Please note that this post may contain affiliate links and any sales made through such links will reward me a small commission – at no extra cost for you.
Delhi is loud, hectic and dirty. In many ways it feels like the city is attacking you — from the loud noises, pollution and attention you’ll get as a foreigner (especially a woman). But it is also magical in its own way. It is one of the busiest cities in the world, filled with some many different peoples, cultures, and flavors. The history is amazing. The food is flavorful. But like anywhere in India, it will challenge. I have travelled to India twice and I absolutely love it — but that doesn’t mean that it is an easy place to travel. This guide will break down all of the best things to do in Delhi, India.
Before you dive into the article, here are a few of the most popular tours to check out:
Top tours in Delhi
Where to stay in Delhi
Where you choose to stay in Delhi can have a major impact on your experience in the city. For me, the city is already super hectic, so I try to find a little oasis in the chaos. Here are my requirements:
- Access to quiet outdoor space
- Walking distance to the metro
On my recent trip to Delhi we stayed in between the Kashmere Gate and Civil Lines metro stations at a local homestay.
Here are a few top-rated hotels in Delhi:
How to get there
Delhi is well connected with other cities and countries through air, road, and train travel. If you’re visiting India from outside of the country, Delhi is one of two most popular gateways into the country.
From outside of India, the most popular way to get to Delhi is by airplane into Indira Gandhi International Airport (DEL). You’ll find flights from mot major cities around the world.
Check out cheap flights from your city here:
If you are traveling to Delhi from another Indian city, another great option is to arrive by train.
There are three different train stations in Delhi, so be sure you understand where you are arriving into.
New Delhi Railway Station (NDLS):
- The main railway station in Delhi., located in the center of the city.
Old Delhi Railway Station (DLI):
- Also known as Delhi Junction, this station is located in Old Delhi as the name implies
Hazrat Nizamuddin Railway Station (NZM):
- Located in South Delhi, this station is known as one of the nicest of the three. It is a popular choice for travel to Southern India.
Delhi is also well-connected to the rest of the country by bus, with various bus stops across the city. I recommend a pickup by Kashmiri Gate if possible for your route.
We took an overnight bus from here to head north to visit Dharamshala and Grahan Village.
Getting around Delhi
For such a large, sprawling city, Delhi has a surprisingly great metro system. It not only connects all of Delhi city, but also many of the surrounding suburbs. There are currently 10 different active metro lines on the Delhi metro, covering over 200 miles of tracks.
If you are only planning on taking a single journey, you should purchase a single token for your exact fare amount. If you plan to take the metro frequently throughout the day, or over the course of a few days, then I recommend a metro card. There are also specific Tourist cards. A single ride can range from 10 to 70 Indian rupees. Most of our rides within the city center cost between 20 and 35 Indian rupees, making it a super affordable way to get around the city.
One every Delhi metro line you can expect one women-only car which is great for females who are traveling alone on the metro.
You will have to pass through security – seperated for males and females – at every station before entering the metro. The following items are prohibited: alcohol, pets, raw fish/meat that isn’t sealed closed, as well as many other obvious items like weapons.
Uber, and India’s local Uber alternative Ola, are both very affordable ways to get around the city. With both standard cards and autos (rickshaws) available, they tend to be cheaper than standard taxis.
Many drivers will ask you to cancel the ride and pay them the same price in cash. This is done so they can avoid paying Uber a fee. It is your decision if you want to do this. If you are traveling solo as a female, I would advise against it.
In my opinion, the most fun way to explore Delhi is by rickshaw (or tuk tuk or auto). They are readily available and can be easily hailed on most streets in the city. Otherwise you can book one in advance with Uber.
As a tourist, especially a white tourist, you can expect to receive a much higher rate. While some of those tourist fees are inevitable, it is still important to haggle to make sure you aren’t being totally ripped off. One way to fact check prices for routes is to check the rates for the same route on Uber.
Ho-Ho Bus Tour
While I am personally not a fan of bus tours, I understand that they can be a good option if you are trying to visit a lot of different tour attractions in one day. It is also a good option if you are nervous to use public transportation, or haggle with drivers.
Things to know before visiting Delhi
Getting short changed – unfortunately it is extremely common to be short changed, especially if you are still unfamiliar with the currency, so it is important to always check the change that is handed back to you.
Currency – the currency in Delhi is the Indian Rupees, which is equal to about $1 USD = 80 INR.
Don’t drink the water – please please please, whatever you do, do not drink the water. This includes brushing your teeth. It is important that you only consume bottled or safe filtered water.
Haggle – while the prices in Delhi are much cheaper than in the US, and most places in Europe, it is good to haggle to some extend. As a white tourist I accept that I will usually pay more than locals, and I am okay with that! But you also want to make sure that you aren’t getting totally ripped off. One way to “fact-check” prices for tuk tuk rides is to check the price for the route on Uber/Ola.
Hectic – Delhi is often the first place travelers visit when arriving in India. It is also the most hectic city in my opinion. Take things slow, soak everything up, and don’t be too quick to judge India on these first impressions.
Best time to visit
The best time to visit Delhi is between October and March. This is when you can expect the coolest temperatures throughout the city. You can, however, expect the air pollution to be at its worse during the winter months.
In my opinion, spring is the best time to visit because tourism starts to drop off and you can see all of the beautiful flowers in bloom. That said, visiting in March can be hit of miss. You’ll find mild, pleasants days but also scorchingly high temperatures.
Although I’ve personally visited Delhi in mid-May, I wouldn’t recommend it as it makes touring the sights rather difficult when the temperatures soar above 110 degrees daily.
Where to eat in Delhi – restaurants to street food stalls
- Shakahari Restaurant – one of our favorite meals in Delhi, located in up a (admittedly sketchy looking) staircase. The food is greasy and spicy and so so delicious.
- Prem Pal Dhaba – located right next to INA market, by the metro station, this is a local food stand with cheap prices and delicious local dishes.
- Ajit Khalsa Dhaba – this was our final meal in India and one of the best Butter Paneer Masalas of the whole month. Local dhaba in South Delhi
- Cafe Dori & Quick Brown Fox Coffee Roaster – both of these upscale cafes are located in South Delhi in Dhan Mill. Get the sourdough toast with nutella at Cafe Dori.
- Qureshi – known for the best kebabs in Delhi, this was the last stop on a street food tour that we did. The food was very food but the area was extremely hectic at night, especially being a woman. I wouldn’t feel super comfortable going on my own, at least not at night.
- Asaram Food/Restaurant – serving up the best parathas in Old Delhi
- Old Famous Jalebi Wala – don’t leave Delhi without trying a Jalebi, a super sweet deep fried funnel cake-looking dessert.
- Public Affair – upscale cocktails at a rooftop bar in Khan Market
Best things to do in Delhi
Explore Humayun’s Tomb at sunset
My personal favorite tourist attraction in Delhi is Humayun’s Tomb. This 16th century tomb was created for Mughal Emperor Humayun.
I recommend visiting at sunset, when the tourists start to empty out and the sun perfectly lights everything up in a warm glow.
Address: Mathura Road, Nizamuddin East, New Delhi, Delhi 110013, India
Tourist entrance fee: The fee for locals and tourists differs. For tourists, the fee is 500 INR, which is approximately $6 USD.
Humayun’s Tour hours: sunrise to sunset, hours shift throughout the year
Getting to Humayun’s Tomb: Humayun’s Tomb can reached easily by taking the metro to the JLN Stadium Metro Station. From here you can either walk or hail a ride to the tomb, located 2 km from the station. Otherwise you can take a ride for the entire journey, but taking the metro is a great way to avoid traffic in the city.
Qutub Minar is one of the most popular places to visit in Delhi. It is currently the tallest brick minaret in the world, and stands as a testament to India’s rich history and architectural abilities. The tower is an example of Indo-Islamic architecture.
Make sure to dress respectively when visiting, covering both knees and shoulders for women.
Tourist entrance fee: The fee for locals and tourists differs. For tourists, the fee is 550 INR, which is approximately $6 USD.
Qutub Minar hours: 9:30-4pm daily, except Monday
Getting to Qutub Minar: Located in southern Delhi, the closest metro station is the appropriately named Qutub Minar yellow metro line station, located about a 15 minute walk from Qutub Minar. From here you can walk or take an auto rickshaw. You can also visit as part of a guided sightseeing tour of the city.
Take a cooking class
Enjoying the delicious Indian cuisine is one of the top reasons that tourists visit Delhi, India. A great way to immerse yourself in the culture of the food is to take a local cooking class. Most classes last 4-5 hours and are small group classes. If you love to cook, I highly recommend. Taking a local cooking class is one of my favorite things to do in any new country.
Stay at a local homestay
If you’re nervous about your first visit to India, or simply want to immerse yourself further into the local culture, then I highly recommend staying at a local homestay. This is a great opportunity to meet locals and better understand the customs and culture.
They also tend to be a more affordable experience.
Experience the Delhi metro
The Delhi metro is one of the best in the world. It is a super convenient, cheap and easy way to get around the city of Delhi. It is a great way to avoid the horrendous traffic in the city.
A few things to know before taking the Delhi metro:
- No alcohol is allowed on board, this included closed or wrapped bottles
- You will need to go through a security check before riding
- You can ride with a token or a ticket. Tokens are best for single rides, and cards are better for multi-journey rides. If you will be riding the metro multiple times then I recommend getting a card to avoid having to buy multiple tickets.
- The fare is based on distance rather than being a set rate per ride.
- Certain cars are reserved for women-only.
Take a ride in a rickshaw (auto)
One of the best ways to get around Delhi, while still feeling like you’re part of the action, is to take a rickshaw (locally known as an auto). They can be hailed or ordered ahead of time using a rideshare app like Uber.
They tend to be more affordable than taxis, but be prepared for a lot of noise and no A/C. Personally I think they are the most fun way to get around the city.
Take a street food tour
Probably my favorite things that I’ve done in Delhi is take a street food tour. Not only will you learn so much history about the food and culture, but it is a good way to learn how to identify safer food stalls. Street food, and unclean food in general, can wreak havoc on your body if you consume dirty food. You guide will help you to navigate this by bringing you to stalls.
Here are some street foods that you need to try:
- dahi vadis
- aloo chaat
- chole bature
- paratha (stuffed with paneer, potatoes and onion)
- chicken kebab
Explore Asia’s Largest Spice Market
One of the best things to do in Delhi is to visit Asia’s proclaimed largest spice market, Khari Baoli. The market is located in the historic Chandni Chowk area of Old Delhi, so a visit here is often combined with many of the popular street food tours.
Here you’ll find every spice imaginable from tumeric and coriander to dried nuts and fruit teas. If Delhi is your final destination before heading home, it is a great place to pick up spices to bring home.
In addition to catering to the many tourists visiting Old Delhi, Khari Baoli is actually one of the largest wholesale markets for spice in the world. Head up a dark alleyway and the smell of one popular spice will be immediately apparent – spicy chili. I recommend wearing a mask as the smells and sensations can be intense in the upper alleys.
Visit Chandni Chowk and Old Delhi
Chandni Chowk and Old Delhi are steeped in history, and you’ll feel as if you’re traveling back in time. The area was established by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in the 17th century and served as the capital of the Mughal Empire. The area is busy, loud, and colorful – a swirl a faces and smells.
The area is home to the famous Chandni Chowk market, where you can find some of the best street food in Old Delhi. Don’t miss the opportunity to try some of the the local specialties like Dahi Bhalle, Chole Bhature, and Jalebi.
You can definitely visit the area on your own, but a great way to better understand the history and hit the best (and cleanest) food stalls is with a guide street food tour.
Here are a few safety tips for visiting Old Delhi:
- Dress appropriately! There are a number of mosques and religious sites in Old Delhi. Be sure to cover your shoulders and knees. This will also help you to attract less attention, especially as a woman.
- If you’re visiting food stalls on your own, look for stalls that are busy! Busier stalls, especially if they are frequented by mostly locals, are more likely to serve fresh, clean food.
- Put your valuables away. Take care if you are walking around with any electronics.
- Don’t visit alone at night as woman. We found it to be mostly men late at night, so I personally wouldn’t feel comfortable alone as a woman.
Visit the historic Red Fort
The historic Red Fort in Old Delhi is a UNESCO World Heritage Site which previously served as the residence of Mughal emperors for about 200 years. It is easily one of the best things to do in Delhi.
The complex is vast so I recommend giving yourself at least two hours to explore. I also would visit early in the day or in the evening to avoid the hottest part of the day, since you will be doing a lot of walking.
Tourist entrance fee: The fee for locals and tourists differs. For tourists, the fee is 550 INR, which is approximately $7 USD.
Red Fort hours: 9:30-4pm daily, except Monday
Getting to the Red Fort: The closest metro station is the Chandni Chowk yellow metro line station, located 1.5 km from the Red Fort. From here you can walk or take an auto rickshaw. You can also visit as part of a guided sightseeing tour of the city.
Other things to do in Delhi:
- The Lotus Temple (Baha’í House of Worship) and Lodi Gardens
- Jama Masjid
- India Gate
Visiting India? Here are some other articles to check out:
- Grahan Village: India’s most beautiful village
- Best Things to do in Udaipur
- Best Things to do in Jaipur
- Exploring the Parvati Valley, India