Differences Between Delhi and New Delhi, and NCR for Travelers

What’s the difference between Delhi and New Delhi? One is a city within the National Capital Region, and the other is a district of that city.

Think of it as Manhattan, New York City, and the New York Metropolitan Area.

The NCR, therefore, is the metro area that includes multiple cities in various states.

Faridabad, Ghaziabad, and Bhiwadi are all part of it.

Meanwhile, New Delhi is not a different city; it’s the most modern part of the city.

As a result, it’s the seat of the government. The parliament and most government buildings are in the New Delhi area.

Now, let me walk you through this in a more detailed manner.

National Capital Region

Difference Between Delhi and New Delhi

The National Capital Region, widely shortened as the NCR, is a planning region in North India.

It naturally grew out of Delhi, although the other cities are in other states.

For instance, Faridabad is in Haryana, Ghaziabad is in Uttar Pradesh, and Bhiwadi is part of Rajasthan.

They are all new cities due to the heavy inhabitation of the capital city.

As more government jobs became available, the more these nearby states grew.

Once again, it is very similar to how cities in New Jersey and Connecticut benefited from New York City’s success.

Delhi is huge. It includes districts like Central Delhi, Delhi, New Delhi, and more.

Now, we need to go back in time so you can understand how Delhi became a megacity.


Delhi is an ancient land that dates back to the pre-Islamic era, but the city is purely of Islamic invention.

The name means “free,” and until the British changed the spelling, it was “Dehli” and not “Delhi” in Persian and Urdu.

Persian was the language of the empire. So, you could call Urdu a new language born out of mixing Persian and Sanskrit, a language of ancient India.

So, the city’s “free” association celebrates the Mamluk, who were a diverse class that included enslaved people.

The Mamluk ruled here first and until 1290 when the Khalji took over the empire.

The Delhi Sultanate (or “Salṯanat-e-Dehlī”) spanned from 1206 to 1526 A.D., and it was a Muslim rule.

It wasn’t just the city but the entire region of South Asia, including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and even Nepal.

It was a huge empire, to say the least.

Later, the Sultanate was sucked into the Mughal Empire, and it remained that way until the Raj, the British colonialism.

During the colonial era, the British mapped out a “new” part of the city, one that was going to “mimic” their cities.

Enter New Delhi.

New Delhi

When you visit the city, you will notice a stark difference between New Delhi and Old Delhi. Well, except the delicious food everywhere.

The old part is not a separate district but part of Central Delhi. This is basically Shahjahanabad.

Shahjahanabad was the capital of the Mughal Empire. Today, the old part of this city is the same maze we find in historic centers of old cities like Cairo.

Think of tiny alleyways, aging buildings that are stuck together, and huge populations in a small area.

It’s really chaotic, and Western tourists wonder how the locals make their way through it.

New Delhi, on the other hand, is super streamlined. The roads are normal-sized, there are spaces between properties, and so on.

As a result, the country’s governmental icons, including the Gate of India, are all in this area.

But this area is also where diplomatic communities are, in a neighborhood called Chanakyapuri.

It also has a lot of brand-name hotels, including luxury ones.

Basically, this is the “downtown” of the city, you could say.

Final Thoughts

Like many of you, it was confusing to me when I first visited Delhi what the difference between Delhi and New Delhi is.

Just to recap: NCR is a metro area, Delhi is a city, and New Delhi is a district of Delhi.

If you’re visiting Delhi for the first time, I recommend staying in New Delhi.

That said, though, don’t miss the delicious food of Old Delhi like “Delhite Biryani” (“Dilli Biriyani”).

Enjoy Delhi!

AJ Paris is a travel photographer based in New York. He is the editor of Caravanzers.

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