Lahore

The Badshahi Masjid

Lahore (Punjabi: لہور; Urdu: لاہور‎) is Pakistan's second largest city after Karachi, and the capital of the north-eastern Punjab province. It is widely considered the country's cultural capital. The heart of Lahore is the Walled or Inner City, a very densely populated area of about one square kilometre. Founded in legendary times, and a cultural centre for over a thousand years, Lahore has many attractions to keep the tourist busy. The Mughal and Sikh legacy survives in the Lahore Fort, Badshahi Mosque and Gurdwara, the Mall is lined with colonial-gothic buildings from the British Raj, and the suburbs of Gulberg and Defence feature palatial mansions and trendy shopping districts.

Understand

Lahore is the second largest city in Pakistan with a population of roughly 8.5 million. The traditional capital of Punjab for a thousand years, it had been the cultural center of Northern India extending from Peshawar to New Delhi. The origins of Lahore are shrouded in the mists of antiquity but Lahore is undoubtedly ancient.

Today, Lahore is certainly worth a visit - but don't come expecting a tranquil city overflowing with history, art and culture - these qualities do exist but are hidden under the surface of a sprawling, traffic clogged and polluted south Asian city. Forward planning is recommended if the tourist is going to get the most out of what Lahore has to offer - the time of year to visit, the choice of hotel, the restaurants to dine at, the art galleries and the shopping areas to frequent are all key to getting the most out of your stay.

Lahore is a relatively friendly and liberal city. There is an old saying, that in every Lahori, there is a Mughal prince. The city has known ages of cultural, intellectual, musical, literary and humanistic evolution, which has consequently led to the fermentation and over fermentation of this rich brew we call Lahore.

History

Legend has it that it was founded about 4,000 years ago by Loh, son of Rama, the hero of the Hindu epic, the Ramayana. Reminiscent of its hoary past are the remains of a subterranean temple attributed to Rama, in the northern part of the Royal Fort. Historically, it has been proved that Lahore is at least 2,000 years old. After Islam came to South Asia, it became a center of learning, and attracted some of the region's greatest mystics, writers and artists. The people of Lahore, when they want to emphasize the uniqueness of their town say "Lahore, Lahore aye" (Lahore is Lahore). Lahore is the city of poets, artists and the center of film industry. It has the largest number of educational institutions in the country and some of the finest gardens in the continent. Apart from being the cultural and academic center of the country, Lahore is the showcase for Mughal architecture in Pakistan. For more than 200 years, beginning from about 1524 AD, Lahore was a thriving cultural center of the great Mughal Empire. Mughal Emperors beautified Lahore, with palaces, gardens and mosques.

Hieun-tasng, the famous Chinese pilgrim gave a vivid description of Lahore, which he visited in the early parts of the 7th century AD. Lying on the main trade and invasion routes to South Asia, Lahore has been ruled and plundered by a number of dynasties and hordes. Muslim rule began here when Qutub-ud-din Aibak was crowned in Lahore in 1206 and became the first Muslim Sultan of the Subcontinent. It waxed and waned in importance during the Sultanate.

However, it touched the zenith of its glory during the Mughal rule from 1524 to 1752. The Mughals, who were famous as builders, gave Lahore some of its finest architectural monuments, many of which are extinct today.

It was Akbar’s capital for 14 years from 1584 to 1598. He built the massive Lahore Fort on the foundations of a previous fort and enclosed the city within a red brick wall boasting 12 gates. Jahangir and Shah Jahan (who was born in Lahore) extended the fort, built palaces and tombs, and laid out gardens.

Jahangir loved the city and he and his wife Noor Jahan are buried at Shahdara. Aurangzeb (1658-1707), gave Lahore its most famous monument, the Badshahi Masjid (Royal Mosque) and the Alamgiri gateway to the fort.

During the eighteenth century, as Mughal power dwindled, there were constant invasions. Lahore was a suba, a province of the Empire, governed by provincial rulers with their own court. These governors managed as best they could though for much of the time it must have been a rather thankless task to even attempt. The 1740s were years of chaos and between 1745 and 1756 there were nine changes of governors. Invasions and chaos in local government allowed bands of warring Sikhs to gain control in some areas.

Lahore ended up being ruled by a triumvirate of Sikhs of dubious character and the population of the city invited Ranjit Singh to invade. He took the city in 1799. Holding the capital gave him enough legitimacy to proclaim himself the Emperor. Descriptions of Lahore during the early 19th century refer to it as a “melancholy picture of fallen splendor.”

The British, following their invasion of Lahore in 1849, added a great many buildings in “Mughal-Gothic” style as well as bungalows and gardens. Early on, the British tended to build workaday structures in sites like the Fort, though later they did start to make an effort to preserve some ancient buildings. The Lahore Cantonment, the British residential district of wide, tree-lined streets and white bungalows set in large, shaded gardens, is the prettiest cantonment in Pakistan. Since Independence in 1947, Lahore has expanded rapidly as the capital of Pakistani Punjab.

All this makes Lahore a truly rewarding experience. The buildings, the roads, the trees and the gardens, in fact the very air of Lahore in enough to set the mind spinning in admiration.A poet has written about this phenomenon one experiences in the environs of Lahore. When the wind whistles through the tall trees, when the twilight floods the beautiful face of the Fort, when the silent canal lights up to herald the end of another chapter in history, the Ravi is absorbed in harmony, mist fills the ancient streets, and the havelis come alive with strains of classical music, the spirit of Lahore pervades even the hardiest of souls.

Read

Our article On the trail of Kipling's Kim, and the book Kim, both begin in Lahore. Both the author, Rudyard Kipling, and his character, Kim, grew up in Lahore.

Get in

By plane

Allama Iqbal International Airport is located about 20–30 minutes from the city centre. Taxis and shuttles are available to take passengers from the city to the airport - with unmetered taxis it is advisable to set the rate beforehand. The new proposed Lahore Mass Rapid Transit System will be linked from different parts of the city to the airport.

The airport is a major hub by Pakistan standards, but not by international standards Pakistan International Airlines with daily departures to the rest of Pakistan, connecting flights into nearby hub airports Qatar, Dubai, Bangkok for onward connections to the Middle East, Europe, North America, and South-East Asia.

By train

The main railway station is located near the city centre. There are routes from all major Pakistani cities. The Samjhauta (Friendship) Express runs twice a week between Lahore and Amritsar, across the border in India.

Apart from that, trains to southern e.g., Multan, DG Khan, Karachi etc. and northern parts e.g., Gujrat, Gujranwala, Jhelum, Rawalpindi, Peshawar etc. run from the main station. It also connects to the western part of Pakistan to Faisalabad and beyond.

Local Stations of Lahore are Shahdara Bagh, Badami Bagh, Moghalpura, Baghbanpura, Harbanspura, Jallo, and Wagah. There is mostly peak hour services operate within these local stations for commuters to Lahore.

By car

A modern motorway connects Lahore to Islamabad, Faisalabad and Peshawar. The motorway is considerably better than the GT road, even though it is longer.

While Pakistani traffic is generally chaotic and highly dangerous, the motorway is very comfortable and one of the few places traffic laws are enforced. Nowadays, new Traffic Police has arrived and is enforcing traffic laws on Highways too.

Taxis are possible to/from the Indian border for ~Rs 400.

By bus

From the Indian border, bus #4 runs to the Main train station for Rs 20.

Minibuses are the cheapest way to get between the larger cities, and the only way to get to some more remote destinations. They can be uncomfortably crowded, so if possible opt for a more comfortable larger bus.

Skyways, Niazi Express and a couple others operate large, comfortable buses to Islamabad, Peshawar, Faisalabad and many other cities and towns from their own bus terminals near M2 Motorway Interchange. These services are rather affordable and convenient way of inter city travel.

Faisal Movers has its terminal on Bund Road. Its main branch is in Multan but in Lahore there is also a sub-terminal of Faisal Movers. Because of safe traveling and refreshment in bus it is very famous these days. Faisal Mover is less expensive than Daewoo but not other traveling companies. This is much comfortable and easy to go from Lahore to all famous cities of Pakistan i.e. Murree, Rawalpindi, Sahiwal, Multan, Dera Ghazi Khan.

Daewoo has its own terminal away from the main bus station on Ferozpur Road near Kalma Chowk. This terminal is only minutes away from famous Liberty Market, Gaddafi Stadium & other popular shopping areas. Clean, comfortable, air-conditioned coaches run regularly between Lahore to all major cities of Punjab, KP and Sindh including Karachi plus many smaller cities and towns such as Islamabad, Multan, Faisalabad and Peshawar. Daewoo is more expensive but much more comfortable and reliable than the competition. Between Lahore and Rawalpindi/Islamabad they have a 'Premium Plus service' which gives you a business class style seat and more space.

Get around

 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 
Daily highs (°C) 19.8 22.0 27.1 33.9 38.6 40.4 36.1 35.0 35.0 32.9 27.4 21.6
Nightly lows (°C) 5.9 8.9 14.0 19.6 23.7 23.4 26.9 26.9 24.4 18.2 11.6 6.8

Check Lahore's forecast at BBC Weather

Lahore is a huge and sprawling city. In the old town walking or a tuk-tuk are your only options. You get to see a lot more on foot, just remember to wear comfortable shoes if you are going to be walking a great distance. Other than in winter, it will be too hot to walk long distances during the day. Sunday mornings are quiet and are a good time to explore.

Locals are generally helpful in providing directions to well-known spots. However, you should still ask two or three people to confirm the address, especially if you are driving. Using the GPS function on your phone can also be helpful.

By auto-rickshaw

Auto-rickshaws / tuk-tuks are open rickshaws with (narrow) rear-facing seats, or with two seats facing forward and two backward. They are handy for moving around in the Inner City, since it's easier to see where you're going. Tourists used to average western road etiquette might be horrified by the chaos on the roads - but it almost seems to work. Qingqi drivers have an unbelievable sense of space, speed and angles and you may well learn to trust them (or not). Rickshaws are the cheapest and, for women, the safest individual forms of public transport. Haggle thoroughly with the driver; if you do not speak Punjabi or Urdu or are clearly a foreigner, try to get a Lahori friend to ensure you don't get ripped off. Try to find a rickshaw with a well-padded seat, otherwise you will come out bruised and aching.

By taxi

Taxis are a rarity on the streets of Lahore - with auto-rickshaws having cornered the market - for a taxi you need to book one by phone. Most taxi drivers and, indeed, rickshaw drivers, carry mobile phones; it may be useful to take a number down if you find someone especially reliable. Do not take taxis in the Inner City, as the streets are narrow and very crowded. Either walk or take a qingqi. Minivans are probably the most dangerous form of public transport, with very rash drivers. Women will find these especially uncomfortable, as they are very crowded. Often women must sit in an undersized cubicle or with the driver, to prevent harassment.

Buses are usually cleaner and more comfortable than minivans, and usually a have a separate seating area for women. Saami Daewoo bus service is an airconditioned bus service operating in different parts of the city.

From the airport - When you arrive at the airport you will likely be besieged with touts offering you taxis and rooms. It's wise not to book anything through them and arrange a taxi yourself to the hotel of your choice. Some of the mid-range and most top-end hotels offer a courtesy shuttle from the airport. If you do use an airport taxi then be firm, agree on a price before you sit (which includes the Rs50 to leave the airport carpark) and pay in advance. Should be around Rs600 to Gulberg, Rs800-1,000 to the old city.

By bus

Metro Bus is a bus rapid transit (BRT) system recently opened and have a separate line. They are air-conditioned, comfortable and have a special sitting for amputees. They are also very cheap and have a price of just Rs.20. There are 27 stations starting from Gajjumata Terminal to Shahdara Terminal and buses stop on terminals every 3 minutes!

Lahore Transport Company buses are also a cheaper means of traveling within the several areas in Lahore. They are also a clean and cheap option. A detailed route map can be found here

See

Lahore Fort from the Elephant Gate. Some say it is named because an elephant can enter, others say the name came from the elephant foot shaped pillars.
Minar-e-Pakistan at night

Wall City

The Walled city of Lahore is one of the oldest cities in the world and comprises the following places for sightseeing.

Gates of Inner City

In the Mughal days, the Old City was surrounded by a 9 meter high brick wall and had a rampart running around it which served as a protection for the city. A circular road around the rampart gave access to the city through thirteen Lahore Gates. Some of the imposing structures of these gates are still preserved.

Mall Road

Other Sights

Check this website Lahore, Pakistan: Traditional and Historical Architecture (free access) for information, plans, and photo galleries of many monuments.

Museums

Lahore Museum

Do

You can also watch movies at the DHA Cinema located in R Block DHA near Defence Public School for Boys. Another good option is the newly renovated Cinestar in Township or the Cinegold in Bahria Town.The Plaza Cinema on Queen's Road is also a good choice.

Buy

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Eat

Lahoris are famed for their food and for their consumption thereof. This is reflected in the array of restaurants in town.

Budget

Every Lahori food item has an expert attached to it.

Mid-range

Lahore has seen the birth of several mid-range cafes recently. Notably Masoom's for cakes, desserts and coffee, and sandwiches at Coffee, Tea and Company nearby. In Defence, Hot Fuzon is another good cafe and a Masoom's franchise.

Chinese food is also very popular in Lahore, but be warned that it is very strongly altered to local tastes. One notable example is Hsin Kuang which sits in a pagoda-like structure near Mini Market and is very popular, but the quality varies. It is renowned for its strong-flavoured soup.

Splurge

Drink

Alcohol is illegal for Muslim Pakistanis. Clubbing is quite popular but not easy to find, majority of the clubs being private and invite only.

Clubs

Sleep

For the visitor there are three broad options of areas in which to stay

These tradeoffs are important because of Lahore's awful traffic, and you want to minimise the amount of (daytime especially) travel in the city. Sunday mornings are very quiet however and this is a good time to visit Mall Road / the old town.

Hotels and guesthouses are the two main options in the city. Hotels are a bit more expensive but usually have western-style toilets and are cleaner.

Budget

There are scores of options for travelers. If you feel like staying on budget there are some fairly crowded and over-priced options near the train station, which is in an overwhelmingly busy and chaotic part of the city - not for the faint-hearted. Westerners will often need to bargain if they wish to receive a fair price.

Mid-range

Splurge

Stay safe

Street crimes in Lahore are not common but special precautions must be taken by visitors.

In an emergency you can call police help line 15 or call Rescue Services at 1122.

Stay healthy

Lahore abounds with excellent street food, but unless you've been on the road for some time and developed an iron stomach, it's always wise to exercise some caution. Look for busier street stalls, especially those in Gowal Mandi (food street), and stick to food that's hot and has just been cooked. Salads can also cause problems - if you must, one of the fancier restaurants in Gulberg is probably a safer bet than eating a salad at a dhaba or street stall.

Bottled water is highly recommended. Some budget places offer free filtered water, but even that is suspect in Lahore.

Medical care is excellent for those who can afford it and, if you can, avoid public hospitals. The Fátima Memorial Hospital is usually a fair bet, with decent rates, good hygiene, and good care.

Doctors hospital on Canal and National Hospital in Defence Housing Authority offers excellent services but at a higher cost.

Farooq Hospital (West Wood Branch) near Thokar Niazbeg offer better Health services and is not very expensive.

Cope

Consulates

Go next

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Monday, February 15, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.