The view from Jama Masjid mosque
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You have to catch the amazing view of Old Delhi from the top of the minaret at Jama Masjid. After you climb the long and claustrophobic stairs, the old city is revealed in front of you. For less than £1 it’s undoubtedly the best way to soak up the city.
On Thursday evenings at the Nizam-ud-din dargah you can see and hear mystic sufi singing, one of Delhi’s finest cultural experiences. A mausoleum of a famous Sufi saint, Auliya, who lived in the 13th century, this is the living, breathing embodiment of a centuries-old Delhi, whose spirit endures in this area, notwithstanding the modern trappings that now surround it. Muslims still visit to offer prayer.
A great place to while away an afternoon, enjoying the tranquillity of the gardens, which make a stark contrast to the usual hustle and bustle of Delhi. There are birds galore and some reasonable places to eat in the surrounding area.
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A showcase of Indian history from the earliest civilisations onward. The highlight for me was coming across the relics of the Buddha presented in a wonderful gallery: a sacred, spiritual and profound space within a great cultural institution.
People Tree bookshop
It started life as a studio space for alternative artists; now, People Tree is primarily a bookshop crammed with progressive reads, handmade jeweler and independently designed clothing. The children’s section includes socially aware titles such as Babu the Waiter, which can help explain India’s rich/poor divide. Browse alongside Delhi’s intellectuals, hippies and hipsters.
Converted into a barracks by the British, this massive fort is a sandstone carcass of its former self, but it still conjures a picture of the splendour of Mughal Delhi. Protected by a dramatic 18m-high wall, the marble and sandstone monuments here were constructed at the peak of the dynasty’s power, when the empire was flush with gold and precious stones. Shah Jahan founded the fortress between 1638 and 1648 to protect his new capital city of Shahjahanabad, but he never took up full residence, after his disloyal son, Aurangzeb, imprisoned him in Agra Fort.
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Qutub Minar Complex
In a city awash with ancient ruins, the Qutb Minar complex is something special. The first monuments here were erected by the sultans of Mehrauli, and subsequent rulers expanded on their work, hiring the finest craftsmen and artisans to create an exclamation mark in stone to record the triumph of Muslim rule. The Qutb Festival of Indian classical music and dance takes place here every November/December. To reach the complex, take the metro to Qutab Minar station, then take an autorickshaw for the 1km to the ruins.