A lot of people despise Delhi.

Not me, though! It’s one of my favourite cities on the planet, and I fell for it from the moment I stepped foot on its busy streets.

Delhi is the only place I’ve visited that has left me wanting to write an individual blog post for every single attraction I saw. Seriously! I feel as though I could write 30 blog posts about each individual thing I did in the city, share 20 photos of every activity, but I suspect you guys would tire of all that Delhi devotion after a while.

Instead, I want to roll all of that love up into one big article. 

Today’s post is going to be a mash-up of my first impressions of Delhi, an itinerary for how to spend three days in Delhi, a list of the best places to see in Delhi, a photo essay, and a love letter to this frenetic yet wonderful place. 

Let’s get started.

rickshaw cyclist in Delhi

I loved watching the cycle rickshaws go by in Old Delhi

How Long Should You Spend in New Delhi?

Plenty of first-time visitors to India’s capital decide to duck in and out of the city as quickly as possible. 

It’s an understandable decision.

Delhi is polluted, congested, dirty, smelly, loud, and scams are rampant. The air is toxic to breathe, you receive non-stop hassle as you walk around, and the sheer number of people leaves you feeling claustrophobic. It’s maddening at times. 

Am I selling this city to you yet?

Because there’s just as much to love about Delhi. Its fantastic food scene, its lush parks, the breathtaking architecture, the blend of cultures, its long and fascinating history, the fact that it’s unlike anywhere else on earth. And there’s plenty of beauty in amongst the challenges.

I think skipping over Delhi to immediately head elsewhere in India is a mistake, even if it’s your first time in the country and you’re intimidated. It has so much to offer its visitors, and I’d suggest allocating at least three days to exploring.

Why?

Well, there are three main areas in the city.

You’ve got crumbling, chaotic Old Delhi, once the magnificent walled city of Shahjahanabad in the 17th century.

There’s New Delhi, which was created by the British after they decided to make this area the new capital — this part is all about the gleaming buildings, government structures, and a sense of there being a little more order.

And to the south, you’ll find South Delhi — an upmarket residential neighbourhood that’s calmer, quieter, and leafier than the rest of the city. They all have so much to offer up to visitors.

It therefore makes sense to devote at least one day to each of these three distinct areas. I spent my first day in town wandering through Old Delhi, my second day marvelling at New Delhi, and my third day unwinding in South Delhi. 

It made for the perfect introduction to the city. 

old delhi street scene

Welcome to Old Delhi! Prepare for your senses to be pounded.

Day One: The Best Time to Explore Old Delhi!

When you picture the commotion and cacophony of Delhi, you’re most likely thinking of Old Delhi.

I recommend spending a full day in this area, allowing your senses to be attacked as you dodge rickshaws and motorbikes and thousands of people, avoiding cows and goats and dogs as you wander down narrow alleyways, smelling incense and street food and, um, things that are a little less pleasant. 

There’s nowhere on earth quite like Old Delhi, and I couldn’t get enough of it.  

Red Fort in Delhi

Delhi’s Red Fort! It’s one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city but if you can get there when it opens, it provides a tranquil respite from the commotion outside its walls

Start your day, though, by heading to the Red Fort when it opens. Without the crowds of tourists, it’ll bring about a peaceful start to a day that’s likely to be anything but.   

Built from sandstone in the 1600s and originally used as a residence for Mughal emperors, the inner structures have since been plundered and destroyed, yet it’s still worth visiting.

Despite being right in the heart of Delhi, it was surprisingly peaceful to wander through this large area of green space. That was unexpected, and it made for a calming introduction to the city’s architecture. 

Jama Masjid Mosque in Delhi

Jama Masjid Mosque! I climbed to the top of that minaret on the left.

View from Jama Masjid minaret

And here’s the view from the top! Despite the haze, it was fun to get up above the city.

Jama Masjid is just a 15-minute walk away from the Red Fort, so it’s the next logical stop on a tour of Old Delhi. 

This mosque is one of the largest in Delhi, able to hold a whopping 25,000 people at a time, and it was one of the most impressive structures I saw in the city.

My highlight was climbing to the top of one of the minarets for a wonderful view over Old Delhi. It was so worth doing, even though the staircase was cramped, dark, and daunting to walk up/down.

Watch out for scammers here! There’s plenty of people looking to take advantage of tourists in this area. You’ll have to pay to hire robes, no matter how covered up you are, pay for…

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