Delhi, also known as the National Capital Territory of Delhi (NCT,) is India’s largest city after Mumbai with a population of over 12 million, and contains the capital of India, New Delhi.
Located in the north of the country bordering the states of Haryana and Utter Pradesh, the NCT covers a total area of 1,484 square kilometers and is the most-visited city for tourism in all of India, making up part of the famous Golden Triangle tourist route.
Delhi has a rich history which dates back to the 6th century BCE, and the influence of the various kingdoms and empires which have ruled the area can be seen across the cluster of smaller cities that make up the larger metropolitan region.
The city boasts a wide variety of both historic and modern tourist attractions, including 3 impressive UNESCO World Heritage Sites, as well as a huge number of culturally significant religious monuments and architecture.
Read on to learn about the wealth of attractions in Delhi, the best time to visit, and whether you need a tourist visa for India to visit the city.
What Is Delhi Known for?
Downtown Delhi offers visitors a range of attractions to discover across both the old part of the city and the more modern areas. If you only have a short time to spend in Delhi, you might want to consider prioritizing the following:
- Red Fort – An octagonal sandstone fortress located in the city center, the Red Fort was constructed by Emperor Shah Jahan and served as the home to the Mughal dynasty until the British took control of Delhi in 1857. The complex covers around 254 acres of land and boasts a range of elaborate artwork that combines Persian, European, and Indian influences.
- Chandni Chowk – Located in the heart of Old Delhi, Chadni Chowk is one of the oldest and busiest markets in the city and a vibrant shopping hub where visitors can take a rickshaw ride and browse traditional Indian goods.
- Jama Masjid – The largest mosque in India, the Jama Masjid was completed in 1656 to serve as the main site of worship for emperor Shah Jahan. The mosque is notable for its distinctive sandstone-and-marble minaret towers and the huge central courtyard which can accommodate up to 25,000 worshippers.
- Qutub Minar – An ancient sandstone tower built by Qutub-ud-Din Aibak, the first Islamic leader of North India, to celebrate the defeat of the city’s last Hindu ruler. Visitors can climb the 379 steps of the interior spiral staircase to reach the top of this 73 meter, 5-story tall monument.
- India Gate – Located in the Rajpath area of the city, the India Gate is one of the largest war memorials in the country. Built in 1931, the monument was constructed to commemorate the 82,000 Indian and British soldiers who died during World War I.
- Humayun’s Tomb – An UNESCO World Heritage site since 1993, this extensive complex of mosques and tombs was built to commemorate Mughal Emperor Humayun and completed in 1570. The main tomb took over 8 years to complete and is notable for its Persian-style garden layout.
Additionally, visitors to Delhi should take the time to visit some of the more modern religious architecture in the city, such as the beautifully designed Lotus Temple, or the Akshardham Temple, the largest Hindu temple in the world.
Tourists in Delhi also have the opportunity to learn about India’s history through 2 museums dedicated to Indian independence leaders, Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, as well as to visit Raj Ghat, a memorial to Gandhi located on the banks of the River Yamuna.
Is New Delhi the Same as Delhi?
The metropolitan area of Delhi is split into two areas, New Delhi and Old Delhi. Old Delhi was founded in 1639 by Emperor Shah Jahan and is home to the many famous structures from the Mughal period such as the Red Fort and the Jama Masjid, as well as the Chandi Chowk market.
New Delhi is the more modern part of the city and serves as the capital of India and the seat of all 3 branches of the Indian government. This urban district is home to many of the important government buildings in the country, including the Indian Parliament and the Secretariat Building, as well as the India Gate and the extensive Lodhi Gardens.
Is It Safe to Visit Delhi?
In general, Delhi is considered safe to visit, but, as with any large city, visitors should exercise a certain degree of caution and take the following advice into consideration:
- Avoid wearing expensive accessories or carrying a large amount of cash, as pickpocketing and petty theft have been known to occur in Delhi. Keep a close eye on your belongings when out in crowded areas
- Stay clear of any large demonstrations and protests
- Avoid going out alone at night
- Women should dress modestly to avoid attracting attention, and avoid eye contact and engaging with any hecklers
- Enquire about the route and price before taking a rickshaw in order to avoid being scammed.
To learn more about keeping safe in Delhi and the other major cities, see our guide to safety and security in India.
What Is the Weather Like in Delhi?
Delhi experiences both hot summers and cold winters. The hottest weather in Delhi can be found in the spring and summer, between April to July, when the climate is humid and temperatures can often reach up to 45°C. December and January are the coldest months and temperatures may drop as low as 5°C.
Delhi’s monsoon season lasts from July to mid-September. Temperatures can range from 30°C to 35°C during this period and the humidity is somewhat offset by the rains.
The best time to visit Delhi is considered to be between October and November, or between February and March, when the climate is at its mildest. Temperatures tend to range from 25°C to 15°C during these periods.
Do I Need a Visa to Visit Delhi?
Before visiting Delhi, foreign citizens should first check the India visa requirements to see if they require a travel document to enter the country.
The majority of foreign passport holders are required to have a visa to travel to India. The only citizens who are able to travel to India without a visa are citizens of Nepal and Bhutan.
Eligible applicants are able to complete the simple India eVisa form online with personal and passport information in a matter of minutes, to receive an approved electronic tourist visa sent via email.