First Published on April 11, 2019
Summer or Winter, every visit to the “City of Nawabs” had me gripped with its amazing history, delightful art, colorful culture & yummy food. The capital of Uttar Pradesh has something for everyone – so much that you might find that two days are not enough to enjoy it all. You might ask me what is the ideal time to spend in Lucknow. Well – I will let you be a judge of that once you see my entire list of places to visit in Lucknow.
I have been sharing various Lucknow attractions for each one of them deserve a separate post. The extent of beauty, heritage and stories that reside within them could best be shared in their own space. It is time that I consolidate that entire list of places to visit in Lucknow into one single post. This should serve you are a Lucknow Guide and help you plan your own trip to this magnificent city. However, before we get to that, a quick history of this illustrious city.
History of Lucknow
You will find that Lucknow is a medley of cultures. Along with the Hindu and Islamic influences, you will also, find a bit of European – specifically British. The reason for this is apparent in its history – starting with its name. It was originally called Lakhnau – after Lord Ram’s brother. Some say that the place belonged to Lakshman and hence, the name.
Over time, the city came under the rule of the Mughals. Emperor Jahangir awarded the Awadh area – including Lucknow to one of his favorite nobleman – Sheikh Abdul Rahim. It was his descendants that came to be known as the Nawabs of Oudh or Awadh. They had their initial capital to Faizabad but later, owing to a family feud, moved it to Lucknow. It is the structures that they built that added the grandeur to this city.
Majestic Lucknow did not escape the eyes of the British East India Company. In fact, since they could not pronounce the original name Lakhnau, they changed it to Lucknow. They appointed an ambassador and stationed him in Lucknow. Over time, they gained a stronghold here and made themselves home at an elaborate set-up called the Residency. It was here that they had to face the revolt of 1857 which led to a lot of destruction and loss of lives.
Awadh functioned as an independent kingdom under the British. After independence, it was merged with Uttar Pradesh and Lucknow became the official capital city of this state. With such a long history of rule and events, it is not surprising to see that there are just tons of things to do in Lucknow. What, where and how is all below 🙂
Places to visit in Lucknow
My list of things to do in Lucknow encompasses heritage destinations, shopping areas, food zones, picnic spots and places of interest for kids. With such a wide variety, I am pretty sure that no matter what your interest, you will find your own list to follow whilst here.
- 1 History of Lucknow
- 2 Places to visit in Lucknow
- 2.1 Bara Imambara
- 2.2 Chota Imambara
- 2.3 Rumi Darwaza
- 2.4 Satkhanda & Hussainabad Clock Tower
- 2.5 Jama Masjid
- 2.6 The Residency
- 2.7 Kaiserbagh
- 2.8 Tomb of Saadat Ali
- 2.9 La Martiniere College
- 2.10 Chattar Manzil & Farhat Bakhsh Kothi
- 2.11 General Wali Kothi
- 2.12 Dilkusha Kothi
- 2.13 Hazratganj
- 2.14 Lucknow Zoo
- 2.15 Indira Gandhi Planetarium
- 2.16 Aminabad
- 2.17 Marine Drive – Gomtinagar
- 3 How to get to Lucknow?
- 4 Where to stay in Lucknow?
- 5 What is the best time to visit Lucknow?
- 6 Travel Tips
If there is one Lucknow attraction that is synonymous with the city, it would be the Bara Imambara and its crypt – the Bhool Bhulaiya. Be prepared for a challenge thrown at you when you visit the Bhool Bhulaiya. You will be taken through its 1000+ doorways and left in the center of the maze with a bet that you cannot make it out in 3 minutes. Happy to share that I won this one and how – well – you got to read that here.
Build by Nawab Asaf Ud-Daullah, the distinctive Persian architecture of this place will make you gasp with pleasure as you explore its various hallways, gates and chambers. The gorgeous Baoli or step well will intrigue you with its ingenious design that could baffle the smartest enemy. You are bound to be in awe of the manner of use of the Lakhori bricks and unusual placement of roofs to create an acoustic effect within the chambers. The most amazing part is actually the story of why it was built. Keep aside at least 2 hours to see this piece of wonder and while you wait to get there – take a complete virtual tour of Bara Imambara here.
Where the Bara Imambara will interest you with its clever construction and intricate designs, the Chota Imambara will bowl you over with its sheer opulence. This historical place in Lucknow should be visited in the evening when its lights justify its nickname – “Nawabi Palace of Lights“. The Shia Muslim shrine is also, a museum of sorts where you can witness colored chandeliers from across the world. The Char Bagh styled monument also, includes a lovely hammam and two mini Taj Mahals – one of which is a tomb and another a treasury.
The European Chandeliers, the well-done Hammam, the baby Taj Mahals – Chota Imambara is a world of luxury. Take a virtual tour of this glittering palace with my own visit as I discover the treasures in and around the Chota Imambara.
There is no missing this Lucknow tourist attraction – especially if you visit Bara Imambara or the Chota Imambara. The triple arched gateway connects the two monuments together. Inspired by the design of a Turkish gate in East Rome (Istanbul), the Rumi Darwaza is still a functional gate. It is also, an optical delight where on one side you see a massive arch and on the other three distinct ones. Curious about why that is – read this exclusive post on Rumi Darwaza.
Satkhanda & Hussainabad Clock Tower
An incomplete cursed tower alongside the tallest clock tower in India can be quite a story to hear. Where the Hussainbad Clock Tower with its European design was built to impress a British official, the incomplete Satkhanda next to it was meant to be taller than the Qutub Minar. Why it remained unfinished is a story that is best explained through my tour of the Satkhanda.
The two monuments are set in beautiful green lawns where you can indulge in a small picnic while you admire the work of the past.
Considered as one of the most beautiful mosques of India, the Jama Masjid is a definite stop-over when you visit the Chota Imambara. While you might not be able to get inside, you can well admire the arched gateways. They say that there are around 260 pillars within this mosque with designs inspired by Hindu and Jain cultures.
With British slowly making Lucknow their base, the Nawab granted them an exclusive complex for them to settle down in. The British Residency comprised of large banquet halls, elaborate homes and offices. What might have been a glamorous place with horse-drawn chariots being wheeled through its impressive gates is now a complex of ruins. However, a visit here allows you to hear the whispers of the skeletons that are left behind. Walk through what might have been its treasury and head to the Begum’s Kothi with its Imambara and mosque. Explore the museum within the main Residency building that had a library, billiards room and more.
Hundreds of British soldiers and officers hid in the underground chambers of The Residency. Some were treated in the little hospital within Dr. Fayrer house. See and read these stories of the 1857 revolution that took place in The Residency.
Kaiserbagh used to be the palace of the last Nawab of Lucknow – Nawab Wajid Ali Shah. They say that it was one of the most beautiful ones of Lucknow. However, after the 1857 revolt, most of the structures were destroyed by the British for they felt that it would hamper their defense by allowing the revolutionaries to hide there. Despite that, there are still bits and pieces of this puzzle that can be put together the entire story. To do this, like me, you will need to go on a heritage walk around Kaiserbagh. You can either opt for the UP Tourism one or the Tornos walk. It takes you along abandoned tombs to the old Pari Khana and the Safed Baradari. Along the way, you can spot the ancient Lakhi gates with its pretty mermaids.
Tomb of Saadat Ali
What was the palace of a son is now the tomb of his father. The tomb of the erstwhile Nawab Saadat Ali Khan even in its ruins is quite an impressive structure. It’s enormous domes, arched windows and doors beckon you to explore within – where you will find gorgeous painted ceilings and delicately designed doorways to the main tomb.
A visit here will also, treat you to a 2nd monument in the form of another tomb – albeit this one of the Nawab’s wife. The tomb of Murshidzadi Begum is a little different but as beautiful. You can read about my discovery of these tombs through this post on Kaiserbagh Heritage Walk. Incidentally, the heritage walk begins here at this Lucknow attraction.
La Martiniere College
One of the best Offbeat Lucknow attractions is a visit to La Martiniere College. This wasn’t always an educational institute. In fact, it was the home of a wealthy French officer called Claude Martin. His estate home – Constantia, is one stunning piece of European architecture with its gorgeous Greek statues and lovely stained glass art within. It is here that you can see the grave of its founder as well as a mysterious obelisk behind the school. Full of mystery and intrigue, this is one highly recommended place to visit in Lucknow.
La Martiniere is the only educational institute to have won the Battle honors award. Discover more about this and the rest of the sights of La Martiniere College here.
Chattar Manzil & Farhat Bakhsh Kothi
Not in the usual tourist circuit of Lucknow, the Farhat Bakhsh Kothi and the Chattar Manzil monuments are definitely worth one peek. In fact, that is what I did over my last visit. Even though it was not open to the public anymore, I could not but venture there to see whatever I could. Farhat Bakhsh Kothi used to be the home of the same French gentleman – Claude Martin, of the La Martiniere college fame. In fact, it is here that he died. Built along the banks of the River Gomti, the Farhat Bakhsh Kothi was quite a palatial residence with multi-level living quarters. The basement ones were used during the months of summer when the river water was on a low while the upper ones came to use during monsoons and later.
As a defense strategy, the French gentleman had also, dug moats around the Chateau bungalow. After his death, this property was bought by the then Nawab Saadat Ali Khan. It was he who named it Farhat Bakhsh – meaning “Bestower of Happiness”. He extended the property to include a bigger palace that was called Chattar Manzil. Chattar refers to an umbrella and it was so named as similarly fashioned structures. The palace is currently, under renovation and I could not explore the inside. However, they say that it is full of underground passages that connect to the Farhat Bakhsh Kothi.
The palace was said to have two sections – the Bari Chattar Manzil and a smaller one called Choti Chattar Manzil – the latter being built by his son. It used to have a throne room, a durbar hall and an elaborate stage for performances. From the ornate balconies, the Nawabs used to watch animal fights and boats sailing along the River Gomti. The Tourism authorities are restoring the place to include a museum and showcase the glory of yesteryears. Possibly by the time you decide to go, it will be all set for you to explore from within.
General Wali Kothi
General Kothi is quite an obscure place and you will find that it does not normally make it to the list of places to see in Lucknow. A small little bungalow next to the Farhat Bakhsh one, this one tends to get lost in the hub dub of the city. In fact, it was converted to a police station from what used to be the living quarters of the general of Nawab’s army. Following a Google map, I walked to this place from Chattar Manzil to find no one around. Hesitatingly I entered the open doors to finally meet an official. He politely invited me to watch a documentary of the 1857 revolt in what looked like a small theatre room.
I not only saw this documentary but another one on Jhansi ki Rani as well. The hall that I sat in might have been the main hall of the kothi. I saw quaint fireplaces around the room along with arched doorways that seem to lead to other areas of the building. Sadly those seemed out of bounds but I got a general idea of what the place was like.
The General Kothi goes on to my list of Lucknow sightseeing for its British styled architecture. And for the fact that you can see a well-made film on the famous 1857 revolt. This actually made me and will make you appreciate your visit to The Residency better.
An abandoned hunting lodge that makes a great picnic place in Lucknow, the Dilkusha Kothi is tucked away from the main city of Lucknow. The structure is typically Baroque and though in ruins, it still gives out a very majestic aura. Peeping through the closed gates of the main building, I could well imagine the humdrum of the lavish parties given by the Nawab. The “palace of heart’s delight” was designed after the Seaton Delaval Hall of England. You can well see the resemblance of this structure even now in its current facade. The spires and roof have long collapsed – mostly owing to the 1857 struggle.
A placard near another structure tells you that the New Palace was built by Nawab Wajid Ali Shah as his summer resort and the ground around was cleared for military exercise. The Dilkusha Kothi might have been forgotten by the regular Lucknow tourist but is well worth adding to your list of places to see here.
A popular and buzzing market place, Hazratganj is the place that every foodie and shopaholic will enjoy. The place was established by Nawab Nasiruddin Haider where there were goods sold from China, Belgium and Japan. Today you will be treated to the best of stores selling the famous Lucknow Chikan work. Walk through some of its inner stories and you will come across the typical Athar stores – perfumeries selling you scents that enthralled the Nawabs.
When you are tired of browsing, try the local food available here, especially the Chaats. I highly recommend the outlet – Chaat King for its Chaat Basket and Paani Puri. Finish your jaunt with a cup of tea from the famous Sharma Tea Stall that is close to the place. Hazratganj is a complete sensory experience that you must have when you visit Lucknow.
From White tigers to Asiatic elephants and barking deer, there are over 400 species of mammals and birds for you to discover. A great place for kids – not just for the sheer variety of animals but for the fact that they even have a toy train to take you around the 70 odd acres of land. A recent addition of a Vintage British train too, makes a visit here worthwhile. The Lucknow Zoo is also, home to the State Museum where you can see various treasures from the Nawabi era. From paintings, sculptures and coins to rare textiles and more – it is all curated within.
Indira Gandhi Planetarium
A Saturn shaped building in Lucknow is a perfect place for you to experience the wonders of this cosmos. The Indira Gandhi Planetarium has regular shows that are not just educative but entertaining as well. It is a perfect place to visit in Lucknow with kids.
If you are keen on some more shopping in Lucknow, then you need to head to Aminabad market. Fine tune your bargaining skills as you select some of the most amazing Chikan kurtas or try out their traditional jewelry. Don’t miss seeing the lovely Zardosi work that will add glitter to any of your party wear.
It is not just all shopping here. Aminabad is the place that you need to head to for the best food in Lucknow. The famous Tunday Kababi is a must for anyone wanting to try an authentic Awadhi meal. For desserts, just hop over to Prakash Kulfi with its Falooda style icy treat.
Marine Drive – Gomtinagar
Quite like its namesake in Mumbai, Marine Drive in Lucknow is along its lifeline – River Gomti. This is a perfect picnic location in Lucknow. With its beautiful musical fountain and elephant sculptures. You can head here for a quiet stroll by the river while you get entertained by the local musicians practicing their beat. If you are lucky, you might even get to see some bikers trying out various stunts on the road.
Well, as you can now see, it is quite an exhaustive list of places to visit in Lucknow. I am pretty curious to know what you estimate as the number of days for this epic city. It sure will be more than two. Pin this on your board and comment in on which of these would be your favorite place to start your visit to Lucknow.
How to get to Lucknow?
- Lucknow has an international airport that connects the city to the rest of the world.
- Lucknow is also, well connected by rail and road. With the expressway from Delhi, it just takes around 7 hours to get here from the capital of India.
Where to stay in Lucknow?
- Hazratganj and Gomtinagar are the two central locations that I recommend for a stay in Lucknow.
- Lucknow has plenty of hotels in every possible budget for you to pick. You can book your hotels in Lucknow through any of the major hotel websites.
What is the best time to visit Lucknow?
- Winter is ideal to enjoy Lucknow – even though it might get really really cold. Summers are quite harsh and can leave you drained when you are out exploring in the day.
- Given the above, October to February is the ideal season for Lucknow.
- There are plenty of heritage walks and food walks conducted by the Lucknow Tourism department. Quite a few of them are free. You can get information on the same by checking out this website.
- Uber and Ola cabs are great for intercity travel. You can just download the apps and book your travel on the go. You can even opt for the local rickshaws but make sure you bargain well for your destination.
- There is a Lucknow metro line that takes you to the major areas like Hazratganj. That too, can be a great way to move around the city.
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Popularly referred to as a Restless Ball of Energy. My Mom refuses to entertain my complaints about my equally restless daughter & assures my husband that I was born with a travel bug.
I am a Post-Graduate in Marketing by qualification and a travel blogger by passion. Besides travel, I enjoy photography and if you don’t find me at my desk, I would be out playing badminton or swimming or just running. I believe in planning for every long weekend through the year. And when I cannot travel physically, I travel virtually through this travel blog. My travel stories have also, got published on various websites and magazines including Lonely Planet India and Jetwings.