Vadodara, or Baroda, as many still call it, is the third-largest city in Gujarat, and is touted as the state’s cultural capital. With a history that has seen Islamic, Hindu and Jain rulers make their mark on the city, there’s enough to please architecture buffs and curious tourists alike. Chief of all is the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, the largest in Gujarat, and the genesis of the legendary ‘Baroda school’ of art. The Maratha’s royal family, the Gaekwads still reside in the Laxmi Vilas Palace, part of which is also open to the public.
It’s no surprise, that Laxmi Vilas Palace tops the list of places to visit in Vadodra. A guided audio-tour allows you to learn about the history of the building, and by extension the Maratha’s kingdom and influence across Gujarat and Maharashtra. Refer to a Vadodra map to guide you through different places. Time your visit so that you’re there as the sun sets, for some stunning photos of the palace’s imposing façade. Within the palace is the Maharaja Fatehsingh Museum, with works from the royal collection, including paintings by European and Indian artists. A number of Raja Ravi Verma portraits of the royal family are a highlight.
Those that want to take in the temples that dot the city, would do well to start by visiting the one built by the engineers. EME Temple, which was constructed by the Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (hence the name, EME) of India and features an aluminium canopy and an idol cast in concrete. Built and maintained by the Indian Army, the temple is open only to Indian nationals. The Nilkanth Dham Swaminarayan Temple is open to everyone though and its opulent architecture and site, on the banks of the Narmada river, will leave you in awe. Other shrines to visit include the Kirti Temple, Tapovan Temple and the imposing Baps Swaminarayan Temple. You can also opt for one of the tour packages from Vadodra for an organised trip.
If you’re looking to engage with nature, make your way to Sursagar Lake, where you can catch a glimpse of the massive statue of Lord Shiva that sits in the middle of the water. Sayaji Baug, the small zoo is also worth visiting, especially if you are in the city with children, as they will enjoy the variety of animal life and the aquarium, planetarium and more that is housed here. Built by Maharaja Sayajirao III in 1879, it’s a royal legacy that the city has made its own.
There’s a range of pan-Indian eateries to choose from if you’re hungry, but skip the Mainland China’s and Barbeque Nation outlets and instead head to these local spots for a taste of Vadodara. Gujarat is a dry state, so there’s no bars, but the food more than makes up for it.
These are some of the best hotels in Vadodra that you can opt for:
If you’re looking for artisanal hand-printed fabric, you must stop at Baroda Prints. They have two branches in the city—at the Salatwala Road outlet, you can watch the skilled printers working on the fabric in the workshop upstairs. Khadi Bhandar is another option for those looking for hand-woven clothing. For keepsakes from your trip that can range from jewellery to fabric to sculptures, make your way to Sejal Handicrafts, which stocks a range of handcrafted products, all made using traditional techniques. When it comes to shopping in crowded lanes, where small stalls heave under the weight of their wares, make your way to Khanderao Market, where you can find fruits, vegetables and flowers. It might not be something you can carry back home, but to get a sense of the market, and produce available, a visit at the crack of dawn is worth it.
Depending on your state of being, you can experience complete opposites while in Vadodara. If you’re seeking to get in touch with your inner peace, make it a point to visit the Aurobindo Ashram, where you can meditate, or peruse their extensive library of spiritual books. Located near Dandia Bazaar, the ashram is open through the day (and for those looking to spend a couple of days in the vicinity, there are numerous hotels in the area). Delta 9, on the other hand is run by the country’s largest paintball operator, and for those looking to spend an afternoon ‘shooting’ at each other, and trying their hand at tactical team games, this is the place to do so! A weekend getaway to Champaner, to see the historic Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park, is also worth considering. Built by Mehmud Begda, the architecture here features a blend of Hindu and Islamic and as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is surely worth a visit.
|Civil Aerodrome, Harni Road, Vadodara, Gujarat 390022||BDQ|