Top 15 Things To Do In Lahore
Lahore has tons to do and explore and it would take one ages to truly appreciate the beauty of this city. Below are my favourite things to do in Lahore.
Wagah Atari Border Ceremony
Borders are usually boring, full of paperwork and scary looking immigration officers. The border between Pakistan and India is anything but Sulla nd boring. It is the only border in the world with a ceremony of this sort. Every evening there is a flag lowering ceremony which is an adrenaline and testosterone filled and fully charged half an hour that no one should miss.
The flag lowering ceremony happens at Wagah Atari border every day without a single day off, on public holidays it is even bigger and bolder but I would recommend going on a weekday to get good seats and view. In winters it happens at 4:30 and in summer it is at 5:30.
Tip: if you’re a foreigner, bring your passport to get quicker entrance and avoid the rejection many locals face at the gate. Also arrive around 3:45, there are some 9-10 barriers you must pass through to get to the gate.
It started off as a friendly thing to show compassion on the Ratcliffe line drawn by the a British empire when leaving between the two bitter nuclear armed rivals. The atmosphere is really charged with loud music blaring on both sides, (ear plugs would really help).
The ceremony starts with a lot of orange try, shows of strength and marching of carefully selected men. These guys are all more than 6.5 to 7 ft tall. They wear special shoes with metal in them and are trained for the job. The sad thing is they are retired early because of the intense stomping, some of them do get brain damaged. It is the same on Indian side.
The competition of longest barhak (a loud call for fight or show of strength) to who can do the heaviest stomp and also the highest leg raise before the stomp and salute. The flags are lowered in silence and then the gates close on both sides.
It is a unique spectacle that has no rival and while it is based on intense hatred on both sides, I hope they come back to the initial message of love. I would highly recommend not missing the ceremony.
Baradari of Kamran Mirza
Entrance – Free
Boat Cost – PKR 300
A baradari literally means a building with 12 doors. It isn’t a palace but rather a pavilion that stands next to once sprawling gardens with River Ravi flowing on two sides of it. Built by the Mughal Emperor Bantu’s son Kamran Mirza, it is the oldest standing Mughal building in Lahore. The central structure has 12 doors and 2 levels.
To get there you will need to head to the Shahdara area (you can take taxi there). There you will have to take the boat to cross the Ravi river and you will arrive at the building.
It is sadly in pretty awful shape with scribbles, graffiti and rubbish everywhere but the gardens are still spectacular. The river has also shrunk and turned into a sewage line in comparison to its former glory when Ravi was the ruler of Lahore through centuries. Even if you go for a bit, it is a beautiful building. I was told there is a project that will start restoration work soon. Fingers crossed!
Akbari Sarai & Jahangir’s Tomb
Entrance – PKR 500
One of the most underrated building complex in Lahore and another spectacular piece of Mughal architecture, this complex of building is the best place to visit for a beautiful afternoon sun. It is not far from Baradari and you can get there quite quickly on taxi or car.
The entrance to the complex is via Akbari Sarai. This is a caravan inn with rooms built around a massive beautiful courtyard. The trees here are old and grand. On the right hand side is the entrance to the mausoleum of Jahangir via a grand gateway embellished with the detailed Pietra dura decor. This red and white is a mix of the grand Mughal architecture infused with Persian style.
The gateway led me to the mausoleum which demand a moments attention. The four minarets at each corner look beautiful but they hold a secret.
Fun Fact: when it rains, The patterns on the minarets look like they’re dancing.
The way to the mausoleum is lined with trees with another red and white building entrance made with scuffed arches. The entrance to the mausoleum is adorned with frescoes and paintings. Inside a marble grave stands in the middle of the room with delicate patterns made with colourful stone on beautiful white marble. The grave was originally decorated with precious gemstones But with time those were stolen.
The caretaker showed us how the light changes colour with the red stones. It is a place of quiet reflection and luckily there was no one around. I sat There for a bit feeling might of an Emperor famous for his love stories, be it his wife Noor Jahan or the fictional Anarkali. The entire complex and mausoleum are well worth a visit, I won’t forget the afternoon I got to spend there.
Entrance – 500 PKR
The gardens based on the concept of paradise! This beautiful garden was built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in the classical Persian style as a replication of paradise. The gardens start with a rather simple pavilion which is one of the four built around a small centre. On each end there is a pavilion, each one different.
Walking down on the right hand side the pavilion leads to the most amazing part of the gardens. A marble throne overlooking the fountains. I could picture the beauty of this place with dancing water and it’s reflection in the pond with music in the evening before the sunset with the emperor truly enjoying his paradise.
Shalimar gardens are the best of this world and one of the top spots not to miss in Lahore.
Mall Road and The Colonial Architecture
The British built a curated central road in most cities called The Mall. It used to be the modern side of Lahore with many important building located on it from high ranking civil servants to the Governor of Punjab. The road is also home to some of the most spectacular buildings from British rule over Lahore and Indian Subcontinent. Starting from the General Post office, the building of College of Arts and Design, the Lahore Museum building and finally the Lahore Town House, these are all grand buildings which are worth a visit or a view at the very least.
It is a bit crazy with traffic here though so be careful if you’re walking.
Lahore museum has a beautiful building from colonial era. The most important piece is the statue of Fasting Buddha which is really unique. The building is really beautiful and perfect for an afternoon visit in the heat of Lahore.
Bagh e Jinnah/ Lawrence Garden
The beautiful garden is also located on the Mall Road and houses the grand public library with vast gardens at the back. It is a historic garden which is very well kept with beautiful architecture and rows after rows of flowers. It is perhaps the best spot in Lahore to be in to enjoy the soft sunlight of the golden hour.
The library is a new imposing beautiful building. It is also a fun place to watch the newly wed couples getting their wedding photos taken.
The walled city of Lahore had 12 gates and this is the most impressive one. I got dropped in the morning and immediately got hurled into a sea of people, motorbikes and colour. The area around the gate is still a busy business hun and business continues as usual. The first point immediately after entrance is the newly renovated Royal Hammam or Shahi Hammam.
The Royal Hammam (Shahi Hammam)
Contrary to its name the Hammam wasn’t built for royalty, they had their own inside the Lahore fort. It was built by the emperor, hence it got the name. It was definitely used by nobility and has fine architecture and that signature Mughal decor. The central room is in good condition with the classic Hammam dome with an oculus shaped hole in it. It is a great place to start the day of exploration around the Old Lahore.
Fun Fact: The walled city of Lahore is also called Old Lahore or ‘Androon Lahore’. It literally means, the Lahore inside or the previous Lahore.
Wazir Khan Mosque
Entrance – Free (You will have to wait outside during prayer times)
Wazir Khan mosque is the most ornate, colourful and decorated mosque built by Mughals. It is an explosion of colours everywhere you see. I was spellbound the moment I saw it’s minars. The entrance is grand and the area around it has been recently cleared.
The entrance and courtyard need some work but the interior of the mosque totally makes up for the lack of administration. It is sadly in quite bad shape with plaster and tiles chipping off.
The interior is really colourful with patterns and paintings covering most of the walls. The arches have the beautiful pattern, signature of Mughal Persian architectural style called Kashi-Kari.
It is a beautiful structure with colours so vibrant , it took me to another world altogether.
Entrance – 500 PKR
Lahore Fort is located inside the Greater Iqbal Park. The best way is to arrive at the gate and walk to the door. There will be a few guides there offering their services, I hired one for PKR 1000 (he started with 3000). It was good to know the history. The outer wall has been restored and I fell in love with the colours before even stepping in.
I entered through the main door and immediately to my left was Hathi Pair or Elephant foot. It is a staircase which the Mogul emperors used to arrive at their private residence on top of elephants. The stairs are extra wide to cater for the elephant feet. It really was marvellous. This is an amazing part of the fort because of the arches and balconies that surround the staircase.
Next I arrived at the general area of the fort with amazing view of Badshahi Mosque and the mosque door of Lahore Fort, both are monumental structures. The fort is quite big and it took quite some time to go through some of the areas.
I was getting quite tired and there was more to explore. I headed to the most anticipated and prized possession of the entire Lahore fort complex; The Sheesh Mahal or The Mirror Palace.
This used to be the private residence of the Emperor and his Queen. The central courtyard has a Fountain overlooking the beautiful arches of the Sheesh Mahal. The area has been recently restored and it’s glamour, even now, is spectacular. It was built with marble and mirrors imported from as far as Syria and Italy.
Tip: if you really want to enjoy the beauty of Sheesh mahal call mum come here just before the sunset in the golden hour.
Don’t forget to see the queens room which replicates the starry sky at night. A single light in the middle of the room reflects in every single mirror on the rooftop.
Entrance – Free (You will have to wait outside during prayer times).
This mosque houses more than 60,000 people at a time and it was the largest mosque in the entire world for more then 3 centuries. It is also sacred to lot of Muslims because it hosts a few artefacts from the life of Prophet Mohammad.
The mosque is made of red bricks and was built by the Emperor Aurangzeb. The interior is incredibly detailed and comes in a single shade of colours, very elegant. The courtyard is huge and always has that great view of this icon of Lahore.
The mosque has the best light at sunset, besides it has the most serene presence at the time. I loved sitting in a corner watching the birds dancing above.
Minar e Pakistan
Entrance – Free
The Minar or tower is part of the greater Iqbal Park and even if you see it from a distance, you won’t miss much. It is an important monument for Pakistanis because the resolution for a country separate from India after inference was passed here and the minar was built to commemorate that.
Entrance – 500 PKR
While not strictly in Lahore, this beautiful spot can be easily seen as a half day trip from Lahore. It is a beautiful complex in the middle of a man made lake with a tower and a summer pavilion.
It was built by the emperor Jahangir as his summer hunting lodge and later when his favourite antelope ‘Mansraj’ died, he erected the tower to commemorate him. This was also his retreat from the busy life of Lahore and you can see why.
The arches of the bridge that connect that entrance to pavilion reflect on the water. It creates this spectacular image, really beautiful in the evenings.
To get here you will need to take a car to the nearby town of Sheikhupura which is an hours drive from Lahore. The Hiran Minar complex has some nice gardens a lot of locals come here for picnics.
It is an epic monument dedicated to his pet by a master, I can’t think of any other anywhere.
M M Alam Road
MM Alam road is the heart and soul of modern Lahore. It is full of restaurants, cafes, designer boutiques, shopping centres and all sort of fancy shops. A drive through the toad is a great way to see what’s co side red fashionable in Lahore with signature restaurants like Freddy’s and Cafe Zouk. If you get a chance, do pay a visit but if you’re short of time you can give it a miss.
I hope this article helps you with a great trip to Lahore, if you have more questions or suggestions feel free to reach out.