Delhi isn’t just a city. It is a profound story teller with wrinkles running across its forehead as intricate as clockwork from wisdom gained over thousands of years. And you don’t have to shell out wads to get to hear the tales of excitement. All you have to do is ask it nicely. And, of course, read this article first!
The first thing you have to worry about is where you put up. Whereas a lot of hotels in Paharganj always welcome you with open arms (and a “money exchange & free internet available” board) and you can park yourself in some for as low as Rs 150, I suggest you do your research on some hostels and homestay options. Delhi has a bunch of excellent backpacker-friendly hostels that offer cheap beds and give you an opportunity to sit back and talk about your experiences with other backpackers. Read more about them here. If you plan to live here for more than a week, you can get a good deal in a lot of homestays in Delhi that offer monthly rates.
You can start the day in the quiets of Okhla Sanctuary. Sitting by the lake that’s created by damming the river Yamuna, you can see hundreds of water birds that this lake is a haven for. It’s the birds yapping amongst themselves with the fresh morning air blowing across here that does it for me. Get more info on Okhla Bird Sanctuary here.
The National Museum near Janpath is something you have to go. It houses over 200,000 works of art and artifacts from across the world and they cover over 5000 years with works from the pre-historic era to modern art. Entry here is about Rs 100.
On Sundays, you can hunt through the Daryaganj Sunday Bazaar for some really old books/comics/knick knacks. While that might not sound like such a huge deal, let me boast of picking up a ‘To Kill a Mocking Bird’, five editions of MAD comics, ‘Mrs. Dalloway’ and a blow horn all for less than Rs 300. It took me about 6 hours to get these and during that I also had to spend half an hour with some stranger who kept talking about some government policy I didn’t know about, after which both of us had lassi and left!
If its a Thursday you’re spending here, then you should definitely head to Nizamuddin Dargah where they have a qawwali session in the evenings. The Sufi devotional singers perform qawwalis in a trance like state and before you know it, you are one of the enthralled audiences responding to the music with your emotions unblushingly.
You can visit heritage monuments that are such an integral part of Delhi. The Qutub Minar, Humayun’s Tomb, Hauz Khas and Red Fort are only some of the well known ones and I can assure you that you’ll find more than three days worth of old ruins and monuments in Mehrauli alone. I would suggest you keep Red Fort for the evening so that you can end your day with the Light and Sound show that happens there at times ranging from 6 pm to 10 pm depending on the month you’re visiting. You can find all information on their website.
SPIC MACAY hosts cultural events around the city all year and it would be a good idea to check their website when you’re in Delhi for their events. They boast of associations with maestros of performing arts like Ustad Amjaad Ali, Shovana Narayan, Zakir Hussain and Girija Devi among others.
A late evening stroll through the bustling markets of Lajpat Nagar or Sarojini Nagar is always an enriching experience. You’ll never know when you’ll find yourself a perfect deal or some delicious papdi chaat because you’ll be busy looking at the thousands of faces around you and their eccentricities!
Yes. You can go and do all of what I’ve written but it won’t be half as fun if you don’t take this section seriously.
The best breakfast (or to be fair, one of the best let’s say) is free. And it is found at langars at Gurudwara Bangla Sahib, Ashoka Road. The poori-halwa made from desi ghee is totally worth you getting up early in the morning to get here in time before it gets over!
For those times when you get tired between going to the National Museum and Hauz Khas, you can make an emergency crash to Connaught Place. Head to Wenger’s for a sandwich and cream bun or down a cool glass of iced coffee in the rustic India Coffee House.
The perfect lunch is in the lanes of Old Delhi. Situated near the Chandni Chowk metro station, the Paranthe waali gali shells out hot paranthas in various flavours (the nimboo parantha is must have) that they serve with sweet and sour vegetables and pickle. You can also opt for bedmi puri and aaloo sabzi near here in case you aren’t in the mood for paranthas. All of this under Rs 100, if I may add. Read more about the types of paranthas found in this gali here.
While you can grab a beer in Pahar Ganj itself for pretty cheap, you should keep dinner at Jama Masjid. This place is brimming with varieties of kababs, roasted chickens, curries, chops and mutton legs. An extremely worthwhile walk here is to Sutli Kabab waala in Chitli Kabar. This is an unassuming shop with just one person sitting in the basement, handing up to you on the road the most delicious and tender kababs you would have ever eaten!. Creamy phirni in kulhads for dessert is recommended!
So there, that’s you how rip the old story teller off and go back home with some of the crisp ones while spending almost nothing. Remember to travel as much as possible in the metro. Cheers!