Delhi Travel Guide
Tips for business travelers in India’s capital city, Delhi.
The traditional gateway to India, Delhi is the powerhouse of Indian politics in the world’s largest democracy and is a global business center. From the red-sandstone Tomb of Humayun to the Colonial architecture of Connaught Place to the bustling high-rises in suburban Gurgaon, the city’s charm is in its colorful mix of old and new.
Indira Gandhi International Airport is the busiest airport in the country, handling more than 700 international, domestic and private charter flights daily. In 2010, just in time for the Commonwealth Games, Terminal 3 was completed, elevating the airport into a high-tech, high-style, world-class facility with the capacity to handle 40 million passengers annually. The 5,381,000-square-foot complex, one of the largest terminals in the world, offers excellent shopping and dining. Its design features dramatic public art installations by local artists—the only downside is some of the worst carpet ever displayed in a public place. Currently, all international flights and premium domestic airlines operate out of Terminal 3. Allow at least an hour to make the road journey to or from central Delhi, 30 minutes for Gurgaon. The gleamingly efficient Delhi Metro is transforming public transit in the city: The superfast airport express line recently became operational, carrying passengers to the city center in just 20 minutes.
India’s capital is its most powerful city, as well as one of the largest and fastest-growing in the world, thanks to the country’s economic boom. Many of India’s biggest companies are based here, including Airtel, the leading telco; NTPC, the largest power company; DLF, the largest property developer; and Ranbaxy, the biggest pharmaceutical company. Delhi has the strongest retail sector in the country and is a leader in health and community services; it is also second only to Bengaluru in terms of IT and BPO services.
Business District Intelligence
Connaught Place: Affectionately known as CP and officially called Rajiv Chowk, this area in the heart of the city is the oldest and largest commercial center in Delhi. CP was at the core of Lutyens’ Delhi, the city built in the 1930s to house the British administration. The concentric circles lined with Georgian buildings that house retail businesses make up the area’s centerpiece.
Gurgaon: This rural satellite city is 19 miles south of Delhi in the state of Haryana. Once a collection of small farming hamlets, it has been transformed over the past two decades. It is now the second largest high-tech hub in India and the call center capital of the country.
Politics and Power: In the world’s largest democracy, Delhi is the powerhouse of Indian politics. The parliament includes close to 800 politicians, and you can easily tell when they’re in session: The city is at its busiest, full of intrusive motorcades and high-intensity networking. The most pervasive topic of conversation relates to the mighty Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty—and when (not if) the young Rahul Gandhi will step up to lead the Congress party and become prime minister. Or will it be his dynamic sister, Priyanka?
Sports: In addition to sharing the national obsession for cricket, Delhi has become the country’s sporting capital and a world-class setting for major events. The controversial XIX Commonwealth Games, held in 2010, were a success, albeit late in coming together. (The infrastructure development proved positive for the city, though the corresponding corruption scandal was not.) The next big event is the inaugural Indian Grand Prix, to be held in October 2011 at the Buddh International Circuit (BIC). Many believe it is simply a matter of time before the city hosts the Olympic Games.
+91 11 2334 1234, theimperialindia.com
This iconic hotel, built in 1931, has hosted Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Nehru, Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Lord Louis Mountbatten and remains the preferred choice of dignitaries.
Leela Palace Kempinski
Diplomatic Enclave, Chanakyapuri +91 11 3933 1234, theleela.com
Delhi’s newest luxury hotel is a modern-day palace.
443 Udyog Vihar, Phase V +91 124 245 1234, oberoihotels.com
The latest Oberoi to open in India is the most lavish business hotel in the city.
443 Udyog Vihar, Phase V +91 124 245 0505, tridenthotels.com
This architecturally impressive business hotel with a resortlike ambience provides a peaceful haven for travelers.
Local Food Culture
Delhi has been inhabited since 1000 B.C., and each successive ruler has left not only a grand architectural heritage but also a rich culinary tradition. Today, it is possible to enjoy traditional foods from Sultanate Delhi, Mughal Delhi, British Delhi and postpartition refugee Delhi, as well as outstanding global cuisine on par with that of other world capitals.
The Verandah of 1911
Imperial Hotel, Janpath +91 11 2334 1234, theimperialindia.com
On a traditional terrace, overlooks grand lawns.
The Oberoi, Dr. Zakir Hussain Marg, New Delhi +91 11 2436 3030, oberoidelhi.com
Contemporary and stylish, with sumptuous buffet breakfasts.
Taj Mahal Hotel, 1 Mansingh Rd. +91 11 2302 6162, tajhotels.com
Excellent contemporary Indian gourmet cuisine served in a sleek setting.
8 M-Block Market, Greater Kailash II +91 11 2921 5673, diva-italian.com
Delhi’s best Italian restaurant, run by acclaimed chef Ritu Dalmia.
Lobby Level, Tower C, Global Business Park, Mehrauli Gurgaon Rd. +91 124 256 6222
An outstanding restaurant serving excellent Szechuan food.
Best Tour Guide
+91 98101 50152 (mobile), navinajafa.net
This cultural historian specializing in custom tours of Old Delhi has a high-profile clientele, including Condoleezza Rice and Henry Kissinger.
Delhi Metro Walks
+91 11 2652 4583, +91 98113 30098 (mobile), delhimetrowalks.com
A self-described “hard-core Dilliwala,” Surekha Narain gave up a career in banking to pursue her passion for the city. She leads marvelous heritage walks, and her enthusiasm is infectious.
Best Leisure Trip
For a marvelous Indian experience, head to the fabled pink city of Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan. Founded in 1727, India’s first planned city offers bustling bazaars, majestic forts, ornate temples and lavish palaces. The wide boulevards within the old city are lined with traditional buildings rich in architectural detail, and the streets are a mad cacophony of rickshaws, buses, bikes, trucks, cars, horses and carts, cows, camels and, of course, elephants. Elephants have long been associated with the city of Jaipur, and today you can take a morning elephant ride up the steep ramparts of the 16th-century Amber Fortress Palace or enjoy an exclusive elephant safari through nearby forest reserves, followed by delicious refreshments and, if you’re lucky, the chance to watch a game of elephant polo (deraamer.com). Jaipur is the home of Indian polo; the Rajasthan Polo Club dates back to 1901 and has Britain’s Prince Charles as a patron. The main Jaipur polo season is in January, with a smaller season in September and October. Following an afternoon match, make sure to visit the famed Polo Bar at the superb Rambagh Palace Hotel (tajhotels.com), adjacent to the grounds.
Emperor Shah Jahan moved the Mughal court from Agra to Delhi in the 17th century, transforming the medieval walled city into the capital of his empire. This area, now more commonly known as Old Delhi, should not be missed. Begin at the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Red Fort; then travel on a cycle rickshaw up the main thoroughfare of Chandni Chowk; go past India’s largest mosque, Jama Masjid. Then wind your way through some of the narrow galis (bylanes), enjoying the sights, smells and sounds of the bazaars. Finish at the wholesale spice market, Khari Baoli, where it is worth climbing up the three flights of stairs to the rooftop for a spectacular view across Old Delhi.
Delhi is a green city, with many formal gardens, sprawling parks and neighborhood commons. The most impressive is Lodi Gardens, originally called “Lady Willingdon Park,” a 90-acre estate created in 1936 during the British Raj. This landscaped garden is a favorite among morning walkers, laughter-yoga practitioners and heritage enthusiasts who appreciate the many tombs dating back to the 15th century.
Birla House, 5 Tees January Marg
+91 11 2301 2843, eternalgandhi.org
Delhi has more than 25 museums, but none is more moving than this one in Birla House, where Gandhi lived until his assassination in the gardens here on January 30, 1948.
Kamala the Craft Shop
1 Rajiv Gandhi Handicrafts Bhavan, Baba Kharak Singh Marg +91 11 6596 9600, craftscouncilofindia.org
Run by the Crafts Council of India, this boutique is the new face of the country’s crafts.
Kashmir Loom Company
A21 Nizamuddin East +91 11 2431 8947, kashmirloom.com
This shop sells the finest shawls made in India, ranging from Rs1500 to Rs300,000. By appointment only.