By: Katja & Victoria
With a population of some 25 million people, the colourfully chaotic Indian capital of New Delhi might not be the most relaxing destination for a family holiday. It is, however, a fascinating one with lots to see and do for kids of all ages. All that’s required is some careful planning and plenty of deep breaths! Here we share our top pick of things to do in Delhi with kids.
1. Explore Delhi Old & New
Today’s Delhi is divided into ‘New’ Delhi and ‘Old’ Delhi, one a garden city carefully laid out according to the British architect Edward Lutyen’s careful designs and the other a dense medieval tangle of narrow lanes and alleyways. Hidden beneath both sides are the remains of seven earlier cities upon which the capital has been built. Remnants of these previous incarnations are evident in the dozens of ancient monuments that pepper the capital.
The following are some of our favourites for families:
The Red Fort
Home to the Mughal rulers for nearly 200 years, this sprawling fortress is not as impressive inside as it is from the large gates but it’s still worth having a wander around to marvel at the sheer size of it all.
Where: Netaji Subhash Marg, Chandni Chowk
This 13th-century obelisk is made of red sandstone and marble and boasts 379 steps (it’s the second highest minar in India). The grounds outside are a popular spot for impromptu weekend cricket matches. After visiting the monument, head to nearby Olive Bar & Kitchen for a slap-up brunch (weekends only).
This whimsical observatory, filled with weird and wonderful instruments, was constructed in 1725 by Maharajah Jai Singh and is a fun place for kids to explore. A second (and frankly, better) one can be seen in Jaipur, in the state of Rajasthan.
Where: Sansad Marg, Connaught Place
Our favourite ancient monument is this grand 16th-century mausoleum built for Mughal emperor Humayun. The tomb underwent a six-year restoration and is now as good as new. It’s also relatively crowd-free!
Where: Mathura Road, Nizamuddin
2. Spend your Sunday in Lodhi Gardens
One of the few places in central New Delhi where you can find space, and lots of it, is this 90-acre park popular with families and early morning walkers. The gardens are scattered with 15th century Mughal tombs, fun for kids to explore, and an incredible variety of birds – bring your binoculars!
Where: Lodhi Road
3. Drive a Train at the National Rail Museum
The National Rail Museum is a great option for kids, particularly younger ones. Enjoy 10-acres of rail-related exhibitions including numerous real trains that kids can clamber upon. The indoor displays are a little dusty but kids won’t mind, particularly when they spot the large elephant skull behind glass. This is what happens when you run head first into a train! On certain days a toy train runs loops around the grounds.
Where: Shanti Path, Chanakyapuri
4. Take a walk at India Gate
The 42m-high war memorial, India Gate, was built in memory of the Indian soldiers who fought in World War I. Surrounded by (occasionally) grassy lawns, it’s a popular spot for families, friends and couples who congregate at dusk for picnics. Next-door is Children’s Park, a huge playground filled with swings, slides and climbing frames. Don’t expect state-of-the-art play equipment, do expect crowds.
Where: Rajpath, near Connaught Place
5. Discover Old Delhi on Two Wheels
The winding, narrow lanes of Old Delhi are a delight to explore but they are best done on two (or three) wheels. Older kids and teens might enjoy a DelhiByCycle tour, an early morning guided bicycle ride through the streets of the ancient capital of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. Destinations include the Spice Market, the Red Fort and tranquil Civil Lines, the former British Colonial area. Exclusive family tours are available.
Those less keen to navigate Delhi’s busy streets by bike, or younger children, will delight in a cycle or auto rickshaw ride through the tightly packed market alleys instead.
Where: Old Delhi
6. Give Back on the Salaam Baalak Trust Walk
Another one for older kids and teens are the Salaam Baalak Trust city tours. Run by the charity of the same name, this organisation does incredible work helping Delhi’s street kids get back on their feet through education, drop-in shelters, health care and more. Former street children guide visitors on a three-hour walk through Paharganj, near New Delhi’s railway station. It’s a fascinating – and harrowing – insight into what life is like for Delhi’s thousands of street children.
7. Visit Gandhi’s Old Home
Learn about one of India’s most popular leaders, Mahatma Gandhi, at the excellent Gandhi Smriti museum. This is where Gandhi spent the last 144 days of his life before he was assassinated on January 30, 1948. The exhibits showcase Gandhi’s life and work through photos, memorabilia and lots of text but it’s the digital multimedia museum upstairs that will really appeal to kids. There are lots of hands-on activities such as starting the engine of an electronic train or strumming an electronic harp; the harp plays a different Indian freedom movement song when you strike each string.
Where: 5, Tees January Lane, Birla House
8. Engage in Toilet Humour
Guaranteed to get kids giggling is this quirky museum that explores the origins of the humble latrine. But it’s not all toilet humour, the museum was established by the Sulabh International, a charity that works to bring sanitation to the poor of Delhi. Discover lots of toilet-related paraphernalia from simple chamber pots to the a replica of the ‘throne’ that King Louis the XIV was believed to have used while holding court.
Where: Sulabh Bhawan, Palam Dabri Marg, Mahavir Enclave, Palam
9. See the Animals in Deer Park
Deer Park, next door to hip Hauz Khas village, is a literal breath of fresh air from Dehli’s densely populated city streets. Plus, it has animals! Here you’ll find deer, peacocks, rabbits and even guinea pigs as well as numerous Mughal tombs and an ancient reservoir to explore. Afterwards, take a wander into Hauz Khas village that has been transformed in recent years into the place to be, home to designer stores, cool restaurants and art galleries.
Where: Hauz Khas Village
10. Shopping, shopping, shopping!
Delhi certainly has plenty of shopping options, and we don’t mean the modern malls that are springing up everywhere. For teens, the permanent market of Dilli Haat is a good place to stock up on souvenirs and traditional Indian crafts. There’s a nominal entrance charge to the market so it’s never too crowded either. Hauz Khas village is good for independent designers and Shahpur Jat, has edgy furniture stores and even vintage clothing options as well as a very French café. The original shopping area is Khan Market and it’s still hugely popular today. Shop for traditional block printed clothes at Anokhi, modern Indian homewares at Good Earth and books at BahriSons Booksellers.
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Bonus! The Delhi Eye
Although we have not visited The Delhi Eye personally, we thought it worth including here. This newly opened 200 ft ferris wheel was modelled on similar structures in London and Singapore and promises a bird’s eye view of the capital from its 36 air-conditioned cabins – just make sure you pick a clear day!
Where: Kalindi Kunj Park, Okhla
For more family holiday ideas, take a look at our Family Guide to India