One of the top five most expensive cities in India, Delhi isn't considered much of a traveller's delight. Often mistaken for having just swanky cafes and posh watering holes, visitors don't exactly get to experience the fun things to do in Delhi in a budget-friendly way. Summers, especially, are tough in Delhi but that's the thing about Delhi - the people here are as resilient as the place. So brave the heat to experience Delhi's essence.
Here are some soulful, exciting yet inexpensive things to do in Delhi:
1. Spend a day climbing at the Indian Mountaineering Foundation
You wouldn't expect a mountaineering foundation to be in Delhi, but what the capital lacks in natural challenges is made up for in state-of-the-art technology. IMF is now home to the International Standard Artificial Climbing Wall and needless to say, it is one of the most adventurous things you can try in Delhi that can make your day super fun without spending too much money.
Summer tip: To avoid melting in the scorching outdoors, you can opt for their 4 pm to 8 pm slot. It will be relatively less sunny than the morning shift with the blinding sunlight in your eyes.
Charges: Rs 150 for a 4-hour shift and Rs 500 for one month as per current rates.
Location: Indian Mountaineering Foundation, 6, Benito Juarez Road, New Delhi
Contact: +91 11 24111211, +91 11 24117935
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2. Experience culture and diversity at the JNU campus
Jawaharlal Nehru University has been in the news lately for all the wrong reasons. But the university campus is beautiful. It is spread across a whopping 1,020 acres of land in the heart of Delhi. Exploring this vast forest cover is a soothing experience on quiet summer evenings with a faint breeze whistling through the trees. This land contains the highest natural point in Delhi, the smartest people from all across India and some really cheap but delicious food.
Summer tip: Explore the campus after sundown to avoid the sweltering heat. Walk through the dense green cover and indulge in some conversation with the students there along with some cheap but yummy food.
Must visit in JNU: Parathasarthy Rocks, Ganga Dhaba, 24x7 and keep an eye out for any of the number of cultural events and sessions that happen every day.
Note: You can't take any vehicle inside JNU without the student ID card. It is best to just walk in to the campus.
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3. Go for early morning bird-watching at the Okhla Bird Sanctuary
The Okhla Bird Sanctuary, spread across 4 square km, is one of the 466 important bird areas in India. In fact, Delhi is the second city in the world with a vast variety of birds. The birds are best spotted early in the morning, not anywhere near the 'dancing cars' or the car-o-bars.
Summer tip: It's best to visit the bird sanctuary early in the morning. It makes for better bird-spotting as well as less exposure to the blazing heat.
Location: Noida Plaza, N Block, Pocket K, Sector 95, Noida
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4. Get your shopping fix at the flea market of Sarojini Nagar and Janpath
If you have been to Delhi even once then you'll be aware of the fandom surrounding Sarojini Nagar and Janpath. Going shopping here is like volunteering for a treasure hunt and for the shopaholics in Delhi, it is a veritable paradise. If you want to avoid the crowds then visit Sarojini market during a weekday. They have some great stuff at dirt cheap prices. Be prepared to spend some major hours here combing through stuff to find your new favourite dress.
Summer tip: Slather on some sunscreen and put on that summer hat to browse through stuff in this open market. You could also try visiting after sundown as the market stays open until 9 pm. The market stays shut on Monday but that's when stores take out stuff for clearance which you can pick up at dirt cheap prices. There are plenty of lemonade and sugarcane juice stands to quench your thirst and keep you rejuvenated for that shopping binge,
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5. Read/ buy/ flip through books at Delhi's many book cafes
Got a bunch of hours to spare? Then ditch those malls and head to any of these stunning book cafes where you can spend time with great literature and food. If you love to spend peaceful afternoons all by yourself, then this one's for you.
Summer tip: These cafes are all air-conditioned so you'll be able to escape the heat. Just wear your comfy pants and get to these cafes to lose yourself in some great literature with aromatic coffee.
Location: 119, Sishan House, Shahpur Jat
Price for two: Rs 1,000
Contact: 011 41090119
Location: N 81, Oxford Bookstore, Connaught Place
Price for two: Rs 500
Contact: 011 33503291
Location: 5 E, Dada Jhungi House, Top Floor, Shahpur Jat
Price for two: Rs 100
Contact: 098105 56284
Location: MPD Towers, DLF Golf Course Road
Location: MPD Towers, DLF Golf Course Road
Price for two: Rs 700
Contact: 0124 4386155
May Day Cafe & Bookstore
Location: 2254/2A, Ground Floor, Shadi Khampur, West Patel Nagar
Price for two: Rs 200
Contact: 011 25709456
6. Jog on the stunning trails of the Jahanpanah Forest
The most polluted city in the world owes its status to rampant development and concrete expansions. In the middle of Delhi's concrete jungle is the Jahanpanah Forest. This treasure is near Chirag Delhi, Greater Kailash (GK), Alaknanda, Hamdard Nagar, Madangir and Ambedkar Nagar. The forest is spread across a massive 800 acres and makes for an amazing place for a jog amidst nature.
Summer tip: Early mornings are the best time to hit the jogging trail to avoid the harsh sunlight and hear birds chirping. Mornings are best for visibility as well since you can get lost if you wander in too deep the first time.
Location: Greater Kailash, Chirag Delhi
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7. Check out India's best contemporary artists at NGMA
The National Gallery of Modern Art in Delhi is worth every bit the hype. The massive gallery has a collection of 14,000 art pieces, which get shuffled throughout the week, and also debuts works by new artists. From Thomas Daniell, Raja Ravi Verma, Abanindranath Tagore to Rabindranath Tagore, Amrita Sher-Gill and S.H. Raza, this gallery is a wet dream for art enthusiasts. Explore the art scene of Delhi at this gallery to tickle your intellect.
Summer tip: The gallery is air-conditioned so you can spend many sweet hours gaping at art. The gallery remains open from 10 AM to 5 PM. Make sure to take an entire day for this place.
Location: Jaipur House, Sher Shah Road, Near Delhi High Court, India Gate, New Delhi, Delhi 110003
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8. Experience some real qawwali at Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah
Delhi is the hub of culture and diversity. From glorious Sunday masses to Thursday qawwali, there is something for everyone. You might have marked your favourite qawwali videos on YouTube but watching it first-hand is a completely different experience. Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah is already a favourite with Bollywood, it might prove to be a hit for you too.
Summer tip: Thursday qawwali sessions start in the evening from 6 pm onwards. Walk through the narrow lanes leading up to the dargah, step out of your shoes and find a spot under the open sky to revel in some soul-stirring qawwali.
Location: Boali Gate Rd, Nizamuddin, Nizammudin West Slum
Timing: 6:00-7:30 p.m. and 9:00-10:30 p.m. on Thursday nights
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9. Join Raahgiri for fit mornings
This car-free citizen initiative by Delhiites is getting popular with each passing day. The New Delhi Municipal Council and the city's police department have joined hands to host car-free days in Connaught Place Inner Circle. This weekly street event in the capital city helps citizens reclaim the streets and makes for one of the best community building activities to do in New Delhi. The event sets the stage for Zumba, aerobics and yoga. Raahgiri is the only time of the week when Delhi's residents come out on the streets of Connaught Place with cycles, footballs and frisbees to kick-start their day.
Click here for Delhi Raahgiri Schedule.
Summer Tip: The event starts at 5:30 am on Raahgiri days so you can Zumba without sweating buckets.
Location: Connaught Place Inner Circle
10. Take a stroll in Lodi Garden
This 90-acre park right in the heart of Delhi is an old jaunt for Delhiites to get some sun on the weekends. Lodi Garden is located between Khan Market and the Safdarjung Tombs on Lodhi Road. The park has several quiet corners to relax at. If you love reading or listening to music alone on breezy evenings in Delhi, head to Lodi Garden and walk around the massive park until you find a peaceful spot for yourself.
Summer tip: Lodi Garden stays open till 8 pm. Grab some lunch nearby and head to the place in the evening. Find a nook in the old monument to spend a few tranquil moments with yourself. The Bara Gumbad, Sheesh Gumbadand and the tombs of Muhammad Shah are unmissable spots to explore on your visit.
Location: Lodhi Rd, Lodhi Gardens, Lodhi Estate
11. Find the right mix of Old and New Delhi at the Hauz Khas Complex
The Hauz Khas complex is the perfect spot to spend your day exploring this city with an epic historical past. This complex in South Delhi houses an age-old water tank, a mosque, the tomb of Feroz Shah and an Islamic seminary. The Northern side of the complex is connected to the Hauz Khas Market. Delhiites exploring the market area often sit and relax at the ruins of the complex to enjoy evenings on the quiet side of Hauz Khas away from its glittering clubs.
Summer tip: Pick an evening to go to Hauz Khas fort and Deer Park. Sit near one of the fort's stone windows and look out over the grounds. There are youngsters strumming on their guitars and singing songs. Deer Park has a few shy deer lurking amidst the trees for you to spy on.
12. Cycle with the Pedal Yatri in Delhi and Gurgaon
It's essential to land on the correct Facebook group while you're on a hunt for cycling events in and around the city. Pedal Yatri is one such group where cycling enthusiasts from Delhi and NCR share information about their recent cycling adventures and invite members for weekly ride plans.
Check out Pedal Yatri's facebook page.
Summer tip: Sunscreen, a bottle of water and a cycle are all you need to get started on your cycling trail. You might be a little tanned by the end of it but your satisfaction will outweigh that.
13. Chill on a metro line
My suggestion is the Blue Line. Though every Delhi Metro line has an awesome number of attractions at every stop; I have travelled the most on the Blue route and it's definitely my favourite. The maximum fare of a ticket is Rs 50, so pick the first stop of any line and travel all the way till the end. You can also get a tourist metro card of Rs 150 for a single day. Believe me, it is really not that boring. In fact, you will get a hard and fast dose of the city without spending a lot of money but if gets too monotonous you can get off at any of the following stations and hop back on the metro again.
Top stations on Blue Line:
Akshardham: Visit the famous Akshardham Temple
Pragati Maidan: Head to the massive Pragati Maidan (you can plan your visit around International Trade Fair, Book Fair, etc) or grab a bite at Cafe Lota
Connaught Place: The station for Connaught Place is the busiest one! Get out here for CP and do just about anything.
Karol Bagh: Station for one of the oldest markets in India.
Rajouri Garden: With three massive malls and a popular fashion market, Rajouri Garden is a favourite of West Delhiites.
Janakpuri West: Visit the District Center, which has several restaurants and a PVR.
Dwarka Sector 10: Every main food joint and market in Dwarka can be found in this sector.
Summer tip: You can take the metro in the evening to check out all the above mentioned spots except Akshardham temple. The temple closes early and you'll need to queue up for entry but the stunning architecture is well worth the wait in the heat.
Best places to stay at in Delhi
Luxury: The Leela Palace, The Roseate, The Lodhi
Mid-range: Courtyard by Marriott, Haveli Hauz Khas, Thikana
Budget: Treebo Amber, Optimum Palm D'or, Hotel Sunstar Grand
Hostels: GoStops Delhi, Zostel Delhi, Jugaad Hostels
Homestays: Saket B&B, Nina Kochhar's Homestay, Sandeep's Homestay
So let go of the stereotypes about how expensive Delhi is and discover it the local way. If you know more fun and free things to do in Delhi, hit the comment section below and tell us all about it.
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