weekend away - Delhi
Written by Tom Parker
No other city encapsulates modern India like Delhi does. Whilst unmistakably a product of its 5,000-year history, the speed of the city’s transformation into a dynamic urban metropolis is unparalleled on the subcontinent.
As you enter the Indian capital, this dichotomy is impossible to ignore; all around, ancient relics sit often uncomfortably amidst the inexorable growth of the concrete jungle. For over the past three years the government has completely overhauled its infrastructure (including a world-class airport and metro system) in preparation for the 2010 Commonwealth Games.
But look beyond the chaos, and it is easy to see why Delhi continues to gently charm anyone who invests time in it. It’s an easy city to navigate – split conveniently into three contrasting areas.
Most visitors head to the northern part of the city – Old Delhi – a living museum of monuments, markets, and hidden nooks and crannies that demand weeks to explore. Chandni Chowk is a good place to start – a sensory-charged rabbit warren of market stalls selling everything under the sun at terrifying speed. Next head to the nearby spice market on Kari Baoli for the freshest turmeric, masalas, and Darjeeling tea leaves.
Many of the nearby historical sites are remnants from Moghul ruler Shah Jahan’s era, including the impressive Jama Masjid (the largest mosque in India) and the infamous Red Fort – the latter’s design a culmination of influences from the European, Persian, and Indian armies that occupied the city.
For a break from the chaos, head to central Delhi with its parks and wide-open boulevards designed by renowned British architect Edward Lutyens. His masterpiece is the government administrative area – Rajpath and the Rashtrapati Bhavan (president’s house). The nearby older sibling of the Taj Mahal – Humayun’s tomb, set amidst impeccably well-maintained gardens – is also worth a visit.
New Delhi offers a completely different side of the city; the immaculately kept southern suburbs are home to the rich élite, who unlike in Mumbai have the luxury of spacious homes with gardens. Areas are split into colonies – centred on a market area where residents shop in designer boutiques and enjoy Delhi’s multicultural cuisine. Although the majority of the hotels are farther north, it’s worth making the pilgrimage south for an evening to Kailash, Rajpath, or Friends Colony to see how the refined Delhi-ites enjoy life.
Nightlife and Shopping
The city has a burgeoning bar and club scene. The Kylin Bar is one of the best, serving over 20 single malts with an Eastern-influenced menu including sushi and dim sum. (Basant Lok Complex, Vasant Vihar). For a late night jaunt head to the latest club Elevate – modelled on London’s Fabric nightclub. With a capacity of 2,000 it attracts the beaus and belles of Delhi, and features international trance, techno, and modern Indian artistes. (Centre Stage Mall, Noida).
For an outstanding array of luxury brands, head for the spacious Emporio Mall on Nelson Mandela Marg, while authentic India can be explored at ‘The Cottage’, a government-backed showcase of authentic handicrafts.