught Place), Sagar Ratna and Not Just Paranthas.
Written by cnbc56 on 28 Aug, 2006
Agra: at a distance of 203km from Delhi, Agra is famous for that great symbol of love in white marbles-Taj Mahal. The Taj is a monument whose beauty and grandeur could not be matched by any other monument in the world. In fact, the monuments…Read More
Agra: at a distance of 203km from Delhi, Agra is famous for that great symbol of love in white marbles-Taj Mahal. The Taj is a monument whose beauty and grandeur could not be matched by any other monument in the world. In fact, the monuments of Agra reflect the splendor of the great Mughal architectural style.
Mathura: Mathura falls on the way to Agra from Delhi is the birthplace of Lord Krishna, it is full of big and small temples dedicated to the Lord. Sacred to the Hindus, Mathura is a popular excursion destination from Delhi.
Bharatpur : Bharatpur is popular for Keoladeo Bird Sanctuary. More than 400 species of birds can be spotted in the sanctuary. A number of migratory birds also come to the place during winters. The sanctuary is located at a distance of 180km from Delhi.
Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary : may not be as popular as Bharatpur, yet the wildlife sanctuary at a distance of 46km from Delhi is emerging as a popular excursion place near Delhi. Hundreds of species of migratory birds venture into Sultanpur during winter from places as far away as Siberia and Europe. To attract tourists in large numbers, guest houses, restaurants, cottages, bars, hide outs and watch towers have also been built.
Kurukshetra: located in Haryana at a distance of 157km from Delhi, Kurukshetra is the place where the famous battle of Mahabharata is believed to have taken place. The Brahma Sarovar and Narkatari temple of the place are associated with ancient times. A place that figures prominently in Hindu scriptures, Kurukshetra draws tourists in large numbers.
Written by cnbc56 on 29 Aug, 2006
Don't let your first impressions of Delhi stick like a sacred cow in a traffic jam: get behind the madcap façade and discover the inner peace of a city rich with culture, architecture, and human diversity, deep with history and totally addictive to epicureans.
Don't let your first impressions of Delhi stick like a sacred cow in a traffic jam: get behind the madcap façade and discover the inner peace of a city rich with culture, architecture, and human diversity, deep with history and totally addictive to epicureans.
Both Old and New Delhi exert a beguiling charm on visitors. Lose yourself unwinding the secrets of the city's Mughal past in the labyrinthine streets of Old Delhi before emerging into the wide open spaces of imperial New Delhi, with its ordered governmental vistas and generous leafy avenues.