Colourful culture, interesting heritage, beautiful architecture and friendly locals.
Lahore is the second largest of the country’s cities and widely recognised as the cultural heart of Pakistan, boasting flower festivals and must-see sights brimming with history and heritage. As with any city, it can be overwhelming at times so here are some ideas on where to start.
The Lahore fort is spread over 20 hectares and is the result of constructions by numerous consecutive Mughal rulers, dating far into antiquity. The beautiful architecture, colours and illustrative tiles that remain here are a great legacy of eras gone by and there is a lot of time to be taken exploring all the different sections of the fort.
Built between 1671 and 1673 the Badshahi mosque is Pakistan’s second largest mosque and Lahore’s most famous attraction. One hundred thousand worshippers can be accommodated in its courtyard. All visitors remove their shoes at the door and ladies should remember a scarf to cover their head on entry. This is a really peaceful place and again a chance to see some fantastic architecture and a striking emblem of Pakistan’s cultural heritage.
Walled City of Lahore
The Walled City or ‘Old City’ of Lahore is its most characterful and colourful district, but be warned, the hustle, bustle and narrow alleys mean you need to be on your toes if you want to keep up. Take time here to buy some spices, local produce and crafts – but don’t forget to barter! Relief from the non-stop movement of the city streets can be found in the Wazir Khan Mosque, the excavated Mughal hammam and the British water building.
For a quiet oasis away from the maddening crowd head to Shalimar Gardens, a 17th century Persian style garden and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built on three terraces and boasting 410 fountains this is the only surviving Mughal garden of several built in Lahore and a place where you will now find families relaxing under trees and taking picnics in peace. This is also a good place to spot some local wildlife and beautiful birds from owls to parrots.
Jahangir’s tomb is said to be the second most beautiful monument in the subcontinent after the Taj Mahal in India. That is for you to decide but it is true that this is a stunning monument in its own right, a dedication to Jahangir who ruled the Mughal Empire from 1605 to 1627. This mausoleum is located about three miles north-west of the city so it is best to hire a car or take a bus to visit this site.
No trip to Lahore is complete without experiencing the ceremony at the Wagah border. This military practice is performed daily at the border between India and Pakistan, about 40 minutes from Lahore, and is half an hour of passionate stamping and elaborate dance-like movements by servicemen on both sides of the border. This service always draws the crows and the atmosphere is electric.
If you have time, add the Lahore Junction railway station, Lahore museum and the Minar-e-Pakistan to your itinerary and it is best to get a guide if you can – not only to make navigating the city streets that much easier but also to ensure you get a real understanding of the history of what you are seeing, and the lovely stories that go along with each site. Both Haveli and Andaaz restaurants have fantastic views over the Badshahi mosque and are great places to sample some delicious local food whilst relaxing above the bustle of the city streets at the end of a busy day.