Delhi Travel Guide For First-Time Visitors

Delhi is a sprawling, bustling, busy city that never sleeps. It can be a bit overwhelming if it is your first experience in India. Do not fear, Delhi is a vibrant, delicious city that is rich in history and full of captivating sights to see. Here are a few quick tips and recommended destinations for first time visitors to Delhi.

Arriving in Delhi

When traveling to India, you will find yourself at Indira Gandhi International Airport, the primary gateway to Delhi. For first-time visitors, an essential tip is to familiarize yourself with the airport. Having information about extensive resources on Delhi airport can greatly ease your arrival experience. Be sure to check the airport layout, immigration procedures, and baggage claim areas in advance to navigate smoothly upon arrival. Having a basic understanding of the airport’s layout and amenities will help you feel more at ease as you embark on your exploration of Delhi’s vibrant offerings.

Getting Around Delhi

With a population fast approaching 20 million, the roads of Delhi are frequently clogged. For short distances rickshaws, taxis or even walking are all acceptable options. However, for longer distances the Delhi Metro is a must. Quick, clean and horn-free. You can pay with cash or purchase a refillable metro card if you plan to ride multiple times.

Tip: View/download the updated Delhi Metro 2021 map here.

Top Attractions in Delhi

Red Fort, New Delhi
The Red Fort is an impressive UNESCO World Heritage Site in Delhi

Red Fort

Arguably Delhi’s most iconic attraction, Red Fort dates back to the 1600’s and is one of the obligatory capital city sights. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that represents “the zenith of Mughal creativity.” As such, no trip to Delhi is complete with visiting and walking these historic halls.

Jama Masjid, Chandni Chowk, Delhi
Jama Masjid in Chandni Chowk, one of the oldest and busiest markets in Old Delhi

Jama Masjid

Located in Chandni Chowk, the heart of Old Delhi, is Jama Masjid, one of the largest mosques in India. This structure also dates back to the 1600’s. It was constructed primarily of red sandstone to distinguish it from the more common marble mosques of the time.

Al Jawahar is one of the oldest and most famous restaurants in Old Delhi
Al Jawahar is one of the oldest and most famous restaurants in Old Delhi

Al Jawahar Restaurant

Just a few blocks south of Jama Masjid is one of the most famous – and delicious – restaurants in all of Old Delhi. Al Jawahar Restaurant was founded in 1948 and has been an iconic neighborhood eatery ever since. The restaurant specializes in traditional Mughlai dishes and there is no such thing as a bad meal here. Come hungry!

Humayun's Tomb in New Delhi is surrounded by beautiful gardens
Humayun’s Tomb is surrounded by beautiful gardens

Humayun’s Tomb

Another architectural masterpiece that dates back to the Mughal Empire is the tomb of Emperor Humayun. Upon the emperors passing in 1556 his wife ordered the construction of the first garden-tomb in India. It is also the first to use a combination of red sandstone and white marble, the beauty of which is still visible to this day.

India Gate just after sunset
India Gate just after sunset

India Gate

Do much driving around Delhi and you are guaranteed to pass by India Gate at some point. Built between 1921-1931, India Gate serves as a memorial to the 70,000 soldiers of the British Indian Army who lost their lives during World War I. A popular destination and meeting spot, locals can be found here 24 hours a day but tourists tend to stick to the daylight or evening hours.

Sulabh International Museum Of Toilets is one of Delhi's most offbeat tourists attractions
Photo courtesy of Sulabh International Museum Of Toilets

Sulabh International Museum Of Toilets

Ranked as one of the top “10 museums around the world that are anything but mundane” by Time magazine, Sulabh International Museum Of Toilets is exactly what the name suggests: a shrine to your favorite bathroom device. Items on display date from the 1100’s all the way to the present. Yes, they have everything here – except a public restroom. (Just kidding!)

Hauz Khas Complex is ideal for a late afternoon / early evening visit

Hauz Khas Complex & Village

Hauz Khas dates back to the medieval times. The name translates to ‘royal water tank’ (lake) which makes perfect sense when you discover that as the neighborhood is constructed around the historic Hauz Khas Complex, the source of water for the village. Numerous structures cover the grounds, including the Madrasa and Firoz Shah’s Tomb.

Tip: I recommend spending an hour wandering the grounds of Hauz Khas Complex before walking out to Hauz Khas Village. The village is full of unique, interesting and delicious restaurants and bars, all with funky fresh vibes. You can easily spend an entire evening just bar-hopping down this short stretch of street.

Hauz Khas Village after dark
Hauz Khas Village after dark

Getting To Delhi

The easiest way to get to Delhi is undoubtedly by flight. Indira Gandhi International Airport is a modern airport and usually fairly quick to get through immigration. Be sure to check the Dubai to Delhi flight status if you are flying into India from the UAE or plan on meeting someone at the airport.

For those already in India, trains to the capital city can be found in all corners of the country. There is also no shortage of buses or taxis for those who want to blaze their own trail.

Delhi is a massive city and there are countless captivating things to do here. While these are by no means the only things to see in the city, they are definitely some of the best for first-time visitors. And a great way to sample all that Delhi has to offer, from food to sights to history to, well, toilets 😉

What other Delhi destinations would you recommend?


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About Derek Freal

"Some people eat, others try therapy. I travel."   Cultural enthusiast. Adrenaline junkie. Eater of strange foods. Chasing unique and offbeat adventures around the world since 2008. Derek loves going to new destinations where he does not speak a word of the local language and must communicate with hand gestures, or places where he is forced to squat awkwardly to poo -- supposedly its healthier and more efficient. For more information (about Derek, not squat pooing) including popular posts and videos, check out his bio.

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