Delhi Travel Guide

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Delhi Nightlife & the Arts

Delhi's nightlife is in a constant state of flux and among the growing set of young people who can afford it, the scene is intense. Various forms of the watering hole are now on offer, with the lounge bar emerging as the most successful formula. Though it doesn't rival the cosmopolitan feel of Mumbai, it seems as if a new lounge opens in Delhi every week. That said, the city's somewhat stodgy reputation is still partly deserved: All the major hotels have bars, but most are better suited for a collective nap with a few tired foreigners than a night of Indian camaraderie; they still shut by midnight and many nightclubs close not much later, though there are a few all-night venues. Hotel bars come in two stripes: aiming for a British Raj look and an older, quieter clientele, or raucous, late-night dance clubs. Drinks prices come close to those in London and New York. Those in search of late-night dancing and drinking sometimes head for the suburbs or five-star hotels that can stay open later.

The disco scene has undergone a transformation in recent years. Select places attract top international DJs and charge cover prices to match. Slowly electronic dance music is overtaking drunk renditions of classic rock and Bollywood favorites at most places. Overly casual attire (shorts, T-shirts, sandals on men) is typically frowned on, and closing times tend to vary with the mood of the city government that month.

Delhi is India's cultural hub, if only because performers from all over the country come to the capital at least once a year to cultivate their national audience. Painting, music, dance, theater, and, of course, film are all well represented. The India Habitat Centre, a large, modern cultural center, has the best combination of all of the above; on any given evening, it hosts several good programs. The only problem is that hype is nonexistent, so you must be persistent to find out what's happening—pick up the biweekly Time Out. Failing that, the daily newspapers, especially the Indian Express and the Hindustan Times, are also good sources. The staff at your hotel may be able to help, too.

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