Lucknow – The City of Nawabs

If you are in Patna, you have a very limited choice to plan a weekend trip outside the city. The first few names that come to mind are Rajgir and Bodhgaya in Bihar. However, if you have already been to these destinations, you should try exploring a few popular destinations in the neighbouring states. You can see a list of the best weekend getaways from Patna here.

  • Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
  • Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh
  • Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh
  • Bhubaneswar, Orissa
  • Darjeeling, West Bengal
  • Gangtok, Sikkim
  • Kathmandu, Nepal
  • Valmiki Tiger Reserve, Bihar

Why Lucknow?

As Lucknow is not very far from Patna and was long due on our bucket list, we eventually decided to visit the city of Nawabs to experience its great food and witness rich Islamic architectural beauty. You can read more about the history of Lucknow here.

Before you plan a trip to Lucknow, it is very important to be clear in your head why you are visiting the city. Is it for the food, or to go on a shopping spree at a local Chikankari shop, or to simply appreciate the rich culture, history and architecture of the city of Nawabs? To us, the purpose was very clear – indulging in luxuries and having great food to give ourselves a break from the monotony a routine work-from-home life brings.

How to Reach Lucknow

Rail: The best way to reach Lucknow is catching an overnight train from Patna which hardly takes around ten hours. I would strongly advise you to book a seat in the first-class air-conditioned coach, as it offers complete privacy and is much safer than flight in these Covid times.

Road: The other safer way to reach here is driving your own car as the roads from Patna to Lucknow is quite good. The total distance is around 500 km which you can cover in ten tours.

Taj Mahal, Lucknow

Why Taj Lucknow?

Let me share one useful tip for hotel bookings here. Needless to say, we all compare hotel prices online before we book the cheapest one. However, not many people take that extra step of talking to the hotel directly so as to understand what they can (or cannot) accommodate. As our train was arriving early morning, an early check-in without extra cost was a decisive criterion for booking our stay. When I talked to Hilton, they demanded a full day payment for the previous day, while Hyatt was fine with charging only half a day’s tariff for the previous night.

Surprisingly, Taj Lucknow was accommodating enough to allow us early check-in (subject to availability) which was a life-saver (considering my wife was unwell the morning we arrived). Talking to their in-house reservation executive also helped me get an upgraded room at no extra cost and have a complimentary cake for our anniversary. What else I could have asked for?

As this was going to be our first Taj experience and the trip was not for typical sightseeing, we decided to spend most of our time at the hotel itself enjoying the best of hospitality and luxuries.

Rooms and Amenities

As expected, the room was as luxurious as we could have hoped for with large screen TV (with Tata Plus connection), table lamps, work table, single sofa, tea table, mini bar, ironing board and wardrobe. The bathroom was also a complete package with all amenities, including bathrobes, refreshingly fresh large towels, separately packed toiletries and bath products from Forest Essentials. The standard of hygiene was maintained keeping all Covid norms in mind. The one thing that could have made our stay even more luxurious was having a bathtub in the washroom. However, as this was disclosed to us in advance at the time of booking, we were not disappointed.

The services were also up to the mark and prompt. We availed Taj’s in-house salon which was very clean and hygienic. The lady at the Salon (Mrs Mamta) was also very friendly, engaging and super skilled at her job.

Food at Taj

Needless to say, the food at Taj was really delectable and did not disappoint us. One tip here is always booking your rooms with breakfast included, which is relatively cheaper. I would not suggest including dinner too in the package, as you should explore the local cuisine and delicacies of Lucknow which is quite popular among not only the street food junkies but also great connoisseurs of food. Overall the cost of food here will pinch you a bit if you are not used to paying exorbitantly at premium hotels. Nonetheless, you would thoroughly enjoy the taste without any complaints.

The breakfast we had at Taj was wholesome with a wide spread of options to choose from. The tea, in particular, was surprisingly good, as we did not expect home-style masala tea served in Kulhar (earthen cup) at a five-star hotel. The best part was the live (flute) music which made our breakfast nothing less than a lazy morning date in pyjamas. One small part that I did not like about the breakfast was the sweet dishes which were too sweet for my taste buds.

Nonetheless, we did like their Shahi Tukda (ordered from Taj’s food delivery app Qmin) and Kesar Pista Kulfi Faluda at Oudhyana. Their restaurant Oudhyana needs a special mention for their delectable Awadhi food and musical ambience created by live Gazal performance. The dim candlelight just made it a perfect date night. We tried their Galauti Kebab which was also much better than the one we had in Lebua restaurant the same day.

Coming to the beverages, the products in the in-room minibar, as expected, were more than double the price mentioned on the label, as expected in any premium hotel. Therefore, we decided to buy our beverages for the night from Vina Alkohal which has a good range of selective products from major parts of the world. The shop is chic and the store manager helpful enough to make suggestions to suit your taste and preferences.

Food in Lucknow

If you are in Lucknow for the food, many of the popular food joints located in the old city (Chowk, Aminabad) are not very well maintained, hygienic and accessible by car. You may have to wade through narrow crowded lanes to reach there (amidst this Covid spread). It is only when you do not care much about the hygiene and ambience, you should aim for these places. Our experience at reaching some of the popular eateries in the Chowk area was definitely not great. We also did not like the sanitary conditions there and had to come back without food. Having been disappointed with our attempts at eating in the Chowk area, we took a resort to Lebua restaurant, which I knew from a friend, was good and hygienic.

I must admit, exploring the culinary wit of Lucknow is not possible in a day or two. Therefore, with a promise to come back again to relish its culinary delights, we whispered a fond adieu to the city of Nawabs.


Must-have Dishes in Lucknow

Meats & Breads

  • Awadhi Dum Pukht Biryani
  • Galauti Kebab
  • Murgh Mussallam
  • Raan
  • Bater (Quail) Lababdar
  • Mutton Pasanda
  • Shami Kebabs
  • Kakori Kebabs
  • Shabdeg
  • Mutton Nihari
  • Mutton Korma
  • Kesari Shirmal
  • Warqi Paratha

Sweets & Savouries

  • Black Carrot Halwa
  • Shahi Tukda
  • Phirni
  • Makkhan-Malai
  • Moong Dal Halwa
  • Kulfi-Faluda
  • Marzipan
  • Sweet Gilauri
  • Tokri/ Katori Chaat
Must-visit Eateries in Lucknow

Basic

  • Sakhawat’s (Qaisar Bagh)
  • Dastarkhwan (Kaiserbagh)
  • Tunday Kebabi (Aminabad)
  • Wahid Biryani (Aminabad)
  • Moti Mahal (Hazratganj)
  • Idris Biryani (Chowk)
  • Mubeen’s (Chowk)

Plush

  • Oudhyana, Taj
  • Azrak, Lebua Hotel
  • Royal Cafe (Hazratganj)

QUICK TIPS

  • Check the pictures and ambience of the food joint in advance, if hygiene is a concern.
  • Be sure about the main outlet, as they may have other branches in the city which can confuse you.
  • If you do not eat beaf, please check this at the restaurant.
  • If you have time, try the local non-vegetarian food of Mahmudabad (67 Km from Lucknow)

If you are a big-time foodie like me, you must watch Episode 8 of Raja, Rasoi aur Anya Kahaniyan featuring the best of Lucknow food available on Netflix.

The Last Day

Given this was our anniversary trip with the focus being the stay and company, we could head out to explore the local tourist points and do shopping only after check-out from Taj on the third day. What followed on our last day in Lucknow was a race against time to do some quick Chikankari shopping, see its iconic structures (Bada Imambara, Rumi Darwaza, etc.) and meet a very good old friend from law school.

It was a conscious decision to not carry my Lumix S1 camera this time, as the last time we had a fight on a trip was over the camera and my blind obsession with taking pictures. I knew, my phone camera would not disappoint me at least in documenting this trip and coming up with a blog post you are reading right now.

Quick Tips for Shopping

  • Do not buy any Chikankari stuff in Hazratganj as they are overexpensive here. However, if you do not have time, you can safely buy from Nazrana Chikan or Janpath where the garments are reasonably priced.
  • Buy Chikankari work from Aminabad, as the quality gets better (compared to Chowk) and the price gets lower than in Hazratganj.
  • Do not go by what any cab driver (Uber, Ola or local taxi/auto) suggests you. They often get certain commission for taking tourists to a shop.

Language & Literature

Lucknow is also famous for its shayris and gazals with many notable Shayars and Urdu poets gracing this unique art of writing for centuries. The writing finds its origin in Arabic and Persian language. I have handpicked one of the shayris that describes Lucknow the best.

मासूम सी सुबह हसीन सी शाम होती है  यह लखनऊ है यहां अदब सी रात होती है 

Tip: You can find a collection of such shayris and poems compiled in a book at any book shop at Lucknow railway station. You can also read them here.

Must-see Historical Places in Lucknow
  1. Bada Imambara (1784)
  2. Chota Imambara (1838)
  3. Rumi Darwaza/ Turkish Gate (1784)
  4. Husainabad Clock Tower (1887)
  5. Satkhanda (1837-1842)
  6. The British Residency (1780-1800)
  7. Saadat Ali Khan Tomb
  8. Dilkusha Kothi (1800)
  9. Jama Masjid (1837)

Things to do in Lucknow:

  • Taking a food walk in Hazratganj/ Aminabad/ Chowk
  • Shopping Chikankari work in Aminabad
  • Enjoying a romantic evening walk at Gomti Riverfront Park
  • Witnessing architectural marvels of 18th century

All images are shot on Samsung Galaxy S20FE phone camera and are subject to copyright.

Published by Vivek Kumar Verma

Investment Banking Lawyer | Photographer & Blogger | Connoisseur of Food | Poet

One thought on “Lucknow – The City of Nawabs

  1. Thank you for the rich information.
    Love the clicks.
    I guess camera phones are becoming much better now.
    True about what you said as to our obsession with camera angrying our near and dear one.
    Photographers point of vie is correct and also kith and kin point of view too correct.
    May be photographer in us has to balance both intelligently 😀😀

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