Exploring the Heart of Pakistan: Lahore
January 1, 1970
by Misha Shahid
Lahore is known for its vibrant atmosphere, extremely hospitable and joyful people, and the scrumptious food found on its streets. It has also always been of great cultural and geographical importance throughout its past, building up to the vast history it stores within its bounds today. It is the second most populous city of Pakistan, with an outstanding number of interesting historical tourist spots. With several beautiful historical structures from the pre-Mughal era, Mughal dynasty era and colonial era scattered all across the city, it is the perfect place for history geeks and people who are curious about the colourful history of India.
Lahore is also known as the food capital of the country. It has a wide variety of mouth-watering desi (local) and international cuisines being served in high-end restaurants, street stalls and small street-side shops.
There is an inexhaustible list of tourist spots you could choose to see on a visit here, so I will be covering only the places you cannot at all miss in this travel guide. But before we get into that you should probably grab your favourite pair of sunglasses and a large bottle of water to help beat the heat of Lahore!
The Walled City
The Walled City is the inner historic core of Lahore which existed and prospered during the Mughal era after being chosen as their capital. This part of Lahore was fortified with a mud wall in its earliest days, with several gates being added later by the Mughals for easy access. The buildings in this part were mostly constructed during these times or during the British Raj, thus the architecture is bright, colourful and intricate, and has a unique aesthetic to it. It is considered the cultural hub of the city of Lahore. Exploring the area could take an entire day, or more, depending on the number of sites one wants to cover.
The first site to visit here is the grand Badshahi mosque. This is the second largest mosque in the country and has to be one of Lahore’s most iconic landmarks. It is also an iconic example of the grandeur of Mughal architecture, with its tall decorated sandstones walls and the intricately carved marble interior. The size and magnitude of the place are guaranteed to leave you mesmerised.
The mosque is adjacent Hazuri baagh and right opposite the Lahore Fort. Hazuri baagh is a small park in between the entrances of the mosque and the fort. It holds the grave of Pakistan’s national poet, Allama Iqbal. The fort was built during the reign of Emperor Akbar, and some of the monuments within in are originally from that era. One of the most notable and beautiful parts of the fort is the Sheesh Mahal. One should consider hiring a guide for the optimum experience.
Just outside the fort walls is the gorgeous and magnificent Gurduwara, but its gates are closed to unauthorised visitors so one requires special permission for a visit. If you are able to obtain entry, the experience is truly mesmerising.
Located near the Delhi gate is Wazir Khan Mosque and the Shahi Hamam (Royal Bath). The Wazir Khan Mosque may not be as massive in scale as the Badshahi Mosque, but its colourful tile work and carvings leave Badshahi way behind in terms of beauty for many visitors. The Shahi Hamam stands next to the mosque, composed of stunning Mughal style carvings and paintings.
Tourists can also take a tour of all thirteen gates of the original city of Lahore, which were built to fortify the capital against potential enemies. Six out of thirteen are still standing while the rest have been demolished over the years, but the history still remains intact.
After a hectic day of site seeing, the best way to unwind is with a delicious desi dinner on the rooftop of one of the several restaurants on Food Street adjacent the Badshahi mosque. The atmosphere, the view and the scrumptious food is all you would need for the perfect end to a day of exploring.
If you’re interested in spiritual enlightenment, saints or Sufism, then you should definitely pay a visit to South Asia’s largest Sufi shrine. This is said to house the remains of the great Sufi mystic, Data Ganj Baksh. The ambience of the shrine is bone chilling. With malangs dancing to the beat of drums, qawalis playing in the background and thousands of devotees praying around you, one feels cleansed and at peace after a visit.
Minar e Pakistan
Also known as the Tower of Pakistan, it is a monument of great national importance to the country. It is considered the birthplace of the idea of Pakistan for many. It is located at the centre of Iqbal Park, which in itself is a beautiful sight to behold and to enjoy a picnic in.
Every evening huge crowds gather on both sides of the metal gates at Wagha border, Pakistan’s border with India, to watch the flag lowering ceremony. This is preceded by an intense parade by the soldiers on both sides amongst patriotic chants from citizens of both countries. The atmosphere is charged with drum beats, applause and chants of love for the country. If you visit Lahore, the site and the exciting ambience is something you cannot miss!
This is a historic road of great cultural importance, as almost all the buildings lining it were constructed by the Mughals or the British. The road is also lined with numerous trees adding to its beauty.
Anarkali bazaar is one the oldest bazaars in South Asia, while Liberty market is the hub of modern Lahore. These are the best places to go for a shopping spree to find all sorts of local specialities to take back for your loved ones.
Lahore is known for its appetizing array of foods. Be it a hearty desi breakfast from Gawalmandi, spicy karahi or taka tak from Lakshmi Chowk, dinner with a grand view at Food Street or fine dining at M. M. Alam road, Lahore has it all.