The labyrinth of teeming narrow streets and alleys that forms Old Delhi contrasts with the imperial city of New Delhi, created under the British Raj (the period of colonial rule) where broad tree-lined roads and large areas of trees, gardens and fountains frame government buildings.
Why go now?
Holi, the spring festival, takes place in March. It is always a spectacular affair, during which people throw coloured powder and water at one another, accompanied by traditional music, bonfires and celebratory meals. On April 8, Rama Navami celebrates the birth of Rama with costumed parades around Connaught Place.
Get your bearings
The labyrinth of teeming narrow streets and alleys that forms Old Delhi contrasts with the imperial city of New Delhi, created under the British Raj (the period of colonial rule) where broad tree-lined roads and large areas of trees, gardens and fountains frame government buildings. The Delhi seen by most visitors lies on the west bank of the River Yamuna in the old part of the city, though it is no Seine or Thames in enhancing the city. If such a vast city has a centre, it is the concentric circles of Connaught Place, the central business and shopping district built in 1929–33. The main tourist office is at 88 Janpath (delhitourism.gov.in). Open Monday-Friday 9am-6pm, 9am-2pm Saturday. For visitors wanting further help in exploring Delhi, Greaves Travel in the UK (greavesindia.co.uk) can design guided itineraries.
Take a view
The top of the minaret of the Jama Masjid, reached after 120 steps up a spiral staircase, offers an unrivalled view over Old Delhi, home to four million people in India's most densely populated area. Begun in 1650 by Shah Jahan, the red sandstone mosque took 5,000 workers six years to build and cost one million rupees. The walled Red Fort, built largely by Shah Jahan, occupies a large oblong site and contains palaces, audience chambers, gardens, hammams and shops. While it remains largely closed for restoration, Jama Masjid has inherited the mantle of Delhi's most important tourist site.
Take a hike
Delhi is not a good city for walking: its anarchic traffic, vehicle pollution and fractured pavements diminish both pleasure and safety. One area where it is still a joy to walk is beside the avenues of trees, canals and fountains that run the length of Rajpath. Start at India Gate, designed by Lutyens to commemorate Indian soldiers killed in the World War I, and British and Indian soldiers killed in the Third Anglo-Afghan War of 1919. The 340-room palace was built by Lutyens for the Viceroy. By approaching, from the east, one can appreciate why Lutyens was angered by its diminished impact through the slope of the ground. Today the Rashtrapati Bhavan is the Indian president's residence. The long, colonnaded front is dominated by the vast copper dome, and the decoration marries Western and Eastern styles, acanthus leaves with bells, capitals with chhatris.
Lunch on the run
The well-sheltered Café Lota at Pragati Maidan, within the The National Crafts Museum compound (nationalcraftsmuseum.nic.in) has become a popular venue with locals. It's good value, with smaller vegetarian plates at Rs160 (£1.60) and larger non-vegetarian plates such as Konkan fish curry at Rs375 (£3.75). Try palak patta chaat — crispy spinach leaves, potato and chickpeas topped with spiced yoghurt and chutneys — for Rs160 (£1.60).
Once you've filled up at Café Lota you can explore the museum's displays of historic crafts and reconstructed houses. For the shopper, it is the courtyard of crafts that is of most interest, with Kashmiri shawls, wood carving and jewellery on offer. Expect to haggle (open daily 10am-6pm, except Monday). Alternatively, try Cottage Industries (cieworld.com) at the DCM