Delhi See And Do
On the Yamuna River
Near Noida Mar
Tel: 91 11 2201 6688
One might be tempted to call it Hinduism's answer to Disney World. But the Akshardham temple, which opened in 2005 as a showcase for the celebration of Hindu culture, is without question one of the largest places of worship ever built. A 100-acre complex, it contains exhibition halls, boat rides, gift shops, an Imax Theater, and a massive central monument, constructed of white marble and red sandstone, that rests on a plinth of 148 stone elephants. Admission to the complex is free, but a fee is charged to visit some of the exhibitions. No mobile phones or cameras.
Mahatma Gandhi Marg
Tel: 91 11 2331 1793
After Gandhi was assassinated in 1948, his body was cremated, and the site is now a national shrine. A black marble slab sits in a large courtyard, inscribed with the great man's last words: "He Ram!" ("Oh God!"). Passages written by Gandhi, translated into many languages, adorn the walls around the shrine. Across the boulevard is the National Gandhi Museum, which contains a collection of memorabilia. Particularly interesting is the display on Gandhi's handmade cotton crusade, including various spinning wheels. You can also see the blood-stained dhoti he was wearing when he was killed—at once grisly and poignant.
If you fancy a break from Delhi's groomed World Heritage–sponsored sites, then head to the mausoleum of 14th-century Sufi saint Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, a major site of pilgrimage for Muslims in the city. A crowded, winding bazaar road leads to the temple entrance, where a 16th-century marble pavilion contains the grave of Nizamuddin. Come on a Thursday to hear the famous qawwalis chanted by a group of musicians seated in the courtyard; they start at around 6 pm, but get there a little earlier to avoid the masses.—Vanessa Able
East Nijamudin, 3 miles southeast of Connaught Place
Akbar, Humayun's son and the greatest of India's Mughal emperors, built this awe-inspiring monument, probably between 1562 and 1571. His intention, righteously achieved, was to honor his father, India's second Mughal ruler, who had fallen down a flight of stairs to his death. Less flamboyant than the Taj Mahal (which it helped to inspire), Humayun's tomb, composed of earthy red sandstone and pure white marble, is nonetheless quietly impressive. The tomb is surrounded by a meticulously kept garden, divided into precise squares. The garden recently underwent extensive renovation, and water now flows through its hand-chiseled stone channels and fountains (previously dry for four centuries).
Tel: 91 11 2326 8344
This exquisite red-sandstone and marble mosque, where thousands gather to pray daily, was built between 1644 and 1658 by 5,000 laborers. The mosque is one of the first important examples of Mughal architecture in India, and its design prefigures that of the Taj Mahal. The onion-shaped dome and tapering minarets are traditional Mughal elements, but the stripes on the domes and minarets were an innovation added by Shah Jahan. Climb the south minaret to see the domes up close (women may not do so without a man).
Open daily to non-Muslims from 8:30 a.m. in winter and 7 a.m. in summer until sunset; closed between 12:15 p.m. and 1:45 p.m. daily.
Jantar Mantar (meaning "instruments for mathematical calculation") is an observatory built by Sawai Jai Singh II of Jaipur back in 1724. Today Jai Singh's surreal, terra-cotta-colored structures sit in a quiet park surrounded by a few high-rise buildings and read like a cross between a skate park and a Giorgio de Chirico painting. It's a prime spot for some peace and quiet, as well as the challenge of trying to figure out exactly how those instruments work.—Vanessa Able
Tel: 91 11 2464 7005
A much-needed refuge from the din of the city, the Lodi Gardens are a popular spot with local middle-class residents who make their way to this verdant enclave to spread themselves out on the vast swaths of lawn, to stroll among the various majestic tombs scattered over the grounds, or even to jog the running track that snakes around the 90-acre park. Take a walk all the way to the lake, inspect the park's collection of bonsai trees, or simply take a picnic in the shade of a palm tree.—Vanessa Able
Aurobindo Marg, near Mehrauli
The slender 239-foot column of Qutub Minar was erected in 1199 by Qutbuddin Aibak, the first Islamic sultan of Delhi. It is in a complex of buildings that mingles Islamic and Hindu decorative styles. The Tomb of Iltutmish, built in 1235, is an impressive square red stone chamber bearing a profusion of inscriptions, geometric patterns, and arabesques. The Quwwatu'l-Islam Masjid, decorated with both Koranic texts and Hindu motifs, was the first mosque in India; in its courtyard stands an iron pillar from the fourth century, decorated with Sanskrit inscriptions.
Eastern end of Chandni Chowk
Tel: 91 11 2327 7705
The greatest of Delhi's Mughal palace-cities, the Red Fort was built by Shah Jahan in the 17th century and was home to about 3,000 people in its heyday. Pass through the Lahore gate and continue down the Chatta Chowk, once the royal harem's shopping district and now a bazaar. On the other side of a huge lawn sits the Diwan-i-Am (Hall of Public Audience). Shah Jahan heard his subjects' pleas here from his royal throne in the center. Other highlights include the elaborate Diwan-i-Khas, the emperor's private suite with sitting room, bedroom, and prayer room.