Shimla-What to do for the perfect holiday.
It was once the summer capital of the British in India, and it still boasts of colonial architecture, making it look like a quaint European town. I was here for a very short time, and my absolute favourite thing to do here was just to walk about admiring the architecture.
In Shimla, you can choose to do a lot and keep marking things off your list, or just relax, walk about the Mall Road, admiring the views, and architecture, and you would have whiled your time away in absolute bliss.
Here, the Mall Road is everything, so everything that you need to do or see is connected to the Mall Road, and you need to go nowhere else!
1. The Mall road
The main street in Shimla, where all the shops, restaurants, and government offices are located. It was constructed during the time of the British, which has resulted in a walking road lined with beautiful, colonial buildings. All the buildings are now used commercially, housing restaurants and shops, though it looks like a line of houses in a street in London.
Grab a softie (soft serve ice cream), or more (I had 2 in an hour), and walk about doing nothing much- yes, I love doing that!
Also, Mall Road is the most crowded place to be when you are here, as is evident from my pictures. It just wasn't possible for me to take a picture without people in the frame. Though the architecture is worth hosting through the crows for a little while, I did get a little uncomfortable there after a while, and would have preferred some peace and quiet with beautiful views for company.
2. The Ridge
The part of mall road that is fenced with black painted wrought iron. It grants beautiful views of the rest of Shimla, and is a great vantage point for pictures of the colourful buildings amidst the lush green mountains, that everyone would have seen of Shimla.
3. Scandal Point
The point at the intersection of the Ridge and Mall road, where the Maharajah of Patiala eloped with the daughter of a British Viceroy. The Maharajah was consequently banished from Shimla, leading to him setting up a summer capital in the nearby town of Chail.
Now as a landmark, there is a statue of Lala Lajpat Rai, a prominent freedom fighter of India, set up at that spot.
In the picture below, you can see the statue of Lala Lajpat Rai in the background, if you look closely.( I did not know about scandal point at the time that I took this picture)
4. Christ Church
Christ Church built in 1857 is on Mall Road, and is a beautiful testament to the British era in Shimla, with its stained glass windows and arched doorways. I am told that this church has been featured in many Bollywood movies, though I’m not sure which ones.
5. Walk the Mall Road at Night
The mall road at night is lit up, and even more crowded than it is during the day I feel, but the crowds give this quaint street the vibes similar to that of a carnival. There is music playing in the background from somewhere, people still eating ice cream, and buying snacks from street vendors- it is just a fun place to be!
6. Viceregal Lodge
It was the residence of the British Viceroy of India, and was built in 1888
7. Rothney Castle
Home of Allan Octavian Hume, a British civil servant, who founded the Indian national Congress. It is located on Jakhoo hill. It isn’t maintained very well, but it is worth a visit.
8. Ice Skate at a natural rink
If you are in Shimla during the winters, go to the natural ice skating rink, and skate surrounded by the snow covered mountains. The price to skate here is Rs. 3000, to limit the number of people using the rink, as over tourism is adversely affecting it. It is apparently Asia’s oldest natural ice skating rink (set up in 1920).
But for a cheaper option, there is an artificial ice skating rink where you can practice your skills.
9. Lakkar Bazaar
This market sells wooden handicrafts, and is a popular street shopping haunt for both locals and tourists. It is located on the street adjoining the ridge. The bazaar also sells woollens. It marks the beginning of the hike to Jakhoo Peak.
10. Toy Train
The Kalka-Shimla train journey is supposedly one fo the most scenic train journeys in the country.
Shimla can be a quick stopover during your time in Himachal, it was for me. I was content with walking about Mall Road, exploring the architecture, and indulging in the softies that seemed ubiquitous.
On the whole, I did like Shimla, mainly for its architecture, but like Manali, I felt that it was overcrowded, and quite polluted.
Traffic to get in to the city was ridiculous, and my bus was stuck outside of Shimla for almost an hour!
Maybe it is time we stop crowding the hill stations and polluting them so much so that they lose the charm that made them popular in the first place.
How to get there
It is well connected by buses from other parts of Himachal Pradesh & Delhi.
There is train connectivity to other parts of Himachal Pradesh.