Delhi is on the list of everyone who comes to India. Exploring its famous historic monuments, such as India Gate, the Humayun Tomb and Qutub Minar, indulging in street shopping, enjoying the street food, and wandering around the serpentine lanes of Old Delhi - these are all on the tourist itinerary. However, if you are seeking to experience the city like a local and want to avoid the tourist masses, there are plenty of things to do, as well. From volunteering at a religious sanctuary to listening to Sufi devotional songs, here’s our list of the non-touristy things to do in Delhi, India.
1. Volunteer at the Gurudwara Bangla Sahib (from USD 21.0)
Gurudwara Bangla Sahib is one of the most important and popular Sikh places of worship in Delhi. It is notable for its community kitchen, wherein langar, a free meal service is carried out. The kitchen is run by a group of Sevadars (volunteers doing selfless service), who prepare and serve the food in communal style to everyone, regardless of religion, gender, caste or social status. Only vegetarian fare is served. By volunteering at this religious site, you are not only doing community service, but you also get to learn about Sikhism, a religion that was founded upon egalitarian principles.
Pro-tip: Before you enter the premises, make sure to cover your head. They have reusable headscarves – you can borrow one in case you don’t have one with you. Also, socks and shoes must be removed and deposited at the footwear counter in exchange for a token, which you’ll need to claim your pair.
Delhi Mega Kitchen Tour
Duration: 3 hours 30 minutes
2. Explore Delhi's forgotten monuments
In a city like Delhi – which has numerous world-famous monuments and buildings – an overlooked site, even one falling into dilapidation, is a treasure. Hidden in plain sight and tucked away in forgotten nooks of the capital, you’ll find numerous monuments that have played an equally important role in India’s history. Some of the little-known gems that are worth exploring include Adham Khan’s Tomb, Ghiyath al-Din Tughlaq’s Tomb, Khooni Darwaza, Jamali Kamali Mosque & Tomb, and Hastsal Minar (to name but a few).
3. Take a tour of Asia's largest wholesale spice market (from USD 27.0)
Dating back to the 17th century, Khari Baoli is a local institution and the biggest spice market in Asia. Here, you’ll find a wide range of local spices, herbs, dry fruits, nuts and pulses from different regions of the country, as well as neighboring countries like Afghanistan.
Even if you don’t want to buy anything, just a walk around the market to experience its beautiful sights, sounds and smells can be equally remarkable. While you’re in the area, do visit the historic Red Fort that is located nearby.
Old Delhi Sikh Temple and Spice Market Tour with Rickshaw Ride
Duration: 3 hours
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4. Find art in the streets
Take a break from the museums and art galleries and view some of the best works of art, right on the streets of Delhi. One of the best places in the city to admire street art is Lodhi Colony, which is also known as India’s first public art district.
Many homegrown and international artists have given this area a beautiful and creative makeover and a walk along the neighborhood is a treat to your eyes. Also, keep an eye out for the cool murals at Hauz Khas Village, Connaught Place, Shahpur Jat and Khirki Extension in South Delhi.
5. Visit the Hijron Ka Khanqah
Dating back to the 1600s, the Hijron Ka Khanqah is a spiritual center for eunuchs (also known as hijras in India). In the past, eunuchs were held in high regard in India and even occupied powerful positions in the Mughal court. But when the British took control of the country, the hijra community faced discrimination.
A visit to this place will tell you about India’s third gender community and their place in Indian society. About 50 eunuchs were laid to rest under the white tombs that can be found in this sanctuary. This place is managed by the Hijras of Turkman Gate and, on religious festivals and special occasions, they come here to celebrate and distribute food to the needy and poor. This Sufi graveyard can be accessed via a narrow main street of Mehrauli village.
Hijron Ka Khanqah
Address: Ward no. 6, Mehrauli, Near Qutub Minar, New Delhi, Delhi 110030, India
Opening hours: 8am - 8pm (daily)
Price: Free entry
6. Enjoy qawwali music at the Nizamuddin Dargah (from USD 49.0)
Situated in the bustling neighborhood of Nizamuddin, the Nizamuddin Dargah is the resting place of a well-known Sufi mystic, Nizamuddin Auliya. Religious pilgrims and music lovers visit this place to pay tribute to the Sufi saint and listen to traditional Sufi qawwali music, which is performed every Thursday evening.
The ambiance during the qawwali is unparalleled and you can easily spend hours listening to the melodious Sufi songs. While you’re here, explore this beautiful shrine, complete with latticed screens and onion domes. Also, make sure to cover your head before entering the shrine.
Delhi Nizamuddin Dargah Sufi Music and Songs Tour
Duration: 3 to 5 hours
7. Watch Kathputli -- a traditional puppet dance
Delhi has a culturally rich street performance scene. The best place to witness this is at the Kathputli Colony, which is alive with street musicians and performers. A traditional folk dance known as kathputli (or puppet dance) is regularly organized here, besides magic shows, acrobats, fire shows and folk performances.
Though the area is under redevelopment, the community still holds on to its culture and heritage and brings the streets alive with their various traditional art forms.
Address: Kadputli Colony, Shadipur, New Delhi, Delhi 110008
8. Discover Champa Gali
While you’re kicking around the posh neighborhood of Saket in South Delhi, take a wander over to the nearby Champa Gali in Saidulajab. This street is dotted with handicraft and bric-a-brac shops, boutiques, coffee houses and cafes. There are also plenty of events here, such as impromptu jam sessions, book launches, poetry, and a lot more.
You can spend an entire day here - indulge in shopping, take part in the events, or simply relax in one of the many cafes and soak in the bohemian vibe of the area.
Address: Shed 4, Khasra 258, Lane Number 3, Westend Marg, behind Kuldeep House, Saidulajab, Saket, New Delhi, Delhi 110030
Website: Champa Gali
Opening hours: Mon - Sat: 11am - 10pm; Sun: 10:45am - 10pm
9. Watch the 'Changing of the Guard' ceremony (from USD 43.0)
At Rashtrapati Bhavan, the official residence and workplace of the President of India, you can witness one of India’s oldest military traditions, the Changing of the Guard ceremony. You’ll see the president’s bodyguard on horseback in a parade every Saturday and Sunday morning in full regalia, which always leaves tourists and locals open-mouthed.
The time of the ceremony differs by season. From mid-March to mid-November, it begins at 8 am on Saturday; from mid-November to mid-March, it starts at 10 am. On Sundays, it begins at 4:30 pm from mid-November to mid-March and 5:30 pm from mid-March to mid-November. It is free of charge and held at the forecourt of the presidential residence. Don’t forget to bring photo ID.
Rashtrpati Bhavan Changing of the Guard, Museum Entry Ticket
Duration: 3 to 4 hours
10. Attend an Indian dance workshop (from USD 113.0)
A trip to India is incomplete without shaking a leg or two to some Indian music. And, to learn some steps and get your groove on, there’s no better place than the Delhi Dance Academy. The academy offers two-hour ‘Namaste India Dance Workshop’ for tourists, wherein you will be taught three Indian dance forms, including Bollywood dance, dandiya (Gujarati folk dance) and Bhangra (traditional dance of Punjab). After the session, you’ll also be given a two-minute video of your performance to take with you.
Delhi Bollywood-Style Dance Class with Bhangra and Belly Dance
Duration: 2 hours
Explore like a local
The capital of India, Delhi, is a fantastic place to visit for its historic monuments, architectural landmarks, diverse culinary options, street art, vibrant nightlife and even its eclectic shopping scene. If you’re a traveler who likes to stay away from other tourists, Delhi can show you a new and different side that’s hidden from mass tourism.
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