Delhi is endowed with that roguish charm that comes with being a little bit rough around the edges, a city that grabs you and doesn’t let go in a hurry. A mishmash of different rulers and eras, from Mughals to colonials, there is a wealth of forts, palaces, temples and bazaars to explore. Pass along the stately Rajpath through the legacy of the British in New Delhi and dive headlong into the colourful chaos of Old Delhi in a city that offers the perfect introduction to India.
Considered the very pinnacle of Mughal architectural vision the Red Fort, constructed in red sandstone, was built between 1638 and 1648 by Emperor Shah Jahan. A paradisiacal complex of marble palaces, peaceful pavilions and beautifully landscaped gardens surrounded by 18 metre high walls, Shah Jahan was imprisoned by his son before he could fully take up residence. The last Mughal emperor was forced to leave in 1857, after which the fort was plundered and used by the British as a barracks. The complex today is just as delightful – some buildings now house museums, and there is an impressive sound and light show most evenings.
India’s largest mosque, with a courtyard able to hold 25,000 worshippers, Jama Masjid sits over old Delhi from its hilltop perch. Built between 1644 and 1658 by Shah Jahan, the Mughal emperor responsible for the Red Fort, the mosque is magnificently constructed of layered red sandstone and white marble and crowned with three huge white marble domes. As you enter through one of the three grand gates a palpable sense of calm descends as you leave behind the bedlam of old Delhi’s narrow streets. There are two 20 metre minarets flanking the main prayer hall; it is possible to climb one to get excellent views over the city (unaccompanied women will need a male guide to do this).
The area known as Old Delhi today roughly corresponds to the city built (and originally named Shahjahanabad!) by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. A vibrant and thoroughly chaotic place to explore, Chandni Chowk is Old Delhi’s main thoroughfare and most famous shopping strip. Full to bursting with stores selling everything from saris, to souvenirs to electronics, just venturing slightly off the street will bring you to some atmospheric old bazaars. Chandni Chowk stretches roughly 1.5 kilometres between the Red Fort and Fatehpuri Mosque and, as well as shops, also has a number of Jain, Sikh and Hindu temples.
In 1912 the British decided to move their seat of power from Calcutta to Delhi. Planned by Sir Edwin Lutyens, New Delhi was finally completed in 1929, a colossal and grandiose show of the might of the British Empire – ironically they were kicked out just 16 years later. Admire the Rashtrapati Bhavan, today the official residence of India’s president, designed by Lutyens as the centre piece, before strolling down the Rajpath (or King’s Way) through a vast, green open space to Lutyens’ India Gate.
A welcome escape from Delhi’s sensory assault, the beautiful Lodi Gardens was landscaped by Lady Willingdon, the wife of India’s Governor-General, around a number of crumbling tombs and temples of the Sayyid and Lodi rulers. The wonderfully atmospheric structures scattered throughout the park were built in the 15th century and, in their crumbling grandeur, rare examples of the architecture of pre-Mughal Sayyid and Lodi dynasties. This is also the place to people watch – a lot of Delhiites use the park to exercise, relax and meet friends.
Located in the heart of Delhi, set amongst and inspired by the grand, timeless architecture of Sir Edwin Lutyens, Shangri-La's Eros Hotel is surrounded by lush gardens. Exuding an indulgent atmosphere, the hotel houses state-of-the-art recreation facilities, including a healthclub and spa, an outdoor pool and a range of restaurants. Accommodation is elegantly and luxuriously simple and boasts contemporary Asian furnishings.
Perfectly located in central New Delhi, overlooking Edward Lutyens' grand architecture, Le Meridien is housed in an iconic glass building. Boasting designer interiors combined with state-of-the-art technology, rooms offer a serene space away from the bustle off the city. There is also a great choice of eating and drinking venues.
Built in the 1900s, the Maidens is one of Delhi’s architectural landmarks. Oozing colonial grandeur and set amongst eight acres of lush vegetation and emerald lawns, even the service harks back to the golden era of the Raj. Perfectly located close to the attractions of old Delhi, step back into a world of decadence where peacocks roam and gin and tonics are the order of the day.
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The world’s largest and most populous continent, Asia is a vibrant and rambunctious fusion of ethnicities, cultures and customs; an incomparably rich and turbulent history showcased by mindboggling feats of architecture and engineering; a geography that encompasses towering peaks, unfathomable gorges and paradisiacal beaches; and a biodiversity that is so abundant that you’ll be reaching for your wildlife guide.