The capital city of India, Delhi (NCTD) is known for many things, of which is the heritage hub it is. It also happens to be the city I’ve been born and brought up in for the 22 years of my life. There are n number of things to do in Delhi and I’ll be uncovering the things to do in Old Delhi for you here. I have never lived in the exact area but my love for it is not discounted by that.
So, with over 100 years of historic grandeur and a massive area of land, Delhi has more things to do than you can imagine. Now, most of these lists you’ll come across will be divided either by region or by sections of traveling (Art, Food, etc.). However I wanted to do something a little different and divide it by- Old Delhi and the New Delhi – not technically about time but more a representative of the eras.
This article is the first part with everything on the Old Delhi.
What is Old Delhi?
Old Delhi or Purani Dilli was founded as a walled city of Delhi, India, founded as Shahjahanabad in 1639, when Shah Jahan, the Mughal emperor at the time, decided to shift the Mughal capital from Agra.
Old Delhi architecture is a spectacular example of Mughal architecture, with plenty of charisma and nostalgia. Every nook and corner in the bylanes of Old Delhi have a story to tell. The walled city is shaped roughly like a quarter circle with the Red Fort as a focal point. It houses grand structures and settlements from the 5 principle dynasties (Mamluk, the Khalji Tughlaq, the Sayyid, Lodi, and Suri) of the city before the Mughals and the Mughals.
There are two key areas that are known as the representatives of the Old Delhi charm. Chandni Chowk area and the Red Fort. The absolute unmissable for me is the Humayun’s tomb which doesn’t technically fall in the area but is very much an epitome of the Era.
Other important places include:
Ghalib ki Haveli that is in Ballimaran is famous for Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib, the renowned Urdu, and Persian poet.
Gali Qasim Jan that is in Ballimaran is famous for Mirza Ghalib’s haveli, and that of Hakim Ajmal Khan
Razia Sultana’s (Delhi’s only female ruler before Indira Gandhi)— tomb near Kalan Masjid
Lal Mandir, Delhi’s oldest Jain temple
Khari Baoli, Asia’s biggest spice market
Zinat-ul Masjid, Daryaganj built in 1710 by one of Aurangzeb’s daughters
Rajghat, Mahatma Gandhi’s cremation site memorial
St. James Church (near Kashmiri Gate) built in 1836, Delhi’s oldest church, built by Col. James Skinner
History of Iconic Food
Being the seat of the Mughal Empire for over two centuries has become the modern hub of Mughlai cuisine. Karim’s, one of Delhi’s most famous and well-known restaurants are located near the Jama Masjid. The famous Gali Paranthe Wali and Ghantewala halwai are also situated here. In fact, Paranthe Wali Gali is still being run by the 6th generation of the original creators from 1876!
Street food is a rage here. Chandni Chowk and Chawri Bazaar areas have many street joints that sell spicy chaat (tangy and spicy snacks).
The Clothes & Indian Ethnic Fashion
The history of clothing in India dates back to ancient times, yet fashion is a new industry. Post-independence saw a revival of the Indian Ethnic Fashion and Old Delhi is a hub for that in reflection and in principle. While the shops of Chandni Chowk and Chawri Bazar are known for seamless imitations of designer wear, there’s a big section of original ‘Delhi Designs’ too. These are usually based on the Mughlai styles of grand clothing ranging from anarkalis to fusion jackets. I definitely recommend exploring this market for a fashion purview of Indian Ethnic beyond the ‘saari’. Not saying that you can’t find those here, too!
My Recommendation as a traveler is to submerge yourself in the beauty, layers of history, and the amazing food this area has to offer. If you want your overall Delhi experience to be authentic, these are your “things to do”. This area is best traveled with a local. From the point of view of experience as well as safety. I suggest taking 2 or 3 days from your schedule just to go around in Old Delhi, however, if you’re too pressed on time, 36 hours is good to cover most of it, too.
I’ll be doing a part two on the New Delhi or maybe not all. What do you think?
Share it in the comments below and we’ll know where to take it. For more my Travel in Style adventures, keep following ERTSY. Till then, keep exploring!