If you love exploring off-the-beaten-path locations and hidden gems in new places, then you will fall in love with Delhi. The capital of India is one of the most culturally rich and historically significant cities in the world.
I live in Delhi and have explored the city from top to bottom. It's packed with hidden gems and off-the-beaten-path locations.
if this is yourfirst trip to delhi, you will have an unforgettable experience. Delhi is crazy, but if you can look beyond the general chaos, you will see that it is incredibly diverse and fascinating.
The best ways to reach Delhi's hidden gems
Delhi is a huge city - it's home to 33 million people and traffic can be a nightmare. These are the best ways to reach Delhi's hidden gems.
auto rickshaw:For short distances (5 km or less), rickshaws are very convenient. They are always waiting outside subway stations, markets, hotels, places and attractions. A short ride of around 2 km shouldn't cost more than INR 80.
Delhi Metro:For long distances, Delhi Metro is the best way to get around the city. It's modern, clean, efficient, cheap and goes everywhere.
Even though it is a large system, almost 400 km of track and 12 lines, everything is color coded for easy navigation. I wrote an entire article abouthow to use delhi metro. The first carriage in the direction of movement is for women only.
Uber e Ola:Delhi has two ride sharing apps, Uber and Ola. The rickshaws and metro are great to use during the day, but after 8pm or 9pm it's safer to use Uber or Ola if you're alone. Both are very affordable in Delhi.
Delhi's hidden gems
There are manyreasons to visit Delhi, and these hidden gems are definitely one of them. Here are some of my favorites:
1. Mehrauli Archaeological Park
Mehrauli Archaeological Park is one of the most impressive but overlooked sites in Delhi. It contains the ruins of beautiful buildings from 1526.
The most spectacular are the Rajon ki Baoli (an immense and intricately designed ancient well) and the Jamali Kamali Mosque, but there are more than 100 historic structures in the park, including tombs and ancient gates.
The park is about 200 acres of scrubby, unkempt forest and looks completely uninviting, but in the dirt streets you'll find ruins that hardly welcome visitors.
Considering that it is adjacent to one of the most visited sites in Delhi, the Qutab Minar (UNESCO), it is remarkable that the park has few visitors.
Opening hours and admission:24/7, but go during the day – free
2. Jahaz Mahal
Jahaz Mahal means Palace of the Ship. It received this name because its reflection looked like a ship in the adjacent pool that existed.
It was built during the Lodhi Dynasty, 1451-1526 and is on the main road leading to the urban village of Mehrauli.
There is usually a guard on site and if you give him INR 50 he can let you climb the steep (and somewhat treacherous) stairs to the roof.
There are several chhatri on the roof (vaulted pavilions, typical of Lodhi architecture) and you can take great photos of the palace from up there.
Opening hours and admission:24/7, but go during the day – free
3. Zafar Mahal
This is the summer palace of the last Mughal ruler of India, Bahadur Shah Zafar. It is another monument that has been overlooked in the middle of the bustling urban village of Mehrauli.
It was recently announced that the Archaeological Survey of India has plans to restore the Zafar Mahal - it is an important piece of Indian history.
It is currently dilapidated and invaded by more recent constructions. Gamblers and drinkers frequent it at night.
But obviously it was once splendid. You'll recognize it by the huge wooden doors, built for an elephant to pass through.
Hours and Admission: 24/7, but go during the day – free
4. Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah
This is the mausoleum of Khawaja Nizamuddin Auliya, a very powerful Sufi saint during the early Tughlaq Dynasty 1320-1351. It is one of the most revered places in Delhi, filled with mysticism and spiritual energy.
Even today, thousands visit the dargah every week, some from far away.
The dargah is believed to hold great power and any sincere wish made to the Sufi saint will be granted regardless of religion.
The dargah is located in a congested urban village and you may have to ask local vendors for directions.
Dress modestly and wear shoes that can be removed. Women must cover their heads to enter the dargah and men must cover their heads to enter the shrine (women are not allowed in the shrine).
Be sure to visit the old stepwell next to the dargah. It was the cause of the famous feud between Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq (the ruler at the time) and Nizamuddin.
For a truly mesmerizing experience, visit the dargah just after evening prayers to listen to the qawwali (Sufi Islamic devotional singing) singers.
The same family has been singing the dargah for 700 years and they are legendary. There is no qawwali chanting during Ramadan.
Hours and Entry:5:00 am to 10:30 pm daily (qawwali chanting is around 6:00 pm to 7:30 pm; time is based on evening prayers and time changes slightly daily) – free
5. Chausath Khamba
In the same areas as Nizamuddin Dargah is a beautiful white marble tomb called Chausath Khamba which means 64 pillars.
It is the final resting place of Mizra Aziz Koka and his family. Many tombs were built at Nizamuddin Basti to be close to the tomb of the revered Sufi saint.
To find the Chausath Khamba, enter a courtyard through a huge arched gate next to the Ghalib Academy.
The marble tomb is at the end of this courtyard. On the north side of Chausath Khamba are the tombs of Delhi's most beloved poet Mizra Ghalib and his wife.
Opening hours and admission:24 hours a day, 7 days a week, but during the day – free
6. Forte Tughlaqabad
This fort isn't exactly a hidden gem, most locals know that, but it's not on any Delhi itinerary and gets few visitors.
It is a huge fort with huge fortification walls and 13 remaining bastions, although most are hidden by dense forest. It was built by the founder of the Tughlaqabad dynasty, Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq in 1321.
The ruins of a women's bazaar, a mosque, the palace, the hamam and the stepwell are still intact.
This is the fort that the Sufi saint Nizamuddin cursed and it seems to have worked.
Hundreds of people visit the Sufi saint's tomb daily, but Tughlaqabad Fort remains desolate. The tomb of Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq is across the street and easily accessible.
Opening hours and admission:9am to 6pm daily – INR 300 (foreigners), under 15s free
7. Fort Adilabad
This fort was built by Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq's son, Mohammad Bin Tughlaq.
Since it was built in the same period, the architecture is similar, but Adilabad Fort is smaller.
Hardly anyone comes to this fort and not even the locals know it exists. It is very close to Tughlaqabad Fort (you can see it from Tughlaqabad citadel) and it makes sense to visit both at the same time.
Opening hours and admission:9:30 am to 6:00 pm daily – free (don't believe anyone who says this site is paid or that it's only free with a ticket to Tughlaqabad Fort, this is a common scam)
8. Sunder Nursery Farmers Market
Sunder Nursery isn't exactly a hidden gem anymore, but not everyone knows about the organic farmers market held there every weekend.
This is definitely the best organic market in Delhi, not just for the items sold, but because Sunder Nursery is a beautiful historic park.
Vendors change periodically, but you can expect to see fresh produce, preserves, honey and oils, baked goods, handmade clothing, and personal and household items.
The market is located outside the tomb of Mizra Muzaffar Hussain.
Opening hours and admission:8:00 am to 1:00 pm, Saturday and Sunday in winter and Sunday only in summer – INR 200 (foreigners), children under 5 years old free
9. Museu Gandhi Smriti
Mahatma Gandhi is still revered in India as the Father of the Nation.
Gandhi Smriti is the house where he spent the last 144 days of his life until he was murdered in the garden on January 30, 1948.
At the time, the house belonged to the Birla family, but later the government bought the house and turned it into a museum.
The rooms in which Gandhi lived have been carefully preserved exactly as they were, and many people say they can feel his presence.
Visitors can walk through the grounds, including where Gandhi took his last steps in the garden.
Note there is also a Gandhi Smriti (where Gandhi was cremated), in a completely different part of Delhi, make sure you specify Gandhi Smritimuseum.
Opening hours and admission:10:00 am to 4:30 pm, Tuesday to Sunday – Free
10. Bikaner House
When India gained independence in 1947, several of the former princely states were given small palaces in the center of British-built New Delhi. Casa Bikaner is one such palace.
It is now owned by the government and is a center for Indian art and culture. There are always several exhibitions of Indian art, and the grounds and building itself are beautiful.
There are also four restaurants (including one of Delhi's best bakeries and cafes - L'Opera) and often a small bazaar. It's a lovely oasis in busy Delhi and a great way to see well-curated Indian art.
Opening hours and admission:10:00 am to 7:00 pm daily (times may vary depending on exhibition) – free
11. Agrasen Ki Baoli
One of the most beautiful step wells in Delhi, this one is very centrally located close to many sites and attractions. For the best photos, go early in the morning, before it gets crowded.
Agrasen ki Baoli has 3 arched levels and 108 steps leading to a pool of water, said to have mystical powers.
The current stepwell was built in the 14thºcentury by the Agrawal community, but is the site of a much older stepwell dating back to 3000 BC. The ruins of an ancient stone mosque are also there, next to the entrance.
Opening hours and admission:9:00 am to 5:00 pm daily – free
12. Devi Prasad Sadan Dhobi Ghat
You'll feel like you've stepped back in time when you enter this outdoor laundry room.
It's just around the corner from Agrasen ki Baoli (just follow the line of white sheets drying in the street) and you'll find it. The dhobi walas start work very early so go before the stepwell.
The dhobi walas are welcoming but please be respectful this is not a tourist place this is their work place.
Opening hours and admission:5:00 am to 2:00 pm daily – free
13. Majnu Ka Tilla
Delhi's Little Tibet is where you'll find Tibetan restaurants, cafes, budget shopping and Tibetan souvenirs.
The colony is home to around 3,500 second-generation Tibetan refugees who followed the Dalai Lama to India in 1959.
It is a picturesque area in North Delhi with two lovely Buddhist temples and streets lined with Tibetan prayer flags.
Try Tibetan street food when you're there. It's a delicious vegetarian noodle like dish - I like the dry version.
Opening hours and admission:24/7, but stores are open from 11am to 9pm daily – free
14. Lodhi Art District
India's first open-air art district is located in the tranquil colony of Lodhi.
The facades of British-built residential buildings make great canvases for the more than 50 murals. And the colony's quiet streets make it perfect for walking and mural viewing.
Most of the murals have a social or environmental theme and are located between Khanna Market and Meharchand Market.
You can see the locations and history of all the murals at:St+Art India Location Guide.
Lodhi Colony has a great ice cream shop, Jaatre and a fabulous cafe, Devan's. There are also wonderful restaurants like Jamun, Carnatic Café and Guppy.
Opening hours and admission:24/7, but go during the day to see the murals – free
15. Dastkar Nature Bazaar
Dastkar Nature Bazaar is an open-air, pedestrian-only market with artisans from across India selling authentic cultural items.
The bazaar is open around the clock, but every month there's a two-week fair with even more artisans, cultural performances, demonstrations and regional foods in the food court.
The bazaar is a joint initiative between the NGO Dastkar and Delhi Tourism, and strives to support artisans by giving them a place to showcase their wares and hone their skills. It's a bazaar with a social conscience.
Opening hours and admission:11:00 am to 7:00 pm, Thursday to Tuesday (Open 7 days a week during the 2-week monthly fair) – INR 30
16. Ghazipur Food Market
No doubt you will be the only foreigner in Delhi's biggest wholesale flower market, Ghazipur Phool Mandi.
India uses a lot of fresh flowers, and this is ground zero for flowers in Delhi. In fact, 50,000 kg of fresh flowers are sold here every day.
It's an endless vision of fresh, colorful flowers that make for fabulous photographs.
It also smells divine. It starts early at 3am and ends before noon, so go early, but during the day – Ghazipur is not the best part of the city.
If you want to buy flowers, remember that most sellers are reluctant to sell less than ½ kg.
Opening hours and admission:3:00 am to 12:00 pm daily – free
17. Amar Colony Street Food Market
Delhi is famous for its street food, but Old Delhi is not the only place to go for authentic street food.
Amar Colony has an excellent street food market without the crazy congestion and pandemonium of Old Delhi.
Colonia Amar was colonized by immigrants, refugees and Indians from other parts of the country.
Street food reflects all these different cultures and cuisines.
Afghan shawarma, mutton kababs, Tibetan momos and sweet faluda are all here. Some of the food stalls have been there for over 30 years.
Visitors may be reluctant to eat street food in Delhi, but it is a wonderful cultural experience. Some of the best food in town is on the streets. There isways to safely eat street food, using common sense and hand sanitizer.
My favorite food stalls in Amar Colony are:
- Hunger strike – chicken tandoor momos
- Tunday Kebab - Lamb Galouti Kebab
- Suhani's Foods – shawarma de frango
- Tia Momo – veg dry laphing
- 34 Chowringhee Lane – rolos de kathi
- Famous Rabri Faluda – rabri faluda (this is just a cart in front of Lenskart.com in the market)
- Standard Namkeen Corner (this is a shop that sells all kinds of Indian snacks, namkeen – they make great gifts for people back home)
18. Colonia Amar Furniture Market
This quirky market is very close to the main Mercado da Colonia Amar.
It's a small street on the same street as Dhaniya da Dhaba (great local restaurant), right opposite the shop on A-34. It's a bit of a secret market, but if you can't find it, ask a local.
Many of Delhi's antique furniture and trinkets end up here for refurbishment. It's like an Aladdin's cave with affordable, unique and renovated furniture and decorative items.
You'll find antique and vintage pieces, renovated colonial-style furniture, worn pieces, and lots of decorative mirrors, door handles, stools, and end tables. Be sure to negotiate.
Opening hours and admission:10:00 am to 7:00 pm daily – free
19. Deer Park
If you're craving some peace and quiet and a little green space, Deer Park is the place to be.
It forms part of the city's green belt and is a beautiful park in historic south Delhi, with many walking trails, an ancient reservoir and some notable monuments from the Tughlaq and Lodhi periods, 1320 – 1501.
Delhi can be intense and Deer Park offers a welcome break, but don't go after dark. True to its name, deer are kept in an enclosure, and rabbits, peacocks and guinea pigs also frequent the area.
One side of the park is adjacent to Hauz Khas village and Hauz Khas fort (not hidden gems but definitely worth it); you can walk there from Deer Park.
Opening hours and admission:5:00 am to 8:00 pm (summer) and 5:30 am to 7:00 pm (winter), daily – free
20. Bharat Darshan Park
Twenty-two of India's most famous landmarks are replicated in this ingenious park using nothing but scrap metal.
The entire park is eco-friendly, everything from the restrooms to the food court was built using waste and recycled materials. The park even generates its own electricity with solar energy.
Each replica has information in English and Hindi, telling the history of the monument and the materials used in the construction of the replica.
It's a wonderful glimpse into some very important places in India. Every night the replicas are illuminated with colored lights.
Opening hours and admission:10:00 am to 9:00 pm, Tuesday to Sunday – INR 100, children under 3 years old free (prices increase on weekends, public holidays and after 5:30 pm everyday by 50%)
21. Khirki Masjid
This really is a hidden gem of Delhi. The mosque has 85 domes and hundreds of columns, its architecture is remarkable.
It was built by Khan-i-Jahan Junan Shah, a prime minister under the Mughal ruler Feroz Shah Tughlaq between 1351 and 1354.
The entrance to the mosque is sometimes locked, but during the day there is a guard and for a small fee (INR 100) he will let you in.
Make sure you do this, it's so worth it - just be careful of the guano puddle as you enter. Only the residents of the neighborhood seem to know about the mosque, it does not receive visitors.
Khirki Masjid is located in the middle of the urban village of Khirki near Saket. While there, walk to the Satpula Bridge, an ancient stone bridge with seven arches built in 1354.
Opening hours and admission:7:00 am to 7:00 pm daily – free
22. Museum Camera
The Museo Camera is the largest crowd-funded museum in Southeast Asia. It is also one of the coolest museums in the Delhi area.
The entire museum is about photography and has over 3,000 items. It documents the history of photography over the past 200 years.
Even if photography is not your thing, it is so well done that you will be impressed. The museum regularly hosts exhibitions and various workshops. There is a Café Perch on site.
Although the museum is located in Gurugram, a suburb of Delhi close to the airport, you can easily reach it by metro or car.
Opening hours and admission:11:00 am – 7:00 pm, Tuesday to Sunday – INR 300
23. Forte Feroz Shah Kotla
Built in 1354 as part of the ancient city of Firozabad, the fort is as famous for its impressive ruins as it is for its current residents – the djinns.
Djinns are supernatural creatures stemming from ancient Islamic belief.
They are believed to have many powers, including the ability to grant wishes and communicate with Allah. It is widely believed that djinns live in Fierce Fort Shah Kotla. Locals leave offerings and photocopies of their petitions for the djinns.
Aside from the djinns, the fort is impressive. It features a citadel, secret chambers, a unique circular well, one of the oldest active mosques in the world and a 3-year-old castle.thirdcentury Ashoka Pillar called Minar-e-Zareen, where the djinn chief is believed to live.
When visiting, make sure you remove your shoes and women must cover their heads before entering the mosque, even if it looks like a ruin.
Locals may ask women to cover their hair when exploring the fort - it is believed that djinns are attracted to women and can become attached to long hair.
Opening hours and admission:7:00 am to 7:00 pm daily – INR 300, children under 15 free
24. Tomb of Abdur Rahim Khan I Khanan
This tomb was the inspiration for the famous Taj Mahal.
It was built in 1598 by one of Delhi's most famous poets, who was also a high official in the Mughal court, Abdur Rahim Khan I Khanan. Rahim built it for his beloved wife, and they are both buried there.
Until recently, the mausoleum was in disrepair and in danger of total collapse. At one point a quarry had already been used.
A major restoration project started in 2014 and now the mausoleum is one of the most beautiful in Delhi.
Opening hours and admission:10am to 5pm daily – INR 300 (foreigners), under 15s free
25. Templo ISKCON Delhi (Sri Sri Parthasarathi Mandir)
ISKCON is a worldwide movement dedicated to Krishna, one of the most important gods of the Hindu faith.
The temple in Delhi is a happy and happy place; attending an aarti is an unforgettable experience.
You can visit the temple at any time – it is very interesting and houses the largest printed holy text in the world (the Astounding Bhagavad Gita), but joining an aarti is a unique experience, especially here.
The atmosphere is exuberant with devotees singing, dancing, clapping and priests showering the crowd with holy water and rose petals.
It can get a little crazy with the crowd rushing to get as close to the priests as possible, but it's a happy and welcoming atmosphere.
Aartis are held throughout the day, but the night ones are the liveliest. There is a good vegetarian restaurant on site, Govinda's.
Opening hours and admission:4:30 am to 1:00 pm and 4:15 pm to 9:00 pm daily – free
Wrapping Up: 25 Hidden Gems of Delhi
Delhi is a huge and ancient city - there are many more hidden gems that you can discover.
It's the kind of city that never ceases to amaze, and there's always something new to discover. So explore, have fun, and you'll likely find your own hidden gems to add to this list.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Suzanne Contributed by Suzanne Wander Delhi. Suzanne is a Canadian who lives in Delhi with her dog.