Lahore; the cultural capital of Pakistan

A Visit to the Iconic Lahore

Lahore is the second largest city and the cultural capital of Pakistan. With a population of roughly 8.5 million people, the capital of Punjab province, it is known as the heart of Pakistan. It has been the cultural centre for over hundreds of decades, renowned for the Mughal and Sikh legacy in the central Lahore together with the colonial gothic buildings from the British rule. It is the city of artists, poets and the centre of Pakistani film industry. Known for its delicious cuisine, friendly people, mind-blowing architecture and royal history, a visit to the iconic Lahore is definitely worth it. Which is why they say ‘ Lahore Lahore Aye’ means ‘Lahore is Lahore’.

My sister and I went to Lahore for a quick trip. We wanted to discover the historical sites of Lahore within the 48 hours time we had. So, we decided to cover the iconic sights of Lahore during the days and food streets at nights. Here are my favourites that you shouldn’t miss on your visit to Lahore:

Iconic Sights of Lahore

Whether you’re visiting Lahore for a very short time or staying here longer to enjoy this liberal city; the iconic sights of Lahore must not be missed at any cost. Below are the cultural sights of Lahore: –

1) Badshahi Mosque

The Badshahi Mosque is the iconic image of Lahore which is why we decided to start our trip from there. We arrived there at 8am sharp to avoid the crowds, but we soon figured out that there isn’t much crowd in general. Locals would come in during the prayer hours and only a handful tourist. Which is exciting for the fact that you can take the pictures without someone photobombing you in the background. At the same time, it’s a bit disappointing why there’s so less tourism. That place must be filled with thousands of tourists cause it’s really worth visiting. So below are some of the facts about the Badshahi Mosque: –

Built by the Emperor Aurangzeb in 1671 as the Mughal’s final architectural fling, decorated with carved red sandstones, this mosque is a prime example of Mughal architecture. It remains the largest grand mosque of the Mughal Era and the second largest mosque in Pakistan. It is designed with huge gateways, four stunning tall minarets, three huge marble domes and a giant open courtyard that could hold up to 100K people.

The Emperor Aurangzeb chose an architectural plan that was very similar to that of Shah Jehan’s plan for the Jama Mosque in Delhi (you decide), however, he built the Badshahi Mosque on a much larger scale. Both mosques have a very similar architecture, from the red sandstone carving to the white marble inlay. To most of the visitors, both mosques look like twin brothers.

This beautiful architecture was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993. Later in 2008, the mosque’s main courtyard was renovated using the imported red sandstones from Jaipur in the Indian State of Rajasthan which was the original Mughal source. Today, a visit to Lahore without admiring the beauty of Mughal architecture would be incomplete. Plan to easily spend a few hours in the mosque and take some nice pictures of this iconic sight of Lahore. 

Point to be noted here that no professional photography is allowed inside the mosque. You are allowed to take pictures for personal use, but don’t carry chunky cameras cause the security guards wouldn’t let you taken them inside. We had to come in the second day for that reason. I mean, you would have probably noticed that I am wearing two different coloured outfits in the photos above. Yes, I had to come in the second day as well.

Read what UNESCO says about the Badshahi Mosque Lahore as one their World Heritage Sites here and don’t forget to read further about this landmark on your very own Lonely Planet Guide.

2) Lahore Fort

In the same historical centre of Lahore, next to the Badshahi Mosque is the Lahore Fort, which was our second stop. The Lahore Fort (or Shahi Qila) is a historical fortress spread over more than 20 hectares of area in the heart of old Lahore. The first record of a fortified structure at the site goes back to an 11th century mud-brick fort. The infrastructure of the latest Lahore Fort dates back to 1566 during the rule of Emperor Akbar, who has presented the fort with a syncretic architectural style that featured both Islamic and Hindu motifs. Due to its historical importance, It was entirely rebuilt in the 17th century during the Mughal Empire. Emperor Shah Jahan later added luxurious marble with inlaid Persian floral designs, while the fort’s grand and iconic Alamgiri Gate (that faces the Badshahi Mosque) was constructed by the last of the great Mughal Emperors Aurangzeb.

When the Mughal Empire had fallen, it was used as the resident of the founder of the Sikh Empire, Ranjit Shah. It then passed on to British Colonialists after their victory over the Sikhs in February 1849. Later in 1981, Lahore Fort was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its mind-blowing reserve of Mughal monuments.

Aim to spend around an hour and a half at the Fort. Entrance Tickets are really cheap and cost around £0.20 per person. Which is why, you shouldn’t miss it.

Read what UNESCO says about the Badshahi Mosque Lahore as one their World Heritage Sites and don’t forget to read further about this landmark on your very own Lonely Plant Guide.

3) Shalimar Gardens

We heard a lot about the gardens in Lahore, so we decided to visit one of the most famous gardens in Lahore during the sunset to admire the golden hour views. Due to the construction work going on around the garden, the entrance might seem a bit sketchy. Expect a lot of dust in the area, but don’t let that bother your visit.

Shalimar or Shalimar Gardens is a massive garden complex located in central Lahore since the Mughal Empire and are now part of the tourist attractions in Pakistan.

These gardens were laid out as a Persian Paradise Garden intended to create a representation of an earthly utopia in which every human spends time in surreal harmony with all the beautiful elements of nature. These gardens were constructed in early 1640s during the rule of Emperor Shah Jahan. They were built by the royal Mughals as a venue for the entertainment of their guests, although a large portion was open for the general public. Later in 1981, due to it’s connection with the Mughal Era and interesting history, the Shalimar Gardens were listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Shalimar Gardens is a truly sensational place and we loved it so much. However, we were a bit disappointed to hear about the low budget for the renovation of these gardens. We have enhanced the image above with several flowers picturing how it should actually look. In reality, those red and pink flowers doesn’t exist, though the gardens are quite green.

Lahore offers the largest number of educational institutions and the finest Mughal architecture in Pakistan.  It is a relatively friendly and liberal city. They say that in every Lahore, there is a Mughal prince, so you have to find that out in person on your visit there. Since Independence in 1947, Lahore has rapidly expanded as the capital of the cultural Pakistan.

A visit to Lahore would truly be a rewarding rewarding experience. Everything from the buildings, roads, greenery and the Mughal architecture is enough to set the mind spinning in admiration. Besides, you would be surprised to know that later this year, Lahore will be renowned as the safest city in the South East Asia due to the huge budget spend on the public safety and the law enforcement in the city.

We loved our stay in Lahore and hope that you’ll enjoy it as well. Don’t forget to share your travel pictures on my Instagram, use hashtag #LAVOYAGE

See you at other destinations around the world!

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