Bhopal is a good mix of the old and the new with a lot of old portions of Bhopal reminiscent of the Mughal influence and the new showcasing the planned development of a modern Indian city. Bhopal is the seat of the Madhya Pradesh Government and is a beautiful mid-sized city in the heart of India. It is said that Bhopal was originally called "Bhoj-pal" after Raja Bhoj, who is attributed with founding the city. It was an important part of the "Bhoj" kingdom with Ujjaini (a city close to Bhopal) being the seat of the kingdom.
The city came to the attention of the world in 1984 for an unfortunate reason: A disastrous release of poisonous gases from the local Union Carbide chemical plant. The victims of this calamity were never adequately compensated.
Raja Bhoj Airport. Raja Bhoj Airport’s new terminal comprises two separate sections for domestic and international flights. The terminal is equipped with all the latest facilities and boasts of a passenger lounge having a seating capacity for 750 people. Apart from that separate entry and exit points have been made for national and international flights. A massive car park having a capacity to park 1500 vehicles has come up outside the airport. Air India and Jet Airways run regular air service linking Bhopal with New Delhi, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Indore,Chennai, Kolkata/Calcutta and Mumbai.
Bhopal is very well connected by rail and is a major hub and exchange railway station for the Central and Western Railway networks. Bhopal has two main railway stations - Bhopal Railway Station in old Bhopal or Habibgunj Railway Station in New Bhopal. Shatabdi express running between Delhi and Bhopal provides an excellent and convenient means to get here. Apart from this, regular multiple trains connect Bhopal to all the major metros in India.
Bhopal is also well connected to the major metros in India through many national highways.
Bhopal has a decent public transportation system comprising of buses, mini-buses, three wheeled autos and the odd looking tempos that are a major pollution concern for this growing city. It is also fairly easy to book a cab/ taxi for a full day to get in and around the city for reasonable rates. Usually, any hotel you choose to stay in will help you get transportation according to your needs. If it's your first visit to Bhopal, the safest thing to do is book a cab rather than try the colorful public transportation system in Bhopal.
Recently, a private firm has plied a number of full-sized buses called Star-bus in the city streets for public usage which are quite safe and fun to travel in. These have started to gain popularity and are increasing in number.
You can easily visit Bhopal by car, and there are many rental car companies available. Radio taxis are available by calling 0755-655 5555
Bhopal is a city rich in heritage and history. Its an amalgam of the old and the new, the rich and the poor, the wide roads of New Bhopal and the narrow "gullies" of Old Bhopal and a mix of planned development on one side with urban sprawl on the other.
There are various old mosques in Bhopal that will give you a glimpse into the Mughal architecture, some of it from before the British raj and the people of Bhopal, particularly the mix of the Muslim and the Hindu population will also give you a glimpse of what makes India tick with so many different religions, different cultures living together.
Some of the mosques and temples that are worth visiting are:
- Jama Masjid.
- Moti Masjid.
- Bhojeshwar Temple (If you have a car, it can be reached on the way back from Bhimbetka to Bhopal, though it might take another 20–30 minutes.). The construction of the Shiva temple began in the 11th century but was never completed. It boasts the largest Shiva-linga in India.
- Takeri (Manuabhan Tekri). A very beautiful place is known as "Takeri". It is near Lal Ghati. Here is a Temple on the hill. To reach temple by the rope way or by the road or stairs. You can see a beautiful view of Bhopal from Takeri.
Its a must to visit the Old city market (chowk bazaar) and walk around the narrow lanes to see how the old city functions and also to get some great bargains on the special arts of Bhopal like the bead work and the hand embroidery that Bhopal is known for.
On the modern side, the Government of Madhya Pradesh has made significant efforts to make Bhopal an important seat for the arts. Bharat Bhawan is an example of this and it is a center for performing arts with many nationally renowned artists showcasing their art through this institute. The institute boasts of art galleries, an outdoor theater, and a library rich with history of Indian poetry and arts.
- Bharat Bhavan. Bharat Bhavan is a world famous museum.
- Bhimbetka (Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka). Bhimbetka is a World Heritage site and has some of the oldest cave paintings of the world. Situated about 40 km from Bhopal, you can go there by bus. Make sure the driver knows where you are going and he will let you off in what first looks like the middle of nowhere. However, clear signs will now guide you through a 3 km walk uphill to the cave paintings. To get back, just wait for a bus at the road and waive. Taxi from Bhopal is of course a more comfortable option. A guide at the cave paintings (strongly recommended) can be ₹150.
- (Museum of Mankind). Another impressive museum; the Museum of Man created by the government of Madhya Pradesh, showcases how the of the state live in their natural form, what they cultivate, the kind of tools they make and utilize in their daily lives etc. It has been created sprawled on a small hill and gives breath taking views of the city.
- Science Center (Regional Science Center). This is a museum of science located at Shyamla Hills. It is a great attraction having science projects.
Finally, no mention of what to see in Bhopal can be completed without talking about the two lakes that are the center of attraction for Bhopal.
- Upper Lake. Upper Lake (Bada Talaab) is a beautiful water body created during the time of King Bhoj. The story goes that the water of Upper Lake cured Raja Bhoj of a skin disease which otherwise remained untreated. Today, you can rent boats, indulge in other water sports related activities and enjoy the splendor of this lake.
- Lower Lake. The Lower Lake (chota talaab) on the other hand was created during the Mughal empire. This lake is separated from the Upper Lake by an over-bridge.
Along the Upper Lake and surrounding hills, the Forest department of Madhya Pradesh has created the biggest animal conservation area in the middle of a city. You can catch tigers, leopards, bears, different types of water animals, birds, deers etc. as you drive around "Van Vihar"
Bhopal is a fairly quiet city when it comes to things like night life, clubs, bars etc. Most of the restaurants close around 11PM but a majority of good hotels in Bhopal will have a bar that is open at least till mid-night. There are also a couple of clubs in hotels like Amer Palace and The Residency in the Maharana Pratap Nagar area where you can see the young of Bhopal dance the night away.
No visit to this city is complete without buying some bead work or embroidered purses, bags, shawls, tunics etc. Also, you can get very good quality fabric (silk, satin, cashmere, pashmina) etc. from the various emporiums run and operated by the governments of the different states of India in this capital city. One visit to Bhopal will give you an exposure into the various kinds of fabric and material, arts and crafts that come from different parts of the country.
To buy some authentic north Indian fabric and shawls head towards Lakherapura in the old city. The Chowk are is also famous for the traditional glittering ladies purses.
Also a visit to New Market is worth a try.
- Aashima Mall. Situated on Hoshangabad Road, Aashima Mall is in the heart of New Bhopal. Has a hypermarket, a 7-screen multiplex and food court.
- DB Mall. Retail hours:Monday- Sunday 10:30 AM to 10:30 PM (Restaurants & Cinemas Hours may vary). It is situated at Arera Hills near M.P.Nagar, in the heart of Bhopal. It has 7 anchor shops, 180 shops, 6-screen Multiplex, 4 star hotel and a food court..
Bhopal, like any other north Indian city offers a rich Indian cuisine to explore. People enjoy eating the sweet - sour and spicy "chaat" in Bhopal. Due to the Mughal influence, Bhopal also offers delicacies like Kebabs, Goat Biryani, Chicken Tikka, Jalebi, Ras Malai etc. The best chicken Biryani can be tasted at Jameel Hotel in old Bhopal .
Sashas restaurant in Indrapuri offers good South Indian Non-vegetarian delicacies.
Hotel Jehanuma Palace in Bhopal has a very good restaurant that serves awesome North Indian delicacies. Hotel Noor us Sabah also has a couple of good restaurants to choose from. As in any mid-sized Indian city, the safest bets for good food and a variety of cuisines are in restaurants that are part of 3-4 star hotels.
Apart from North Indian and Mughlai cuisine, you can also savor Indo-Chinese, Continental and American cuisine in the various restaurants of Bhopal.
If you have a mixed taste, Generationext restaurant is a good option for you. An eclectic mix of cuisine is served, that is likely to suit your taste (and pocket too). There are many other good eating spots in New Market, MP Nagar and Hoshangabad Road area.
Filfora, Koh-e-fiza is a very good place for Mughlai delicacies. Kadai ghost may be best to eat here and biryanis of both made with chicken and mutton are awesome.
In terms of sweets you can try very famous 'Juli' is one of the very famous bangali mithai (bengoli sweet )in old city the original you will get at Jain mithai bhandar
- Chhapan Bhog, new market (straight away towards new market road from MP nagar), ☎ +919826037482. 10 am to 10 pm. Basically a restaurant cum sweets shop
- Hotel Rajhans (Close to Hanuman Ganj police station). Tasty and unlimited Thalis at a very reasonable price.
- Indian Coffee House, New Market.
- Manohar Dairy and Restaurant, Hamidiya Road. Clean restaurant with a very wide selection of food and sweets. Tasty but portions are small. They seem to have a few branches in the city.
For tourists from foreign countries, its recommended that they stick to Mineral Water. If you want to be adventurous, try the sugarcane juice from the street side vendors. If you are lucky, you will not get an upset stomach and will be able to enjoy the rich sweetness of sugarcane.
Alcoholic drinks: Only use hotel bars for this as there are very few pubs in the city and the local bars are not a place to hangout. Only good place other that Hotels is the Tavern Pub at Board office roundabout in M P Nagar.
Bhopal has some good budget as well as three to fours star hotels to choose from if you want to spend a few nights in the city. A couple of hotels in the old Bhopal area are considered Grand Heritage hotels as they have been converted from palaces and residences of the Mughal era to modern hotels. Jehan Numa Palace Hotel and Noor us Sabah hotel fall under this category and staying here will transform you into an era where you will be able to imagine how the Mughal aristocracy lived a life of pure luxury. The customer service at both these hotels is exemplary and you will enjoy your stay here.
Towards the New Bhopal area, Hotel Lake View run by the Ashoka group is a decent place to stay in. Also, hotels in the commercial hub of Bhopal, Maharana Pratap Nagar, like Amer Palace, The Residency, Nisarga etc. serve more business travelers to Bhopal but are certainly good places to consider.
- Amer Palace 209, Zone-1, Maharana Pratap Nagar, Bhopal- 462011, Phone: 0755-272110 (8 lines), 557127/557128
- Hotel Arch Manor, 243 A, Zone 1 MP Nagar (DB Mall Chowraha, NH), ☎ +91 755 2577771-4, e-mail: email@example.com. Check-out: noon. 1800.
- Hotel Ganpati, 256, Zone-2 M.P. Nagar (Near Sargam Cinema, Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh). Pin - 462011
- Hotel Savera Inn Lalwani Compound Hamidia Road-462001 Phone: 07554083366
- Jehan Numa Palace, 157, Shamla Hill, Bhopal - 462013, Madhya Pradesh, ☎ +91-755-2661100, +91 755 4235100, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Lake View Ashoka, ☎ +91 755 2660090, +91 755 2540452, +91 755 2541075, +91 755 235151, fax: +91 755 2660096, +91 755 2660097, e-mail: email@example.com. Shiamla Hills Opp. TV Tower Premises Bhopal - 462013 Madhya Pradesh.
- Nisarga 211, Zone 1, Maharana Pratap Nagar, Bhopal - 462 016, Phone: 0755-272701/02/03/04/05
- Noor us Sabah Hotel, V.I.P. Road, Koh-e-Fiza, ☎ +91 755 4223333, fax: +91 755 4227777, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The Residency 08, Zone -1, Maharana Pratap Nagar, Phone: 0755-5566001-06, 270001, 270002
Bhopal makes an excellent starting point if you want to travel to some unexploited but breathtakingly beautiful places in Madhya Pradesh.
- Khajuraho (383 km): A group of magnificent temples, listed on UNESCO World Heritage List
- Mandu (285 km): A ancient citadel with palaces, mosques and tombs
- Pachmarhi (210 km): A quaint little army settlement, known as the Hill Station of Madhya Pradesh is about 210 kilometers from Bhopal.
- Sanchi (46 km): Famous for its huge Buddhist Stupa listed on UNESCO World Heritage List