Arriving in the capital of India is like no other experience. Travel to Delhi from Glasgow Airport and your senses will be carried away on a wave of sounds, smells and supersaturated colours.
City of empires
Seven imperial cities lay buried by the urban sprawl of modern Delhi, and ancient ruins burst out from every street corner. The Mughal stronghold of the Red Fort is the city’s signature monument, but the most dramatic sight is the calligraphy-covered Qutb Minar, a 73m-high victory tower constructed in 1193 by Delhi’s first Islamic ruler. For a taste of Delhi as it was in ancient times, wander the backstreets of Nizamuddin en route to Humayun’s Tomb, prototype for the Taj Mahal.
A colonial masterpiece
The ancient cities of Delhi were superseded by yet another new city, commissioned by India’s colonial rulers in the 1920s. The wide boulevards of New Delhi were laid out by the architect Lutyens, stamping British pomp and circumstance onto the unruly city streets. From the Gateway of India and the Indian Parliament to the whitewashed arcades of Connaught Place, New Delhi conjures up images of colonial gentlemen in horse-drawn carriages. But even here, ancient India shines through. The tombs of forgotten sultans are scattered across the Lodi Gardens – Delhi’s favourite park – and the observatory of Maharaja Jai Singh II stands just meters from the bustle of Connaught Place.
Flavours of India
Food is almost a religion in Delhi, and locals rate flavour as much as setting. So, while Bukhara – the Mughlai restaurant at the ITC Maurya Hotel (Sardar Patel Marg) – is rated as the city’s finest eatery, Delhiites will cross the city to sample the kebabs served by hole-in-the-wall canteens in the alleyways south of the Jama Masjid mosque. Pick up your own spices in the warren of bazaars running west from the Red Fort. Chandni Chowk was the city’s main marketplace in Mughal times, and the Gadodia spice market swims with the scent of chillies, cumin, cardamoms and coriander.