The complete guide to Ahmedabad
Once known as the city of mills, Ahmedabad has always had the makings of a grand shopping destination. Of course, there’s more to the city than designer wear and the Gujarati thali. It’s the quintessential mix of medieval and modern which makes it a compelling place to explore.
Places to visit in Ahmedabad
Walking might seem like it’s for the locals, but as a tourist it’s the best way to explore the city as well. If you’re looking for an action-packed city walking tour, the daily heritage walk conducted by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation is a delightful tour. The walk takes you through Ahmedabad’s famous ‘pols’– gated housing societies built more than a hundred years ago.
If you’re a history and architecture enthusiast, nothing could be more mesmerising than the Sarkhej Roza, a mosque dedicated to the memory of the famous Sufi saint Ahmed Khatti Ganj Baksh. Made up of stately domes, sprawling courtyards and geometric jalis—the mosque is a true testament to brilliant architecture.
Unsurprisingly, next on your list is the longest and oldest gateway in Ahmedabad. Teen Darwaza (three gorgeous arched gates), as it is called, was established in 141 AD by Sultan Ahmed Shah, and lies adjacent to the famous Bhadra fort.
Stop. Turn. Go down the stairways of history and prepare to be amazed. Adalaj stepwell is a prime example of Indo-Islamic architecture. Built in 1499 by Queen Rudabai, the structure plunges five storeys below the ground and is an architectural marvel. If you thought being religious was drab and boring, then it’s time for some enlightenment. Located near Kalupur in the eastern part of the old city, the Swaminarayan Temple is a splash of colour in the midst of the city’s sombre look.
This is when you say you’re ready to witness Ahmedabad’s most iconic landmark. Built on the river’s west bank, the Sabarmati Ashram was Mahatma Gandhi’s base from 1917 to 1930 during the long struggle for Indian independence. Gandhi’s spartan living quarters are well preserved and open to curious visitors.
All that history making you poignant? Let’s bring you back to the present with a view of the Sabarmati Riverfront Development Project. Still a work-in-progress this project has re-drawn the banks of the river. The intent is grand: to create a new waterfront with high rises, parks and shops. All through the day, joggers and ramblers occupy the promenade, punctuating the concrete-grey with much-needed colour and energy. As should you.
Art and fashion aficionados wouldn’t dream of missing a visit to the Sarabhai-managed Calico Museum of Textiles, where you can see a remarkable collection of fabrics that encompass India’s various regions across five centuries.
Ahmedabad’s best meals
Ahmedabad is a vegetarian’s paradise alright—Gujaratis love their farsaan, dhokla, theplas and thalis. However,the city that compelled Pizza Hut to open its first strictly vegetarian outlet doesn’t disappoint meat-lovers. We can’t find you a mean mojito to wash it all down with though, but here’s where you should be planning to eat while in the city: Akbari Hotel, Bhatiyar Gali: If you’ve come here expecting to have a relaxing evening, head for the exit. This is a hectic and noisy place serving brilliant grilled meat. So you wait for your meal while the enticing aromas of the gurda kaleji and bheja fry compete with smells from nearby butcher shops.
Agashiye, House of MG, Lal Darwaja
It’s hard to be indisposed to waiters who constantly top up your plate with impeccable Gujarati fare. On the rooftop terrace of the city’s finest hotel is perched Agashiye–which rather unimaginatively means terrace—featuring a menu that changes all day. Better to book a table though: only Lady Luck can get a seat during busy hours.
Green House, House of MG, Lal Darwaja
Every once in a while we all pine for a bit of beauty and greenery. This al fresco restaurant flanked by a lush patch of green is all about slow food. On the menu is a selection of Gujarati fare; we’d recommend you ask for the baked khichdi and panki followed with a scoop or five of the hand-churned kesar ice cream.
If you don’t mind eating on your feet, this is the place to go to when hunger strikes at midnight. Come dawn, it’s a vegetable market that magically morphs into a jewellery street in the afternoon and fades into a street food paradise by nightfall. The chocolate pizza, the Asharfa kulfi and pineapple sandwiches are a treat and what regulars opt for. Thank us later.
Vishalla, Vasna Road
This is where you go if you want to see India’s cleanest village. The moment you step into Vishalla for dinner, you’ll be transported to a charming lantern-lit hamlet with mud floors, whirling garba dancers and folk music–what’s missing are just bullock carts and sugarcane fields. There’s even a Utensils Museum to admire after you’ve wiped your plate clean. A nice little reward if you finish your carrots and peas.
How to drink in Ahmedabad
Foreigners visiting Gujarat, one of India’s first states to go ‘dry’, can now apply online for a temporary permit or on arrival at the airport. The permit entitles the visitor to buy liquor at select hotels and consume it where they reside. Indians, meanwhile, can always ask for a Virgin Mojito with a dash of green lemon please. Envy – it’s not a very pleasant feeling.
Where to stay in Ahmedabad
Hyatt Regency Ahmedabad: With a strategic location in the city centre, the hotel is a short walk from key business and shopping centres, as well as the Sabarmati Ashram and riverfront, making it ideal for business travellers and tourists alike. The House of MG, Lal Darwaza: This stately heritage hotel was once the family estate of a textile baron named Mangaldas Girdhardas. Book the Mangaldas Suite—it was formerly the textile baron’s bedroom and experience life like it once was for the city’s upper crust. Neemrana’s Divan’s Bungalow, Raikhad II: Situated in Ahmedabad’s old walled city, this restored 19th-century mansion has an air of easy elegance. A beautiful heritage home, the property is now a Neemrana “non-hotel”. Perfect for visitors who wish to experience a traditional, unhurried experience.
Where to shop in Ahmedabad
The city sure makes a case for airlines to increase their baggage allowance. From artisanal textiles to the best lehenga-cholis, shopping is never a chore. In addition, leading design institutes, including the National Institute of Design (NID) and the National Institute of Fashion Technology have given rise to a breed of independent designers, whose boutiques and workshops add to the eclectic and genuinely satisfying shopping experience.
Shyamal & Bhumika, NavarangapuraMeet a couple who’ve turned their passion for design into a much-sought after brand. They’re best known for their bridal couture and prêt collection. All crafted with age-old techniques and hand-woven embroideries. A perfect marriage, some would say.
BANDHEJAn iconic shopping destination in Ahmedabad where it originated, this is where you will find vibrant knitted separates, handcrafted linen jackets, shirts and appliqué work. For the past 25 years, Bandhej has worked with local craftsmen to create collections that use traditional techniques for contemporary wear. Well worth a visit, even if you don’t plan on buying anything, to chat with the knowledgeable staff.
Options, Bodakdev Road: On displayAnokhi’s trademark block-printed clothing, Yamini’s home furnishings and handmade leather items from the villages of Kutch all in a store with mud-plastered walls, a water-feeder for birds who drop by, and a pebbled pathway. Keep an eye out for its exhibitions—one showcased Kutchi artisans demonstrating the craftsmanship behind their products. They take their art seriously, this lot.
The Night Market at Law GardenA kaleidoscope of colour blinds you at every corner, the range as well as the crowds are limitless. Traditional wear like chaniya cholis, stoles with mirror-work together with a treasure trove of jewellery and home linen are yours for the taking. Gurjari, Ashram Road: Woven dhurries and carpets, quirky wall art, mirror-worked bed spreads, colourful quilts—there’s a wealth of gorgeous handicrafts at this store. You’ll want to buy them all.
Places to visit near Ahmedabad
When in Gujarat, do as the Gujaratis do, and take off for some rest and relaxation. Take a cue from them when in their city and check out these unmissable spots.
Mount AbuA lovely little hill station, Mount Abu is in the wooded Aravalli Hills, 1,720 metres above sea level, 225km from Ahmedabad. Its colonial past is obvious in the old British-style hospital, the Governor’s residence and church, while a more ancient history gifted it the exquisite Dilwara Jain Temples. The surrounding hills are perfect for a relaxing stroll and the former royal retreats are now lovely heritage hotels.
Gir Forest (347 kms from Ahmedabad)Take a safari through the forest to see over 400 Asiatic lions in their natural habitat. Lodges on the forest’s edges are a great place to bed down so that you’re up early for the morning safari.
PatanThe ancient town of Patan in Gujarat is so well preserved, it’s like time stood still here. Founded in the 8th century, the wooden facades, traditional sculptures and stepwells will have architecture aficionados and history buffs enamoured. The most famous stepwell, Rani-ki-Vav has been recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 2014.
Rann of KutchIt’s one of the most spectacular landscapes in the region with an endless sea of salt marshes. As captivating as the landscape, is the inhabitants of the Rann of Kutch. A large number of villages here specialise in different forms of artistry. Take the Hodka Artist Village—home to a number of artisans who specialise in everything from intricate Banni embroidery to leather work, while the Ludia Village displays colourful mud houses that reflect the culture of its people.
6E and cheeky
Just when you thought Ahmedabad couldn’t possibly have more to offer, there’s some hidden gems to plan for. In search of art inside a cave: Amdavad ni Gufa, an underground art gallery, exhibits works of the late Indian artist MF Hussain. The legendary artist had come up with the idea of displaying his work in a cave-like art gallery, which would provide an unusual back drop to his work while also protecting it from the heat. The interior space is an exquisite maze of curvilinear walls, inclined domes, undulating floors and leaning columns. Far from underground art, but definitely worth a visit. Dine with the dead: The New Lucky Restaurant at Lal Darwaja is eerily built on a century-old cemetery. A dozen graves lie within the walls of the restaurants and are sealed off by iron grills, so there’s no chance of a withered hand reaching out for your maska bun. A safari gone wild: Forget the ubiquitous tiger or its stately cousin. Check into the Rann Riders Resort in Dasada and spot a herd of wild ass, native to the area.
Best time to visit Ahmedabad
Winters are the best time to visit Ahmedabad. Excape the heat between November and February. The city comes alive during the Navratri festival which generally takes place on the first week of October.On the other hand, the monsoon season (July to September) is when the city looks its best.
|Hansol, Ahmedabad, Gujarat 380003||AMD|