Travel Postcard: 48 hours in New Delhi

Thu Oct 7, 2010 9:26pm EDT

A traffic police woman directs traffic as she is silhouetted against the backdrop of monsoon clouds during the evening in New Delhi September 9, 2010. REUTERS/B Mathur

A traffic police woman directs traffic as she is silhouetted against the backdrop of monsoon clouds during the evening in New Delhi September 9, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/B Mathur

Travel Postcard: 48 hours in New Delhi

By Tony Tharakan

NEW DELHI (Reuters Life!) - Got 48 hours to explore New Delhi? Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help visitors get the most out of a short stay in the Indian capital.

The best weather is between October and March -- the rest of the year can be very hot and humid.

FRIDAY

5 p.m. - Drop off your bags at the hotel and go for a drive around Lutyens' Delhi, a part of the capital named after its architect. Do stop for a refreshing cup of tea at Cha Bar in Connaught Place. Gaze out at the busy Barakhamba Road intersection as you choose between Darjeeling, Nilgiri, Sikkim or any other brew that catches your fancy. Feel free to browse at the well-stocked bookstore housing the Cha Bar.

6 p.m.- Head on south to India Gate, just minutes away by car. Situated in the heart of the city, this imposing 42-meter arch is a memorial to Indian soldiers killed in World War I and looks out on to manicured gardens frequented both by locals and sightseers. This is a popular picnic spot and you may bump into either a street food vendor or an ice cream cart as you take a stroll down the boulevard toward the presidential palace.

8 p.m. - All that walking is bound to make you hungry so wend your way to Khan Market. There are plenty of good eating joints here but The Big Chill is a popular hang-out known for its pasta and pizza. Those with a sweet tooth, don't miss the blueberry cheese cake. More desi fare is available at Khan Chacha and Saleem's -- their chicken tikka rolls and kebabs are must-haves.

If you are in the mood for something south Indian, head to Swagath in Defense Colony market, which specializes in sea food. The decor is forgettable, but the memory -- and pungent aftertaste -- of its fish and prawn and peppery Chettinad fare will linger for some time.

10 p.m. - Time to burn some calories dancing at the F Bar & Lounge at The Ashok. Like many other nightlife venues in Delhi, single men are not allowed so be sure to first find yourself a date. Cover charges may exceed 2,000 rupees ($45). Lap, at the hotel next door, is more up-market and expensive but there's the added incentive of spotting a Bollywood celebrity or two.

SATURDAY

9 a.m. - Time has taken a fascinating toll on Old Delhi, the walled city built by Emperor Shah Jahan in the 17th century as a vision of urban paradise. The grand canal that once gleamed along the length of Chandni Chowk has long been covered by concrete to accommodate some of the city's most cacophonous traffic, lined on either side by everything from centuries-old sweetshops to a beef-free branch of McDonald's.

Explore the surrounding lively, labyrinthine alleyways -- the once-grand mansions may now be crumbling and overcrowded but are still studded with beautiful architectural details. There are a couple of Delhi heritage walks which focus on this area so joining one might be helpful.

1 p.m. - If you like eating meat rich enough to leave your chin glistening with oil, there's no better place to grab lunch in Old Delhi than at Karim's. The legendary restaurant serves up deliciously brown Mughlai cuisine in a cluster of no-frills rooms hidden down an alley near the Jama Masjid -- ask for directions.

Order seekh kebabs, tandoori burra, naan bread and the mutton brain, if only to look at it sit spookily on the table. Note that "mutton" refers to goat meat in India.

2 p.m. - Devote the rest of the afternoon to exploring the Red Fort and the walled city's bazaars, temples, butchers, open-front barbers, street food hawkers, perfume shops and jewelers. Those without haggling skills but with well-lined wallets can always head to the boutiques in central and south Delhi.

5 p.m. - Time to visit the Qutab Minar complex. Started in the 12th century, it is old even by Delhi standards. The most distinctive landmark is an ornate victory tower. More adventurous types can go roaming through the overgrown ruins behind the walled Qutab complex, which lead to the charming bustle of Mehrauli village.

7 p.m. - Drive down to Gurgaon, a sprawling satellite township on New Delhi's outskirts, for a visit to the 'Kingdom of Dreams'. Sample snacks at the 'Culture Gully', a boulevard of Indian restaurants and street bars, before watching the two-hour-long "Zangoora" at the snazzy theater next door.

Often advertised as India's answer to Broadway, the musicals on show here cost more than a Bollywood movie to produce. For an entry fee ranging from 1,000 rupees ($22) to 6,000 rupees ($135), visitors are treated to a dance-drama set to Bollywood chartbusters with aerial acrobatics, special effects and even a bit of magic.

SUNDAY

9 a.m. - Join locals taking their morning constitutional around Lodhi Garden, a beautifully landscaped park dotted with 15th-century tombs. When it's quiet, the place can be hopelessly romantic, especially when veiled by the morning mist, through which you might spy a young canoodling couple enjoying a rare moment of relative privacy in a crowded city.

11 a.m. - A short rickshaw ride away is Humayun's Tomb, one of Delhi's World Heritage sites. This serenely enormous onion-domed monument of red sandstone and white marble was built to entomb the second of the Mughal emperors, and became a prototype for the more famous Taj Mahal.

1 p.m. - Grab a south Indian dosa or thali at one of the Sagar Ratna chain of restaurants around central Delhi or Saravana Bhavan at the Connaught Place end of Janpath, an Indian take on a fast food joint.

A 10-minute walk down Sansad Marg takes you to Jantar Mantar -- what looks like a bizarre sculpture park is actually an outdoor observatory filled with colossal red astronomical instruments.

3 p.m. - Log on to your laptop while enjoying a cup of coffee at one of the wi-fi enabled cafes around Connaught Place. Once you've made sure you haven't missed any urgent e-mails from business associates, take a stroll down to Central Park which encases the Rajiv Chowk Metro station below.

No visit to Delhi is complete without a ride on the Metro, the city's extensive and modern subway system. Avoid the peak-hour rush though. Women traveling alone may wish to travel in the coach reserved for them.

Take the train from Rajiv Chowk to INA Market, six stations away, and arrive at the entrance of Dilli Haat, which sells attractive handcrafts from across India in a slightly hokey but convenient setting. Enjoy an hour or two of shopping for your loved ones back home.

(Editing by Elaine Lies)

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