Dripping with history, Lucknow’s streets feature many British Raj-era buildings, including, of course, the famed British Residence, a group of buildings constructed in the late 16th-century to serve as the residence for the British representative at the Nawab’s court and the site of the Siege of Lucknow during the Indian Rebellion of 1857. The Old City provides a glimpse back in time to the rich history of Lucknow, when it was an incubator of Urdu poetry and music. Once the seat of power for the Nawabs of Avadh, who were great patrons of the culinary and other arts, the capital of Uttar Pradesh has declined somewhat in political importance, but its culinary and cultural superiority remain intact. This urban jewel begs to be explored on foot, which provides travelers with an excellent vantage point from which to view the magnificent architecture as well as an abundance of opportunities to stumble upon culinary treat after treat.
Where to Eat
Looks can be deceiving, and Sakhawat’s are no exception. Though its appearance is anything but boastful, this acclaimed hole-in-the-wall steals the show in regard to culinary offerings, like smoky, crispy mutton galawat kebabs and tender, rich chicken biryani, a classic dish of spiced rice layered with moist chicken. If you want to learn how to cook the dishes you’ve eaten, the restaurant also doubles as an Awadh cooking institute.
Qaiser Bagh Avenue
Oudhyana, run by Chef Nagendra Singh, formerly of such iconic restaurants as The Zodiac Grill, Trattoria, and Thai Pavilion, oozes decadence. Singh delivers with contemporary dishes that pay tribute to the intricate Awadhi culinary tradition, including complex, aromatic biryani, and a spicy chicken and green chiles dish.
Vivanta By Taj, Gomti Nagar, Lucknow
Fuel up at Tunday in Old City before venturing out into the bazaar. Nestled in the heart of the Chowk market, this restaurant specializes in succulent mutton biryani, kebabs, and chicken tandoori. Many imitators have tried to ride the coattails of this 100-year old shop, but it remains the uncontested favorite among the city’s meat eaters.
Near Akbari Gate, Chowk, Lucknow
The dining room of Falaknuma occupies the top floor of the riverfront Clarks Avadh Hotel, giving diners a resplendent view of the city. Falaknuma’s menu is an homage to Nawab, or royal, cuisine, from its famous kebabs and vibrant curries to the decadent shahi tukra, a dessert of fried bread slathered in a saffron-infused sweet cream.
Hotel Clarks Avadh, 8, M.G. Marg, Hazratganj, Lucknow
What to Do
This colossal tomb is among the grandest buildings in Lucknow. Construction began in 1785 during a time of famine in the hopes of providing long-term employment for the people of the region. The rococo architecture reflects an evolution in the ornamented Mughal design. One of the biggest draws is its vaulted main chamber; it stands without the support of interior columns, which would obstruct the view, and at 150 by 48 feet and over 45 feet tall, it is one of the largest such arched constructions in the world.
Hussainabad Trust Road lucknow.org.uk
This shopping center offers everything from fashion to food to antiques and was recently refurbished in a colonial retro style with lamp posts, benches, and uniform signage (all black with white text)—a picturesque place for a meandering stroll at any time of day. It is a must-visit for food lovers, as its busy streets are bursting with a variety of inviting eateries, like Mirage Lounge and The Mughal’s Dastarkhwan, where you can get a melt-in-your-mouth mutton galawat (from gala, literally “soft enough to swallow”) kebab.
Hazratganj road, Lucknow
Uttar Pradesh, India
Lucknow provides ample attractions for history buffs, and the British Residency is among the most significant destinations in the city. Built in 1800, the Residency was home to some of the most dramatic events of the 1857 First War of Independence. The complex has been meticulously maintained right down to its walls, which are still pockmarked from the bullets and cannon balls.
Mahatma Gandhi Road lucknow.org.uk
The Rabindralaya is a hub for Lucknow entertainment, hosting a variety of cultural shows, including classical music, dance, and theatrical performances, all free of charge. It’s very accessible, located across the street from two train stations. Be sure to call ahead to see what is on the roster for your visit.
Nawabganj Bird Sanctuary
In the area surrounding the hubbub of Lucknow lies a pristine natural escape, the Nawabganj Bird Sanctuary. Home to more than 250 resident and migratory birds, the Nawabganj lake and its surrounding area were declared a sanctuary in 1984. Now visitors can amble and bird watch along the many walking paths, watch herds of spotted deer graze in Deer Park, and learn about the sanctuary’s birds at the Bird Interpretation Center.
NH 25 Ravanhar, Uttar Pradesh
The Chowk District
The Chowk District is a glimpse into the splendor of Old Lucknow. Walking through crowded lanes is the best way to get a feel for Lucknow’s past. The market overflows with eye-catching trinkets and mouth-watering culinary delights, like the famous Tunday kebab shop and Radhey Lal’s Parampara Sweets. Also keep an eye out for artisans creating exquisite local needlework called chikan.
The Chowk District, to the southwest of Pir Muhammad Hill
Where to Drink
Visit this 100-year-old shop, run by the Tripathi brothers, for thandai, a mixture of chilled milk, simple syrup, cardamom, almonds, rose petals, fennel seeds, and pepper, possibly the most popular summertime drink in the city.
Kasturb Market, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India +91/94/5212-8150
Have an icy rosewater or mango sharbat, the Mughal predecessor to the milkshake, from one of the many vendors in the Chowk market.
Chowk Market, Lucknow
This high-class night spot in the Vivianta hotel draws both locals and visitors with expertly crafted tipples, from classic Manhattans to more unusual concoctions like Kaffir lime leaf margaritas, in a comfortable lounge setting.
Lobby Level, Vivanta Hotel, Vipin Khand +91/52/2671-1540 vivantabytaj.com
Where to Stay
This five-star hotel is located on the banks of the Gomti River, and everything from the stylish rooms to the building itself exude grandeur, beginning with the property’s artful domed architecture and 25 acres of well-manicured gardens. The fabulous Saqi bar, which boasts well-trained bartenders and a large collection of single malt scotches, and the award-winning Oudhyana restaurant round out the luxurious offerings.
Vipin Khand, Gomti Nagar, Lucknow +91/52/2671-1000 vivantabytaj.com
Just outside of the city center, Hotel Lineage provides extensive amenities including high-speed wifi and same-day laundry service, plus a rooftop bar with lovely views of Lucknow, making it a peaceful base from which one can easily plan excursions into Lucknow’s bustling streets.
CP-73, Viraj Khand, Gomti Nagar, Lucknow +91/52/2272-7777 hotellineage.com
Located next door to the Palace of the Nawabs, the Clarks Avadh offers effortless elegance and a range of amenities and features a sleek outdoor pool, a gym, a swanky bar, and, of course, the excellent top-floor restaurant, Falaknuma. The hotel is in a prime location, close to public transportation and within walking distance to Hazratga, Lucknow’s main shopping area.
8 Mahatma Gandhi Marg +91/52/2261-6500 avadh-lucknow.hotelclarks.com
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