Over the course of the six months, I spent in India I found myself in Delhi three times. The city itself is my least favorite in India. Not surprising due to the thick pollution, extreme poverty, and constant glare from locals. However, what drew me back to Delhi time and time again where the fantastic archeological sites across the eras, some of the best in India. Read on to see an organized route of the ultimate Delhi guide my favorite historical places, fascinating experiences, and my favorite place to stay in the city, all from my Instagram account, @MissFilatelista. If you’re only in Delhi for a day chose from the below and organize a private 8-hour tour for just US$50.
Start in Old Delhi and stroll the streets of the Muslim-majority neighborhood on your way to visit Jama Masjid. It is one of the largest mosques in India. Non-Muslims are welcome to visit but you must be respectful of the sacred site and wear a headscarf and go barefoot.
Head over to the nearby Red Fort to explore one of the many imperial grounds in Delhi. The fortification is made of red sandstone, hence the name. It was a stronghold for Mughal emperors for over 200 years starting in the mid-1600’s.
Shop along Delhi’s Chowk Baoli, otherwise known as Main Bazaar Road. You’re in for a real taste of Delhi chaos with touts selling goods, tuk-tuks zipping past honking loud horns. This is the best place to shop in Delhi with locally made clothing, accessories, and souvenirs available at reasonable prices. I made the mistake of staying on this street my first few nights in India and couldn’t sleep due to the constant noise of the street below.
Hop into a bicycle rickshaw and make your way to the principal Sikh temple of Delhi. Did you know the Sikh religion is not a pision of Hinduism? You’ll learn that it is, in fact, a completely separate religion and lifestyle when you visit the Gurudwara Bangla Sahib. A Gurudwara is the Sikh place of worship which serves primarily as a place of education. Gurus were simply people who had achieved. The last Guru gave this honor to the holy book which currently serves as the Guru.
Nearby is the Sri Laxmi Narayan Mandir temple. The Hindu temple is spread out over 7.5 acres and is dedicated to Laxmi, the Goddess of prosperity, and Narayan, the preserver. Mahatma Gandhi inaugurated the temple under the ruling that it would be a holy place where all castes would be allowed to worship. This was an extraordinary feat as many Hindu temples don’t let Dalit caste members enter.
Make your way east to Purana Qila, the oldest fort in Delhi that dates back to 1,000 B.C.! The monuments here are a bit more weathered than others in the city but it is all part of the parks charm. Take your time to explore as there are over 50 buildings to visit here.
Just south of Purana Qila is the stunning Humayun’s Tomb. This detailed red sandstone and white marble mausoleum are believed to have been a major inspiration for the Taj Mahal. Can you see the similarities?
Take another bicycle rickshaw south to the Lodhi district. Wander around and enjoy the massive murals on the streets before entering the beautiful Lodhi Gardens. Here you can discover many tombs of various architectural design. Most of the mausoleums are from the 14th century and were built in a traditional square or octagonal style.
After touring the Lodhi Gardens stroll over to view my favorite historic site in Delhi, Safdarjung’s Tomb. There is even a mausoleum here for the rulers beloved barber. I find it to be the most beautiful display of Islamic architecture and design elements in Delhi. It was actually the last monumental garden ever built by the Mughals. Do visit and let me know in the comments if you agree!
Perhaps you’ve seen a towering minaret in the distance? Make your way towards the Qutub Minar to take the spectacular site of India’s tallest minaret with your own eyes. The tower reaches over 75 meters into the sky. Don’t ask me how they managed to build something that tall in the 12th century, it baffles my mind just thinking of it!
Enjoy one of the rare free-to-enter archeological sites in Delhi at Mehrauli, the ancient capital city of Delhi. Here there are over 100 monuments in the massive park, my favorite of which is this ancient step well.
While visiting Delhi you will witness a shockingly low quality of life that impoverished citizens have to endure. To have a better understanding of the slum system in India’s capital city and to visit in a responsible go on a guided tour with the Tejas Asia nonprofit. Trained staff and former adult beneficiaries will guide you through the Saket slums and explain the work they are doing to bring education, health, and empowerment projects to the community.
Head back to my favorite Delhi hostel, The Hosteller, in the Saket neighborhood to relax. The boutique accommodation has cozy air-conditioned rooms and a darling rooftop terrace. Throughout the building are hand-painted murals showcasing Delhi’s many famous sites. If you go comment below with a picture in front of the cute panda wall on the roof!
At dusk go and visit the iconic Lotus Flower Temple. The pure white marble temple was designed in the shape of a powerful lotus in honor of its symbolism. The lotus flower is significant in many religions that are prominent in India including Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. All are welcome here to visit or worship.
After you’ve explored Delhi head to Agra to witness the Taj Mahal at sunrise or check out these offbeat Delhi experiences. Refer to this detailed guide about travel around India to get a sense of whether you should travel by train, plane, bus, or private car.
All opinions and photos are my own. This post contains affiliate links, please read the Miss Filatelista disclosure policy for more information.