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Delhi History

For centuries, Delhi was at the heart of the Mughal Empire, and its many historic monuments stand testament to its former glories. However, the area's human history probably dates back 4,000 years or more.

Modern Delhi is really two cities. Old Delhi is a medieval web of narrow, crowded streets woven beneath the Red Fort's imposing walls which was built by Emperor Shah Jahan in the 17th century.

British-built New Delhi boasts broad, leafy boulevards, grand colonial buildings and gracious Lutyens bungalows.

The control of Muslim dynasties over the city lasted five centuries from 1200 and had a major impact on Delhi. It was during this period that landmarks such as Qutb Minar and Quwwat-al-Islam were constructed, as well as a number of forts and townships.

In 1720, the Mughal Empire’s influence started to wane as the Hindu Maratha Empire gained power. Tussles between the two continued for another 100 years until Delhi fell to the forces of the East India Company in 1857.

By the following year, the city was under the control of the British Empire. By 1911, Delhi became the capital of India when the British moved their headquarters from Kolkata.

New Delhi, a new quarter designed by British architect Edwin Lutyens to house government buildings, was officially inaugurated in 1931 after its construction was delayed due to WWI.

New Delhi became the seat of the Government of India after independence in 1949. During the partition of India, thousands of Hindu and Sikh refugees fled to Delhi.

Since then, the city has prospered, attracting migrants from the rest of India. But a rapidly expanding population has brought greater poverty to the city – almost half of Delhi's inhabitants live in slums.

In 2010, Delhi successfully hosted the Commonwealth Games, despite some pre-games scepticism around the world.

Today, Delhi is the largest commercial centre in Northern India.

Did you know?
• Delhi is home to three UNESCO World Heritage sites: Humayun’s Tomb, Qutb Minar and the Red Fort Complex.
• Former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf was born in Delhi in 1943.
• Delhi launched its first metro trains in 2002.

Featured Hotels

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Optus Sarovar Premiere

In the heart of the Gurgaon commercial district to the southwest of New Delhi, this is a business hotel with a difference, in that it has a genuinely Indian character to its modern and comfortable facilities. It's not a bad place for relaxation either, with its rooftop swimming pool, lobby lounge bar and up-to-the-minute gym facilities. The hotel has 80 rooms, all equipped with the latest TVs and other technology, and also offers a choice of meeting/conference rooms. Central Delhi is connected to Gurgaon by metro link.

Hotel Marble Arch

A new property conveniently located at Karol Bagh – 10 minutes by metro from Connaught Place, and little further from the New Delhi railway station, this is a comfortable and friendly place to base yourself for a short stay in Delhi. The accommodation floors surround an open-air courtyard restaurant area. Wi-Fi access is available, and the hotel will arrange collection and drop-off at both the airport and main railway stations if arranged in advance.

The Lodhi

Formerly the Aman New Delhi Hotel, The Lodhi is an contemporary, upmarket resort featuring exquisite Indian decor such as hand-made rugs and jaali screens. It offers 40 rooms, with balconies offering city, courtyard or garden views, deep bathtubs, a spa, tennis courts, 50m-long (140ft) pool, restaurants and even a library and a cigar lounge.

The Imperial New Delhi

Built in 1931, this contemporary colonial hotel was a favourite haunt of Nehru, Mountbatten and other luminaries. It continues to welcome many dignitaries and affluent Delhiites who drop by for Sunday brunch (one of the best in Delhi). There are 233 beautifully appointed rooms and 43 suites. Additional amenities include a swimming pool, beauty centre, shopping precinct and a selection of superlative restaurants and bars.

The Oberoi New Delhi

An elegant and modern hotel, The Oberoi occupies a peaceful position overlooking New Delhi's principal golf course and the historic Humayun's Tomb. Ideal for business travellers and well-heeled tourists, it offers a state-of-the-art business centre, spa, swimming pool and gym. Fine dining options are plentiful and include the excellent Italian restaurant Travertino and the popular Threesixty, which is also the setting for The Oberoi's indulgent breakfasts.

The Claridges New Delhi

Positioned among the leafy boulevards of New Delhi, The Claridges is one of the capital's most elegant and atmospheric places to stay. There's a touch of art deco to this low-rise building, which dates from the mid-1900s. Its 137 rooms and suites are a blend of classic and modern styles, all spacious and well presented. There is also a decent health club, swimming pool, beauty parlour and a choice of several restaurants.