A local's guide to Delhi: where to eat, shop and explore

Aarti Jhurani tells us why the place where she was brought up is a must for every traveller's bucket list

My home town of Delhi does not need much introduction, especially with all the bad press it has been getting of late, from the alarming air pollution levels to women’s safety issues.

It makes me sad to see the city I have such amazing memories of get this reputation. I haven’t lived there for more than seven years, but I still visit my family often, and choose to remember it as it was when I was growing up there. Beyond the headlines, Delhi has so much more to offer – including great food, amazing shopping spots, a full cultural calendar and impressive architecture.

My top time to visit

The cooler months of October to March are the ideal time to take a tour of this city that's steeped in history and offers architectural marvels, some dating back to the 1300s.

Visit landmarks such as Qutub Minar, India Gate, Red Fort, Humayun's Tomb, Jantar Mantar and Lotus Temple, to name a few. You can do this with Delhi Tourism's Hop On Hop Off sightseeing services, which start at only 500 Indian rupees (Dh26). This is also the best time to visit the India Habitat Centre, a lush green space offering events from free open-air concerts and plays to art exhibitions.

My shopping hotspots

My wallet takes a serious hit every time I visit the city, because there are too many offerings to tempt shopaholics. On a budget? Head to Sarojini Nagar, Lajpat Nagar and Janpath in Connaught Place, pictured above, and flex your bargaining skills to get great deals on anything from apparel and accessories to shoes and decor.

Khan Market, Shahpur Jat, Greater Kailash and Hauz Khas Village are great to peruse some established Indian brands such as Anokhi (their light and airy cotton tunics in beautiful hand-block prints are perfect for the UAE summer), as well as options from local designers. Make time for Dilli Haat, where artisans from across the country sell their wares, including colourful mirrorwork bags, handloom sarees, embroidered stoles and handmade jewellery.


My favourite eats

Delhi is known for its amazing street food. Sample delicacies such as aloo chaat, papdi chaat, laddoo garme, channa bhatura and matar kulcha. If you don't want to risk "Delhi belly", you can head to Haldiram's outlets all across the city, where diners binge without compromising on hygiene.

Also try the food from different states of India at speciality restaurants, such as Naga cuisine from Nagaland's Kitchen, Bihar options from The Potbelly Rooftop Cafe and a mix of Indian cuisines at Cafe Lota in the National Crafts Museum. For a taste of Bengal, go to Oh! Calcutta.

Nagaland's Kitchen:

Delhi does Mughlai food best, however, and if you want grilled spicy tandoori chicken or creamy dal makhni and butter chicken, head to Gulati's or Have More on Pandara Road, or Moti Mahal, where these dishes originated. For fine dining, head to Indian Accent at The Lodhi, which is number 60 on the extended list of the World's 50 Best Restaurants. 

Indian Accent:

Definitely spend a day in Old Delhi

This is probably my favourite part of the city. I usually spend a day here meandering through its bustling lanes that are often narrow enough to let only one person pass.

Shop for beautiful silver jewellery and ittar (perfume oils) at Dariba Kalan; visit Khari Baoli, the largest spice market in Asia; or shop for Indianwear at Kinari Bazar.

Khari Baoli:

There are also several Old Delhi food tours you can try, but my tops restaurant picks are Karim's, Old Famous Jalebi Wala and Khemchand Daulat ki Chaat. When you tire from walking, ride around in cycle rickshaws and don't make the mistake of taking a car there – use the Delhi Metro.

Fresh bread at Karim's: