Lahore is the second largest city and cultural hub of Pakistan, also known as Pakistan’s cultural capital. It is the provincial capital of Punjab, enormously blessed with architectural and cultural heritage. Tourist attractions in Lahore are spread in abundance and the city also has the honor of holding the largest number of important educational institutions.
Founded in the legendary times, Lahore – also known as the city of gardens – has an array of diverse attractions for visitors. The lively city has been a center of architectural excellence for over a thousand years. The Mughal architecture, the Sikh legacy, the colonial Gothic buildings lined up along the Mall road existing since the British Raj, and the palatial mansions and trendy shopping malls in the suburbs make Lahore a city of choice.
Lahore has several eye-catching gardens and it was therefore called the city of gardens. The Shalimar Garden, a unique collage of nature and architecture, was accomplished in 1641-42 AD under the supervision of Khalilluah Khan, a noble of Shah Jahan’s court. The construction of the garden was influenced by regions like Central Asia, Persia, Kashmir, Punjab, and Dehli Sultanate and reflects the affinity of Shah Jahan for nature and architecture. The Shalimar Garden was incorporated as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Pakistan in 1981. The 16 hectares (658 meters north to south and 258 meters east to west) rectangle garden by crenelated walls of red sandstone is arranged in three terraces descending from south to north with each terrace given a special name. The garden is located close to Baghbanpura on the GT road 5km northeast of the city centre. The site of the garden belonged to the Arian Mian Family and Shah Jahan rewarded them with the Mian title for their services and contribution to the Mughal Empire.
The 60-meter-high Minar-e-Pakistan is a national monument built to commemorate the day when the Pakistan resolution was passed on March 23, 1940. The memorial tower is located next to the Badshahi Mosque in Iqbal Park originally known as Minto Park. Minar-e-Pakistan was designed by a Turkish architect, Murat Khan, and the construction work was completed in 8 years from 1960-68. This is the historic site where Nehru and the Indian National Congress declared the independence of the subcontinent from Britain in 1929. Generous funding of Rs. 500,000 was generated by the then governor of West Pakistan, Akhtar Hussain, for the construction. It was opened to the public on October 31, 1968.
Chau Burji is a local term for the monument with four minarets. The monument has a historical significance and is located on the Multan road in Lahore. Historically the tower has been an entry point to a Mughal garden associated with Zeb un Nisa, the daughter of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb Alamgir. The garden does not exist anymore but the monument is standing by the Metro Bus Track. It was built in the year 1646 CE with a typical Mughal-style construction. With the passage of time, apathy of authorities, and due to weather conditions the monument lost most of the inscriptions on it yet Ayat-ul-Kursi (Quranic verses) on the upper-most part of the structure and the two couplets written in Persian above the arch could still be legible. Comprehensive conservation of this monument was carried out in 2018 before its fall.
Daata Darbar is the largest Sufi shrine in South Asia. It was built to house the remains of a Muslim mystic and a revered saint Abdul Hassan Al Hujwiri also popularly known as Data Ganj Bakhsh, he is said to have lived on the site in the 11th century. The shrine was built by the Ghaznavi king Sultan Zakiruddin Ibrahim later in the 11th yet subsequent expansions were made since then and Hajvary Mosque was part of it. The shrine is located near the Bhati Gate in Lahore’s Walled City and is visited by more than 30,000 visitors on a daily basis. People of all faiths are welcome to visit the shrine.
Lahore Railway Station
Lahore Railway Station was the first purpose-built British imperial building, a representative of typical grand British architecture in the subcontinent during the British Raj. It was built in 1857 following the Indian Mutiny and was intentionally designed to function both as a station and as a fort for the safety and accommodation of employees. Its construction was entirely of brick masonry. The architect, William Brunton who called it the “best in the world”, was confident that the building could survive even full-scale howitzer fire.
Lahore High Court
Known as a place where legal history is made, the Lahore High Court has much to see for tourists. The architectural marvel that the building holds is beyond imagination. Its elegant look owing to the unique architectural design places it among the top-rated tourist attractions of Lahore.
General Post Office
The General Post Office (GPO) Lahore is a public building located at the end (T turn) of Mall Road near Anarkali. It was designed by eminent architect Sir Ganga Ram and was built around 1887 to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria. Although not as attractive as other colonial buildings to plan a special visit yet for photographers, particularly those who are into architecture, it is a must-see facility. Its structure is a unique European-style building with the Mughal touch. It has three towers on the front with a central taller one having a domed top and four huge clocks on all four sides. It was renovated in 1970 and declared a heritage site. GPO Lahore handles about 20,000 pieces of mail per day.
University of Punjab
Informally called “Punjab University”, the University of Punjab is the oldest and largest public research university located in the downtown area of Lahore. The University of Punjab was established on 14 October 1882. It is the fourth major university established by the British Government in the subcontinent. Like other facilities erected during the British Raj, the Punjab University building is worth a visit. The university has produced a great number of scholars and is ranked amongst the top large-sized multiple-faculty universities by the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan. The university is also a member of the Association of Commonwealth Universities of the United Kingdom.
Aitchison College Lahore
Aitchison College in Lahore is a legacy left behind by the British. It has impressive huge colonial buildings featuring charming architecture and lush green sprawling lawns stretching from Davis Road to Canal Road. The college has swimming pools, running tracks, and several sports fields. It was established in 1886 as a school to teach and educate the elite class – the sons of chiefs and nobles working under the British. Its list of alma mater includes politicians, cricketers, businessmen, and finance chiefs who have studied at world-leading institutions. Prime Minister Imran Khan, former President Farooq Lagari, and many other notable figures from Pakistan have been the alma mater of this institution. It educates around 3000 students at any given time. Due to security, you must prebook a campus visit.
Anar Kali Bazar
Lahore is blessed in all aspects of travel – food, heritage sites, shopping, and special ceremonies. When it comes to shopping, Anar Kali Bazar is a name to choose out of its array of shopping malls and markets. This nearly 200 years old place is named after Anarkali, the slave girl, who was buried alive by the Mughal Emperor Akbar for having a love affair with his son, Prince Saleem. One can hope to find items of all types and categories including silk, leather, jewelers, and whatnot.
Pak Tea House
It was originally believed to have been set up by a Sikh family in 1932 but given to the YMCA later on in 1940 when it was originally established as India Teahouse by Boota Singh. Later it was taken over by two Sikh brothers Surtej Singh Bhalla and Kaiser Singh Bhalla in 1944. After partition, the restaurant was allotted to Sirajuddin Ahmed in 1947 who renamed it “Pak Tea House” in 1950 and ran this restaurant successfully till 1978. His Son closed it in 2000 and remained closed till 2013 until it was renovated and reopened. It has long been a melting pot of celebrated intellectuals of the subcontinent. The Pak Tea House is located at the bank of Mall Road and remains open from 10:00 am to 10:00 pm
Standing on the right bank of River Ravi, about 8 km north-west of Lahore, the tomb of Emperor Jahangir (1605-1627) was built by Shah Jahan in 1637 AD. Its construction features a unique architecture using decorated marble gravestones with pietra-dura floral and the 99 names of God are inlaid in black.
Empress Noor Jahan’s Tomb is located in the Shahdra Bagh in Lahore, across the Ravi River, just separated by a train track from that of her husband’s and her brother’s tombs. She was the beloved wife of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir and the most popular queen of the Mughal period. She died in 1645 and was buried in the tomb she built for herself during her lifetime. Empress Noor Jahan’s tomb is located near Emperor Jahangir’s Tomb.
Mirza Abdul Hasan Asif Jah (also known as Asif Khan) was the brother of Empress Noor Jahan (Jahangir’s wife), and the father of Mumtaz Mahal (Shah Jahan’s wife). He was the Prime Minister of India and the Viceroy of Punjab under Shah Jahan. He had a palace in Lahore called Asif Jah’s Haveli. He died in 1641 and his tomb is located opposite the mausoleum of Jahangir. The octagonal tomb resembles that of Murad Khan’s tomb, topped by a double-layered bulbous dome and was commissioned by Shah Jahan. The red sandstone mausoleum has water reservoirs at four corners. Each side has a recessed alcove with a door and arched windows looking into the tomb. The blue kasha tiles and the marble have been stripped off. Likewise, the marble and stone inlay in the inner section was also removed. Its ceiling is decked with high plaster relief and it still contains the carved Quranic inscriptions.
The Akbari Sarai (Palace of Akbar) is a large oblong-shaped courtyard situated between Jahangir’s Tomb and Asif Khan’s Tomb in Lahore city in Punjab province of Pakistan. This unique Mughal-era structure was built in 1637 to host travelers and caretakers of Jahangir’s Tomb. It also served as a mail station known as Dak Chowki.
The Lahore Canal
The 82-kilometer-long and 5-foot-deep canal, tree-lined Banba-wali Ravi-Bedian (BRB) waterway was a great feat of the Mughals. In 1861, it was upgraded and extended to the Punjab irrigation system by the British. It slices its way through the heart of Lahore – starting from BRB, winding through colonies, famous educational and religious institutions, business complexes, smooth highways, and sports grounds and ends at Raiwind Road. The Lahore Canal is a national heritage and a great source of recreation during the scorching summers. Colorful floats are placed in the Canal and the entire line is lit up during festivals. The Canal is accompanied by roads on both sides and there are twelve bridges at different sections of the Canal to connect the roads.
Spreading over an area of 25 acres, the Lahore Zoo is the oldest and largest Zoo in South Asia and was established in 1872. It houses a great collection of 1380 animals of 136 species. It is a well-maintained zoo and a great source of a picnic for people from all walks of life. The zoo is situated on Mall Road and is surrounded by Jinnah Park and Quaid-e-Azam Library.
Lahore has the largest and oldest museum showcasing the intriguing history of Pakistan. It was inaugurated by Prince Victor Albert in 1894 at its present site. Its 17 galleries interpret the complete history and culture of Pakistan and its surrounding regions. The museum has a superb collection of Gandhara sculptures, Buddhist rare manuscripts, Islamic calligraphy, the oldest manuscript of Guru Granth Sahib, and a good collection of centuries-old coins, crafts, and relics of the region.
Zamzamah – Bhangian Wali Taop – Kim’s Gun
The Bhangian Wali Taop (or Zamzamah) or the Kim’s Gun is a large bore Cannon placed on display at the upper Mall (Shahrah-e-Quaid-e-Azam) in front of the Lahore Museum in Lahore, Pakistan. It is the largest gun ever made in the subcontinent measuring 14 feet 4 ½ inches in length with a bore at its aperture of 9 ½ inches. It was cast in Lahore in 1757 by a metalsmith called Shah Nazir under the direction of the then-prime minister Shah Wali Khan in the reign of the Afghan King Ahmed Shah Durrani (Abdali). It was made out of copper and brass vessels extracted from the local Hindu population as a tribute. The gun was employed to win the battle of Panipat in 1761. After the battle, Ahmed Shah, on his way to Kabul, left the gun with his governor, Khwaja Ubed. Later in 1762, Hari Singh Bhangi seized the gun in a battle with Khwaja Ubed and it was renamed Bhangi Toap. It came to be known as Kim’s Gun after Rudyard Kipling in whose childhood memoirs it obtained frequent mention. It was placed in this position on the occasion of the Duke of Edinburgh’s visit to Lahore in 1870. It was severely damaged during several wars and was repaired in 1977.
Wahga Border (Flag lowering ceremony)
Missing to witness the most exciting “lowering of flags ceremony” at the Wahga Border is like a trip to Lahore unaccomplished. The flag-lowering ceremony has been taking place at the Wahga border every day before sunset since 1959. The parade performance at the crossing border between Pakistan and India is a fun experience that every tourist would love to observe. It is an emotional exchange of patriotic slogans by the cheering crowd on both sides of the border during the military parade performance of Pakistani Rangers and Indian Border Security Forces. The patriotic slogans further stimulate the parade performance of the giant guards wearing graceful turbans to amuse the visitors. The flag is lowered simultaneously on both sides and wrapped at the end of the ceremony to conclude the event. It, however, begins with a handshake of the army persons of both sides every afternoon. The ceremony attracts a lot of visitors including international tourists daily.
Grand Jamia Mosque
With a capacity of 70,000 worshippers, including 25,000 indoors, the Grand Jamia Mosque in Baharia Town, Lahore, is the third-largest mosque in Pakistan and 7th largest mosque in the world. It was designed by Nayyar Ali Dada and its architecture is influenced by Badshahi Mosque, Wazir Khan Mosque, and Sheikh Zayed mosque. It has a grand dome surrounded by 20 smaller domes and four minarets each 165 ft tall. Its exterior is decked with 4 million handmade Multani tiles. Its interior is embellished with more than 50 Iranian chandeliers and the ground is layered with custom-made Turkish carpets. An entire floor consists of an Islamic heritage museum, an Islamic library, and an Islamic art gallery. The museum houses rare Quranic collections and the art gallery has antique artefacts.