The capital draws countless diplomats and businesspeople, which in turn has led to a thriving (and relatively pricey) five-star accommodations sector, with little innovation in the guesthouse or B&B areas (the big exception being the Master Paying Guest House, reviewed later in this chapter, which is the best place by far to stay if you're watching your rupees). As a result, you'll probably need to dig a little deeper in your pockets if you want a certain level of luxury -- not a bad idea if this is your first stop in India.
Although a five-star hotel may serve as a gentle introduction to India, most are a bland reproduction of what you can expect anywhere in the world, and some are downright hideous despite the hefty price tags. This is why we added a section of all five-star properties we didn't include in our top picks, "Five-Star Hotels That Didn't Make the Grade,"(useful if they're part of a package you're buying).
With so much parity in the top-end market, our hands-down recommendation is The Imperial, a classy hotel with an authentic colonial old-world atmosphere, friendly staff, superb restaurants, and the most central location (it's walking distance to Connaught Place). More of a brand, but still the ultimate in luxury, The Oberoi has the most lavishly cozy rooms of all the top-end hotels in Delhi, but you'll shell out for the privilege. It's worth checking the going rate at Hyatt Regency, which is not as conveniently located as either of these but operates specials throughout the year -- you can often stay here for as little as $100 per night.
Alternatively, check out Oberoi Maidens, Delhi's oldest hotel and one of the best-value options in Delhi. To decide among these, check out the full reviews below, and their websites. If you favor the trend toward intimate boutique-style hotels, The Manor (tel. 011/2692-5151; www.themanordelhi.com; from $175) is a small luxury hotel that has been featured in a number of design books and magazines like Tatler and Condé Nast Traveler. Located in Friends Colony, a smart residential quarter in the southwestern part of New Delhi (in other words, not walking distance to anywhere), it has a fabulous chef and offers top-notch service, gracious lawns with pool, and an intimate atmosphere (18 rooms total). It is really one of the most elegant (all muted colors) and contemporary (a great mix of materials like silk, terrazzo, onyx, and granite) options in Delhi, and service in particular has improved even more since Amanresorts (whose clients stay here en route to Rajasthan) began operational assistance. Check it out yourself.
Note that if you're literally in transit, the Radisson (National Highway 8, New Delhi 110 037; tel. 011/2677-9191; fax 011/2677-9090; www.radisson.com) is your best bet near the airport. It's perched on the edge of a major highway, but guest rooms (from $225) are large and sumptuous, with contemporary furnishings and king-size beds. Ask for a pool- or garden-facing unit.
There is nothing exceptional in this price category, and what is good is often booked. Of the recommended options, two are located in the pleasant Sunder Nagar neighborhood, not far from Humayun's Tomb. The 50-room Jukaso Inn (49-50 Sunder Nagar; tel. 011/2435-0308, -0309, or -2137; fax 011/2435-4402) has the most amenities (restaurant, room service, travel assistance). Public areas have gleaming white marble floors, but the best place to be is on the yellow painted terrace with its potted plants, tiny fountain, and wooden seats. The windowless basement rooms may be cheaper but aren't recommended; the best choice here is the suite, for which you will have to cough up Rs 5,000 ($114).
Alternatively, ask for no. 208 or 209; each of these units has timber floors, a set of double beds, and a tub in the bathroom. Also in Sunder Nagar, located across the way from an open park, La Sagrita Tourist Home (14 Sunder Nagar; tel. 011/2435-8572; www.lasagrita.com; Rs 2,490-Rs 3,090/$55-$70) is the most peaceful of the lodgings in the area, and the best value in its price bracket. Its major advantage is the generous amount of natural light that filters into some of the guest rooms. Specifically request room no. 203, which is large, with two double beds and plenty of window space. There's no restaurant, but the private garden makes a decent escape. If you'd rather be in Connaught Place, Nirula's Hotel (L-Block Connaught Circus, New Delhi 110 001; tel. 011/5151-7070 through -7077; www.nirulas.com), a small two-story hotel linked to a swath of restaurants downstairs, is your best option. The tiny lobby is a sort of inner-city tribute to Fawlty Towers but without the sense of humor; accommodations are similarly uninspiring. Nevertheless, you are in the heart of India's capital, in an air-conditioned room with a TV, minibar, king-size bed (ask for room no. 202 or 205), and en-suite shower, for Rs 4,000 ($91). Much better value, however, is to choose Master Paying Guest House.
Five-Star Hotels That Didn't Make the Grade
A stone's throw from Rajpath, but looming like a large glass-faced office block, is Le Meridien (Windsor Place, New Delhi 110 001; tel. 011/2371-0101; www.lemeridien-newdelhi.com; doubles from $180). Endless holiday promotions and photo booths create a mall-like ambience, and even though the humongous chandelier in the lobby tries to create a more regal atmosphere, capsule elevators with twinkling lights go up and down the dark, casino-like atrium all day long -- giving it a rather cramped and confused feel.
Accommodations are comfortable enough, but as a place to relax and feel pampered, the hotel is a bit of a letdown. With its large room inventory and numerous food outlets, the Grand Inter-Continental (Barakhamba Ave., Connaught Place, New Delhi 110 001; tel. 011/2341-1001; www.bharathotels.com; from $300 double) feels a bit like a small indoor city, offering practically everything you need so you never have to step outside, but the ambience is staid and the accommodations tasteless. The Metropolitan Hotel Nikko CEN (Bangla Sahib Rd., New Delhi 110 001; tel. 011/2334-2000; $220), a member of the Japanese hotel chain, has a refined atmosphere, with a wildly eclectic mix of baroque furnishings and decorative elements. Unfortunately, the only real highlights here are the very chi-chi spa and authentic Japanese restaurant. Guest rooms are small and cluttered, with pastel-pink walls and ornate two-poster beds.
The Taj Group has two five-star options in the city -- and of the two, the Taj Mahal Hotel is far preferable. Slightly cheaper, the Taj Palace Hotel (2 Sadar Patel Marg, Diplomatic Enclave, New Delhi 110 021; tel. 011/2611-0202; www.tajhotels.com; doubles from $235) pulsates with the energy of Delhi's bourgeoisie; at night it becomes a haven for see-and-be-seen weddings and gigantic corporate functions. The Western-style deluxe guest rooms are large and overlook the pool. Unfortunately, all the high-end social functions seem to have had a negative impact on service (this hotel has the longest checkout line in Delhi). Right next door is the ITC Maurya Sheraton Hotel and Towers (Diplomatic Enclave, New Delhi 110 021; tel. 011/2611-2233; www.welcomgroup.com; from $300 double). Its location in the diplomatic sector and the expensive rooms are major drawbacks. On the positive side, it has two excellent Indian specialty restaurants. The other so-called five-star option in this neighborhood is the government-run Ashok, but it's tired and poorly managed, so definitely avoid this one.
Even farther south is the Inter-Continental Eros (Nehru Place, New Delhi 110 019; tel. 011/5122-3344; www.newdelhi.intercontinental.com), which is a little more intimate than many of its competitors, with comfortable rooms and top-notch fittings and amenities (the best rooms have views of the Bahai Lotus Temple). It offers good value in the five-star category -- doubles from only $180. Marriott WelcomHotel (District Centre, Saket, New Delhi 110 017; tel. 011/5266-1122; email@example.com) has rather small guest rooms priced at $210. You could do better elsewhere, particularly since the double-glazed bedroom windows fail to completely block out noise. If you do stay here, ask for a room on an upper floor.
For a complete listing of Frommer's-reviewed accommodations, visit our online hotels index.
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