On the way back to our hotel our auto driver took us to the famous Tunday Kababi of Aminabad. After tasting the food there trust me I have to say that if you are a non-vegetarian your visit to Lucknow would be incomplete without savouring its superb Galawti Kebab and Ulte Tawe ka Paratha.
The next day was completely foggy. So instead of waiting for the sun we started for Ayodhya. Ayodhya is around 140 Km from Lucknow. Due to the weather condition it took us around 3.5 hrs to reach. Ayodhya is an auspicious land to Hindus as it's considered to be the birth place of Lord Rama. It took us around 2 hours to cover the shrine, the temples and other spots. There are multiple restaurants on the way to Ayodhya, so in case, like us ,you skipped your lunch due to time shortage, on the way back you can grab something quick and delicious from these outlets.
Luckily the next day was bright enough to charge us up. From hotel we took an auto and left for the Chota Imambara. You might book a cab for the whole day or even book Ola/Uber but considering the congestion and vicinity of the places I feel auto is the best option. But do bargain with the auto drivers before boarding.
The Chota Imambara speaks about the artistic taste of Nawab Muhammad Ali Shah. It is a mixture of Indo-Islamic and Persian structural and architectural designs. The golden fish and the bronze cast figures of women were not only placed at the entrance of the iImambara to enhance its beauty but were used as a wind vane and lightening conductor respectively. In between the Bara Imambara and Chota Imambara there is a huge gate known as Rumi Darwaza. It is an example of the fine architectural style of Awadh. Both sides of the Darwaza have different architectural style. After sunset the structure looks grand because of lights. So try to come here again at evening.
When we talk about the tourist spots the 1st thing that comes to our mind is the Bhul Bhulaiya. The Bhul Bhulaiya (Labyrinth) is in the Bara Imambara complex. Though we reached Lucknow around 2pm, after checkin we rushed towards the Imambara to utilize the time. There is no ticket for the Imambara, but you can get the ticket for Labyrinth, Chota Imambara and other local interests from here. If you plan to cover all the spots in one day, it's better to take the combined ticket otherwise go for the partial ones. Availing the service of a guide is mandatory for Labyrinth, it's needed also otherwise you might get lost. The guide's charges vary with the number of heads in the group. Since we were only two we were clubbed with other couples to make a group of 10 but we were charged based on the rate mentioned for 2 people. So if possible before talking to the guides try to look for other small groups.
The Bara Imambara is a beautiful ornamented structure containing the tomb of Asaf-ud-Daulai. The mosque has no beams supporting its ceiling and is one of the largest such arched constructions in the world. It was constructed by Nawab Assifidaula. From the terrace of the Bhulbhulaiya you will get a birds eye view of the city. As informed by our guide this is the world's largest terrace constructed without any reinforcement bars and concrete.
Apart from the Bhul Bhulaiya, the Shahi Baoli is another unique buildings that Nawab Asaf-ud-Daulah built. It was constructed around a large well adjacent to the Bara Imambara. There is a separate entry fee for Baoli. Our guide showed us how the water tank was used not only as a reservoir but also as a defence mechanism. People residing inside the building used to track the movements outside the baoli by the reflection on the water.
The Chota Imambara is at walking distance from here. But we were already late for the day, so we parked the remaining spots for the next day.
The Clock Tower, Sapta Khanda, Sahi Talab and the Museum are all opposite to the Chota Imambara. Among these only the museum is open for tourists. It has a beautiful collection of the 3D paintings of the Nawabs and other eminent persons of that era.
From here we left for The Residency. On the way our driver took us to the Juma Masjid. Unlike Bara and Chota Imambara it's open only to the Muslims.
The Residency had immense importance in our Indian freedom struggle. It was one of the centers of the Sipoy Mutiny. There is a small museum in this complex inside which visitors are allowed to take photographs.
Lucknow is a shoppers' paradise. It's famous for its Chikan embroidery and attar. The auto drivers are always on their toes to take the passengers to the Seva Chikan outlets. But before buying do window shopping to get an idea of the fabric, price and design. I bought a jali-worked sari for a couple of thousands. My ignorance, I bought a fake one, instead of the fine threadwork a net was attached to the sari ! So beware of the cheaters. The same caution is applicable for the attar lovers also. Though there are a couple of road-side makeshift stalls selling attars in Aminabad it's better to buy it from proper fragrance shops. There are many in the railway station area.
Next day we had a late afternoon flight to catch. So we went to the zoo to utilize the time. The Lucknow zoo is a small one compared to the Mysore or Kolkata zoo. Also it's not that great. So in case you want you can cover other places like planetarium or parks or can simply go for shopping.
So here comes an end to our trip. Before closing I want to mention a few points.
1. Shop..but be skeptical about what you are shopping
2. Taste the delicacy of kebabs from Tunday Kababi
3. Try to avoid the street foods specially the chats if it's not from a decent outlet
4. Do bargain
5. Carry scarf, as you have to cover your head while entering the Chota Imambara.
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When we talk about the tourist places of India we mention Gujrat, Delhi, Agra, Kerala etc. We hardly get anything to hear about Lucknow. Though it's a small city, it's historical importance is not less than any other princely cities of India. The city still bears its heritage and culture which it inherits from hundreds of years.
Lucknow is well connected by air, rail and road from all the major cities of India. It's surrounded by famous tourist destinations like Agra, Brindavan, Ayodhya, Varanasi and Gaya. So even if you don't plan to visit Lucknow separately as a tourist destination, you can accommodate it along with other places. If you don't have Ayodhya in your itinerary then 2 days is enough for a Lucknow trip. but if you want to taste a bit of traditional Lucknow you should spend 3-4 days. We visited Lucknow in the last week of December. It was cold but sunny. so I feel the best time would be September to March. But try to avoid staying 25th December here. We got very bad visibility, and informed by the local people every year people face the same issue on this date.
Lucknow is dotted with decent hotels. But while booking along with the budget check the locality also. Most of the local spots are clustered at one place so if you stay near imambara (within 3-4 kms) then it would be easier to cover the spots also you will get hold of the famous Luckavi chicken suit's outlets.