If you’re someone who often travels to different countries, you might look on the internet and ask your friends about the major attractions in that place. But more often than not, you seem to find better places when you start exploring yourself. These explorations might take you to small and narrow lanes that might have some of the best cafes in the world, and yet, no one told you about them.

Delhi has many many gems hidden in unexpected locations. To make your exploration easier, I’m listing down five hidden back street locations in Delhi that will definitely make you fall in love with Delhi.

1. Paranthe Wali Gali

One of the four shops in the Paranthe Wali Gali
One of the many shops in the Paranthe Wali Gali. Photo by Wikimedia Commons.

If you return from Delhi without visiting Paranthe Wali Gali, then I’m sorry my friend, but you haven’t seen the soul of Delhi yet.

Paranthe Wali Gali is a testimony to time. Located in a back alley of Chandni Chowk, this lane consists of many shops, all of which serves paranthas (a famous Indian flat bread made of wheat with a stuffing). These shops have been here for the last six generations or more.

It all started with a Brahmin family who came here almost a century ago and set up their own parantha shop. At that time, it only served one type of parantha with one or two sabzis (spicy vegetable curry) and lassi (a sweetened or salted drink made of yoghurt). Their food was so yummy that slowly, people from all over Delhi started coming to Chandni Chowk just to eat it.

Today they’ve introduced more parantha varieties, and each one is equally delicious. The fillings in the paranthas differ, and you can choose the one you like. Paranthas are made in ghee (clarified butter), and sabzi is made in a lot of oil. This might make some people calorie conscious, but the food is worth all the indulgence.

This lane is so famous that even former Prime Ministers like Indira Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Atal Bihari Vajpayee have personally come here to taste the savoury dishes. Also, Bollywood superstars like Amitabh Bachchan and Shahrukh Khan have also paid a visit to these acclaimed restaurants.

So now that you know about its history, importance, and these mouth-watering paranthas, make sure to come over to Paranthe Wali Gali and be a part of their legendary clientele.

2. Tibetan Colony (Majnu Ka Tilla)

A Tibetan monastery in Majnu Ka Tilla
A Tibetan monastery in Majnu Ka Tilla. Photo by Jacob Jung.

Tibetan Colony, also famously known as Majnu-Ka-Tilla, is located next to ISBT Kashmiri Gate on Delhi’s Outer Ring Road (NH-1) and Yamuna river bank.

It’s called the Tibetan colony because it was home to Tibetan refugees who came over to Delhi during the Indo-China war. Today, this area has been completely transformed into a small Tibetan abode.

It is called Majnu-Ka-Tilla because of an Iranian Sufi mystic named Abdullah (lovingly called Majnu – a person in love). Majnu lived here in the late 15th century, and he was so devoted to the service of God that he used to ferry people across the river without charging anything. The most important Sikh Guru, Guru Nanak Dev Ji stayed here and was impressed by his devotion. After him, many other Sikh Gurus also found solace here and eventually, a Gurudwara (worshipping place of Sikhs) was set up here.

Entering the Tibetan colony is like going into a unique part of Delhi altogether. This colony is the residence of Tibetan people only. The colony is highly popular for their restaurants and cafes. They serve Chinese, Korean and Tibetan delicacies and the momos that you get here are the best in India. The price is also very affordable, and the area is clean and safe.

The Tibetan colony also has bustling shopping stalls with all kinds of chunky jewellery, Tibetan posters, cute t-shirts, etc. The prices of these things start somewhere from Rs. 300 to Rs. 350 and increases. The colony is usually crowded with college students of Delhi University who have turned this into their regular hangout spot.

One thing is for sure: Tibetan Colony hasn’t lost its ethnic touch, and the residents are like a family to each other. You can reach here from the Vidhan Sabha Metro Station which is the closest. Vishwavidyalaya and Kashmiri Gate Metro Station are also nearby.

3. Sanjay Van

Sanjay Van
Sanjay Van. Photo by Wikimedia Commons

Famed as the most haunted place in Delhi and the breathing lung of the polluted city, Sanjay Van or Sanjay Forest spans a massive area of 783 acres. Situated in Vasant Kunj and extending to Mehrauli as well, Sanjay Van is truly a marvel to see and explore (the haunting episodes usually happen at night so don’t worry).

The forest naturally consists of large trees with thick canopies that give an almost creepy look to it. There are also some small streams and ditches within the woods, and many people (especially young couples) can be seen exploring the forest.

Now while you can definitely take a good long walk through the forest, that’s not what I’m writing about mainly. One of my friends told me that Sanjay Van has a few small dhabas (small restaurants or shops with seating arrangements) outside its entrance. I was quite sceptical of how it would be as I’d never even seen Sanjay Van before. My friend, unfortunately, didn’t know the way and although we caught a rickshaw and told the driver that we wanted to go to Sanjay Van, he dropped us at the back entrance of the forest, right in the middle of a lonely main road. We were confused and didn’t know where to go.

Thankfully, another kind auto driver came to our rescue. Apparently, you have to be specific while giving directions and tell them to take you to the “entrance” of Sanjay Van where the food stalls are. Unlike the back entrance, this one has some government buildings nearby and surprisingly, looks like a posh area with important buildings on one side and the haunted forest on the other.

Sure enough, we ate the famous paranthas of these dhabas and let me tell you; they’re the tastiest paranthas I’ve ever eaten. Ever. You can also get Maggi noodles, Chowmein and many other dishes here. We then went into the forest, walked around a little, clicked some pictures and returned. From my personal experience, I undoubtedly recommend it to everyone.

4. Blue Tokai

Blue Tokai
Blue Tokai. Photo by foursquare.com

Blue Tokai is a small haven in an even smaller lane called Champa Gali which is right next to Saket Metro Station. This is actually a cafe cum on-site roastery where you can get some fantastic brewed coffee. In all the websites, Blue Tokai excels with 5 stars or 4 stars along with some amazing feedback from its customers. Some tourists even went on to say that this cafe could easily blend into the London streets.

This place has a rustic look to it and the moment you enter it, the soothing music and the earthy aroma will intoxicate your senses. There’s also an open backyard where charging ports and coolers are arranged for your convenience.

Besides various blends of coffee, you can also savour some light delights like the Banana bread or the Cortados. Pair it with a nice cup of freshly brewed coffee, and you’re good to go. If you’d like to indulge in your sweet tooth, then the cafe also has some delicious authentic dark chocolates. The staff in the cafe are a very friendly lot, and they’ll even show you around the brewing room. In fact, brewing sessions are held in this place on Wednesdays and Sundays.

5. Rose Cafe

Cozy Interiors
Cozy Interiors. Photo by justdial.com.

A little walk from the Blue Tokai and you’ll reach the Rose Cafe. Built in the Victorian kind of style, this small and cute cafe is your best option for a quick breakfast or brunch.

Their walls are pink in colour with a cute board in the front of the cafe. Some of their must-haves are skinny pizzas and all-day breakfasts.

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