New Delhi with Kids
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! I’d also highly recommend splurging on a nice hotel to return to at the end of the day. You can see some of my recommended Delhi hotels for families at the end of this post.
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 recommendations are for sights and activities that showcase what I think are the best of Delhi’s history and culture.
1. Walk in the footsteps of Emperors at the Red Fort
When the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan moved his capital from Agra to Delhi in 1638 he laid the foundations for this palace, the Lal Qila. The Red Fort took nearly 10 years to complete and was home to Mughal rulers for nearly 200 years. It was here where the historic speech marking India’s independence from British rule was given and it remains the setting for independence day celebrations each year. The 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.
2. Climb the stairs of the Qutub Minar
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).
3. See the stars at Jantar Mantar
This whimsical observatory was constructed in 1725 by Maharajah Jai Singh and is filled with weird and wonderful instruments constructed entirely out of stone. Altogether, the Maharajah built five observatories around the country, the biggest (and, in my opinion, best) being in his hometown of Jaipur. Jantar Mantar is a really fun place to explore, particularly impressive is the 73-foot-tall sundial, which is the largest ever built.
4. Take a stroll at Humayun’s Tomb
Humayun’s tomb remains one of my favourite places in Delhi. This grand 16th-century mausoleum was built for the Mughal emperor Humayun who had the misfortune of tripping on his robe, stumbling down some stairs and knocking his head, putting an end to his life at the age of 47. The complex took seven years to build and was completed 16 years after Humayun died. In later years, however, the complex fell into disrepair and at one stage, during the 1947 Partition of India, thousands of refugees set up camp here. In 1993 the complex was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and restoration work was taken on by the Aga Khan Trust. It only reopened to the public in 2013 and is – to me – one of the most beautiful places in Dehli. There is an entrance charge
5. 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!
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. 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.
10. 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.
11. Have a laugh at the Toilet Museum
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.
12. 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.
13. Get Crafty At the Craft Museum
The Craft Museum is a great place for kids. There are lots of interesting arts, crafts, statutes and ornaments from across the different states and communities of India. But even if the kids roll their eyes at the art, they will love the large, open space to run around in. Craftsmen and women from across the country showcase their skills and their works are available to buy. The Cafe Lote on site serves delicious South Indian food and the menu also offers small bites, which are ideal for kids. We hear the fish and chips and nimbu pane are very good!
Still time to see more? Then here are some more ideas on must see places in Delhi.
Where to Stay in Delhi with Kids
One of my favourite hotels in Delhi is The Imperial, a beautiful hotel in Lutyen’s Delhi. Another favourite, and a more wallet-friendly option, is Shanti Home. For more ideas, take a look at these from TripAdvisor. For holiday rental options, try these from VRBO – Vacation Rentals By Owner
Pin for later!
Bookmark this post by pinning the image below to one of your Pinterest boards.
This post contains affiliate links. If you make a booking or a purchase after clicking on any of the links then we receive a small commission (at no cost to you). If you don’t, we don’t! These are not pay-per-click links.