The Main Bazaar in Paharganj is a clutter of cafés, second-hand book stores and a few atmospheric broken-down mansions. Close to the New Delhi railway station, the bustling district has traditionally been a haven for backpackers for whom Delhi serves as the starting point to the rest of India.

The best way to get there is to take the Metro’s Blue Line, and exit at the Ramakrishna Ashram Marg stop. You need to know which side of the station to exit from; the easiest way to do that is to use the Wikitude app on your smartphone. The app uses GPS data to show you map information as an overlay on the real world.

Just start the app and keep turning until you see Paharganj and its shops highlighted on your screen, and you’ll know which way to go. As soon as you exit the Metro station, the Ashram from which the stop gets its name is in front of you.

A snack stall in the Main Bazaar

Although lately in vogue with the city’s hipsters in search of the next cool place in town, Paharganj remains firmly captive to the taste of foreigners. Its eateries serve Continental breakfast, Mediterranean platter, and health salads; many offer authentic cuisines from lands as varied as Israel and Italy. The customers include Israeli rabbis and American hippies (yes, they still exist, at least in Paharganj).

Before getting there, we made a list of places to visit, and planned the excursion by tagging the locations on Google Maps. Our first stop was My Bar. The place is popular among Delhi University students for its inexpensive beers and whiskies but the watering hole has not let these young things compromise its character, a mix of the adventurous and seedy.

The bar is long, not wide, and dark. The only affected showiness (think Hauz Khas Village) is on the wall decked with posters of Bollywood films, including the hippie classic Haré Rama Haré Krishna. During the day, most of the clients consist of foreign tourists. By evening, they give way to young office goers and college students who chat over beer/whisky/vodka and greasy Chinese fried dishes. Getting there using Wikitude was easy, as the small icon showed up on our screen as soon as we entered the market.

Customers at Madan Cafe

Further down the same road is Jackson’s Books—Delhi’s best second-hand book store, which also has an in-house palmist. It sells novels, travelogues and guidebooks. There are books in more than 10 languages, including German, French, Korean, Italian, Spanish, Hebrew, Hindi, Japanese and Finnish. Sandwiched between a shaded alley and a small mosque, it principally serves Paharganj’s foreign backpackers, which explains the presence of the many Lonely Planet guides. There is a ladder to climb to an attic filled with these guidebooks. The soft-spoken store owner exchanges used books with his foreign customers so the collection includes paperbacks from across the world—some titles we had never heard of but appeared worth reading. If you want to quickly find out about a book you’re thinking of buying, just run the Flipkart or Amazon apps, enter the name of the book, and you’ll get a description and reviews from actual readers.

From there, we wanted to go to Ajay Guest House’s Brown Bread Bakery, the hotel’s coffee shop, offers minimalist pastas, among other things. Our 3G connection was a little spotty in Paharganj, but MapMyIndia’s offline map came to the rescue, showing the way. A great feature of this map is that if you go to a location that hasn’t been marked on the map already, you can add it yourself.

At the coffee shop, the mezze platter consisting of hummus, pita and falafel was on the heavy side. Baba Ghanoush, the dish of mashed aubergine, was divine. Their breakfast buffet with a range of salads and dips is filling. The carrot salad is a must-try. The fresh juices are served in large glasses. An in-house bakery is stacked with cheeses and jams, and white and brown breads—the mango jam is lovely. So is the Patate al Forno in which baked potatoes are dressed in olive oil (lots of it), whole garlic cloves and rosemary leaves. The bakery has a cyber café, a boutique, and a shelf stocked with lacklustre volumes on Buddhism. End the experience with the coffee shop’s frothy cappuccino.

In case you’d like to check Zomato for more customer reviews and pictures of the food you’re going to eat, make sure to ask the waiters for the Wi-Fi password, because the network access inside Ajay Guest House fades to nothing.

On the way out, we saw a Chabad House which wasn’t on the MapMyIndia map, and added it—and we even got a little information thanks to Google Now ! This is Delhi’s little Jerusalem. The Chabad House (pronounced Khabad), headquartered in Brooklyn, New York, US, is a centre to disseminate traditional Judaism. It has branches across the world. Chabad House’s presence in Paharganj is explained by the fact that the district is a popular stopover for a large number of Israeli backpackers on their way to Manali and Goa (in fact, Hebrew-language graffiti can be seen across the Main Bazaar). The centre in Paharganj is cozy, with well-worn sofas, Hebrew prayer books and Hasidic Jews in their customary three-piece suits and wide-brimmed black hats. In the cramped prayer room, you must look out for the menorah, the seven-branched lamp stand. During the Jewish festival of Hanukkah, the rabbis light candles not only inside, but also on the street, where they offer the traditional challah bread to passers-by.

Although the Chabad House doesn’t bar entry to non-Jews, it reserves the right to admission on account of security concerns.

Wikitude then guided us to places like the rundown Imperial Cinema, one of the first “talkies" in Delhi, and the Prince Polonia hotel, whose rooftop, the Panoramio augmented reality app suggested, was a good place to take photos from.

Following a long and enjoyable trip, Appetite was the perfect place to wind down with a cup of tea. It’s on the main road, and really easy to find with Wikitude. Though it recently replaced its weather-beaten old tables with disconcertingly glossy furniture in the name of renovation, the café’s character remains unchanged. It is very sunny. In winter, daylight streams in through the glass door, filling the entire place with sunny optimism. Guests can be seen writing diaries and letters; some read novels. The food is fine, though the popular Spanish Breakfast with its cheese-filled omelettes has nothing Spanish about it. The bread rolls are baked in the nearby Everest Café. The ginger honey tea is refreshing. So is the fresh papaya juice. We loved their aloo parathas too. The Nepalese Thali is worth ordering. Zomato has more reviews from customers, if you can’t decide.

If you are into chess, meet the cashier. He thinks he is a champion and loves challenging his guests.

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