Hey, my name is Aarushi Aggarwal (@lilaaru) and I work at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry in New Delhi, a minute’s drive from India Gate, arguably the epicentre of the city. I Love Delhi because it constantly reminds me of my own insignificance in time, a large part of which the city has been witness to and likes to display proudly.
It is widely known that there are nine cities of Delhi, each built upon another through centuries (millennia between the first and the most recent). Contemporary life in the city is fairly limited, in comparison to the vastness of the city. My area of movement, for instance, is no more than 8 square kilometres between home, work and leisure. But, some days, when one is willing enough to brave the traffic, the noise, the pollution and the madness, Delhi offers itself up as a treasure waiting to be explored. To the uninitiated, the city may appear cumbersome and hectic. Yet, a carefully deliberated plan that accounts for rush hour movements and waiting lines can allow one to maximise their takeaway from the capital.
What is a typical breakfast and where would you go?
Since it lies at the junction of many states, and since it is the capital, Delhi has cultivated numerous cuisines. Each meal throws up many competitive options. For breakfast, one could choose between The American Diner at the India Habitat Centre or Andhra Bhawan. The former, as its name suggests, is a diner style restaurant with some delectable milkshake options. The latter is the southern province Andhra Pradesh’s state house in the capital. The soft idlis and strong filter coffee are grand attractions.
I must add that Delhiites rarely make it to breakfast. If it is not a working day, one is more likely to observe a sleepy city grinding to life relatively late. Brunch, then, becomes more ideal. Khan market is where you want to be. With scores of options, it is the place for everyone.
Where is your favourite place to grab lunch?
With the many options available, picking an ideal spot for lunch can be herculean. Though there are many choices in Connaught Place, Khan Market, Meharchand Market, I would suggest something a little away. Rustom’s, a restaurant tucked away in the quiet of a Parsi rest house, just off a rather busy street, is an experience from another world. Right from the décor, choice of music and cocktails, everything alludes to an oft-forgotten charm. I’d also take the liberty to recommend the patra ni macchi and any pav combination off the menu.
What is the ideal afternoon activity in a city like Delhi?
When the weather and air quality permit, I prefer to picnic in one of the many gardens in the city. Luckily, there are plenty of options to choose from. Lodhi Gardens (next to Khan Market) is a vastly popular and obvious choice. The gardens cover a large area, sprinkled with medieval tombs. Humayun’s Tomb is, similarly, a good choice too. My personal favourite, however, is the more modest Safdurjung’s Tomb just down the street from Lodhi Gardens. Built in the 18th century, it is perhaps the youngest tomb built at such a large scale. With its many champa trees and a perfect square lawn, Safdurjung’s Tomb is reminiscent of a city under incredible change—the period when the Mughals departed, and British India became a reality. It is relatively quieter (no kids running around) and far more peaceful than other gardens. It is my ideal weekend.
Where are the best places for dinner?
There is an indescribable joy in eating by the majestically lit Qutub Minar. The night-time view of the 12th century monument has become somewhat indispensable in recent years as new restaurants have cropped up in its vicinity. You would want to grab your dinner someplace you can benefit from the view. Olive Bar and Kitchen, Grammar Room, and Lavaash by Saby are great options. These are popular choices, so be sure to book a table in advance.
In the evening, what is the city like and where do you find yourself?
Given how large Delhi is, at no point in the day is it completely at rest. As the working force retires indoors, younger folk step out and take their place. On weekends, I like to visit the Blue Tokai Coffee Roasters in Safdurjung Enclave (rather close to the Tomb from which it takes its name). The coffee shop is located in a calm and secluded part of the city and itself has a very warm ambience. The coffee (from the homegrown roasters) is one of the best in the city and the food menu has many equally good options to choose from. Should it get late by the time one leaves from Blue Tokai, it is worth popping over next doors to the Piano Man Jazz Club. As the name suggests, PMJC hosts incredible jazz and blues artists and is one of my preferred places for an evening out in the city.
What is there to do for something fun and different?
If one visits in the right season (Spring), one may be as lucky to catch the Rashtrapati Bhawan’s famous Mughal Gardens in full splendour. If the gardens are not accessible, a guided tour of the vast presidential estate is nevertheless an underrated experience. A short drive away, a visitor may also enjoy street art at the Lodhi Art District. Each with a targeted social message, the wall paintings brighten the city and puts its best talent on display.
Delhi is a culture hub; it attracts artists, artisans, theatre actors, dancers and singers alike. On any given weekend, you can find multiple performances anywhere in the city. Most are usually listed in that morning’s newspaper. If one relishes a gastronomic experience, I would be remiss to not mention Chandni Chowk’s famous paranthe wali gali. Each vendor is better than the next and one often finds themselves spoilt for choice. For a more spiritual experience, an evening of Qawwali at the Nizamuddin Dargah is both culturally and musically immersive.
Where is the best area to stay/sleep for young travellers?
While there are various hostels scattered around the city, travellers will find hotels affordable and easily accessible. Most reputed hotels are located in and around the Diplomatic Enclave, but there are other options too, in Defence Colony, Greater Kailash and other localities in South Delhi.
What season would you recommend visiting?
I am a child of the monsoons. There is something deeply romantic about the heavy-laden skies, the lush green trees and the light grey of the roads turning a share darker. Having said that, I also acknowledge that traffic becomes worse and one would often find walking around the city a near impossible feat. If those are not deterrents, then I would urge visitors to consider the months of July and August. Else, Spring, between mid-March and mid-April, is a good time too. The heaviness of winter skies starts to lift, and flowers begin to bloom. Delhi, then, appears to prime itself for all to bear witness.
Is Delhi best for a family holiday/friends holiday or couple holiday?
Delhi is a great destination for everyone—from Diplomats and foreign emissaries to young students, families, couples, musicians, enthusiasts of history and Indology, anthropologists, food critics. The city has something to offer to every visitor.