With its extremes and contradictions, its jumble of old and new and its blend of cultures, languages and religions, Delhi is a microcosm of India. And as the seat of the country’s massive (and infamously bureaucratic) government and the key commercial and financial centre of the country’s northern half, Delhi is an increasingly frequent destination for globetrotters.

Business travellers are most likely to visit the central district of New Delhi, which is surrounded by the nine other districts that make up this giant metropolis of nearly 17 million residents. New Delhi was designed and built by the British in the 1920s, with the wide, tree-lined boulevards, imposing statues, government edifices, diplomatic enclaves and world-class hotels that are fitting of a capital city.

Fast growing nearby satellite cities such as Gurgaon, 25 km to the south are also attracting a new wave of multinational corporate headquarters, and their travelling employees are often happy to bypass Delhi’s crowded commercial core.

The 2010 opening of the massive, bright and modern Terminal 3 at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport brought the facility up to global standards. The new terminal handles all international arrivals and is the eighth largest passenger terminal in the world, occupying some 540,000sqm – so be prepared to walk long distances to and from your flight.

In February 2011, business travellers were delighted to begin using the new high-speed, 23km Delhi Airport Express, a traffic-busting rapid rail line that connects the city centre with the airport. But do not count on using it for the next few months. In July 2012, operations came to an abrupt halt due to structural issues. There were also rumours that the line was not meeting ridership expectations and could be experiencing financial difficulties.


The city’s most graceful grande dame, the 233-room Imperial New Delhi, has been a meeting spot for business travellers, diplomats and expats since it opened in 1931. Located in the key Connaught Place business district, the hotel is revered for its blend of Victorian, Colonial and Art Deco design touches, modern conveniences and impeccable service. Even if you are not a hotel guest, drop by and enjoy high tea in the place where leaders like Gandhi, Nehru, Jinna and Mountbatten met to map out the future of the country upon its independence from England in 1947. The Imperial also has one of the best art collections in the country.

More modern and business focused – but equally elegant – are the 294-room Taj Mahal and the 402-room Taj Palace hotels, located among embassies and mansions on the leafy, relaxed, southern side of New Delhi. Both hotels are as popular with business travellers as they are with locals, and their large, buzzy lobbies, bars, and restaurants are popular spots for casual business meetings as well as people watching.   

Business travellers may also check in at the classy 260-room Leela Palace New Delhi near the Presidential Palace, with its oversized 51sqm guestrooms, or the modern 507-room Hyatt Regency Delhi, one of the largest five-star hotels in town. Also, the Oberoi, New Delhi (open while undergoing a renovation set to complete in 2014) is  a quiet, contemporary oasis amid the city’s bustle, near the Delhi Golf Club and the grandiose tomb of Emperor Humayun.

Aman Resorts, best known for its posh, peaceful properties throughout the world, opened the 60-room Aman New Delhi in 2010. It is a tranquil, minimalist-chic “city resort” where some rooms come with private plunge pools.  

The 20-room Amber New Delhi is a more affordable option on the southern side of town, plus you get free wi-fi and excellent views of the nearby Lotus Temple from the hotel’s rooftop terrace.

Nearly all the established brands in Delhi have recently opened business-oriented counterparts in the burgeoning city of Gurgaon, including the Oberoi Gurgaon, Vivanta by Taj (opening 15 December), Leela Kempinski and Best Western Skycity. As a nice touch, nearly all the hotels in Gurgaon offer complimentary transfers to and from Indira Ghandi International Airport.

Expense account
Enjoy some of the best contemporary Indian dishes in the city – many cooked by your table or in the restaurant’s unusual show kitchen – at Masala Art, located near the diplomatic enclave on the south side of New Delhi. Here, chefs pioneered the increasingly common technique of using olive oil instead of ghee (clarified butter) to lighten the fare and heighten its flavours. Nearby, Blue Ginger turns out spicy Vietnamese dishes in a modern, moody dining room. Wait for your table (and tap your feet to the DJ’s beat) at the neighbouring Blue Bar, where locals choose from a diverse list of hand-crafted cocktails – made with everything from local fruit to oysters – and gather after work on the bar’s expansive bonsai-dotted deck. 

In a dining room decorated with hand-painted murals, the Imperial Hotel’s Spice Route restaurant offers a wide range of tastes and flavours (including stir-fried lobster with ginger and Thai black mushrooms) from India’s exotic south Asian neighbours: Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand. For the city’s best Japanese tempura, teppanyaki and sushi in upscale surroundings, check out Wasabi by Morimoto at the Taj Mahal hotel.

Once you have had your fill of Indian and Asian cuisine, head over to La Piazza at the Hyatt Regency for Italian dishes such as wood-fired pizzas and hand-made pastas in a rustic grotto-like environment, or try the Orient Express at the Taj Palace, where classic European fare is paired with wines from one of the best cellars in the city.

Off the clock
Add an extra day to your Delhi business trip and make the pilgrimage to the Taj Mahal, located about 200km to the south near Agra, via new express trains that depart Delhi at 6 am and return from Agra the same evening. If you have more than a day to spare in Agra, stay over at the lovely new Oberoi Amarvilas, a luxury hotel that offers stunning full-on views of the Taj Mahal. Do not try to make this day trip on your own – inquire with your hotel concierge about hiring a private guide or joining an organized group.

Go local
Adventuresome business travellers eager to get out of the processed environment at Delhi’s big hotels or office buildings should consider spending an afternoon in Chandni Chowk, or old Delhi, where you can hire a rickshaw to pedal through a warren of skinny alleyways full of silver, spice and marriage markets. Or take a stroll through India's largest mosque, the Jama Masjid, and climb to the top of its highest minaret for a marvellous, mystical view of the old city. When you are finished, have a meal at the famous Karim’s for excellent local mughlaidishes of chicken, lamb or goat. If you are still up for more, go to Aap ki pasand for a cup of India's finest tea. 

Don’t do this!
Do not always expect to shake hands when greeting your counterparts in Delhi. Instead, show respect for the local culture by pressing your palms together under your chin with a slight bow and saying “Namaste”. This is also the safest option when men greet women, or vice versa due to varying local customs about touching the opposite sex.