3 Days in New Delhi: The Perfect New Delhi Itinerary

Experience the vibrant fusion of ancient traditions and modern dynamism in India's capital city. Follow this 3-day New Delhi itinerary for best results!

West Parker
By
West Parker
July 18, 2024

The air was thick with spices, car horns honked in a chaotic symphony, and colorful saris flashed by in a blur. We were officially in India's capital, and I knew right away our 3 days in New Delhi would be unlike anything we'd experienced before.

If you're planning a trip to this incredible city, you're in for a treat. New Delhi is a place where ancient history and cutting-edge modernity collide in the most fascinating ways. From the majestic Red Fort to the sleek metro system, from traditional bazaars to trendy nightclubs, this city has it all. And the best part? You can experience the highlights in just three days.

In this comprehensive New Delhi itinerary, I'll walk you through how to make the most of your 72 hours in this captivating metropolis. We'll cover everything from must-see historical sites to hidden gems, delicious food spots, and practical tips to help you navigate the city like a pro. So, are you ready to dive into the controlled chaos that is New Delhi? Let's go!

Before You Go: Essential New Delhi Travel Tips

Before we jump into the day-by-day itinerary, let's cover some crucial information to help you prepare for your 3 days in New Delhi.

Best Time to Visit New Delhi

Timing is everything when it comes to visiting New Delhi. Trust me, you don't want to be trudging through the city in 40°C (104°F) heat or getting drenched in monsoon rains. The ideal time to visit is from October to March when the weather is pleasantly cool and dry. During these months, temperatures typically range from 20-25°C (68-77°F) during the day and 5-10°C (41-50°F) at night.

We visited in early November, and the weather was perfect for exploring. The days were warm and sunny, but not oppressively hot, and the evenings were cool enough for a light jacket. Plus, this period includes some of New Delhi's most vibrant festivals, like Diwali (usually in October or November) and Holi (in March).

If you're on a tight budget, consider visiting during the shoulder seasons of April-May or August-September. Just be prepared for some heat or rain, respectively. Avoid June and July if possible - these are the hottest months, with temperatures often soaring above 40°C (104°F).

Visa Information

Unless you're from Nepal or Bhutan, you'll need a visa to enter India. The good news is that India now offers e-Visas for tourists from many countries, including the US, UK, and Australia. You can apply online through the official Indian e-Visa website. The process is relatively straightforward, but make sure to apply at least 4 days before your trip.

We applied for our e-Visas about a month before our trip and received approval within 72 hours. The tourist e-Visa allows for stays up to 60 days and is valid for one year from the date of issue. Remember, your passport should be valid for at least six months beyond your planned date of departure from India.

What to Pack

Packing for New Delhi requires a bit of strategy. Here's a quick list of essentials:

  • Comfortable, breathable clothing: Think light cotton or linen. Ladies, pack some long, loose-fitting skirts or pants and tops that cover your shoulders for visiting religious sites.
  • A scarf or shawl: This is multi-purpose - use it to cover your head in temples, as a light layer in air-conditioned places, or to protect against dust.
  • Comfortable walking shoes: You'll be doing a lot of walking, often on uneven surfaces.
  • Hand sanitizer and wet wipes: Trust me, these will come in handy.
  • A reusable water bottle with a built-in filter: Tap water isn't safe to drink, but a good filter bottle will save you from buying countless plastic bottles.
  • Sunscreen and a hat: The sun can be intense, even in winter.
  • A power bank: Long days of sightseeing and using your phone for maps can drain your battery quickly.
  • Earplugs: New Delhi can be noisy, especially if you're a light sleeper.

One item I'm particularly glad I packed was a small daypack. It was perfect for carrying water, snacks, and an extra layer while exploring the city.

Getting Around New Delhi

New Delhi has a variety of transportation options, but some are definitely more tourist-friendly than others. Here's a rundown:

  1. Delhi Metro: This is hands-down the best way to get around the city. It's clean, efficient, air-conditioned, and easy to navigate. Plus, it's incredibly cheap - a ride costs between 10-60 rupees ($.12-$.75) depending on the distance. The metro runs from about 5 am to 11:30 pm daily.
  2. Auto-rickshaws: These three-wheeled vehicles are ubiquitous in New Delhi. They're good for short trips, but always agree on a price before you start your journey. A good rule of thumb is to offer about half of what the driver initially quotes and negotiate from there.
  3. Ride-hailing apps: Uber and Ola (the local equivalent) are widely available in New Delhi. They're often more convenient than haggling with auto-rickshaw drivers, especially if you don't know the going rates.
  4. Taxis: Pre-paid taxis are available at the airport and major railway stations. They're more expensive than other options but can be a good choice if you have a lot of luggage.

We primarily used the metro to get around during our stay, supplemented by occasional Uber rides when we were tired or running late. The metro might seem intimidating at first, but it's actually quite user-friendly. Just be prepared for crowds during rush hour!

Safety and Cultural Etiquette

New Delhi is generally safe for tourists, but as with any big city, it's important to stay aware of your surroundings. Here are some tips to help you stay safe and respectful:

  • Dress modestly: This applies to both men and women, but especially women. Avoid shorts, low-cut tops, or tight-fitting clothes.
  • Be cautious with food and water: Stick to bottled water and be wary of street food, especially if you have a sensitive stomach.
  • Watch your belongings: Pickpocketing can be an issue in crowded areas. Keep your valuables close and be extra vigilant in markets and on public transport.
  • Respect religious sites: Remove your shoes before entering temples or mosques, and cover your head if required.
  • Use your right hand: The left hand is considered unclean in Indian culture. Use your right hand for eating, giving, or receiving items.
  • Be prepared for attention: Foreign tourists, especially those with fair skin or blonde hair, may attract curious stares or requests for photos. A polite "no, thank you" usually suffices if you're not comfortable.

Remember, India has different standards of personal space than many Western countries. What might feel like crowding to you is normal here. Take a deep breath, go with the flow, and you'll be fine.

Now that we've covered the basics, are you ready to dive into our 3-day New Delhi adventure? Let's go!

Where to Stay in New Delhi

Choosing the right place to stay can make or break your New Delhi experience. The city is huge, and each neighborhood has its own unique vibe. Here are three areas I'd recommend for first-time visitors:

Connaught Place

This is where Sarah and I stayed, and I can't recommend it enough. Connaught Place, or CP as the locals call it, is the commercial heart of New Delhi. It's centrally located, well-connected by metro, and full of shops, restaurants, and bars.

Pros:

  • Central location
  • Excellent metro connectivity
  • Plenty of dining and shopping options
  • Safe for tourists

Cons:

  • Can be noisy and crowded
  • More expensive than other areas

Hotel Recommendation: The Metropolitan Hotel & Spa. It's a bit of a splurge, but the central location, comfortable rooms, and excellent amenities made it worth every rupee for us.

Paharganj

If you're on a tighter budget, consider Paharganj. This backpacker haven is right next to New Delhi Railway Station, making it super convenient if you're planning to take any train journeys.

Pros:

  • Budget-friendly accommodations
  • Close to the railway station
  • Lively atmosphere with lots of fellow travelers

Cons:

  • Can be chaotic and overwhelming for some
  • Not as clean or well-maintained as other areas

Hotel Recommendation: Zostel Delhi. It's a popular hostel chain in India known for its cleanliness and social atmosphere.

Karol Bagh

Karol Bagh offers a good middle ground between the upscale Connaught Place and the backpacker-oriented Paharganj. It's a residential area with a local feel, great markets, and good metro connectivity.

Pros:

  • More authentic local experience
  • Good shopping, especially for traditional Indian wear
  • Quieter than Connaught Place or Paharganj

Cons:

  • Not as central as Connaught Place
  • Fewer high-end dining options

Hotel Recommendation: Hotel Jivitesh. It's a comfortable mid-range option with good reviews and a convenient location.

Whichever area you choose, make sure it's close to a metro station. The Delhi Metro will be your best friend for getting around the city quickly and cheaply.

Now that we've got accommodation sorted, let's dive into our 3-day New Delhi itinerary!

Day 1: Old Delhi and Historical Marvels

Introduction to Day 1

Welcome to your first day in New Delhi! Today, we're going to dive headfirst into the heart of Old Delhi. This area, once known as Shahjahanabad, was the capital of the Mughal Empire in the 17th century. It's a stark contrast to the wide boulevards and government buildings of New Delhi, and that's exactly why we're starting here. Old Delhi is chaotic, crowded, and utterly fascinating - it's the perfect introduction to the sensory overload that is India.

We've structured this day to give you a taste of Old Delhi's most iconic sights, sounds, and flavors. You'll explore ancient mosques, wander through bustling bazaars, and sample some of the best street food in the city. Fair warning: it's going to be a busy day, so wear comfortable shoes and bring your sense of adventure!

Morning: Jama Masjid and Chandni Chowk

Jama Masjid

Visitors in the expansive courtyard of Jama Masjid, one of India's largest mosques in Old Delhi
Stepping into Jama Masjid's courtyard feels like traveling back in time. The peace here is a stark contrast to the bustling streets outside.

Location: Meena Bazaar, Jama Masjid, Chandni Chowk, New Delhi, Delhi 110006

Hours: Open daily, 7:00 AM - 12:00 PM, 1:30 PM - 6:30 PM

Admission: Free entry, camera fee: 300 INR

Our day begins at the magnificent Jama Masjid, one of the largest mosques in India. Built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan (the same guy who built the Taj Mahal), this architectural marvel can hold up to 25,000 worshippers.

As you approach the mosque, you'll be struck by its grand scale. The red sandstone and white marble facade is impressive enough, but just wait until you climb the steps and enter the courtyard. The sheer size of the space is breathtaking. Take a moment to absorb the atmosphere - the soft murmur of prayers, the flutter of pigeons, the distant hum of the city beyond the walls.

Don't miss the opportunity to climb one of the minarets (if you're not afraid of heights). The view of Old Delhi from the top is incredible, especially in the soft morning light. Just remember to dress respectfully - both men and women should have their shoulders and knees covered, and women will need to wear a provided robe.

Why Visit: Jama Masjid is not just a religious site; it's a piece of living history. The architecture is stunning, and the atmosphere gives you a real sense of Delhi's spiritual side.

Insider Tip: Visit early in the morning to beat the crowds and the heat. And don't forget to remove your shoes before entering!

After Jama Masjid, it's time to dive into the controlled chaos of Chandni Chowk, Old Delhi's main thoroughfare and one of the oldest and busiest markets in India.

Chandni Chowk

Bustling market scene in Chandni Chowk, Old Delhi, with colorful stalls and crowds of shoppers
Navigating Chandni Chowk is like solving a delicious puzzle. Every turn reveals a new treasure, from spices to saris to the best street food in Delhi.

Location: Chandni Chowk, New Delhi, Delhi 110006

Hours: Most shops open daily, 9:30 AM - 8:00 PM (closed on Sundays)

Admission: Free

Chandni Chowk is less of a single market and more of a labyrinth of narrow lanes, each specializing in different goods. As you wander through the crowds, you'll find yourself dodging bicycle rickshaws, motorbikes, and the occasional cow. It's chaotic, it's noisy, and it's absolutely exhilarating.

Start your exploration on the main road and then dive into the side streets. Some must-visit spots include Khari Baoli (Asia's largest spice market), Nai Sarak (for books and stationery), and Dariba Kalan (for jewelry). The colors, smells, and sounds can be overwhelming, but that's all part of the Old Delhi experience.

Don't leave Chandni Chowk without trying some street food. Paranthe Wali Gali is famous for its stuffed parathas (flatbreads), while the Old Famous Jalebi Wala serves up crispy, syrupy jalebis that are out of this world. Just remember to choose places that are busy with locals - that's usually a good sign for both taste and food safety.

Why Visit: Chandni Chowk offers a sensory overload that embodies the essence of Old Delhi. It's a place where centuries-old traditions coexist with modern commerce.

Insider Tip: Consider taking a guided walking tour of Chandni Chowk. A knowledgeable local can help you navigate the chaos and point out hidden gems you might otherwise miss.

Afternoon: Red Fort

Imposing red sandstone walls and intricate details of the Red Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage site in Delhi
The Red Fort's walls have witnessed centuries of Indian history. Standing before them, you can almost hear the echoes of past empires.

Red Fort

Location: Netaji Subhash Marg, Lal Qila, Chandni Chowk, New Delhi, Delhi 110006

Hours: Open Tue-Sun, 9:30 AM - 4:30 PM (closed on Mondays)

Admission: 35 INR for Indians, 500 INR for foreigners

After lunch, it's time to explore the iconic Red Fort, or Lal Qila. This massive red sandstone structure was the main residence of the Mughal emperors for nearly 200 years. As you approach the fort, you'll be struck by the sheer scale of its walls - they stretch for over two kilometers and reach heights of up to 33 meters.

Once inside, take your time exploring the various buildings and gardens. Don't miss the Diwan-i-Aam (Hall of Public Audience) where the emperor would meet ordinary people, and the Diwan-i-Khas (Hall of Private Audience) where he would meet with courtiers and foreign dignitaries. The intricate marble work and inlaid precious stones in these buildings are simply stunning.

As you wander through the fort, try to imagine what life was like here during the height of the Mughal Empire. The fountains would have been flowing, the gardens lush and green, and the halls filled with richly dressed courtiers and visiting diplomats from around the world.

Why Visit: The Red Fort is not just a beautiful structure; it's a symbol of India's history and independence. It's from the ramparts of this fort that the Prime Minister hoists the national flag and delivers a speech on Independence Day each year.

Insider Tip: Visit the fort in the late afternoon to catch the beautiful golden light on the red sandstone walls. Just make sure you have enough time to explore before closing.

Evening: Dinner and Light Show

As the sun sets on your first day in New Delhi, you have two great options to round out your evening.

Option 1: Dinner in Connaught Place

If you're staying in or near Connaught Place (CP), head back there for dinner. CP is home to some of the best restaurants in the city, ranging from traditional Indian to international cuisine.

For a taste of North Indian cuisine, try Parikrama, a revolving restaurant that offers panoramic views of the city along with delicious food. If you're in the mood for something a bit more casual, Saravana Bhavan serves excellent South Indian vegetarian fare.

Option 2: Sound and Light Show at Red Fort

If you're not too tired, consider staying at the Red Fort for the sound and light show. This one-hour show tells the story of Delhi's history through dramatic lighting, music, and narration.

Location: Red Fort

Hours: 6:00 PM - 7:00 PM (English show), 7:30 PM - 8:30 PM (Hindi show)

Admission: 80 INR for adults, 30 INR for children

Watching the play of lights on the ancient walls of the fort while learning about its rich history is a magical experience. It's a great way to contextualize everything you've seen during the day.

Insider Tip: If you choose to attend the light show, have dinner afterward. Most restaurants in Delhi stay open quite late, so you'll have no trouble finding a good meal even after 9 PM.

As you head back to your hotel, take a moment to reflect on your first day in New Delhi. From the spiritual serenity of Jama Masjid to the sensory overload of Chandni Chowk and the historical grandeur of the Red Fort, you've experienced the many facets of Old Delhi. Rest up, because tomorrow we'll be exploring the contrasting face of the city - New Delhi!

Day 2: New Delhi's Grandeur

Introduction to Day 2

Good morning! I hope you're well-rested because today we're diving into the heart of New Delhi. In contrast to the narrow lanes and ancient buildings of Old Delhi, today you'll experience the wide boulevards, grand government buildings, and beautiful gardens that characterize the newer part of the city.

We've structured this day to give you a mix of historical sites and modern attractions. You'll see the legacy of British colonial rule, experience some of Delhi's lush green spaces, and end the day with a taste of contemporary Indian culture. It's going to be another full day, but I promise it'll be worth it!

Morning: Humayun's Tomb and Lodhi Gardens

We'll start our day at one of my favorite spots in New Delhi - Humayun's Tomb.

Humayun's Tomb

Stunning reflection of Humayun's Tomb in a water pool, showcasing Mughal architecture in Delhi
Humayun's Tomb is like the Taj Mahal's older cousin. The symmetry and serenity here are absolutely mesmerizing, especially in the early morning light.

Location: Mathura Road, Opposite Dargah Nizamuddin, New Delhi, Delhi 110013

Hours: Open daily, sunrise to sunset

Admission: 35 INR for Indians, 550 INR for foreigners

Humayun's Tomb is often called the precursor to the Taj Mahal, and it's easy to see why. Built in the mid-16th century, this stunning mausoleum was the first garden-tomb on the Indian subcontinent and inspired several major architectural innovations, culminating in the construction of the Taj Mahal a century later.

As you approach the tomb, you'll be struck by its symmetry and the perfect reflection in the surrounding pools. Take your time exploring the beautifully manicured gardens, known as charbagh, which are divided into quarters by walkways or flowing water.

Inside the mausoleum, marvel at the intricate stonework and the peaceful atmosphere. The central chamber houses the tomb of Emperor Humayun, but numerous other Mughal rulers are also buried here. It's like a history lesson come to life!

Why Visit: Humayun's Tomb is not just architecturally significant; it's also incredibly beautiful and peaceful. It's a perfect place to start your day.

Insider Tip: Visit early in the morning to catch the soft light on the red sandstone and white marble. It's also cooler and less crowded at this time.

After Humayun's Tomb, let's head to another green oasis in the heart of the city - Lodhi Gardens.

Lodhi Gardens

Visitors enjoying the lush greenery and historic tombs in Lodhi Gardens, a popular park in Delhi
Lodhi Gardens is Delhi's perfect escape. Where else can you jog past 15th-century tombs or have a picnic in the shadow of history?

Location: Lodhi Road, New Delhi, Delhi 110003

Hours: Open daily, 5:00 AM - 8:00 PM

Admission: Free

Lodhi Gardens is a 90-acre park that houses the tombs of several rulers of the Lodhi dynasty, which ruled parts of northern India in the 15th and 16th centuries. But don't let the presence of tombs fool you - this is very much a living space, popular with joggers, yoga enthusiasts, and picnicking families.

Take a leisurely stroll through the gardens, enjoying the mix of manicured lawns, flowering trees, and ancient Islamic architecture. The Mohammed Shah's Tomb, Sikander Lodi's Tomb, and the Athpula Bridge are particularly worth seeking out.

If you're a bird enthusiast, keep your eyes peeled. Lodhi Gardens is home to over 30 species of birds, including parakeets, kites, and even the occasional hornbill.

Why Visit: Lodhi Gardens offers a peaceful respite from the bustle of the city and a chance to see how modern Delhi residents enjoy their leisure time alongside centuries-old monuments.

Insider Tip: If you're feeling peckish, stop by the NGMA Cafe near the garden's entrance. It's a charming spot for a quick bite or a cup of coffee.

Afternoon: India Gate and Rashtrapati Bhavan

After lunch (I recommend trying some chaat, or street snacks, from a reputable vendor near Lodhi Gardens), we'll head to the heart of New Delhi to see some of its most iconic landmarks.

India Gate

India Gate war memorial illuminated at dusk, a iconic landmark in New Delhi
India Gate at dusk is pure magic. The way it lights up against the darkening sky never fails to give me goosebumps.

Location: Rajpath, India Gate, New Delhi, Delhi 110001

Hours: Open 24 hours

Admission: Free

India Gate is a 42-meter high stone arch of triumph that stands at the center of New Delhi. Built in 1931, it was originally a memorial to the Indian soldiers who died in World War I. Now it also serves as India's Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

The arch itself is impressive, but what's really striking is the wide boulevard (Rajpath) leading up to it. This is the venue for the Republic Day parade each year, and you can almost imagine the colorful floats and marching bands passing by.

Take some time to stroll around the arch and the surrounding gardens. If you're visiting in the evening, you'll see the arch beautifully illuminated. It's a popular spot for locals to gather, especially on warm evenings, and the atmosphere can be quite festive.

Why Visit: India Gate is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Delhi and offers a glimpse into both India's colonial past and its proud present.

Insider Tip: If you're visiting in summer, consider buying a kulfi (traditional Indian ice cream) from one of the vendors near the gate. It's the perfect way to cool down!

From India Gate, we'll make our way to Rashtrapati Bhavan, the official residence of the President of India.

Rashtrapati Bhavan

Impressive facade of Rashtrapati Bhavan, the official residence of the President of India in New Delhi
Rashtrapati Bhavan is a perfect blend of Indian and Western architecture. It's mind-boggling to think that it has more rooms than Buckingham Palace!

Location: Rashtrapati Bhawan, President's Estate, New Delhi, Delhi 110004

Hours: Visits by appointment only, Fri-Sun

Admission: Free, but advance booking required

Rashtrapati Bhavan is a massive complex covering 320 acres, including the main building, gardens, staff quarters, and bodyguard barracks. The main building alone has 340 rooms spread over four floors!

While you can't enter the main building without a pre-arranged tour, you can admire its impressive facade from the gates. The building is a beautiful blend of Indian and Western architectural styles, designed by the British architect Edwin Lutyens.

If you've planned ahead and booked a tour, you'll get to see the magnificent Durbar Hall, the Library, and some of the state rooms. The Mughal Gardens are particularly beautiful if you're visiting between February and March when they're open to the public.

Why Visit: Rashtrapati Bhavan is the heart of Indian democracy and a stunning example of colonial-era architecture.

Insider Tip: If you can't get a tour of the main building, consider visiting the Rashtrapati Bhavan Museum Complex instead. It's open six days a week (closed on Mondays) and offers a fascinating look at the history of the building and the Indian presidency.

Evening: Akshardham Temple

To round out our day of exploring New Delhi's grand structures, let's head to one of the city's most impressive modern buildings - the Akshardham Temple.

Akshardham Temple

Detailed stone carvings on the exterior of Akshardham Temple, a modern architectural marvel in Delhi
The craftsmanship at Akshardham Temple is jaw-dropping. It's hard to believe this massive complex was completed in just five years!

Location: Noida Mor, Pandav Nagar, New Delhi, Delhi 110092

Hours: Tue-Sun, 9:30 AM - 6:30 PM (closed on Mondays)

Admission: Free entry to the temple, fees for exhibitions and shows

Akshardham is a relatively new addition to Delhi's landscape, having opened in 2005, but it's quickly become one of the city's must-see attractions. This enormous Hindu temple complex showcases millennia of traditional Hindu and Indian culture, spirituality, and architecture.

The main temple building is a breathtaking sight, intricately carved with stories from Hindu scriptures. It's made entirely from Rajasthani pink sandstone and Italian Carrara marble, without any steel or concrete.

Beyond the temple itself, the complex includes beautifully manicured gardens, a musical fountain, and several exhibitions. If time permits, I highly recommend staying for the Sahaj Anand Water Show in the evening. It's a spectacular display of lights, lasers, and water projections telling stories from Hindu scriptures.

Why Visit: Akshardham offers a glimpse into Hindu spirituality and culture, and its architecture is simply stunning, especially when illuminated at night.

Insider Tip: Cameras and phones are not allowed inside the complex, so be prepared to check these at the entrance. Also, allocate at least 3-4 hours to fully experience the temple and its exhibitions.

As you leave Akshardham, take a moment to reflect on the contrasts you've experienced today. From the Mughal-era tomb of Humayun to the colonial grandeur of Rashtrapati Bhavan and the modern spectacle of Akshardham, you've seen how Delhi has evolved over the centuries while always maintaining its own unique character.

For dinner tonight, why not try some North Indian cuisine? Bukhara at the ITC Maurya hotel is world-renowned for its tandoori dishes, or for something more casual, Kake Da Hotel in Connaught Place serves delicious, hearty Punjabi food.

Rest up tonight, because tomorrow we're going to dive into some of Delhi's cultural treasures!

Day 3: Cultural Immersion

Introduction to Day 3

Welcome to your final day in New Delhi! Today, we're going to immerse ourselves in the rich culture and history of this fascinating city. We'll start with some ancient history, move on to art and crafts, and end with a taste of contemporary Delhi life.

This day is designed to be a bit more flexible than the previous two. Depending on your interests, you can choose to spend more time at certain stops or add in some additional activities. Remember, the goal is not just to see Delhi, but to experience it!

Morning: Qutub Minar and Mehrauli Archaeological Park

Let's kick off our day with a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Qutub Minar.

Qutub Minar

Towering Qutub Minar, the world's tallest brick minaret, standing against a clear blue sky in Delhi
Standing at the base of Qutub Minar, you really feel tiny. It's amazing to think this was built over 800 years ago without modern technology.

Location: Mehrauli, New Delhi, Delhi 110030

Hours: Open daily, sunrise to sunset

Admission: 35 INR for Indians, 550 INR for foreigners

Qutub Minar is a stunning example of early Indo-Islamic architecture. This 73-meter high tower was built in the early 13th century, possibly as a victory tower or as a minaret to the adjacent mosque.

As you approach the tower, you'll be struck by its intricate carvings and the way it tapers from a 15-meter diameter at the base to just 2.5 meters at the top. Unfortunately, you can't climb the tower anymore, but walking around its base and imagining the skill it took to construct such a monument over 800 years ago is awe-inspiring.

Take time to explore the surrounding archaeological complex as well. The rust-resistant Iron Pillar of Delhi, dating back to the 4th century CE, is particularly interesting. Legend has it that if you can encircle it with your arms while standing with your back to it, your wish will be granted!

Why Visit: Qutub Minar is not just architecturally impressive; it's a testament to the long and varied history of Delhi.

Insider Tip: Consider hiring a guide here. The complex has a lot of history that's not immediately apparent, and a knowledgeable guide can really bring the place to life.

After exploring Qutub Minar, take a short walk to the adjacent Mehrauli Archaeological Park.

Mehrauli Archaeological Park

Historic ruins and structures scattered throughout Mehrauli Archaeological Park, a hidden gem in Delhi
Mehrauli Archaeological Park feels like Delhi's best-kept secret. It's like wandering through an open-air museum of Indian history.

Location: Mehrauli, New Delhi, Delhi 110030

Hours: Open daily, sunrise to sunset

Admission: Free

This 200-acre park is a bit off the typical tourist trail, but it's a treasure trove for history buffs. It contains over 100 historically significant monuments, dating from the 10th century to the 19th century, representing various ruling dynasties of Delhi.

Some of the notable structures include Balban's Tomb, believed to be the first Indian tomb to use a true arch, and Jamali Kamali Mosque, known for its beautiful proportions and intricate plasterwork.

What I love about this park is how it feels like you're discovering hidden ruins in the middle of the city. You can wander freely among centuries-old tombs and mosques, often with few other visitors around.

Why Visit: Mehrauli Archaeological Park offers a peaceful, less crowded alternative to some of Delhi's more famous historical sites, while still showcasing the city's rich history.

Insider Tip: Wear comfortable shoes and bring water. The park is large and there's a fair bit of walking involved.

Afternoon: National Museum or Craft Workshops

For the afternoon, you have two great options depending on your interests:

Option 1: National Museum

Exhibit of ancient Indian artifacts in the National Museum, showcasing the rich cultural heritage of India
The National Museum is a treasure trove of Indian history. I spent hours here and felt like I'd only scratched the surface of India's incredible past.

National Museum

Location: Janpath Rd, Rajpath Area, Central Secretariat, New Delhi, Delhi 110001

Hours: Tue-Sun, 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM (closed on Mondays)

Admission: 20 INR for Indians, 650 INR for foreigners

If you're interested in diving deeper into Indian history and art, the National Museum is a must-visit. With over 200,000 artworks spanning 5,000 years of Indian cultural heritage, it's one of the largest museums in India.

The museum's collections cover everything from prehistoric archaeology to contemporary art. Some highlights include the Harappan Gallery, showcasing artifacts from one of the world's oldest civilizations, and the Buddhist Art section, which includes relics believed to belong to the Buddha himself.

Why Visit: The National Museum offers a comprehensive overview of Indian art and history, making it an excellent way to contextualize everything you've seen in the city.

Insider Tip: The audio guide is well worth the extra cost. It provides detailed information about the key exhibits and helps you navigate this large museum efficiently.

Option 2: Craft Workshops

Participants learning traditional blue pottery techniques at a workshop by Delhi Blue Pottery Trust
Trying my hand at blue pottery was harder than it looked, but so rewarding! It gave me a whole new appreciation for the craft I saw in the markets.

If you prefer a more hands-on cultural experience, consider taking a craft workshop. Delhi is known for its rich tradition of handicrafts, and there are several places where you can try your hand at traditional arts.

Delhi Blue Pottery Trust

Location: C-3, Lajpat Nagar III, New Delhi, Delhi 110024

Hours: Workshops by appointment

Admission: Varies by workshop

This non-profit organization offers workshops in blue pottery, a distinctive art form that came to India from Persia. In a typical workshop, you'll learn about the history of the craft, see demonstrations, and get to paint your own piece to take home.

Alternatively, you might consider a block printing workshop at The Protsahan, where you can learn this traditional textile printing technique, or a Madhubani painting class to try your hand at this ancient style of painting from Bihar.

Why Visit: These workshops offer a unique, hands-on way to engage with Indian culture and create a personalized souvenir of your trip.

Insider Tip: Book your workshop in advance, as spaces can fill up quickly, especially in peak tourist season.

Evening: Dilli Haat

Vibrant displays of traditional Indian handicrafts at stalls in Dilli Haat, an open-air market in Delhi
Dilli Haat is like a miniature tour of India's crafts. The variety of items from different states is incredible, and the food stalls are a culinary adventure!

To round out your cultural immersion, let's head to Dilli Haat for some shopping and dinner.

Dilli Haat

Location: Sri Aurobindo Marg, Lado Sarai, New Delhi, Delhi 110016

Hours: Open daily, 10:30 AM - 10:00 PM

Admission: 30 INR for Indians, 100 INR for foreigners

Dilli Haat is an open-air market that was set up to provide a platform for artisans from all over India to sell their crafts directly to customers. It's designed to feel like a traditional weekly village market, or "haat", but it's open every day.

Here, you can find a wide variety of handicrafts from different states of India - everything from Kashmiri shawls and Rajasthani puppets to Tamil Nadu's Tanjore paintings and Bengali kantha embroidery. It's a great place to pick up souvenirs or gifts.

But Dilli Haat isn't just about shopping. It's also an excellent place to sample cuisines from different parts of India. The food stalls here represent various states, offering you a culinary tour of India all in one place.

Why Visit: Dilli Haat offers a curated shopping experience where you can find authentic Indian crafts and sample a variety of regional cuisines.

Insider Tip: Don't be afraid to haggle a bit on prices for crafts, but do so respectfully. For food, try the momos (Tibetan dumplings) and the Bihar stall's litti chokha if it's available.

As you enjoy your dinner at Dilli Haat, take a moment to reflect on your whirlwind tour of Delhi. From ancient monuments to modern temples, from historical museums to contemporary craft workshops, you've experienced the many layers that make up this complex and fascinating city.

Alternative Itineraries

While this 3-day itinerary covers many of Delhi's highlights, there are countless ways to experience the city. Here are a few alternative suggestions based on different interests:

For Food Lovers

If culinary experiences are your main interest, consider:

  • Taking a food tour of Old Delhi
  • Visiting the spice market in Khari Baoli
  • Having dinner at Indian Accent, consistently rated one of Asia's best restaurants
  • Learning to cook Indian cuisine at a cooking class

For History Buffs

If you can't get enough of Delhi's rich history, add these to your itinerary:

  • Purana Qila, an ancient fort believed to be built on the site of Indraprastha, the legendary capital of the Pandavas
  • Safdarjung's Tomb, sometimes called the "last flicker in the lamp of Mughal architecture"
  • National Archives of India, which houses historical documents dating back to the 18th century

For Art Enthusiasts

If you're more interested in art and culture, consider:

  • National Gallery of Modern Art
  • Kiran Nadar Museum of Art
  • Triveni Kala Sangam, a cultural institution known for its art exhibitions and performances

For Nature Lovers

While Delhi is a bustling metropolis, it also has some beautiful green spaces:

  • Sunder Nursery, a recently restored 16th-century heritage park
  • Yamuna Biodiversity Park, a nature reserve on the banks of the Yamuna River
  • Aravalli Biodiversity Park, offering walking trails and birdwatching opportunities

For Families

If you're traveling with children, these attractions might be of interest:

  • National Science Centre
  • National Rail Museum
  • Adventure Island, an amusement park with rides and games

Day Trips from Delhi

If you have an extra day or two, consider taking a day trip from Delhi. Here are some popular options:

  1. Agra: Home to the Taj Mahal, Agra is about 3-4 hours from Delhi by car or train. While it's possible to visit as a day trip, an overnight stay would allow you to see the Taj Mahal at sunrise, which is truly spectacular.
  2. Jaipur: The "Pink City" is about 4-5 hours from Delhi and is known for its stunning palaces and forts. It's a long day trip, but doable if you start early.
  3. Rishikesh: If you're interested in yoga and spirituality, Rishikesh in the Himalayan foothills is worth a visit. It's about a 5-6 hour drive from Delhi.
  4. Neemrana: Just 2 hours from Delhi, Neemrana is home to a beautiful fort-palace that's now a heritage hotel. You can visit for the day and enjoy activities like ziplining.

Practical Tips for Your Delhi Trip

To help you make the most of your time in Delhi, here are some final practical tips:

  1. Stay Hydrated: Delhi can be hot, especially in summer. Always carry a water bottle with you and drink regularly.
  2. Dress Appropriately: Dress modestly, especially when visiting religious sites. Light, loose-fitting clothes are best for Delhi's climate.
  3. Be Cautious with Street Food: While Delhi's street food is delicious, it can sometimes upset stomachs not used to it. Stick to busy stalls where you can see the food being cooked.
  4. Use Reliable Transportation: Stick to official taxis, ride-sharing apps, or the metro. Be cautious of tuk-tuk or taxi drivers who approach you unsolicited at tourist sites.
  5. Bargain, But Be Fair: Bargaining is expected in markets, but remember that a few rupees might mean more to the seller than to you.
  6. Respect Local Customs: Always remove your shoes before entering a place of worship, and cover your head if required.
  7. Stay Alert: As in any big city, be aware of your surroundings and keep your belongings close, especially in crowded areas.
  8. Get a Local SIM Card: Having data on your phone for maps and translation can be incredibly helpful. You can buy a prepaid SIM at the airport.

Wrapping Up Your 3 Days in New Delhi

As our 3-day journey through Delhi comes to an end, I hope you've fallen in love with this vibrant, complex city as much as I have. From the narrow lanes of Old Delhi to the wide boulevards of New Delhi, from ancient monuments to cutting-edge museums, Delhi is a city that never fails to surprise and delight.

Remember, this itinerary is just a starting point. Delhi has so much to offer that you could spend weeks here and still not see everything. Don't be afraid to wander, to explore, to follow your curiosity. Some of the best experiences in Delhi come from those unexpected moments - stumbling upon a hidden courtyard, chatting with a friendly local, or discovering a tiny restaurant serving the best food you've ever tasted.

As you leave Delhi, you might find yourself already planning your next visit. That's the magic of this city - it has a way of getting under your skin, of making you want to come back for more. Whether it's the history, the food, the culture, or the warmth of its people, Delhi has something for everyone.

So pack your bags, bring your sense of adventure, and get ready for an unforgettable 3 days in New Delhi. The city is waiting to welcome you with open arms. Safe travels!

West Parker
West Parker
Article updated:
July 18, 2024 8:23 AM

West Parker, a Cornell University School of Hotel Administration graduate, has spent two decades as the secret weapon of the jet-set elite, crafting bespoke adventures that redefine luxury travel. Now a resident writer for Town & Tourist, this 45-year-old "Architect of Extraordinary Journeys" combines razor-sharp insights with unparalleled industry connections to deliver experiences that even the most discerning globetrotters can't help but rave about. West's expertise spans from exclusive real estate to fine dining, making him the go-to strategist for those who demand nothing but the extraordinary in their travels.

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