A melting pot of cultures and languages, Delhi is your one-stop destination to explore every aspect of India in a few weeks. However, if you want to experience the true essence of the city, there is no better place than Purani Dilli. From shopping at colourful bazaars, and walking through the aroma of spice markets, to binge eating at street side stalls and restaurants, and exploring the historical structures, there are plenty of things to do in Old Delhi. There are forts, havelis and streets lined with food stalls whipping up delicacies you won’t find anywhere else, so spending a day in the area is a must.
Pumped up to know more. Let’s begin without further ado.
Things to do in Old Delhi
1. Go on a Food Walk in Chandni Chowk
Every corner of Delhi is dotted with restaurants, but if you want to have crispy parathe, sumptuous nihari and desserts that simply melt in your mouth (read Daulat ki Chaat), a food trail through Chandni Chowk is just what you need to do.
Parathe Wali Gali has stalls serving 30 different types of parathas (Indian flat bread stuffed with different ingredients, mainly potato). Add a glass of tall lassi to this and you are sorted.
However, if you are a true-blue non-vegetarian, stop at the narrow alleyway adjacent to Jama Masjid. Here you can find kebabs, nihari and almost every other chicken dish. Oh, and don’t forget to try the Shahi Tukda during winters. Gorging on Mughlai delicacies is easily the most popular thing to do near Jama Masjid in Delhi; ask any local or frequent visitor, and they’ll tell you.
2. Watch the Light and Sound Show at Red Fort
Red Fort (popular known as Lal Qila) unanimously tops the list of Old Delhi tourist places that are visited throughout the year. Built during the reign of Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan, the fort has an outer wall of 2-km long perimeter that strikes the eye as soon as you reach here.
After soaking in the grandeur of the fort, stay back and attend the glorious light and sound show, which takes you through the rich history of the city. Hosted by the Delhi Tourism and Transportation Development Corporation, the show features both Hindi and English commentary.
Hindi – 07:30 pm to 08.30 pm; closed on Mondays
English – 09.00 pm to 10.00 pm; closed on Mondays
- Entry Fees:
Adults – ₹ 60 (weekdays); ₹ 80 (Saturdays, Sundays, and Government Holidays)
Children (3 to 12 years) – ₹ 20 (weekdays); ₹ 30 (Saturdays, Sundays, and Government Holidays)
3. Take a Walk through Temples and Mosques
There are plenty of temples in Delhi for the spiritual escape one needs every once in a while. However, you will not find a Jain temple, Gurudwara and a mosque in close vicinity anywhere else other than Old Delhi.
To get a glimpse into the traditions and culture of Jainism, visit the Digambar Jain Temple located opposite the Red Fort. For those soulful evenings, wherein you simply want to sit and soak in the picturesque view of Old Delhi from a minaret, visit the famous Jama Masjid.
Last but not the least, head to the beautiful Gurudwara Sis Ganj Sahib, where the food served in the langar is simply delectable and should not be missed.
4. Shop to your Heart’s Content in Chandni Chowk
Wedding shopping is not a point for stress for Delhiites because they have markets like Kinari Bazaar and Dariba Kalan for everything they need. From stunning rip-offs of designer lehengas (often popularised by some movie or actress) to dress material which you can get stitched as per your style, there are small shops lining the streets of these markets, selling all this and more. Tell your budget to the shop owner, and you will have something you would love in no time. You can even purchase silver jewellery and other antiques at these markets.
Other famous markets worth visiting are Khari Baoli – for inexpensive and huge variety of spices – and Cycle Market – for cycle-related items and camera accessories as well. The ‘infamous’ Chor Bazaar is also situated in Purani Dilli. All in all, shopping is a recommended thing to do in Old Delhi if you want to find designer wedding wear, spices, antiques or even your everyday stuff.
5. Succumb to Bibliophilia at Daryaganj Sunday Book Market
Being a voracious reader and a hoarder of books, I couldn’t complete this blog without mentioning the famous Daryaganj Sunday Book Market. Thousands of books are scattered or lined neatly on the pavement of the road that leads towards the right from Dilli Gate. Unlike other book markets, you will have to rummage through the pile so be prepared to get your hands dirty. Some of the books I have found during my past visits include ‘The Secret History’ by Donna Tartt for ₹ 50 and hardcover of the ‘The Mountain Shadow’ by Gregory David Roberts for ₹ 300. I also managed to collect the entire Harry Potter series for under ₹ 900 from different sellers. So, if you are a bibliophile, who doesn’t want to create a dent in the pocket and still want more books, this is the best thing to do around Old Delhi on any Sunday.
P.S: Carry a bag as the sellers here don’t offer any. Also, a water bottle and good walking shoes will come in handy during summers.
6. Spend Some Time in Solitude at Ghalib ki Haveli
Love Ghalib’s poetry? A quiet and peaceful visit to his haveli in Old Delhi is something that you should definitely do. Recently renovated and opened to the general public, Ghalib Ki Haveli has preserved the memories in the form of artefacts showcasing an aspect of the much-loved Urdu poet’s life. Apart from this, you can read inscriptions of some of the famous poems he wrote. This also includes one which he wrote about the narrow lanes of Ballimaran where the haveli is located.
The house is a reflection of the modest and simple life the poet lived and exploring it is one of the most memorable things to do near Delhi, especially for people who love everything related to poetry and poets.
These are some of the things one ought to do in Old Delhi. At first, you might find the congested alleyways and lanes daunting, but as you walk through those and do the things mentioned above, you will find yourself falling in love with this side of the city.
If I missed anything or there is any specific activity you would recommend, let us know about it.
Have an amazing day in Delhi.