May 25, 2017 3 min to read

10 things not to miss when you’re in Lucknow

Category : Guides, Via India, Weekend Getaways

If Benares, as the holiest city in India, is the jewel of Uttar Pradesh – then Lucknow would be the crown in which the jewel is encrusted.

The capital of UP has a history as long as it is colourful, exotic and just… royal. Take the name, for example. A legend says that Lord Ram’s brother, Lakshman, had an estate here and was initially called ‘Lakshamanpuri’ or Lakshmanavati. It went through its share of transmorgrification (Lakhanavati), fender benders (Lakhnauti) and a few centuries here and there settled on Lucknow. And it makes perfect sense in English, too!

Take them in any order, but do check the list clean before you leave… to come again.


1. Bara Imambara


A testament to Mughal architecture, Bara Imambara has several jaw-dropping credential to its name –its gigantic roof made of rice husk being not the least!


2. Chotta Imambara


After you’ve collected your jaw back, set your sights on the Chotta Imambara. It is the place to see if you want to be wowed by delicate Arabic calligraphy, art work, the crown of the third nawab and enormous glass and crystal chandeliers.

3. Biryani


Take a break and have biryani in Lucknow. Did you know that this royal dish of rice and meat was originally commissioned as a meal for troops? In Lucknow, taste the Awadhi version of Mughlai biryani at Wahid Biryani or Idris Biryani. As the perfect meal of spiced meat and rice is chewed down, life could not be better!


4. Rumi Darwaza


If Roman architecture could be sent a love-note, there is none better than the Rumi Darwaza. Originally the gate to Lucknow itself, the 60-feet plus gate was modelled after the Sublime Porte in Istanbul, or then-Constantinople. The shape of the majestic gate has been adopted as the logo of city itself, the heart and essence of Lucknow.


5. Kebabs


If you ever have a wish to sample meat which literally melts in your mouth, then to Lucknow you must go. At Tunday or at any of the city’s innumerable kebab shops, taste what kebabs were meant to be – a movie trailer of what heaven feels like. Galawati, boti or hariyali – all kebabs lead to a smile and a frantic call to the waiter for ‘More. Here. Now!’


6. The Ruins of Residency


The Residency was the estate of the-then British Resident General of the nawab’s court, and is an oasis of tranquility in the bustling city. Walk amongst the old oak trees while your guide tells you stories of impossible bravery and military history which marked the Great Siege of Lucknow and the first strike for India’s freedom.


7. Chikan and Zari work


These varieties of embroidery have permanently pinned Lucknow to the global fashion map. Polish your haggling before stepping out to Aminabad and Chowk markets.


8. Street Food


Welcome to Lucknow, which has brought delicacy and opulence to humble street food. Have at the famous basket chaat at Royal Café, where you eat the basket made of deep-fried potato strings. Or rajbhog, the royal wrestler of Indian sweets.


9. Makhhan Malai


The buckets of the bubbly cream flavoured with powdered sugar, cardamom and spices are exposed to the chilly morning dew of the winter, completing the witch’s incantation and giving rise to makkhan malai. In truth, the dish has been described as ‘sweetened air which melts in your mouth to nothing, leaving the faintest hint of spices and love’. Go figure!


10. Ganjing


No trip to Lucknow can be complete without taking a stroll through the Victorian-era thoroughfare of Hazratganj. People can write about window-shopping, but Lucknowites invented it with ‘Ganjing’. So when in Lucknow, do as Lucknowites do.

Hritvick Sen
Hritvick Sen is a freelance writer. After fighting his parents to pick up science in higher secondary, he discovered he hated mathematics, couldn’t figure out physics and stopped short of inventing new elements in chemistry. Thankfully, English stepped in to save the man-child from being a complete wastrel. When not writing about travel and food, Hritvick loves to bike around places, get sick from adventurous eating and writing about both.