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Updated: 2nd October 2019
With only one short day to rush around Lucknow, how much of the city could I see thanks to overpriced Rickshaws and a general sense of making the most of this flying visit to India?
I was here in Uttar Pradesh for the Kumbh Mela festival, which had turned into a trip of challenges and mistakes, including the 12-hour bus ride that meant we arrived in Lucknow hours after we had intended to. The Kumbh Mela is the largest human gathering on earth, and it was quite the experience.
Exhausted and suffering a bout of Delhi belly, Vicky and I soldiered on in exploring the best of Lucknow with just the one day we had in the city, jumping between driver to driver on Rickshaws and happily paying the over-inflated prices to see the sights quickly. It’s a city known for its food and architecture, and you can see a surprising number of sights in a short amount of time. Let me take you through them.
How to get to Lucknow?
Lucknow is the capital of the Uttar Pradesh Region, so it has regular domestic flights connecting with Delhi and other parts of India. It also accepts a few international flights from the likes of Oman, Dubai and Bangkok, among others. There are buses from Delhi, around 9 hours, or Agra if you are coming from the Taj Mahal – a train station is also in Lucknow.
Do you need a visa?
Important! Don’t forget you do need a visa for India on a UK passport, and although you might hear about a visa on arrival, don’t fall foul like my friend Vicky did when she turned up at Gatwick and got turned away from her flight, luckily managing to join us a day later than she had hoped.
You do need to apply in advance for the e-visa, so check for the right type of Indian visa when planning your trip. To be honest, it’s one of the more confusing and difficult visas I’ve applied for. While you can do the process on the official website, I have used an agency in the past which can sometimes help to expedite the process, too. So, you may want to consider using the supported Indian visa application for a few £ more if you want help with the process.
Where to go after Lucknow?
Whatever you do, do not miss the chance to visit Varanasi while you are in Uttar Pradesh. Even if you just spend one day in Varanasi, you’ll be amazed by how special this spiritual destination is!
Where to stay in Lucknow?
I stayed in the Hyatt Regency (as this was a work trip), which, although a bit pricey, was a beautiful hotel. If you want somewhere more budget-friendly, there are a few hostels in Lucknow. One of my friends stayed at Poshtel Lucknow and said it was perfect for the price.
What to see in Lucknow?
Okay, there are plenty more things to see in Lucknow than what we managed to explore, but here are some great starting points, including a few that I haven’t seen featured on a lot of Lucknow things-to-do lists.
One of the main attractions in Lucknow doesn’t even require you to get out of the Rickshaw to witness it.
The Rumi Darwaza is a grand entrance gate to the city which dates back to 1784. Vehicles pass through it as they move around the chaos of the wide roads in the old centre, and it’s a much-loved and intricate feature in the heart of Lucknow.
Ghanta-Ghar Clock Tower
The clock tower is not far from Rumi Darwaza, and to be honest, a lot of the main attractions in the centre are here. We didn’t really have the time to explore the vast open space where the tower sits, but we just flew past it on a rickshaw.
For me, the most beautiful and striking building in Lucknow was the Bara Imambara, a vast and sprawling building known for its maze and ornate details. The Mosque is absolutely stunning, and it’s well worth paying the extra fee to use your camera and capture it.
To be honest, I didn’t actually visit for this part, but more because I wanted to see the beautiful old mosque and lush green gardens.
The Residency, Lucknow
The sprawling Residency complex harks back to the colonial times of British forced control in India and was used as a refuge for these citizens during the revolt of 1857.
The Chota Imambada was another quick photo stop we made, although I have since heard that inside is very spectacular with lots of chandeliers so it’s well worth trying to visit outside of prayer times if you can.
The outside of the building is pretty for sure, but it certainly wasn’t as beautiful as many of the photos I had seen online made it out to be.
Food in Lucknow
Now, I’d heard a lot about the Mughlai food in Lucknow and couldn’t wait to try these dishes, which come from the Mughal Empire and combine central and south Asian dishes.
Sadly, because of our delay before, we didn’t really have the time, but my friend Janet went on a food tour of the city and said it was fantastic, so take a peek at her Lucknow food video for more.
The number of Mosques in Lucknow is impressive, and each one has its own unique design. The Jama Masjid wasn’t open for visitors, but we walked around the outside and admired the ornate design of the architecture.
Mushir Zadi Mosque
I really liked this Mosque, but again, it wasn’t open for access. Still, the gardens around it and the other buildings make for a really relaxing spot and offer excellent photography opportunities.
The gardens are perfectly manicured, and there were a few gardeners there on our visit planting new flowers and keeping the current ones looking fresh – in a city that was quite crowded and defined by its buildings, it was a sweet spot to stumble upon.
There are loads more places I wish we had been able to see during my one day visit to Lucknow, but if you also end up here short on time, I hope this gives you an idea of what you can cram in on a self-guided Lucknow tour!