While life wants to treat you & you look for a reason to celebrate with perfect getaway, nothing can beat the charm of Majestic Shimla. Since It’s my birthday and so after a bang with family at midnight, my husband comes with a surprise & in addition with his flattering phrase – “queen of my heart deserves to be in the queen of hills” made me mesmerised. We left early morning to be in the lap of SHIMLA – Queen of Hills at an altitude of 2,205 mtrs.
Since many years Shimla is the most popular holiday destination of today due to its rich heritage and natural beauty. Having its colonial past with lush green surroundings of pine and oak trees. Consequently Shimla is my favourite child among all the other hill stations. Each time my visit here comes with a curiosity to know more about its history. Furthermore why it always make its entry to the itinerary of many foreign tourists. I call it Mesmerising Shimla and best holiday destination
In 1864, Shimla was declared as the summer capital of British India, succeeding Murree, northeast of Rawalpindi. After independence, the city became the capital of Punjab and was later named as the capital of Himachal Pradesh. Since then the influence of British presence and their architecture is glaringly evident in its buildings.
To start with here are some leading attractions of Shimla, which necessarily find a place in any tourist’s itinerary.
HERITAGE ATTRACTIONS OF SHIMLA:
Many tourists are not aware of this heritage attraction and mostly overlook it. This time I saw a left arrow upwards mentioning Rothney Castlea adjacent to Shimla Library. My study about this place comes with the findings that this place was the home of Allan Octavian Hume. He was the British Civil Servant who founded the Indian National Congress in 1885. The architecture of the place is one of the finest with the intricate glass and wooden work.
Situated on The Ridge, its the finest piece of Neo-Gothic architecture and a prominent landmark in Shimla. This church is the second oldest church in India after St John’s Church in Meerut. With 5 fine stained glass windows, a pipe organ, a clock tower and a rich collection of ancient scriptures, Christ Church stands out for its grandeur. The windows represents the Christian virtues of Faith, Hope, Charity, Fortitude, Patience, and Humility. And the pipe organ is largest in the Indian subcontinent.
Shimla’s Viceregal Lodge built in the Jacobethan style was designed in 1888 by British architect Henry Irwin. First of all this place served as the residence of the British Viceroy of India. Historically, Viceregal Lodge is the place where Shimla Agreement was sealed. It houses some of the most ancient articles and photographs of the British rule in India. In the Year 1965, Dr. Radhakrishnan extablished The Indian Institute of Advanced Study in this lodge. This place is also known as Rashtrapati Niwas.
Scandal point is where the Mall road joins Ridge road on the west side. As the name suggests, here the then Maharaja of Patiala had eloped with the daughter of the British Viceroy. This had led to the Maharaja being banished from entering Shimla by the British authorities. He countered the move by setting himself a new summer capital – Chail, 45 kms from Shimla.
SHIMLA STATE MUSEUM:
The Shimla State Museum is one of the popular attractions among tourists is at the top of Mount Pleasant. Also known as Himachal State Museum and Library, it was built in the year 1974. The main aim behind setting up this museum was to conserve the history, tradition and vivid culture of Shimla. Here various artifacts are preserved and displayed like the antique books, coins, paintings, jewelries and splendid handicraft items. Since then, this colonial style building amidst marvellous lawns in itself is an inspiring sight. It gives you an in depth view of the city’s glorious past. You can visit this museum between 10:00 am to 05:00 pm from Tuesday to Sunday.
Named after the famous Gaiety Theater of London, this building was built in the year 1887. Originally designed in Gothic style as the 5 storey Town Hall by Henry Irwin. This famous Landmark of shimla is nestled between The Mall road and Ridge. This building has been a major cultural center of Shimla since the 19th century. It Was Britishers’ Favorite Hang-out in Shimla. Since then it continues to hold plays, exhibitions and other events with the purpose of encouraging art and culture. As a result Gaiety Theater still remains a point of attraction for both tourists and locals.
TOURIST ATTRACTIONS OF SHIMLA:
The town’s lifeline, the Mall Road is the main street in Shimla. It’s the centre of all activity. the Mall road is one level below The Ridge. In the evening, the locals and tourists are often strolling on this road enjoying various activities. Here you will find amazing cafes, restaurants, branded showrooms and other small shops. Book lovers will surely feel blessed to have three book shops including one that sells antique books. Consequently Himachal emporium here is a special attraction among foreign tourists.
Located between the Observatory Hills and Jhakoo hills, the Ridge is the Soul of Shimla. The famous library, church, statues of Mahatma Gandhi & Indira Gandhi is also situated here. Horse riding is one of the signature indulgence among kids and adults. The Ridge is also where Shimla’s fairs, festivals and functions are held. This time I enjoyed the Health Exhibition organised by The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) in association with Ministry of AYUSH.
Situated 2 kms above Shimla, Jakhoo Hill is the highest peak here offering scenic view and snow capped Himalayan Mountains. The 8,000 ft Jakhoo Hill is a famous tourist attraction that is visited by nature lovers and pilgrims as well. It is home to the ancient Jakhoo Temple, which has a large statue of Lord Hanuman, its chief deity. Located at an altitude of 8500 feet above sea level, the 108 feet tall statue has sensors to drive away the birds. From atop, feast your eyes on splendid views of the Shivalik mountain range.
KALI BARI TEMPLE:
In all honesty this temple has its own magnetism and tranquillity that each time I visit Shimla, my feets drag me to this place.The temple was built in 1845. It is dedicated to the goddess Kali who is also known as Shyamala. It is believed that in an ancient temple of Shimla, the goddess Kali existed, near Rothney Castle on Jakhoo Hills. In addition, a wooden image of Goddess Kali is worshipped in the temple.
Now this is the most cutest attraction among tourists where adults seems to be equally exited to take a ride through the mountains from Kalka to Shimla on a toy train. The 96 kilometre route is most famous for the scenic vistas that accompany you through the journey that takes you over 864 bridges and 102 tunnels, including the longest one at Barog.
THE MALL ROAD IN SHIMLA:
Mall Road of Shimla is buzzing with many small shops in addition of many showrooms where you can shop from local stuff to high-end brands. I would like to recommend trying some local shops and a couple of gift items shops to buy souvenirs and handicrafts. Gaindamull Store situated here has some exciting variety of Teas including chinese teas and its a must try. A small shop named Honey Hut, kinda a cafe offers some really nice organic flavoured honey.
After taking few steps ahead from Krishna Bakery on the west of the Mall, there is a small sloping road that will take you the lower bazaar also known as Sabzi Mandi, is extremely chaotic yet full of life. This place offers you cheap options to buy namely woollens, himachali caps, sweaters, shawls, gloves, fur-sleepers and many other local items. Here you can also shop for Dry Fruits and Varieties of medicinal herbs.
While taking steps on the left of The ridge towards the Indian Post office, don’t miss a slope leading to Tibetam Bazaar. Here you can find 76 shops runned by Tibetan refugees offering quality woollen clothes, shawls, jackets, tibetan accessories, antiques and feng-shui items. I found the market overly priced and therefore require your bargaining skills. I ended up buying mufflers for gifting purpose.
If you have interest in some wooden work then you can head to Lakkar Bazaar , on a narrow road adjoining the Ridge. Here you are having various wooden products including walking sticks, toy, figurines, key-chains, pots, candle stands, kitchen ware, Wall clocks and spoons that make for some great souvenirs to take back home. .
Run by the Himachal Pradesh Government, Himachal Emporium in Shimla boasts of beautiful locally made handicrafts that too at an affordable price. The emporium is at 3, the Mall offering you enough options for touristy besides shopping. When here you can shop for Kinnauri Shawls, woollens, jewellery and pottery items. Timings of the emporium is from 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM except sundays.
MUST TRY EATERIES:
My every visit to shimla is incomplete without having visit to this small chinese fast food corner. Since Dim-sum offers the most appetizing veg and non-veg chinese food. For Chinese food lover this place is the all time favourite and a must stop-over like mine each time visiting Shimla. Don’t forget to try their Veg/Non-Veg Clear soup. The décor is minimalist that can accommodate only 20 to 25 people at a time.
This restaurant is at Shimla’s prominent Ridge, is my favourite and popular among the foreign tourists too. This place has colonial interior and an option of outdoor seating. Sitting inside you can enjoy the Ridge View and its outdoor seating offers an amazing valley view. This place offers lip-smacking Indian, chinese, Continental, Italian and Himachali Cuisines. All in all its a must visit Restaurant.
Shimla is also popular for its sumptuous bakery items. Trishool bakers next to Gaiety theatre, Krishna bakery near Lift, Beekays at the Scandal point, are famous for fast food such as burger, patties, pastries and much more.
SITA RAM & SONS:
At Rs.40 per plate you should not miss the best channa bhatura of the town, sold at Sita Ram and Sons in Lakkar Bazaar. Perhaps it’s not bhatura they call it luchi, which Celebrities like Anupam Kher, and Preeti Zinta have savoured through their years in the town. Chana Aloo Tikki, Chana Pav, Praati Pav is also a part of their menu, but what attracts the crowd along with its locals is The Chana-Luchi.
INDIAN COFFEE HOUSE:
This Shimla institution is like an old boys’ club with its ageing leather seats, uniformed waiters and blackboard menu. This place hasn’t changed a bit in the four plus decades. Always packed with chattering locals for much of the day, it’s the most atmospheric place in town for breakfast, cheap dosas and steaming filter coffee. You must also try its Mutton Dosa and French-Toast with an omelet.
Located at the Scandal Point, It is a nice little restaurant with lovely ambience, fast and courteous service and of course, economical yet nice yummy Indian, Arabic and chinese food. Yet this restaurant provide adequate seating arrangements for large groups even though it attracts huge crowd especially at night.
MEHRU’S SWEET SHOP:
This sweet shop is in Lower Bazzar, a few steps from Sher-E- Punjab restaurant on The Mall. You will find this place always because of sweet-toothed crowd. Probably this is one of the oldest and the most famous sweet shop in Shimla town. It specializes in all kinds of sweetmeat in Desi Ghee and is famous for its doodh jalebi, gulab-jamun and rasmalai. Mehru’s sweetmeats are mouth watering, tempting and most noteworthy.
LA PINO’S PIZZA:
As the name suggests La Pino’s offers authentic Italian Cuisine.Salads, garlic bread, pizzas, pastas and mexican tacos are all on the menu. If you’re vegetarian then Hot Passion, Veg Tamer, La Pino’z Paneer and Mexican Salsa are few good bets while the non-vegetarians can opt from Chicken Exotica, Spanish sizzle, California pizza and Texas BBq’ed. The drink menu is different and offers a variety of beverages. If you like their food, just write your message on the tissue paper and paste it on their bulletin board.
Apart from above and many more other eatery joints you have like Domino’s, Sagar Ratna, Pizza Hut, KFC on the Mall itself.
In short Shimla is a place that needs many visits before you could claim that you have indeed seen it. Seems like Shimla is the only destination that open its arms to welcome you all around the year. Abounding in natural beauty, easily accessible Shimla by road has its own distinct character. Excited to explore this Queen of Hills, Book your travel here.