Those who think that the age of chivalry and gracious living is past and complain of modern life's monotony need to visit Lucknow. Dotted with grand monuments and famed throughout India for its cuisine, Uttar Pradesh's capital is often unfairly overlooked by travellers. They should know that locals tend to be welcoming, and the city manages to transport you back in time. Lucknow was once home to the great Nawabs of Awadh, a dynasty famously known for its pursuit of pleasure, most of it culinary. Undeniably more graceful and refined than the rest of India, the city where Umrao Jaan is based has absorbed all faiths with grace and tolerance, a mark of the Sufis and their influence in the region.
Lucknow is a multicultural city, which lies in the state of Uttar Pradesh, India. This capital city is a major metropolitan city of India. It is the second-largest city in north, east and central India after Delhi. Lucknow has always been known for its food and culture. It has been the artistic hub and was Nawab's seat in the 18th and 19th centuries. It continues to be an vital centre of government, education, aerospace, finance, pharmaceuticals, technology, design and tourism. This is the City of Nawabs holds significance for courtly etiquettes, beautiful gardens, poetry, music, and fine cuisine.
Best time to visit Lucknow
Lucknow is at its sunny best between October and early April.
How to reach Lucknow
Most spoken languages in Lucknow
For the seriously uninitiated, Tunday Kebabi, in the busy Aminabad bazaar, is run by the grandson of the one-armed Tunday, creator of the galouti kebab. You can also feast on a spread of pulaos, Awadhi kheer and saffron-coloured sheermals. But it is the smoothness of the kebabs that everyone queues up for—with diners travelling from afar. Bargain prices, attentive service and a market atmosphere, add to the draw.
A posh, rooftop restaurant located in Hotel Clarks Avadh, serves authentic Awadhi food. Perfect for winter afternoons, their signature butter chicken is the ideal accompaniment to their pillowy naans. There’s a small bar where you can enjoy brews and views as well.
As is your right, queue up the next afternoon for the local treasure that is the Royal Cafe at Hazratganj. Even if you don’t choose to dine here, try the chaat stand outside, the best of which is the potato basket chaat—stuffed with tikkis, fresh peas, yoghurt and chutney.
To combat a heavy meal, a well-made Lakhnavi paan is the best antidote. Founded in 1805, make your way to Ram Asrey for freshly made samosas and finish with the malai paan.
In a city where most of the food is a legacy of the Nawabs, Coqina is a small experiential kitchen that specialises in Awadhi cuisine. If you’re lucky, the meal gets prepared by a khansama from the Nawab’s kitchen. For those who want to learn about the city’s rich culinary heritage, this is the booking to snag in advance, since it is only open to those that have made reservations.
Every city has its sweet spot. Lucknow has the Sharmaji ki Chai in Aminabad. Apart from the refreshingly milky teas served with loads of nostalgia, their deceptively simple bun-makhan is a delicious conversation starter.
Located in the lobby at Vivanta by Taj - Gomti Nagar, Oudhyana serves some of the most authentic Awadhi dishes—the kakori kebab, the delicious nihari gosht, warqi paratha, sewai ka muzaffar and shahi tukda are all worth ordering. Service is spot-on, and the splendid thandai delivers a kick more pleasurable than the bill.
If you know your chikankari from your chicken curry, Lucknow is the best place to shop for traditional wear. Ever since Judi Dench sashayed up in an exotic Abu Jani-Sandeep Khosla creation to receive an Oscar in 2004, chikankari couture has become a fashion staple in the swish set—at home as well as in the international corridors of fashion.
Vivanta by Taj-Gomti Nagar A 9-km stroll from Bara Imambara, this genteel hotel sits on 10 hectares of gardens in a domed, colonial-style building. Graceful columns, ornate tapestries, and lush lawns conjure up a time gone by, one that’s endearingly preserved here. Served by two restaurants and a bar, which will no doubt leave you in a glorious food coma, you can always recover from the day's activities at the welcoming pool.
Fairfield by Marriott, Gomti Nagar A lot is going for this hotel: a contemporary, central accommodation that offers excellent value, without compromising on the needs of the business traveller. Situated in the convenient Vibhuti Khand business district and just a short distance from the Indira Gandhi Pratishthan convention centre, guests can take in panoramic city views while working out in the hotel’s rooftop fitness centre.
Lebua Lucknow, Mall Avenue Had it with soulless hotel rooms? With its artfully designed rooms, the Lebua is all about being less stuffy. This was originally a quaint heritage bungalow built in 1936. The whimsical architecture reflects the art deco style of the early 1920s. All 41 rooms showcase the Nawabi heritage of living spaces flowing into courtyards making the property all the more welcoming. In a city that doesn’t quite throw up many boutique hotel options, staying here is more than delightful. There are also many resorts in Lucknow that you can choose to stay.
It's another splendid day in Lucknow so park your cynicism at the gate before visiting La Martiniere School, situated on the marg named after it. Initially built by Frenchman Major General Claude Martin as a palatial home, it's a distinguished boarding school where pop legend Sir Cliff Richard and many other famous personalities studied. The eccentric facade is a sensory overload with its throwback to colonial architecture and its many turrets and gargoyles grinning in appreciation at students rushing by.
Lucknow doesn't go big on molecular cuisine or boho boutiques. But, if you know where to look, the capital is full of curiosities. The Bara Imambara's Bhool Bhulaiya or the labyrinth is where rulers of the city, to guard themselves against rebellious soldiers, instructed the artisans to build it in a way that would enable the slightest whisper to travel through several turns and twists of the corridors. Rumour had it that the underground tunnels could take you to Delhi (sadly the tunnels were closed after some mercenary British soldiers went in search of rare diamonds and never surfaced). So, if you genuinely want to lose yourself in the beauty of Lucknow, you know where to go.
Is there anything better than a grassy picnic spot with crocodiles for a company? Make your way to the Kukrail Reserve Forest & Gharial Rehabilitation Centre. Throwdown a blanket and while away the afternoon, watching blackbucks, rare avian species and crocodiles.
Places to hang out in Lucknow at night are many and enough to ensure that you are never short of things to do even when the sunsets.
Lucknow city also has a late-night entertainment arrangement for the movie buffs. Many theatres in the city offer to watch a movie late in the night. Be it a Bollywood masala movie or a Hollywood thriller, the latest of both the arenas are available in Lucknow.
Celebrated during November - December, the Lucknow festival is significant in this place. The unique and rich culture of Lucknow is depicted in this festival. The Lucknow Festival is celebrated for ten days. In these ten days, Lucknow wears an elegant and royal look, and the whole city comes alive with joyous celebration.
The beautiful festival of Vrindavan Sharadotsav is celebrated every year in October. Though it is not primarily celebrated in Lucknow, people over here also participate in celebrating this festival that is dedicated to Lord Krishna.
Holi is a celebrated festival all over India with great enthusiasm. . Many sweets and unique dishes are prepared for this occasion, and people indulge in all sorts of festivities and enjoy themselves.
Diwali is an important festival in Lucknow and is celebrated by people all over the city. It is rejoiced to mark good over evil when Lord Rama killed the demon king Ravana and returned to his kingdom in Ayodhya. People lit lamps/diyas outside their homes and welcomed Lord Rama with a brilliant fireworks display.
Dusshera is an essential festival of Lucknow, and it is celebrated with great enthusiasm. On this day, Ravana and his brothers' monumental effigies are put up in various parts of the city and are set afire.