The city that has hosted a few of the most powerful empires in Indian history is more than just its tehzeeb (culture in Urdu). Where India says atithi devo bhava (the guest is God in Sanskrit), Lucknow follows up with its mehman nawazi (hospitality in Hindi). Monuments, Mughals culture, and accompanying magic—just a few things that Lucknow is famous for. It is one of the few cities where you never run out of your list of ‘things to do in Lucknow’. ‘Muskuraiye aap Lucknow mein hain,’ ( ‘smile, you have arrived in Lucknow’ in Hindi) is what the signboard reads as you enter the city, and truer words have not been said. Famous for both its Colonial and British history, the places to visit in Lucknow will be a few of the best sights of your life. It’s a vibrant city that carries pivotal chronicles of the past, serves food that its ancestors would be proud of, and gives us a culturally pumped atmosphere. When you hear someone exasperatedly say ama yaar (damn!) – that’s when you know you are truly in Lucknow.
Best Places To Visit In Lucknow
1. Doors To Heaven: Rumi Darwaza
This huge gateway might make you feel like you are in paradise because of its beauty and magnificence. A perfect reflection of Awadhi architecture, the inspiration for it was taken from the entrance gates of Constantinople, now Istanbul. The intricate carvings and designs on the doors, and the delicious smells from the Chowk nearby makes it one of the best tourist places in Lucknow. Also, fair warning—looking at the archways in the moonlight might prove to be too beautiful for your eyes. It was built in 1748 under the patronage of Nawab Asaf-Ud-daula. It has nothing to do with Rumi, the Persian poet. Back then ‘rumi’ was the term Muslims used to refer to Istanbul.
2. Must-Do: Ganjing In Hazratganj
One of the best places to visit in Lucknow, Hazaratganj is the city’s most famous market. Situated in the heart, its narrow and winding lanes encapsulate the essence of the city. The narrow lanes are filled with the smells of local delicacies and sights of some delectable shopping, these streets also prove that the market never sleeps. Like most of the nawab ruled cities in the country, Lucknow is famous for its variety of ittar (fragrant essential oils). The market invites all kinds of shopaholics, with products ranging from saris to salwar suits and lehengas with exclusive local designs. There are nagra shoes (a type of shoe that is closed and pointed at the toe) that match well with ethnic wear. There are bits of home décor too, available in different price ranges. Hazratganj is such a famous tourist spot in Lucknow that shopping the area has a special verb dedicated to it— ‘ganjing’.The market is famous for its chikan kurta too—a typical style of embroidery done on different salwar suits and available in different colours and fabrics.
Food is another attraction in Hazratganj. For lovers of street food and chaat, hold your hearts, as we present the great ‘basket chaat’. A lot of flavours are infused in this chaat very skilfully. Shaped like a basket, it is also called the tokri (basket in Hindi) or katori (bowl in Hindi) chaat. Potatoes are grated and deep-fried to make the basket. It’s then stuffed with peas, tikka chutney, and garnished with coriander, curd, pomegranate, ad sev. If you are already in love with it, you must visit the Royal Café in Hazratganj.
3. A Tale Of Hunger And Beauty: Bara Imambara
One of the most famous places in Lucknow, an architectural wonder, Bara Imambara was built as a part of a famine relief programme. The stories attached to the monument make it more beautiful. Nawab Asaf-Ud-daula started the construction in 1748 which went on till 1797. Labourers who worked there were given food as wages during the famine struck times. Another interesting fact that makes it a must-visit place in Lucknow is that this gigantic structure is not supported by pillars or girders, and has zero European influences in the architecture. In the monument is the Bhool Bhulaiyan, a maze with 489 similar-looking doors. The reason behind the labyrinth is not clear, while some say it’s for ventilation, others say it came about through different stages of construction.
4. First Uprising Of The Fight For Indian Independence: British Residency
While the British Residency complex of buildings stands as a symbol of British reign, it also marks one of Indian history’s most important expressions of freedom. If Colonial literature and history are your areas of interest, then this is the place to be. The thing that makes it one of the most important places to visit in Lucknow is that the Siege of Lucknow that took place here was a crucial part of the Revolt of 1857, the first war Indians waged against the British Raj. Situated in the heart of Lucknow lies Qaisar Bagh, a building almost turned to ruins because of the bullets and cannonball attacks. The walls still hold its marks as proof of the incident. Lucknow is famous for the Residency, because around 3,000 Britishers took refuge here during the uprising. It now shelters 2,000 British soldiers’ graves.
5. Elegant Writings On The Wall: Chota Imambara
One of the most spectacular structures in Old Lucknow, Chota Imambara was built by the third Nawab of Awadh, Muhammad Ali Shah. Constructed in 1838, Chota Imambara serves as the Nawab’s and his mother’s tomb. But before that, Shia Muslims used it as a congregation hall. This is one of the most famous places in Lucknow because of its unique architecture. The design influences came from India, Charbagh, Persia, and Islam. Verses from the Quran are written in fascinating calligraphy on the external part of the monument. Muharram is an important festival in Islam so, on that day the monument is decorated with chandeliers. Also called the Hussainabad Imambara, it houses the red crown and silver throne of the Nawab.
6. A Glimpse From Lucknow’s English Past: Constantia, La Martiniere
A perfect example of an amalgamation of Indian and European architecture, this building stands to represent Lucknow’s colonial past. It is one of the places to visit in Lucknow for its history and architecture. Built in 1845, the La Martiniere school campus guards the French Major General Claude Martin’s tomb. Lucknow is famous for this educational institution which also preserves an original painting by Johann Zoffany in the Blue room and a fascinating painting of the British Residency in the Trophy room. The chapel and library are also a must-visit.
7. Joy At The Jamia
This is one of the most famous tourist spots of Lucknow, commissioned by Sultan Ahmad Shah in 1423. The Jamia Masjid is the tomb of the Shah himself and is spread across a vast area of 4,950 square metres. Constructed wholly with yellow stone, the walls of the mosque have impeccable carvings that are inspired by both Jain and Hindu cultures. This 15th-century architecture and the intricate calligraphy make visiting the Masjid one of the best things to do in Lucknow.
8. A Secret Recipe That Makes Lucknow Famous: Tunday Kababi
Kebabs, parathas, and biryani. It’s a deadly combination in Lucknow’s Tunday Kababi. The tunday kebab is a speciality of Lucknow that is believed to have been invented to satisfy Nawab Asaf-ud Daula. His chef Haji Murad Ali created Tunday kebabs. The word Tunday in Urdu means ‘without an arm’. Since Haji Murad Ali did not have an arm, the name of the kebabs he created was called Tunday Kebabs. Haji Murad Ali then established the Tunday Kababi in 1905 with the recipe of the kebabs that have up to 125 secret ingredients in it. Now the restaurant is bustling with huge crowds and has made Lucknow famous for its Galouti Kebabs (another kebab from the Awadhi cuisine), parathas and biryani.
Also read: Where to get the best Ramadan food in India
Enjoy The Colours Of Cultures In Lucknow
Culture in Lucknow affects all five senses in Lucknow. You can see the beautiful structures and calligraphies of the monuments. You can hear the Lucknowi slang in everyday conversations. The smells of age-old recipes beckon you and push you into looking at the past. The taste of scrumptious dishes and the variety of cuisines that Lucknow offers is an authentic experience. You touch the walls, the food, the people, and in return they give memories that touch your life. Lucknow has always had different cultures, and its magic lies in the fact that even today, they are still intact.