You’re probably wondering “what?! A green guide to Delhi?!” Yes, it is true! I can happily assure you some incredibly environmentally forward projects are being implemented here in the big, bad city often viewed as one of the most un-environmentally friendly cities in the world. This is what makes visiting now so exciting. By utilizing tourism to support these green initiatives being implemented by innovative young people, Delhi is slowly but surely developing into the “Clean Delhi, Green Delhi” the government has been advertising for years.
One of the biggest challenges of developing Delhi into a green city has a lot to do with culture and the country’s history, a topic I don’t feel comfortable speaking on as a foreigner living here (not my place and not my narrative), but gives me hope that the more young people who actively provide education, resources, and solutions to some of the ongoing environmental issues within the city, the more goodness we’ll see from residents. And as the capital, continue to influence other cities around the north and south India to follow suit (although cities like Bangalore and Mumbai have become WAY more progressive in their approach to sustainable city development).
Firstly, I must highlight the incredible growth of Delhi’s public transportation. The Delhi Metro is such an incredibly clean and accessible system with lines connecting you to just about everywhere in the city, including Gurgaon, a massive cyber and entertainment suburb for young Delhiites. The metro is the fastest way to get across the city with increasing traffic. Ola, India’s local shared car provider, similar to Uber, is also available but mostly convenient in mornings and evenings, and the safest option for late nights. When it comes to transportation and tourism, organizations such as DelhiByCycle are great examples of how to see Delhi without adding too much of your own CO2 emissions and bringing morning tourism to a city that seems to be gridlocked by noon. Cycle through spice markets, outside major sites like Red Fort and Jama Masjid, and grab breakfast at delicious dhabas in the backstreets of old Delhi. The ultimate way to meet locals, get a brief history lesson and to discover locals gems you can always venture back to on your own.
As for foods, stay and hangouts, nothing beats connecting tourism needs to supporting locally owned and crafted social justice advocacy, and community shared and urban spaces. This guide may be small but it packs a punch, inspiring you to get innovative and mingle with Delhi’s progressive community of young people. The further you explore Delhi, the longer you want to stay. Give yourself time, be patient and Delhi may just become one of your favorite cities in the land of sound and color.
Green Suitcase Eats at:
The Food Stalls of Old Delhi
The best Delhi eats are always at street side food stalls. Delhi chaat, traditional street foods, are best consumed in the old school areas of Delhi including Chandni Chowk, Karol Bagh, and Patel Nagar. In these spaces is where you’ll experience the true colors, smells, and aura of what Delhi is, and why keeping this vibrant part of the city alive in its progressive transformation is so important.
Top fave chaat dishes:
- Sev Puri – a great on the go snack of potatoes, onion, coriander and peanuts atop a crispy puri – think of your favorite cracker but better – with delicious tamarind chutney. I’ve never been able to refuse a good sev puri, especially in Patel Nagar.
- Pani Puri or Golgappa – a sweet and salty chilled broth made with potatoes and spices served in a crispy, round puri that is devoured in one bite. You pay per puri so if you love ‘em, just continue to say “ek aur”, meaning one more, to keep those crunchy babies coming!
- Aloo Tikke – these irresistible pan-fried potato burgers are perfectly crisp and seasoned, sandwiched between fluffy white bread. You can usually find them topped with fresh tomatoes and some kind of delicious and savory chutney.
Looking for the best of traditional north Indian dishes, south Indian dosas and the best sweets in the city? Evergreen is your go-to, located in Green Park Extension. Indulge in classic delights, with a sweet lime soda (be sure to bring your own straw and ask for a real cup!), then dive into all the mati, traditional Indian sweets such as gulab jamun, ladoo, and rasgulla. A description won’t do, you’ve just got to try it to understand the sweet side of India.
This mother-daughter owned, adorably pink café is elegantly decorated along Westend Marg in Saket with indoor and outdoor seating. The diverse menu is made up of locally sourced, organic items with tons of options for those with dietary restrictions – gluten-free, vegan, you name it! Their vegan cakes pair perfectly with coffee. The ambiance is perfect for a girly tea party or a day surrounded by pretty pink things while diving deep into digital nomad tasks.
Although an India wide chain, this incredible roastery is serving up delicious and aromatic coffee grown from their seven farms located in south India. The Indian-Australian owned local chain has the perfect aura for intimate meetings, coffee with friends, or lounging with a book – especially at their Saket location with a backyard area and swing set to relax in. Hands down my favorite coffee shop in India and widely brewed at various cafes and restaurants in the New Delhi area.
This progressive queer feminist café is making huge waves in opening the floor to conversation and allyship through events, workshops, and delicious foods. The café was opened in partnership with a French chef who enjoyed rotating the menu with unreal dishes like mushroom lasagna and savory quiche. Their regular karaoke and movie nights are great for meeting new friends and making room for discussion on support needed for the LGBTQ+ community here in Delhi and beyond.
Side note: if you’re interested in learning more about the LGBTQ+ and feminism community here in Delhi, be sure to connect with Nazariya while you’re here!
Green Suitcase Stays at:
Delhi is still working on its push for sustainable lodging, luckily there are a few incredible hostels that are sure to make your stay comfortable as well as relaxing or entertaining – depending on the experience you’re looking for. Airbnbs are also a great way to economically empower locals, as most are run by families and young couples looking to support entrepreneurial ventures they lead in the city.
This cozy hostel is located in Safdarjung Enclave, walking distance from the metro, Green Park Market, and Hauz Khas village. SOUL STAY is the ideal choice for ages 18 to 30 looking to connect with awesome travelers and make friends with the silly and eccentric hostel owners, Rufu and Mohit. The boys run an entertainment group called Soul City, therefore staying at Soul Stay gets you automatic free entry and unlimited drinks to some of the city’s hottest nightlife from Tuesday to Sunday. As for the rooms, female only and mixed dorms are available. The beds are some of the comfiest I’ve had in India, and the bathrooms are basically brand new. The beautiful rooftop is solar powered by night and great for evening sing-alongs and silly dance parties. They cut their A/C during the day to save on emissions but the living room area is great for cooling off, making friends, or cuddling up with a book.
Looking for something more private but still community-centric? LetsBunk Poshtel is located inside Hauz Khas Village with a beautiful lounge area on the main floor and a great rooftop for sunset drinks and hangouts. The space is most definitely a luxury hostel, borderline hotel with private and hostel rooms available but well worth every rupee. Get around the city via metro, walking distance from the hostel, explore ruins within the village or stroll through the village in the evening for fancy foods and drinks (happy hour happens literally everyday and everywhere in HKV from 4pm – 6pm!). Not a huge fan of the restaurant on site but the area couldn’t be more perfect for exploring various parts of India through food.
Green Suitcase Hangs at:
Buying local is everything Dilli Haat represents. Explore every state of India through textile, jewelry, food and drink at this beautiful outdoor market. It’s 100 INR to get in (around $2USD) and an ideal place to hang around for a few hours to eat, shop, explore, and learn from artisans who have been honing their craft for generations.
Hauz Khas & Saket
These urban, hipster hubs are loaded with restaurants, bars, community and artsy spaces and shops that you won’t find elsewhere in Delhi. Mingle with young (and social!) entrepreneurs utilizing tech, art, food and beverage to start conversations around various social justice, environmental, and inclusion topics.
Connaught Place (also known as Central and CP)
This circular playground is surrounded by serene greenery and accessible by metro from just about anywhere, as most lines connect to Central Secretariat metro station. The shopping and entertainment district does host a lot of big players and global chains, but there are also tons of local gems to discover especially along the thick sidewalks of CP and Janpath where vendors hang out textiles and jewelry to discover. Digital nomads, looking for a great place to work and hang out? Check out Social’s co-working space in CP – great food mixing Indian staples with international dishes, stable WiFi, and a motivating ambiance. My favorite CP snack spot: Cha Bar, a great little coffee shop serving up awesome and inexpensive brunch dishes located inside The Oxford, a bookstore made to be strolled for hours. Don’t expect to set up an office here though, this bustling location will totally derail your focus as locals are loving up this spot while tourists are just starting to discover it.
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Jazzmine is a social entrepreneur with a passion for responsible travel, conscious consumption, ethical fashion and community development. When not at home in Toronto, Canada, you’ll find her running Hara House, north India’s first zero-waste guesthouse. Follow Jazzmine around India and the world on Instagram @jazzmineraine or at SunshineandRaine.com