Lucknow is the capital of Uttar Pradesh and is one of the best tourist attractions in India. The city has enormous historical importance and is still considered the cultural center of northern India. The influence of royal Mughal architecture and culture is palpable in almost every part of the city. This city also has a history of art and culture that is rarely found anywhere else in the world. Many places of interest are situated in the city which are tourism attractions and carry historical importance at the same time.
Lucknow is accessible by air, rail, as well as by road and direct flights are available from Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkatta, Varnasi, and Patna. Some of the Airline companies are Indian Airlines and Sahara India Airlines, which are economical as well as reasonably comfortable. The city is accessible by rail from Delhi, Agra, Mumbai, and Cochin and important trains include the Shatabdi Express, Mumbai-Gorakhpur Express, Sabarmati Express and Nainital Express. Lucknow is also connected to all the cities in the country by roads. Some of the important cities that are connected are Delhi, Agra, Ayodhya, Kanpur, and Varnasi. This ensures that travel related problems rarely arise due to the various options that are available. The city is also linked to other tourist attractions such as the two major national parks; The Jim Corbett National Park & Dudhwa National Park.
Lucknow is an important city as far as Urdu poetry and art is concerned; however it also proffers numerous tourist attractions. This is a royal city that is built with the coalescence of various traditions and religions including Sikh, Mughal, and Hindu cultures. The city was (and still is) famous for its intricate embroidery, beautiful gardens, and elaborate cuisine.
Bhool Bhulayya and Bara Imambara
The Bara Imambara is a religious complex that was built by the Nawab of Lucknow in 1784. Roughly translated, Bara meaning Big and Imambara is a shrine that is built by Sunni Muslims for the purpose of Muharram. This building is the epitome of Royal Mughal Architecture and remains one of the rarest pieces of pure Mughal architecture in the world. The structure itself was made without using iron and was built on marshy ground which called for a unique architectural design. The Imambara also contains a Bhool Bhulayya (labyrinth) that has more than four hundred identical doorways. This was built in order to support the immense structure as it was built on marsh land and did not use iron. The cost of one ticket to get in may range from seven dollars (American) to ten dollars. This also includes a visit to the chhota Imambara and the clock tower which are located in the near vicinity.
Roughly translated Chhota Imambara means a small Imambara; this was constructed in 1838 by the Third Nawab of Avadh, Muhammad Ali Shah. This Imambara is known as the palace of lights because of the decorative lighting during many festivals. The structure has a gilded white dome and the walls are adorned with Arabic calligraphy. Several turrets and minarets also accentuate the mughal style of architecture giving it a unique façade. The chhota Imambara also has a structure located outside which is called Satkhanda (seven parts) which was being built as a watchtower; however the construction was abandoned after only four storeys due to the death of Ali Shah making it one of the unique attractions in the city.
The Hussainabad Clock Tower
This is a 221 foot tower built near the chhota Imambara and is the finest example of British architecture. However, this tower was built by Nawab Haider to mark the arrival of the 1st lieutenant governor of Avadh, Sir George Couper. This is one of the tallest clock towers in India and is located near the Hussainabad tank or the Ghantagar Talab as it is locally known.
The state Museum is one of the most famous tourist attractions in Lucknow and is located near Banarasibagh. This museum has many pieces of art, various old coins, paintings, sculptures, and anthropological specimens. It is one of the best museums in the city and the entry fee is approximately five to ten American dollars (for foreigners). The collections of the museum are very rare and some even date back to second century B.C. The other attractions in this museum are engraved antique items that date back to the eighteenth century. One of the interesting items is the silver coins that were minted during Jahangir’s era in Ahmedabad.
The Lucknow Residency Ruins
This place has carved its way into history and saw the first war of India’s independence from British imperialism. Many Britons including women and children sought refuge in the residency while the ‘mutiny’ continued for 140 days. The site is now declared a protected monument by the Archeological survey of India. The graves of many people who died during the mutiny are still present near the ruins. One of the graves is of Sir Henry Lawrence who died trying to protect 3500 Europeans who took refuge in the residency. The epitaph reads- Here lays the son of Empire who tried to do his duty. The ruins are surrounded by flowerbeds and the scars of cannon shots are still visible on the crumbling walls.
The Dilkusa ruins
The Dilkusa Kothi or residence was built in 1800 by a Briton and was the residence of Sadat Ali Khan who was the Nawab at that time. The place is in ruins; however it still remains a tourist attraction for many people during winter. The Archeological society of India has done work here to prevent further decay; repairs and gardening have increased the beauty of the place. However, this place is not very publicized so it receives few visitors except in November and December.
Kaiserbagh or the emperor’s garden is a complex that was built by Nawab Wajid Ali as a depiction of paradise. The complex had beautiful gardens and residential facilities for royal women or the queens of the reigning emperor. However these have partly turned to ruins and the gardens do not exist anymore. The Indian government with the help of Archeological survey of India has made plans to renovate the place to attract tourism and preserve this historical complex.
Crocodile sanctuary at Kukrail
The Crocodile sanctuary at Kukrail is one of the most famous of its types in India and is a ‘must see’. It is located approximately five miles from the city and also has other attractions since it is also a forest reserve. The sanctuary is also a picnic spot where many people from around the world flock to relish the natural beauty and splendor that this place offers. This is a beautiful virgin forest that can provide you with the pleasure of spotting wild animals such as black buck, deers, and exotic birds in their natural environment.
The Nawabganj Bird Sanctuary
This bird sanctuary is located between Kanpur and Lucknow on the Kanpur-Lucknow road, about twenty miles from Lucknow. The sanctuary provides protection to 250 migratory birds which usually migrate from Russia during winter. It also has many other species of birds and the total number of species exceeds the one thousand mark. Other attractions in the sanctuary are deer parks that have the spotted deer and the barking deer, the bird interpretation center and various walking trails. This place is a serene and quite getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city. The best time to visit is between Novembers to February when winter migratory birds can be seen in their natural habitat.
The Ramakrishna Math
The Ramakrishna math has been rendering its services for the last seventy years and has slowly developed into a functioning hospital and a rural heath care center. This place is of religious importance and is also a tourist attraction. Legend has it that lord Rama gifted this place (Lucknow) to his brother Krishna and he had a home in the city near the river Gomti. The Math (a place of worship or meditation) is dedicated to revealing Vedantic truths to the world and spreading a message of spiritual enlightenment. This place is frequented by many people from all walks of life including the ailing, the spiritual, and travelers as well.
The botanical gardens in Lucknow are one of its kinds and are open to the general public. The garden is famous for its flower shows during winter in which myriad types of flowers are in bloom. These gardens also have a scientific and historical importance and were known as Sikandar bagh which were built by the Nawab Wajid Ali during 1800’s. The garden was taken over by The Council for Scientific Research which opened a botanical research laboratory for the purpose of research & development.
La Martiniere College
This college is one of the oldest colleges in India which was established by a wealthy Frenchman in 1845. The college has immense historical importance because the British had to employ boys from the school to fight the mutiny that took place at the Lucknow residency. This was the first time in history when the Brits had to enroll children in their army to fight their enemies. Thus this school became the only one in the world to be awarded a British battle honor. The college is still well maintained and the best time to visit is in the morning before 8 A.M when the assembly takes place.
The mouthwatering delicacies of Luknow are influenced by the Mughal style of cooking and are elaborate with a royal touch. The Nawabs were very particular about their gastronomy and were served food that was fit for kings. The kings no longer exist but the recipes still remain and offer culinary delights that are appealing as well as royal. Some of the things that must not be missed are the Roomali Roti, Warqui Parathas, and especially the Kebabs which come in many varieties. Some of the most famous kebabs are Seekh and Boti kebabs which are available in restaurants as well as in roadside eateries. The Tunde Kebabs are most famous and can be tasted at any local street vendor or in premium restaurants such as Taj residency. Of course the inevitable McDonalds and Pizza Hut can be found in Gomti Nagar and M.G Road respectively. It’s advisable to avoid any bars in the city as these are usually seedy places except for bars in luxury resorts and hotels.
The local transportation includes buses, rickshaws, and taxi cabs; the best option is traveling in a taxi as these are the most hassle free albeit costlier method of getting around. However, rickshaws are the better option if you do not want to travel long distances and for getting from one point to another. Rickshaws are comparatively cheaper and are reasonably comfortable for short rides. You can also choose the Tonga, which is manually pulled by a person or horse driven, if you want to take pleasant slow rides through the city. The last is also the greenest option since it does not cause pollution and encourages local labor.
Lucknow is a rustic city as far as shopping is concerned and you may not find many shopping malls that are modern in style. However the city has a number of shopping outlets in the twisted labyrinth of alleyways and lanes. The most popular shopping places are Hazrat Gunj and Aminabad. The former is located in the old city of Lucknow and the latter is one of the biggest bazaars in India. One of the other places that is fit for shopping is Chowk where you can find the famous Chikankari materials on sale. Chowk is not only famous for its Chikankari handicrafts; it is also one of the economical places where you can bargain your way to a lower price. Kaporthala, Janpath, East-end mall, and Sahara-Ganj are other places which are ideal for shopping and are a little modern compared to other options mentioned above.
This is a type of exquisite hand embroidery that dates back to 650 A.D and was encouraged and refined by the Mughals after their arrival. The elaborate designs on fabric without the use of machines are one of the highlights of such type of embroideries. These designs are used on fabrics that are usually made up of cotton, muslin, silk, chiffon, organdy, organza and doriya. Chikankari adorned clothes were usually worn during special occasions only; however the younger generation has changed that and many designs have found their way into the Indian film Industry as well.