Delhi dash: 24 hours in India

Rebecca Davies
Delhi dash: 24 hours in India (Photo Thinkstock)
"How about a wild mushroom kulcha with truffle oil, smoked salmon tikka with garlic and mint aioli, or a roast coconut mousse with mixed berry chaat?"
Rebecca Davies

24 hours is all you need to fall in love this wild city. Rebecca Davies rises early, and stays out late in India's capital.


Wake up your tired taste buds in Wenger's, Delhi's most legendary bakery. They've been baking squidgy paneer cheese patties and mallowy chocolate treats since 1926!


Get your post-breakfast barter on in Chandni Chowk, Delhi's busiest market area. In the overcrowded lanes of the mysteriously-named 'moonlight place' you can chat to traders as they open their sari stalls, gobble up dribble-worthy 'jalebis' (little sugary dough squiggles found on most street corners) and visit the bird hospital (run by the local Jains).


Head away from the busy streets and pay the bargain 250 Rupees (about $5) to enter the grounds of the historic Red Fort. The walls of this sandstone building, which was constructed by Shah Jahan in 1638, extend for an impressive 2km. Once inside the fort, away from hawkers and pickpockets, you can gaze at the authentic gates, houses and towers and get a much-needed break from the madness of mid-morning Delhi.


Cruise on down to Old Delhi and marvel at the Kashmiri gate, the medieval monument where the British fought to take Delhi during the First War of Independence.


Satisfy your rumbling tum with lunch at Chor Bizarre, the Broadway Hotel's quirky restaurant. Meaning 'thieves market', this eccentrically-decorated eaterie boasts a vintage car groaning with Kashmiri curries, the world's most refreshing 'shikanjvi' drink made from sweetened lime water, masala and cumin and thali grandly served to you from under a copper tarami.


If you fancy some afternoon bargaining, head to the underground Palika Bazaar. Here, you can pick up cheap pants, bags and cashmere scarves at a fraction of Aussie prices. Don't let the dank tunnels, lurking rats and unidentifiable smells deter you — this place is exciting India at its best!


It's time to shop in upscale luxury in Janpath's State Emporiums. You won't be able to stop yourself splurging on local furniture, homewares, Christmas decorations, brass figurines, intricately-embroidered fabrics and wall masks.


Take an auto rickshaw past Gandhi Smriti, the spot where Mahatma Gandhi was shot dead by a Hindu zealot. A concrete statue poignantly shows the beloved humanitarian taking his last six steps and falling to the ground.


Hop back in the rickshaw (your driver will love the stopping and starting and the haggling it brings) and head for the Lotus Temple, a serene building made up of 27 petals made of pure white marble. Here, all faiths are invited to worship together in silence — a brave new step for India.


Enjoy a ride to Friends Colony and take some time out at the Manor. This 16-room boutique hotel has beautiful lawns and a sun-drenched terrace, perfect for unwinding after a busy day and comparing stories with fellow travellers.


After enjoying a flute of sparkling rosé in the Manor's bar, munch your way into the 21st century at Indian Accent, the hotel's restaurant. Award-winning chef Manish Mehrotra has created a fusion menu by pairing modern global and traditional Indian ingredients and cooking techniques. How about a wild mushroom kulcha with truffle oil, smoked salmon tikka with garlic and mint aioli, or a roast coconut mousse with mixed berry chaat?


If you're not quite ready to hit the hay, take a deep breath and experience the backpacker's Delhi in the upstairs bar of Gem on Paharganj's Main Bazaar. It's a bit of a dive (and you'd never touch the bowls of nuts on the tables) but the staff are friendly, the Kingfisher beers are cheap and you'll get chatting to people from all over the world and paths of life.


When rushing around a city as manic as Delhi, it's important to find a haven to retreat to at the end of the night. (And after checking the bottom of your feet, a decent shower will rate pretty highly on your list, too.) The Hotel Godwin Deluxe is in a great location, has a quiet rooftop restaurant for breakfast, super-comfy beds and multiple-faucet showers big enough for two.

My top Delhi tips:

  • Dress conservatively whether you're in a respectable restaurant, wandering the streets or entering a house of worship.
  • You can't trust all streetfood — make sure you can watch it be prepared, and avoid fresh fruit that has probably been doused in unclean water.
  • Be wary of touts, especially in Connaught Place, who will say they are 'learning English' or offer to take you to the 'genuine' tourist centre. They're not, and it's not.

Got any other tips on Delhi or must do things to squeeze into 24 hours? Enter your comments below.

VIEW GALLERY: Delhi dreaming