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Top-rated Lahore Things to Do

The historic city of Lahore is situated on the left bank of the river Ravi, at latitude 310 N and longitude 740 E, and around 700 feet above sea levell. It stands on the alluvial plain traversed by the river Ravi. The city is slightly elevated above the plain and has a high ridge within it, running east and west on its northern side. The whole of this elevated ground is composed of the accumulated debris of many centuries. The river, which makes a very circuitous bend from the east, passes in a semi-circle to the north of Lahore. At one time it flowed by the surrounding walls of the old city but, its encroachments having caused alarm in 1662, the Emperor Aurangzeb had a massive embankment of bricks and mortar constructed along its bank for a distance of about four miles, taking its route some way from the city itself and reducing the risk of inundation.

These embankments have since been further strengthened for the safety of the city. Lahore is situated in the province of Punjab, the largest province of the country in terms of population. It occupies a focal position in the Upper Indus Plain on the historic route from Central Asia into the sub-continent.

Origin and Brief Historic Background

Lahore provides a classical example of a South Asian city. Its character and importance cannot be appreciated without some knowledge of its past. Very few authentic sources are available regarding the date of its foundation and the origin of its name. Its early history was controversial and present day knowledge is based as much on myth and legend as on facts founded on archaeological or historical evidence.

According to the Hindu tradition the origin of Lahore is traced to Ram, King of Ayodha (Oude), the hero of Ramayana, whose two sons, Lav or Loh and Kash, are said to have founded the cities of Lahore and Kasur.

Lahore is mentioned not only in local legends but also in legends and quasi-historic traditions of other localities. At various times it has been referred to by different names, such as Lohar, Loher, Lahawar, Lehawar, Luhawar, Lohawar, Laha-nur, Rehwar, Loh-kot andLahpor. Lohawar is the oldest and probably the most correct form of the name, and it is in this form that it appears in the writings of Abu-Rihan-Al-Biruni, a contemporary and companion of Mahmud of Ghazni. The mere mention of Lahore by Ptolemy, the Greek astronomer and geographer, fixes the approximate date of Lahore’s foundation towards the end of first or beginning of the second century A. D7.

According to Abu-Rihan’s book, Taarikh-al-Hind (History of India), compiled in 1030-33 A. D., the early signs of habitation were discovered in about the fourth or fifth century A. D8. It is easier to form an idea of the size and extent of the old city of Lahore than of its magnificence. Indeed, few cities have suffered more from desolating hordes and anarchy. Thirteen times in its history it has been plundered, looted and severely damaged; by the troops of Mahmood of Ghazni against the Hindu Raja (King) Jai Pal in the early eleventh century, then by the Ghorids in the twelfth century, by Taj-ud-din Yaldoz, king of 89 Sindh and Multan, by Changezi Mongols in 1241,, by Tartars in the fourteenth century during the Tughlaque dynasty, by Ghakhar tribes, by Taimur(Tamerlane), by Babur, the founder of the Mughal dynasty, by Nadir Shah, king of Persia, by Ahmad Shah Durrani and finally by the Marhattas and Sikhs. Many buildings have been demolished or severely damaged as a result of these various incursions.

Historic Periods and Built Heritage

As might be expected from the various invasions which have taken place, Lahore’s history can be divided into a number of periods, of which six may be referred to specifically.
Hindu Period: (Before c. 1000 A. D. )

The Hindu period began with the foundation of the city in or around the first century A. D. and came to an end with the conquest of Mahmood of Ghazni in 1030 and the establishment of Muslim rule in India. Today there is little evidence, in architectural terms, from the period.

Pathan Period: (c. 1000-1526)

The Pathan period saw Lahore controlled by of various dynasties, the Ghaznavids, Ghorids, Khiljis. Tughlaquest Lodhis and Surs. Mahmood, Sultan of Ghazni, gained control of Lahore in 1030 after a continuing battle near the city. He made it the capital of his Indian conquest. In 1037, he installed his close subordinate Malik Ayyaz, as ruler of Lahore. Ayyaz is credited with having rebuilt the fort at Lahore and rehabilitated the city, a task which he completed in the very short period of only about three years. During his time the city underwent considerable changes. It developed into an important market for grain and other products of the countryside, a center of manufacture and a place where wooden and metal handicrafts flourished. The city prospered both economically and culturally and by the twelfth century had become famous in the region for its urban qualities.

In 1186, Shahab-ud-din Ghori conquered Lahore and the Ghorids became the rulers. For twenty years, from 1186 to 1206, Lahore was a part of the Ghorids’ empire. It was here, at a grand ceremonial celebration in 1206, that Sultan Mahmood Ghori gave his General Qutb-ud-din Aibak, the title of Shah (king) and appointed him heir to his Indian possessions. It was to Lahore that Aibak came later that year from Delhi for his coronation as the ruler of India. On the death of Aibak, Lahore became a bone of contention between Nasir-ud-din Qabacha of Multan, Sultan Iltutmash of Delhi and Taj-ud-din Yaldoz of Ghazni, but it was ultimately Iltutmash who captured it in 1217. The town was first attacked by Changezi Mongols in 1241 and such attacks continued for 200 years, during which time Lahore was reduced to a town of little importance.

Ibne Batuta, the famous traveler who reached Delhi in 1334, passed through the Punjab but neither visited nor mentioned the city in his journals. Taimur (Tamerlane) gave the government of India to Sayyid Khizer Khan. Later a ruler of this house, Sayyid Mubarik Shah, tried to pacify Lahore. Camping for a month on the banks of the Ravi, he had the fort and the city walls rebuilt and appointed a Governor to live in Lahore. Thus began the renaissance of Lahore which saw the establishment of numerous schools, colleges, gardens, water tanks and palaces built by the Lodhi Pathans who ruled from 1448 to 1526. In the early years of the sixteenth century, when Daulat Khan Lodhi was the governor of the Punjab, the capital was again transferred to Lahore.

Mughal Period: (1526-1759)

In 1526 the Lodhi dynasty came to an end as a result of the victory in the Battle of Paniput of the Mughal invader Babur. With this conquest Babur laid strong foundations for the Mughal dynasty in the sub-continent. The Mughals attributed great importance to Lahore and its development. From an architectural point of view, in fact, historical Lahore is essentially a Mughal city. It was during the reigns of Akbar, Jahangir, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb that Lahore experienced the period of its greatest splendor. Gardens were laid and tombs, mosques and palaces built in every part of the city. With an increase in population the suburbs grew and the city expanded beyond its walls. Even now the main places of interest in Lahore are the Mughal monuments such as the Badshahi mosque, the mosque of Wazir Khan, the Shalimar gardens, the tomb of Jahangir and various buildings in the Fort.

Sikh Period: (1759-1849)

After the death of Emperor Aurangzeb Alamgir in 1708 until the actual establishment of Sikh rule in 1768, Lahore was subjected to periodical invasions, pillage and depopulation and was thus reduced from a substantial city to little more than a walled township. Quarter after quarter became almost deserted. The wealthy residents relinquished their extramural palaces and retired for safety within the city walls. In general the inhabited portion of the city was confined to the area surrounded by the wall of Akbar the Great. Outside was ruin and devastation. The domination of a peasant race, with material habits, under a sovereign ignorant of the alphabet, did not encourage the development of architectural taste. During the Sikh period the Mughal buildings suffered from vandalism and destruction. Many of the mosques were used for other purposes and the costly stones from the royal buildings were removed and used in the construction and decoration of Sikh houses and temples. The havelis (houses) of the Sikh nobility show a blend of Hindu and Muslim architecture. Some baradaris, such as that of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, and royal tombs, such as those of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and Maharaja Sher Singh are the most significant buildings of the Sikh period.

British Period: (1849-1947)

Sikh supremacy came to an end with the annexation of the Punjab by the British in 1849. During the British period Lahore expanded to a considerable extent. The main areas added were those in connection with the Railway and the Lahore cantonment, along with many housing areas. Numerous buildings representing an Anglo-Indian style of architecture were built. The gardens, a railway station, Courts of Justice, clubs, churches, cathedrals, bungalows, shopping centers, railway workshops, professional and general colleges, schools and a university were constructed and new housing areas were developed. Some of the Mughal buildings damaged by the Sikhs were repaired and the gates of the old walled city were reconstructed.
Post Independence Period: (1947- 1993)

The British period came to an end in 1947 with independence and partition of the subcontinent and the emergence of Pakistan as a new sovereign state. After 1947 Lahore continued as capital of the Punjab and its urban area expanded to almost double that of the British period. Buildings began to be constructed in the “International Style” of architecture and did not have any particular harmony with the traditional and historic architecture of the city. Examples are the WAPDA house, the mosque of Shuhda and the Punjab University’s New Campus.

A Continuing Capital

Lahore has continuously enjoyed the status of the capital of Punjab for more than one thousand years. Before the invasionsof Mahmood of Ghazni, the city of Deepalpur, situated betweene invasions was from the southwestern border. The Arabs during the Ummayyid dynasty had, for example, conquered Sindh and Multan in 712. The city of Deepalpur is situated on bank of the River Sutlui and was a suitable location from which to defend the Punjab. When the Pathan or Afghan invaders started attacking the subcontinent in 9th century from the northwestern borders, the Hindu rulers of the Punjab moved the capital from Deepalpur to Lahore. Invaders from the northwest have repeatedly entered the subcontinent by travelling down the Grand Trunk Road from the Khyber Pass and Peshawar to Lahore, then heading for Delhi and the Ganges Plainl.

Lahore was selected as the capital due to its strategic geographic location. The city was located at a reasonable distance from the northwestern borders, so would not face a direct and immediate attack, and was naturally protected by the river. Ultimately, however, it was conquered by Mahmood of Ghazni, who kept it as capital of his conquered Indian empire. The later rulers of the Sultanate or Pathan period shifted the central capital to Delhi and kept Lahore as the capital of Punjab. After the Pathan period, the great Mughals also honored Lahore as the capital of their Indian empire from time to time, though for the majority of the period the central capital remained the city of Delhi. However, the city of Lahore continued as provincial capital without a break. After the fall of the Mughal empire, the Punjab and some other areas came under the occupation of Sikhs and Lahore became the capital of the whole of the Sikh empire. The greatest of the Sikh rulers, Maharaja Ranjit Singh, died in Lahore and was buried there. British rule, which had earlier been established in Delhi and the eastern and southeastern parts of the subcontinent, eventually absorbed the Punjab and Northwestern areas. During this period Lahore was capital of the British Punjab. After independence Lahore was made the capital of West Pakistan, although its geographical location was really inappropriate for it to continue as the capital. It became a border city, being at a distance of only a few miles from India. In the case of any war it might thus be the first city under attack. But these factors were not considered. It was perhaps due to Lahore’s long historical and cultural pre- eminence and its function as a major administrative center that it was declared as the capital of one of the two parts of the country at that time. Afterwards, with the administrative division ýof the present Pakistan into four provinces, Lahore was made capital of the province of Punjab.

A Leading Role:

Lahore is commonly known as the “cultural heart of Pakistan”. In general, it establishes the theme and fashion which is followed in other settlements, particularly in the Punjab and also in the whole of Pakistan.

Architecture similar to that in Lahore can be seen in various other settlements in the country. Politically, its role has been and is of a central and commanding nature. With regard to the movement for independence and the struggle of the Indian Muslims for their separate homeland, Lahore was the city where the Resolution of Pakistan was passed by the Muslims at a large public meeting in 1940. Even now every political party of Pakistan tries to demonstrate its maximum public support at Lahore, to influence the people of other settlements of the Punjab in particular and the whole of Pakistan in general. Most of the national political parties have established their head offices in Lahore instead of at Islamabad, the present capital of the country. Lahore has played and is playing a leading role in the religion of the country.

The city had served as the religious center for the Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims. At present, it is center of various Muslim schools of thought such as Sunnie, Shia and many others. In brief, it has set and is setting the lead in the country in terms of politics, religion, culture and architecture.

The historic city of Lahore is the second largest city of Pakistan and is located on the left bank of the River Ravi. It was founded by the end of the first century A. D. by the Hindu rulers of that time. It has come under the Hindu, Pathan, Mughal, Sikh and British rule and contains important buildings and city spaces from each period. Lahore has been a capital city for more than 1,000 years and is currently the capital of Pakistan’s most populous province, the Punjab. Of a total of only 232 listed monuments in the country, 56 are in the city of Lahore.

Lahore – The city of gardens

Lahore began to acquire the stature of a city when Malik Ayaz, the slave of Mahmud of Ghanavi, and later his successor in India, brought some semblance of order to the early settlements along the left bank of the river Ravi around 1000ACE. Located on the crossroads of trade routes connecting Central Asia with the Gangetic Plane the city had its share of visitors, traders and invaders. Nevertheless it developed along the lines of roads and streets as laid out by the new rulers from Central Asia. Its stature as an imperial city was confirmed during the Mughal Empire particularly during the rule of Emperors Akbar, Jahangir and Shahjehan.With the decay of the Mughal Empire after the death of Aurangzeb (1707), Lahore experienced a prolonged period of conflict, on the one hand, internally among the various princes vying for the throne, and, on the other, with invaders from the Afghanistan.

Mughal gardens were used as camping grounds for invading armies. Ganda Singh recounts the fate of the city’s gardens during a war between the local ruler Muin-ul-Mulk and Ahmed Shah Durrani: “The neighborhood of Lahore was then full of beautiful gardens and orchards, reminding them of the old grandeur of the capital, but they were all cut down for the purposes of entrenchments.

During the long period of uncertainty, for most of the century, the buildings of Shalamar Gardens were neglected and robbed of decorative elements and materials. The gardens as a whole were neglected and described by W.G. Osborne as being “so overgrown with jungle as to have become the haunts of tigers and wild beasts.” (Osborne 1973). The water supply to Shalamar Gardens failed during this period; it was reinstated in 1806 when Ranjit Singh ordered the restoration of Shah Jahan’s Canal. The Sikhs became the rulers of Punjab in the mid 18 century and during Ranjit Singh’s rule the gardens were generally restored,although vandalism continued. In 1831, the French traveler Monsieur Jacquemont observed that Shalamar Gardens was “planted with orange, cedar, lime and pomegranate trees which now form an impenetrable copse”

Upon the death of the Maharaja, in 1839, the British, after two bitterly fought wars, annexed the Punjab in 1849. During the British period (1849 1947) buildings continued to be vandalized, decorative elements were removed, building foundations dug and sold for bricks. In 1883 the garden was leased for the cultivation of fruit trees which resulted in thick plantation of the upper and lower terraces.(Cole 1885). Many of these trees were removed in 1922 after Shalamar was placed under the control of the Department of Archaeology. The middle terrace was cleared and planted with a rose garden in the English style. Pilfering of the monument came to an end and the garden was maintained, although not conserved in any way.

Since 1947 the Department has laid alternative pipelines and carried out limited investigations of the original hydraulic system. Work has been undertaken on the brick pavements, some building repairs and replacements. In recent decades Shalamar Gardens has been engulfed by urban growth and is now surrounded by densely packed housing colonies and roads.

The city of Lahore thus saw many a vicissitude of fortune, expanding during times of peace and prosperity, and shrinking back to its shell of the defense walls during periods of unrest and wars. The city of Lahore developed a labyrinthine street pattern both as a response to extremes of weather as well as defense. The weaving streets created pockets of shade and sun at all times and in all climates enabling the pedestrians to move from shade to shade in summer and from one sunny spot to another in the winters. It was a pattern ideally suited to the climate and for the pedestrian traffic of the city. Planting of trees and gardens further mediated the extremes of weather. Major streets wove around and culminated in the twelve gates that connected the walled portion of the city with areas beyond. It expanded along the routes to other urban centers, to Delhi, Kasur, Multan, Amritsar and along the river front both upward and downward of the city. While suburban settlements took root in the form of Dharampura Garhi Shahu, and others and Mughal Lahore spread much beyond its walls to encompass 36 Guzars( administrative divisions) of which only 9 were in the walled city, gardens were planted near the river helped by the fact that the river Ravi is gentler than the Chenab and Sutlej and the particular soil and geography around the city of Lahore lent itself to gardens which could be easily watered by the river. The city occupied a promontory on the left bank of the river while the river flowed towards and then around it making a loop that lent for the city to be almost surrounded by gardens.

The elite, in particular, planted gardens for recreation and pleasure along both the banks of the river, ranging on the right bank from Bagh-e- Dilkusha or Dilamez (later Jahangir’s tomb) and Bagh-e- Mirza Kamran and on the left bank from the Shalamar Gardens to the walled city and beyond to Chauburji and the extensive garden of Zebinda Begam. The increasing number of gardens of Lahore lent additional glamour to the expanding urban settlement as it acquired imperial trappings during the Mughal period. Thus Lahore became the famed city of Gardens.

Preceding the Mughals there is reference to six gardens in historical accounts mainly from the Ghazvinid period (1014-1186) all of which are now extinct. The pre-Mughal Gardens of Lahore were located towards the southern side of the walled city or within, and with one exception were either built or converted, at some stage, to tomb gardens. Although, none of these gardens now exist, however, with the exception of one, their location can be traced due to the remnants of the tomb or graves which were located within them. Thus, Bagh-e- Ayaz , near Rang Mahal (later Ranjit Singh’s mint) became the burial place of Malik Ayaz in 1051 or 1057 ACE ; the Bagh Qutubudin Aibak, near Anarkali, became the burial place of Aibak at his death in 1211 AC; the Bagh-e-Zanjani in the Chah Mira area, became the tomb of the saint Zanjani; the Bagh Shah Ismail, near the Hall Road was where Shah Ismail was buried on his death in 1056 AC; and likewise the Bagh-e-Shah Kaku Chisti, on the eastern side of Serai Sultan in Mohallah Dara Shikoh was where Kaku Chisti was buried at his death in 1325 AC. The Bagh-e Daulatabad is the only one which is not associated with a tomb, and was probably a palace garden. Reputed to have been near Mozang it was laid out within a fortified quarter along with a serai, boali by Daulat Khan Lodhi, Governor of Lahore (1517-1525).

Gardens of the Mughals

During the Mughal period, particularly during the reigns of Akbar, Jehangir and Shah Jehan, gardens became an important part of the spatial organization and landscape, with a large number of gardens laid out along the waterfront and en route to the Mughal centers. The genre of Mughal gardens included tomb-gardens, palace gardens, fort gardens and pleasure gardens reaching the level of sophistication of the Shalamar Gardens. The Mughal elements of garden design, inspired by the Koranic description of paradise and comprising of the primordial elements of water, trees and resting places were used to engineer an exquisite water display and flowing water reminiscent of the Mughal’s Central Asian abode through the use of fountains, channels,chadars (water falls), central tanks; complimented with the formal layout of the charabagh, planted with a variety of trees chosen for their scents, fruits and beauty, and the structures of baradaris, hamans and pavilions all enclosed within a high perimeter wall reached its zenith with the laying of the Shalamar Gardens in 1642.

The Bagh-e-Kamran, a pleasure garden, laid during the reign of Babur by his son Mirza Kamran is thought to have been the first Mughal garden in Lahore. Located, on the right bank of the Ravi, at a presumably safe distance from the flood plains, it had all the elements of the Mughal garden, extensive charbaghs, a double storied baradari, water channels, fountains and central water tank along with palaces and an assembly hall.

Alongside this garden were laid out other gardens of the nobility; the known ones being the Bagh-e-Andjan (Akbar period), situated on the south of the canal Mirza Kamran dug for his garden and the Bagh-e-Mirza Nizamuddin Ahmed (Akbar period) and Bagh Mirza Moman Ishaq Baz (Jehangir period).The only extant structure of these gardens is a single story of the Kamran Baradari, the rest having been washed away when the Ravi changed its course. But the idea of creating pleasure gardens and grouping them found root. These pleasure gardens acquired importance as encamping grounds for the royal entourage on their travels to the outer reaches of their empire, where courts could be held and the king could spend “several festive days their in the company of his harem and omerah ”

Another group of gardens, across the city on the right bank of the Ravi at Shadara, grew almost as a counterpoint along the Lahore-Kashmir route. Clustering around Shahdara, the first halting point after crossing the river and the last resting place before entering the city, the area was ideally suited to the development of gardens, which were thus conceived as pleasure gardens and halting spots. In later years they were converted to tomb gardens thus giving Lahore its royal necropolis. These included the now extant Bagh-e-Dilafroze (Humayun or Akbar period) and Bagh Mirza Moman Ishaq Baz(Jehangir period); and the Akbari Garden and Serai (now the forecourt of Jehangir’s tomb); Nur Jehan’s Bagh-e- Dilkusha or Dilamez (later the site of the tomb of Jehangir); Bagh-e-Asaf Jan encompassing the tomb of Asaf Jan, and Bagh-e-Nur Jehan, built by Jehangir’s widow during Shah Jehan’s reign which later became the last resting place of Nur Jehan. Shahjehan (1628-1658) reign is notable for the many exquisite buildings and gardens constructed by his orders and by the nobility and omerah, several of which were in Lahore.

This included the construction of the Shah Nahr or Hasli in 1639. Shah Jehan’s official chronicler Lahori writes that “ His majesty being very much interested in decorating the country and building edifices, determined to provide means of populating towns and busy in taking prudent measures for the welfare of the subjects, gave to the Khan ( Ali Mardan Khan) one lac rupees” for the construction of the canal. (Lahori-quoted Baqir- 399). The Shah Nahr begun in about 1639/1640, the engineering feat of Ali Mardan Khan and Mula Alaal Mulk Tuni, brought water from the Chamba Hills, the upper reaches of the Ravi, taking off from Rajpur (present Madhopur) traveling a distance of about 160 kilometers to irrigate the farms and gardens in the eastern side of the city. With the laying of this canal the possibilities became immense and Shah Jehan ordered the laying of the Shalamar Gardens, entrusting the work to Khalilullah Khan. The foundation for which was laid on 12 June 1641 AC and the gardens completed by 31 Oct. 1642 AC with Shah Jehan performing the opening ceremony (Lahori, Kamboh, Baqir et al). The nobility soon followed with a large number of gardens laid around the Shalamar and its environs and enroute along the road connecting the walled city to Shalamar Gardens such as the Bagh- e-Bilawal Shah (on the left bank of the Ravi near Bogiwal on the old road to Shalamar Gardens), Pervez Bagh (west of Kot Khawaja Saeed), the haveli garden of Mushki Mahal(Near the village Bogiwal), Bagh Abul Hasan (south of the Shalamar), Bagh Khawaja Ayyaz (west of the Shalamar), Bagh Ali Mardan Khan, Bagh Sawami Jal (near Bagh Pervez), Buddho Bagh (near village Bhogiwal), Bagh-e-Eishan (west of Begum Pura), and the garden in the immediate vicinity of the Shalamar i.e. the Gulabi Bagh (west ), Bagh-e-Dara Shikoh (east), Inayat Bagh and Angori Bagh on the south, the Metabi Bagh or Mewa Bagh on the north.

The impact of the Shalamar Bagh on the development pattern of Lahore was significant, changing the structure of the city and expanding it to a circuit of about 16-17 miles during Shah Jehan’s sovereignty (Thornton TH, Old Lahore quoted in Baqir pg 325) Gardens became an important aspect of the spatial pattern and the city developed a maturity of design as in evident from the remnants of gardens and historical accounts. Not sufficient research on this aspect has been carried out to reveal the significance of gardens vis-à-vis the urban morphology of Lahore. It is not known whether the placement of the gardens was according to a larger vision, or whether there was a designed pattern of waterfront gardens as in the case of Agra. Or whether Jehan Ara Begum’s (Shah Jehan’s daughter) extensive garden situated on a branch of the Ravi south-west of the walled city, the Bagh- e-Zebinda Begam, (completed1646-47), had any significant relationship with the exquisite Shalamar Gardens

Tourist attraction in Lahore
Badshahi Mosque

Completed in 1674 under Aurangzeb as the Mughals’ final architectural fling, the sublime Badshahi Mosque, opposite the main gateway to the Lahore Fort, is one of the world’s largest mosques. Replete with huge gateways, four tapering minarets of red sandstone, three vast marble domes and an open courtyard said to hold up to 100,000 people, it was damaged by the British and later restored.

The rooms (admission Rs5) above the entrance gate are said to house hairs of the Prophet Mohammed and other relics. The mosque looks lovely when it’s illuminated in the evening.

In 1991 the mosque grabbed international headlines when hardline mullahs (Muslim religious leaders) protested at the visit of the late Princess of Wales; her skirt was considered too short and the director of the mosque was criticised for presenting (the then) HRH, a non-Muslim, with a copy of the Quran and allowing her into the sacred precincts while immodestly dressed. The case went to court and ended with the litigant mullahs being ordered to stop wasting the judge’s time.

In the courtyard stands the Tomb of Allama Mohammed Iqbal, a modest memorial in red sandstone to the philosopher-poet who in the 1930s first postulated the idea of an independent Pakistan.

Lahore Fort

Built, damaged, demolished, rebuilt and restored several times before being given its current form by Emperor Akbar in 1566 (when he made Lahore his capital), the Lahore Fort is the star attraction of the Old City. Note that the museums here may close an hour or so before sunset.

You can exit the fort from here, down the Hathi Paer (Elephant Path) and through Shah Burj Gate; if you do, look behind to see the fine painted tile work of the outer wall. There are three small museums on site (photography prohibited): the Armoury Gallery exhibits various arms including pistols, swords, daggers, spears and arrows; the Sikh Gallery predominantly houses rare oil paintings; and the Mughal Gallery includes among its exhibits old manuscripts, calligraphy, coins and miniature paintings, as well as an ivory miniature model of India’s Taj Mahal.

To better understand the fort’s history you can hire a guide for Rs 150. In addition, Lahore Fort, Pakistan’s Glorious Heritage, a color booklet by Muhammad Ilyas Bhatti, sells here for Rs 150.

Mosque of Wazir Khan

At the eastern end of the Old City, 250m inside Delhi Gate, is the deteriorating but beautifully tiled Mosque of Wazir Khan. It was founded in the 17th century by Sheikh Ilm-ud-Din Ansari (also known as Wazir Khan), the royal physician and later governor of Punjab during the reign of Shah Jahan. This was once an important centre for training Islamic calligraphers. The small, crumbling mosque has an evocative, deserted feel to it and is worth visiting for this reason alone.

A autorickshaw/taxi from The Mall to this mosque should cost Rs150/Rs60.
Samadhi of Maharaja Ranjit Singh

Outside of the Lahore Fort, the Samadhi of Maharaja Ranjit Singh commemorates the founder of the short-lived Sikh empire, Maharaja Ranjit Singh. The ashes of the maharaja lie in a lotus-shaped urn inside a small brick pavilion. In the same compound is the Gurdwara of Arjan Dev.

Men and women must cover their heads and remove their shoes. Tobacco is strictly prohibited. An autorickshaw/taxi from The Mall costs around Rs80/Rs200.

Jehangir’s Tomb

Standing in a garden on the northern outskirts of Lahore, the elaborately decorated sandstone Jehangir’s Tomb is that of Emperor Jehangir. Built in 1637 by Jehangir’s son, Shah Jahan, it’s believed to have been designed by Jehangir’s widow, Nur Jahan. The tomb is made of marble with trellis decorations of pietra dura bearing the 99 attributes of Allah in Arabic calligraphy. These are inside a vaulted chamber, decorated with marble tracery and cornered with four minarets.

The entrance to the tomb courtyard lies on the right-hand side of Akbar’s Caravanserai, a 180-room resting place for pilgrims, travellers and their animals, built by Shah Jahan at the same time as Jehangir’s Tomb. The western gateway leads to the Tomb of Asif Khan. The brother-in-law of Jehangir and father to Mumtaz Mahal (the lady for whom India’s Taj Mahal was created), Khan died in 1641.

An autorickshaw/taxi from The Mall to Jehangir’s Tomb (or Nur Jahan’s Tomb, described below) costs about Rs350/Rs700.

Begum Shah Mosque

Masti Gate in the north of the Old City leads to the 1614 Begum Shah Mosque, named after Maryam Zamani, the mother of Emperor Jehangir. If you’re keen to visit Heera Mandi it’s advisable to go in a group as it can sometimes be a bit seedy after dark.


Bagh-e-Jinnah(or Jinnah’s Garden) is a historical park in the city of Lahore, Pakistan. It was formerly known as Lawrence Gardens. Today, the large green space contains a botanical garden, Masjid Dar-ul-Islam and Quaid-e-Azam Library situated in a Victorian building. There are also entertainment and sports facilities within the park: an open-air theatre, a restaurant, tennis courts and the Gymkhana Cricket Ground. It is located on Lawrence Road next to Lahore Zoo, directly across from the Governor’s House on The Mall.

Shalimar Gardens

To the northeast of town, about 4km from the main train station, this was one of three gardens named Shalimar Gardens created by Shah Jahan in the 17th century. It’s also the only surviving Mughal garden of several built in Lahore. The Shalimar Gardens are now rather rundown and a far cry from their former glory, but they’re still popular with locals. Many of the fountains were under renovation at the time of research and operate at particular times.

The walled gardens were laid out in a central tier with two smaller and lower ones to either side, with a pool of corresponding size, in keeping with the mathematical principles of Mughal design. Visitors originally entered at the lowest level and walked up through successive gardens illuminated by hundreds of candles housed in chinikhanas (niches).

To get to the gardens, catch bus 4 from the train station. An autorickshaw from The Mall costs about Rs250.

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