On my trip to India, Lucknow was the last city I visited. I didn’t know much about it until I arrived and was pleasantly surprised to find a city rich in culture and tradition and full of beautiful architecture. It’s also very famous for its food with a lot of outside influence and twists on normal Indian cuisine. Below is my pick of the top 9 things to do in Lucknow – a must visit city in Northern India.
9 Things To Do In Lucknow, India
Places to Visit in Lucknow
Hazratganj is most probably the most important of Lucknow’s places to visit. It’s the city center, a major shopping area, and full of great restaurants, open air stalls, theaters, hotels, and even some offices. It’s a great spot to start doing some Lucknow sightseeing.
“Ganjing” is an activity common in Hazratganj – it refers to lackadaisical walking around, shopping, browsing, and generally just enjoying the area. One could “ganj” for days on end, with endless entertainment, food and wares at a finger’s reach.
Try visiting the Moti Mahal, a pure vegetarian local restaurant which is very popular amongst tourists and locals alike, or stroll across the K.D. Singh Babu Stadium – one of the first athletic fields in Lucknow, where you might find some locals playing hockey, cricket, or a number of other sports.
Now, regardless of how you feel about zoos and animal enclosures, the Lucknow Zoo is a great place for a day trip, whether you’re alone or in a group – and especially so with children. It houses over 1000 animals from over 100 species, and was first established in 1921 over a sprawling 29 hectares in the middle of the city.
At Lucknow Zoo, you can see some really unique and rare Indian wildlife such as the Indian hippopotamus, white tigers, lions, the famous barking deer and giant squirrel. There’s also an adopt-an-animal program where you can donate to ensure the wellbeing of an animal of your choice for either six or twelve months.
The zoo also has a paddle boating area, as well as a number of cool little features for children of all ages, to make sure they stay active and you don’t have to worry about entertaining them.
The British Residency
This complex of beautiful buildings from the British Colonial period in India is one of the best of Lucknow’s places to visit. It used to house the British Resident General who would have overseen dealings between the British Empire and the local Nawab or ruler.
Cracked walls sprouting small, determined plants are surrounded by sprawling green lawns, with indigenous trees littered around the outskirts. It was constructed in the late 1800’s, and one can visibly see as much, from the architecture.
The British Residency Complex is historically important as it was one of the sites of the Siege of Lucknow during the Indian Rebellion. The then-resident general, Sir Henry Montgomery Lawrence, was killed in this battle and lies in a grave on-site, as well as the graves of a few thousand Indian men, women and children who perished during the siege. One can still see the cannonball marks on the Residency walls.
Ambedkar Memorial Park
Built in 2008, and a true architectural spectacle, which quite honestly rivals the Taj Mahal, the Ambedkar Memorial Park is a monument to the lives and work of those who have devoted their lives to social justice, humanity and equality.
The park is named after Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar, a famous Indian academic whose life work was largely based on the protection of minority groups and and ending discrimination against them. Among others named in memorialization in the park are Jyotirao Phule, an anti-caste (India’s ancient class system) activist and writer; and Narayana Guru who fought against discrimination against his caste in Kerala.
The Park is not only a spectacle to visit, but also a great way to educate yourself on some of India’s history in regard to issues that most might not be so comfortable discussing today. It might even encourage you to give back while you’re in India, either through volunteering or other support programs.
Unique Things to do in Lucknow
Eat Some Mughlai Food
Earning its name from the Mughal Empire, Mughlai food is a style of cuisine found all over Lucknow, which is a blend of South Asian and Central Asian cuisines. Regionally, it has links to India, the Bengal region and Pakistan, as well as the ancient Turko-Mongol Empires who would have spread food traditions far and wide. Of all the things to do in Lucknow, eating Mughlai food deserves a place on the top of your list.
It’s generally quite a spice-oriented food, with whole and ground spices being added at all different stages of preparation. It’s usually served where each diner gets a bowl of rice or a flatbread, and an assortment of dishes on the table from which to serve oneself.
You can try some great Mughlai Biryanis, Chicken Rezala and Pasanda and Mughlai restaurants in Lucknow. If you need some recommendations, Oudhyana near Ambedkar park is one of the top spots for a more high-cuisine Mughlai dining experience, with the Mughal’s Dastarkhwan in Lucknow offering more affordable options of similar cuisine.
Visit the Gomti River
One of the tributaries leading into the Ganges, the Gomti is a similarly sacred river in India. It’s one of the foremost of Lucknow’s famous places. Believed to be the daughter of Vashist, in Hindu Mythology, it is believed that washing yourself in the river on Ekadashi can wash away your sins. Be warned however, similar to the Ganges, swimming in the Gomti can be hazardous to your health in terms of infection or disease.
Similar to the Ganges, the Gomti is a great spot to book an evening boat ride and watch the sun set. If you’re in Lucknow on Diwali, the festival of lights, you’ll be treated with an even more incredible spectacle of fireworks, candles and lanterns all around during a nighttime boat ride down the Gomti.
Find some Live Music in Lucknow
Like any bustling city, Lucknow is filled with musicians – both traditional and contemporary – looking to soothe and please the ears of drinkers, diners, travelers and locals alike. There are a number of nice little spots to go and try your luck with music in Lucknow – an experience that can really help one learn about whichever city they find themselves in. These venues are also some of the best places to visit in Lucknow for couples.
Try Rustic Haus for something hip and happening. They have different music items each night of the week, from live bands, to solo vocalists, and local instrumental bands. They’re known as a good place to have a dance and a drink by the younger local crowd.
If you’re looking, however, for something a little bit more refined – Falaknuma is probably more your speed. Here you can enjoy a candlelit dinner of Awadhi food (the specific cuisine local to Lucknow), and listen to live ghazals – a type of ballad / ode poetry originating from Arabic traditions.
Lucknow Festival / Lucknow Mahotsav
If you happen to find yourself in Lucknow around the end of January / beginning of February, you’re in for a treat. The annual Lucknow festival or Mahotsav is a tourism initiative, celebrating art and culture in Uttar Pradesh where Lucknow lies.
Here you’ll find everything from food festivals, to arts, dance and music performances. There are hobbyists who organise races, those who fly kits, a huge collection of traditional regional Indian performances and a celebration or re-imagining of the Nawabi days of the past.
This is a great way to get to see Lucknow in its full flair. While it might be a lot to handle and get a hand on, consider planning your trip to include a day or two of the festivities – you certainly won’t be sorry.