JOIN US IN AN INTERVIEW WITH AREESHA KHAN FROM LAHORE, PAKISTAN!
Areesha, an artist, a teacher and a passionate traveller was born and raised in Lahore. She has been travelling internationally since the age of 7, thanks to her father, and since then there’s nothing stopping her ! She loves to explore historical and architectural places and finding hidden gems of different cities/countries. Till now she has travelled to 33 countries and she cant wait to add more to her list. She really hopes to inspire you all to come and explore her city soon!
There’s a common saying about Lahore “If you haven’t seen Lahore, you haven’t been born!” This city is full of life, festivities, colours, culture, history and the yummiest food found at every nook and corner here! It is the capital city of the province Punjab and since Lahore was under the rule of some prominent Empires, namely, Mughal, Sikh and British, you will see plenty of influence in terms of architecture and historical monuments here. Once a fortified city, it was given the title of the Walled City of Lahore and had 13 gates in total. It is now divided between Old Lahore, where you’ll find all the important historical monuments and gardens from the Mughal Era, old bazaars, food streets and the modern city which now comprises of big malls, residential societies, schools, restaurants, offices and other commercial buildings.
What is the best time to visit Lahore?
Honestly you’ll fall in love with Lahore in the winter or spring season, sometime between November and March. This is when you’ll truly be able to enjoy the Lahori experience, sit outdoors in the chilly winter evenings, enjoying matka chais or some yummy BBQ! While I won’t say its off season, but it is definitely the best one as you’ll be able to avoid the scorching heat of Lahore or the hot and humid monsoon months. If you come in spring you’ll get to see the flowers and trees in full bloom, with bright, cheerful colours everywhere! The canal looks beautiful during this time of the year. Moreover, there are plenty of flower exhibitions going on throughout the city!
Which is the most convenient and favored transport of Lahore?
The most common mode of transportation used by locals has to be a car/motorbike/metro buses within the city. For a tourist, I would highly recommend services like Uber or Careem which are reliable and anyone will be less like to rip you off through that! You can use these to get to the city from the airport as well. Another one is the Metro bus, which is commonly used by the locals and isn’t too difficult either. If you’re in Old Lahore you can choose a rickshaw (something like a tuk tuk) to go to all the tourist spots, all the or the narrow lanes and neighbourhoods.
What are the top three must visit places in Lahore?
While its extremely difficult to choose 3 places, most of them lie within Old Lahore and will of course include Badshahi Mosque. Here you’ll find one of the most iconic photo spots of Lahore! This regal three-domed mosque, with its intricate marble inlay, is one of the most famous landmarks of this city and for all the right reasons. It is also a hot venue for Nikkah (wedding) ceremonies in Lahore, so if you’re visiting during winter season you’ll find plenty of brides all dolled up, along with their handsome grooms. You can see a photo from my Nikkah ceremony too!
Right Opposite the mosque is the majestic Lahore Fort enriched with history where you’ll be transported into the royal Mughal Era and see some of the most magnificent architecture of those times and the amazing Sheesh Mahal, covered in tiny pieces of mirror all over.
Another one not to be missed is the 17th century Wazir Khan Mosque commissioned during the reign of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. The ornate faience tile work and colourful Mughal frescos will definitely leave you in awe! Close to it is the freshly restored Shahi Hammam, a former Royal spa and bath house.
Since Lahore was a walled city, there are still plenty of gates intact such as Delhi, Akbari, Bhatti, Lahori, Raushni Gate and exploring the area around is worth it! Going to all the gates and exploring by foot might be a harder task, you can definitely pick and choose.
What are the best day trips for nature, culture and history from Lahore?
Most of the day trips from lahore would be around 2.5-3 hrs drive one way. You cannot miss out on the Salt Mines and Katas Raj Temple in Kalar Kahar when you’re in Lahore and have plenty of time! The Katas Raj temple is a complex of several Hindu Temples with a lovely pond in the middle which is considered sacred by Hindus.
The Khewra mines are famous for its production of pink Himalayan salt. You can also purchase pink salt lamps which are known for improving air quality and your sleep too! Within the mine tunnels they’ve made replicas of different iconic buildings from multi-coloured salt bricks such as, Badshahi Masjid, Minar-e-Pakistan, a statue of Allama Iqbal, a model of the Great Wall of China and many more.
Hiram Minar is around 1 hr away from Lahore, in Sheikhupura, and is actually a complex built to honour the Mughal Emperor Jahangir’s pet antelope!
If you’re in search for nature and want to get away from the hustle bustle of the city, you can make your way to Neela Wahn or Swaik Lake, both at a 3 hrs drive from Lahore. Swaik lake is 25kms by road from Katas Raj temple. The emerald green waters of this lake will definitely be a sight for sore eyes!
Another one happens to be Chiniot which is about 1.5 hours away. Now not a lot of tourists make their way to Chiniot but it has a beautiful Mahal named Umar Hayat Mahal along with a lovely Jamia Masjid located there.
Which is the most celebrated holiday of the year in Lahore?
This has to be Eid Ul Fitr and Eid Ul Adha and since the past few years even Christmas! The streets, roads and restaurants are glittering in lights and excited shoppers doing their last minute shopping, completing their Eid outfits, buying matching shoes, bags and jewellery. The night before Eid is known as ‘Chaand Raat’ which is an incredibly lively affair, where you’ll find lots of girls and women, laughing and giggling, getting their henna done, buying bangles, taking selfies. The roads are usually choked with traffic so some even avoid going out to the markets. Its the favourite part of Eid though!
What is the most loved local food, savory and sweet of Lahore? Is Lahore a vegetarian friendly town?
Okay if you’re visiting lahore you NEED to know our lives revolve around food! We literally LIVE to eat. You’ll find everything here, from spicy snacks to yummy savoury and sweet delicacies. Most common ones are Paaye, Karahi, Biryani, Nihari, Halwa Puri (a must try for breakfast), Sardar Fish. For snacks you could try the spicy potato samosas, chaats, pakoras, gol gappas, Dahi Bhallay, Cholay Bhature, Laddoo peethee, stuffed potato and mince meat naans. The aroma of all these freshly fried snacks is extremely tempting!
If you’re looking for sweets you’ve got to try the hot jalebis, gulab jammuns, or the chilled firni, kheer and flood and many more. Be warned, you’ll be putting on quite a few kgs before leaving Lahore!
While Lahori’s love meat, you will still be able to find plenty of options even if you’re a vegetarian.
Are there any popular markets in Lahore which tourists must visit?
Lahore has some modern, reasonable sized malls where you’ll find everything under one roof, however, you cant miss out on the colourful local bazaars.
Liberty Market is one of the best markets and a very essential part of every Lahori girl’s life! This is where you’ll find tons of women’s clothing, gorgeous Bridal dresses, fancy shalwar kameez, the bling of artificial jewellery, gold jewellers, unstitched cloth in every material, khussas and what not! It is easily approachable as compared to the rest of the markets mentioned.
Anarkali is one of the old and most popular bazaar which is divided into Old Anarkali, where you’ll find all sorts of yummy food and New Anarkali famous for clothing wear, garments, jewellery, toys at very cheap rates.
Shah Alam bazaar is sprawled across a huge area and mainly comprises of wholesale items. Literally ranging from jewellery, toys to crockery, makeup, lights and much more offered in between small lanes, stalls and alleys! I personally love it because you get plenty of photo opportunities too and discover some really fascinating products!
Which is the local craft or souvenir of Lahore?
My personal favourite are those cute and colourful khussas both for men and women. They’re extremely comfortable and cheap. Some will come with colourful embroidery and pompoms, and others are carefully hand-painted in vibrant colours and truck art motives! Also, ever since the worldwide love for Pakistani truck art, a lot of artists/craftsmen have started making decorative items out of truck art. Don’t forget to buy the bright fluorescent painted mirrors, coasters, cups, cushions etc
Which are the best streets of Lahore worthy of taking a stroll on?
We have a colourful little food street in old lahore which is worth exploring! You’ll also love the brightly coloured doors and wooden carved balconies there. Another one would be the Food street of Old Anarakali. It is beautifully lit up with floral lights and provides a great experience if you want to try some local authentic Lahori food. Another is series of painted walls is located on Maulana Shaukat Ali Road which will provide you with some lovely vibrant instagram shots too! Other than that, if you’re into photography and interested in discovering off the beaten path routes you would love to wander and get lost within the streets of Old Lahore and stumble upon lovely hovels and other gems!
Can you suggest a place from where one can get the best view of the city?
You will find some lovely postcard views of the Badshahi Mosque from one of the restaurants or cafes in the food street behind the Lahore Fort. Or if you’re visiting Wazir Khan Mosque, you will love the mesmerising city view from the minarets!
Would you recommend any local apps for food, transport or hidden gems in Lahore?
Use Locally Lahore for all Lahore related information including, food, shopping, upcoming events, architecture, history etc! It is a brilliant website and app for tourists as well as locals.
Do you want to give any suggestion to tourists coming to Lahore?
Locals here will welcome you with a warm heart and don’t be surprised if they want to take photos with you! It is always good to connect with some local bloggers on social media who could help you out with your trip. Make the most of your time in Lahore and have fun!