We spent three days Lucknow in the chilly month of December. We were there to attend Ankur’s 10 year reunion at the Indian Institute of Management. Nostalgia was strong and we spent two out of three days at the IIM campus itself. On the third day, we explored Lucknow.
Lucknow is known as the city of Nawabs and was the capital of the Awadh kingdom. The city still carries the legacy of the ‘Nawabi’ times – hospitable people, delightful food, colourful attire and exemplary monuments. One day isn’t enough to do justice to this city that has such a rich culture and heritage. That being said, we were here for 24 hours only!
Here is our list of must-do things and must-see places if you are in Lucknow for 24 hours:
We were at the Bada Imambara on Christmas, a public holiday. It seemed as though the whole city wanted to visit the monument then! It was very crowded… kids running around… adults posing at every nook and corner to get a selfie… queues to find guided groups. While it was crowded, it wasn’t too chaotic, and thus began our little journey into the past.
The Bada Imambara is a shrine built by Asaf-ud-Daula, the Nawab of Lucknow in 1784. The premises house the shrine, a mosque, a step well and a labyrinth. It took us about 2 hours to explore the monument. While Ankur enjoyed getting lost in the labyrinth and then finding a way out, I preferred admiring the architectural finesse of the domes and the arches that clearly depict the Mughal architectural style. We would recommend that you take a guided tour inside the monument, especially if you want to explore the labyrinth.
This place tops the charts for ‘Must do things to do in Lucknow’. While people do include Chhota Imambara and remnants of the British Residency in the list, we would recommend these two places only if you have time at hand, which means at least a couple of hours.
This is a market, in the real sense of the word – vendors and hawkers… and lots and lots of them! Everyone wants to make a sale. Every buyer wants a good bargain. Its chaos and commotion… its as lively as any place can be. Leave your fancy purses at home. Dress up modestly and bargain to your heart’s content. The place reminds me the souqs/souks in the Middle East, but with a lot more action; maybe the way things would have been in the bustling markets of Petra when the traders travelled to trade. You will find curtains, bangles, jewellery, footwear, woolens, local crafted and embroidered outfits – plenty to boggle the shopper in you. Don’t forget to try your bargaining skills!
Lastly, there is a sweet delight called makkhan malai available only in Aminabad during winter. Ditch the diet and have a scoop… it is surely worth the calories!
This is the upmarket area of Lucknow – the area to see and be seen. ‘Ganjing’ is colloquial for hanging out and whiling away time in the Hazrat Ganj area, The shopping arcade is lined with shops painted off white and black which adds an archaic feel to the place. Let not the monotone look fool you. You will find brands and specialized stores here. It is the perfect place to shop in peace, unlike the chaotic Aminabad Market. If you prefer the more sophisticated way of shopping, this is the place for you. This also implies that shops have fixed prices and bargaining isn’t the norm here. And oh, while you are here, do spend a little while people watching. It is fun watching the college kids and reliving our college days as we watching them laugh in a carefree fashion!
Chaat at Royal Cafe
Whether you hail a rickshaw at the train station in Lucknow or book a cab at the airport, your driver will know where Royal Cafe is! For the sake on enlightenment, it is at Hazratganj. The sweet, sour and spicy chaat at Royal Cafe is well known throughout the city. While everyone likes the basket chaat here, I preferred the aloo tikki chaat. There are few places that do justice to the dish, and this is one of those few. For those who fear Delhi-belly, we found this place fairly hygienic. Let the taste buds have a party!
Shopping for authentic Lucknowi chikan
Lucknowi chikan or chinakari is an embroidery that creates ‘shadow work’, a mesh like background using threads of varied thickness. Traditionally, chikankari is done on light coloured cotton fabric. Evolution has brought in georgette and bright colours into the chikan world. You can buy ready to wear garments, kurtas, dress material, dupattas and saris. The price varies from USD 10 to USD 1000, depending on the finesse and intricacy of the embroidery. Do buy a piece to make the lady in your happy!
No post is complete without mentioning food. Lucknow is a food lovers’ paradise… biryani, kebabs, chaat, mouth watering desserts, hot milk with dates! Eat all you can when you are here. It is not often that you will food as rich and delicious.
Do you have any fond memories of this city? Is there something that you like to do? Let us know so that we don’t miss out anything when we are there next!