New Delhi is brimming with a variety of worldly treasures. Its vibrant past reflects through the many historic buildings that hide amongst the more modern structures of the city. Its love for street food is evident from the groups of people you'll find packed together, outside small, age-old eateries that dot Delhi's many residential colonies. Finally, there is the arty side of Delhi, where musical and theatrical events add a sense of culture and tradition to the vibrant persona of the region.
The good thing about exploring Delhi in just 24 hours is that you'll find a vast network of public transportation that includes buses, the metro, auto-rickshaws, and Uber, as well as local taxis. However, with limited time, it's best to hire a cab for the entire day. As a result, you can drive from one part of the city to another without having to constantly worry about finding the next transport option.
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How to Spend 24 Hours in Delhi
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The only way to cover as much of Delhi as possible in a day is to start early, which means you'll have to reach the Yamuna Ghats before sunrise for one of the city's most spectacular sights. Imagine being surrounded by hundreds of birds flying around, lost in a cacophony of sounds that are surprisingly pleasing to the ear. For local photographers, being at the ghats, especially during the winter months, when migratory birds arrive here, is a rite of passage. For everyone else, a boat ride along the ghats is a pleasant way to start appreciating the hidden beauty of this capital city.
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It's possible to get lost in the streets of Old Delhi for an entire day and still not discover its hidden gems. But to avoid the crowds and get a feel of it all, head to Chandini Chownk, and indulge in some finger-licking breakfast opportunities. You'll find everything here from classic and comforting kachoris to chole bahturas. For a memorable meal, though, have one, or two, of the 28 stuffed parathas available at the legendary Paranthe Wali Gali. The parathas, cooked in desi ghee, guarantee a hearty and delectable bite that will keep you energized for most of the day.
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Afterwards, make a quick visit to the nearby Red Fort followed by a walk-through Asia's largest spice market, Khadi Baoli. A favorite spot on this iconic road is Gadodia Market. You can take the slightly seedy steps in the back of this ancient mansion to the roof. From here you'll get a refreshing bird's eye view of the surrounding city and the adjacent mosque. Ask the tea seller below to send over a hot cup of tea, and you can enjoy India's favorite drink while watching and listening to the city wake up. Finally, take a quick rickshaw ride to Jama Masjid. Built-in the 1650s by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, it's one of the largest mosques in India, made up of marble and red sandstone, and is an architectural marvel that highlights the artistic dominance of the city's past.
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As the sun rises overhead, take your cab or the metro to Connaught Place. The epicenter of the city, you'll find a giant flag in the middle of Central Park here, a place where locals often come to take a quick break during lunchtime. From here, you can drive by the President's House, and glance at India's Parliament building to stop for a few moments at India Gate. India Gate is an Arc de Triomphe like war memorial that consists of four eternal flames to honor the unknown soldiers who laid their lives protecting the country.
Leaving India Gate, for the time being, it's worth hopping back to Connaught Place for some quick shopping and lunch, you'll find a combination of age-old classic eateries operating alongside more contemporary establishments. For a truly authentic feel, grab a quick meal or snack at United Coffee House, situated in Block E of the 'Inner Circle.' UCH is nothing short of an institution that still oozes an old-world-charm and dishes out some delicious plates of food.
Depending on how you're doing with time, you can wander over to Janpath for street bargains and souvenirs. Or if India's heritage is of interest, pop inside the National Museum that houses arts and artifacts from across the country, dating back thousands of years.
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The last stretch of your 24-hour journey in Delhi starts with a stop at Safdarjung's Tomb. Another prominent example of Mughal architecture, built-in 1754, it lies en-route as you make way from Central Delhi to the delights of South Delhi. Humayun's Tomb, also nearby, is more popular, but requires a lot more time to explore due to its size and grandeur.
Delhi comes alive in the evenings, but unfortunately, it's also the busiest time of day as most people are either heading home from work or leaving their homes to party. Hauz Khas Village is one place where modern ethos clash with ancient design in a somewhat haphazard manner. An urban village located next to a reservoir, there are historical monuments from the Khilji Dynasty here, standing tall next to streets crowded with trendy bars and restaurants. The atmosphere here is youthful, and the lanes do get packed, but it is one place in Delhi where locals come to see and be seen.
You can always have a quick drink at one of the many rooftop bars of HKV, but for a truly spectacular sight, go straight to Qutub Minar. A part of the night tourism initiative started by the Delhi government, Qutub Minar, is a spectacular sight to witness after sundown. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the minaret dates back to 1199 when emperor Qutubuddin Aibak first started the construction. Arriving just before sunset allows you to appreciate all the buildings in the Qutub Complex, some of which are closed later as they are not lighted.
Once you are done admiring the Qutub Minar in its bright and shining glory, take a short walk to Bo Tai, a contemporary bar and restaurant that promises some of the best and most innovative cocktails in town. The food at Bo Tai is equally impressive, but for a truly magical end to your evening, shift next door to Olive Bar and Kitchen. One of the most well-known restaurants in Delhi, the ambiance at Olive, takes on a whole new personality due to its location inside a colonial building. Sitting outside in their courtyard is a rustic, and simultaneously elegant experience, enhanced further by fine plates of European food that guarantees a night to remember.
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Tummies full, if you've still got time and the energy, drive back to India Gate. Late nights at India Gate are especially fabulous as residents from across Delhi come here with families, after dinner, to eat ice-cream from the many street vendors who line up around the building.
24 hours in Delhi are just about enough to scratch off the tip of an iceberg that promises many wonders, some of which demand a more leisurely and time-consuming approach to them. However, if you plan well, it's enough to give you an insight into one of the most fascinating cities of the world and simultaneously tempt you enough to plan a return trip.