Things to do in Shimla is a long long list! However, we have put together the top 16 things to do while you are here. This covers places within walking distance while you stay in the city.
- Mall Road
Mall Road is the main street in Shimla and tops the list of things to do in Shimla. Constructed during British colonial rule, the Mall road is located a level below the ridge. This is the place for shopping in Shimla. One can shop for local handicrafts, shawls, woolens, exquisite jewelry etc. here. Mall Road is the one stretch, that truly celebrates the spirit of Shimla, its tourist rush and valleys and hills covered with houses and hotels. It also has very interesting cafes and restaurants which serve great food. Vehicles are not allowed on this road to facilitate easier movement of pedestals and a cleaner environment.
Tip: Try and get a hotel on the Mall Road itself to enjoy all the attractions of Shimla just at a stone’s throw distance. Hotel Willow Banks is a great, centrally located 4 star property on the Mall Road. For details, visit http://www.willowbanks.com
- Scandal point
The point where the Mall Road turns onto the Road is the Scandal Point. Located at the heart of the town this is a must visit spots for tourists. It owes its interesting name to the fact that the King of Patiala abducted the daughter of the Viceroy, because he fell in love with her, from this very place.
- The Ridge
The Ridge road is a large open space, located in the heart of Shimla and is the hub of all cultural activities of Shimla. The place offers a beautiful view of the mountain ranges in Shimla especially in clear weather when a jagged line of distant snowy peaks is clearly visible to the north from here. Apart from just the beautiful location the Ridge is the home of many monumental buildings including the historic library and old christ church and three statues of the great mahatma Gandhi, Indira Gandhi and Y.S. Parmar (the first chief minister of Himachal Pradesh). Street vendors and horse riding add to the charm of this place. Ridge is the place that hosts the summer festival, which tops the charts of things to do in Shimla, if you are here during summers.
- Christ Church
Christ Church, Shimla, is the second oldest church in North India. Located at the Ridge, the interiors and the neo-gothic architecture are very beautiful and appealing making this church one of the most important attractions in Shimla. The church becomes a part of a holiday-like scenery during winters with the snowfall.
- Gaiety theater
Located in the heart of Shimla, on Mall Road, Gaiety Heritage Cultural Complex is a significant tourist hot spot. Opened on the 30th of May in 1887, this historic cultural centre was designed by Henry Irwin. The building’s exquisite Gothic style of architecture is a true manifestation of Victorian artistry. The most popular attraction in this complex is the Victorian theatre where legends like Rudyard Kipling, Prithvi Raj Kapoor, Baten Powel, K. L. Sehgal and others have performed. More than a century-old symbol of art and culture – the Gaiety is primarily known for its social club. With an array of venues, including exhibition hall, art gallery, multi-purpose hall, amphitheatre and old theatre hall, this is the hub of performing arts in the state.
Movie Trivia: The song ‘Main nikla gaddi leke’ from the Sunny deol starrer ‘Gadar’ was shot in Gaiety theatre!
At the centre of things beside Scandal Point, Shimla’s town hall dates from 1910 and is oddly reminiscent of the mansion in Hammer Horror films. It has been undergoing a facelift supposed to be completed by 2017.
- Viceregal lodge/ Indian Institute of Advanced Studies
Another chart topper in ‘things to do in Shimla’ is the the Viceregal Lodge, about a 3km walk from the Mall Road. Perched on the Observatory Hills Viceregal Lodge, which is also known as “Rashtrapati Niwas” is a magnificent building and was built as a residence of the British Viceroy Lord Dufferinin 1888. Many historic decisions, including the Shimla Conference of 1945 and the Separation of Pakistan and East Pakistan in 1947, have been taken in this building. It is a six-story building, which is surrounded by well-maintained gardens. Now converted into Institute of Advanced Study, this building also houses a State Museum. The architectural beauty of the building is quaint and captivating. Opposite the Viceregal Lodge’s gate is the Himalayan Bird Park, with a small collection of exotic birdlife, including the iridescent monal pheasant, Himachal’s former state bird.
Movie Trivia:. This spectacular edifice was shown as Michelle’s college in the movie Black directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali film, starring superstars Amitabh Bachchan and Rani Mukherjee.
- Jakhu Temple
Nestling atop Jhakhu Hill, the Jhakhu Temple is one of Shimla’s popular places of religious importance. It is situated 2.5 km away from the ridge, at an elevation of 8000 ft above sea level. This ancient shrine was built by a sage named Yaaku and is dedicated to the Hindu deity Hanuman. According to the legend that surrounds this temple, Lord Hanuman stopped at this spot to take some rest before resuming his search for the Sanjeevani Booti to revive Lord Lakshman. The intricate carvings and paintings on the walls of this religious edifice testify the expertise of architects and artisans. The 108 feet high idol of Lord Hanuman is the world’s tallest Hanuman statue and is the major highlight of the temple. Since it is the temple of the Monkey God, you will find monkeys roaming around freely. As you cover this site in your list of ‘things to do in Shimla’ remember to take care of your belongings!
How to reach Jakhu temple?
If you are up for an adventure, climb up to the temple or you could also hire a pony or taxi. Recently, a ropeway has been launched to reach jakhu temple. The ropeway will now reduce the distance of 8 Km to reach the Jakhoo temple in Shimla from the ridge in just 5 minutes.
- Johnnie’s wax museum
A Gurgaon-based company ‘BM Brothers’ has brought new charm to the Queen of Hills as it opened Himachal’s first Wax Museum at the historic Willow Banks estate in capital city Shimla. Museum houses celebrities like Messi, Honey Singh, Narendra Modi, Obama, Michael Jackson and many others. So now you can get up close and personal with your favourite celebs and take pride in your selfies with them! This is the newest addition to the ‘things to do in Shimla’!
10. Akasa Spa at Hotel Willow Banks
When the walking and trekking gets a bit much, this the place to really relax and truly rejuvenate while on your Himalayan holiday. Sit back and enjoy the trained therapists massage your muscles and de-stress your mind and body.
Special tip: Great couple massage therapies available especially for those here to enjoying their honeymoon in Shimla!
11. Kali Bari temple
Just one km away from Mall Road- the central hub of Shimla, the ancient Kali Bari Temple is a place worth visiting. Dedicated to Goddess Kali, who is also known as Devi Shyamala, this religious edifice is visited by countless devotees every year. It was built in the year 1845 amidst rolling hills of Shimla, which oozes beauty at every turn. Legends have it that it is from the name of Goddess Shyamala, the name of the hill station – ‘Shimla’ has been derived.
12. Lakkar Bazaar
As the name suggest, Lakkar Bazaar is a wood market in Shimla. Popular for its wood items like walking sticks and decorative articles, Lakkar Bazaar is an ideal place to take your family for shopping. This place has everything from a small wooden key ring to huge home décor items, so depending upon what your budget is, you can shop something fancy or simply buy a souvenir atleast.
13. Ice skating
Ice skating is said to be one of the most popular adventure sports in Shimla. What makes this ice skating rink special is that it is Asia’s only open air ice skating rink and the only ‘natural’ ice skating rink of India. The ice is formed by a special technique that the British taught the Garhwali highlanders. The thickly forested hillside keeps it shaded and the low temperatures in winters prevent it from melting.This is the reason why this largest open air rink, tends to attract both tourists as well as local, alike. Ice skating in Shimla usually commences in the month of December and goes on till late February. During this time, the skies are clear and the weather is cold thereby ensuring undisturbed sessions of ice skating. For the adventure seeking few, this should be one of your musts on your ‘things to do in Shimla’.
Located near the Ridge, in the heart of Shimla, Annadale is a popular picnic spot. During the British rule, this field served as a playground for games like polo, cricket and racing. Currently owned by the Indian Army, this area houses the Army Heritage Museum within the boundaries. If arms and ammunition excite you, then you must visit the Army museum located in Annandale. The museum exhibits various guns, uniforms, and the document of India – Pakistan war of 1971.
Don’t miss: The mini-golf course and helipad near the museum. Ideal spot for photos!
15. Sunset at Café Simla Times
Café Simla Times is a kitchen, bar and bakery situated adjacent to Hotel Willow Banks. Offering multicuisine food (speciality being their wood fired oven pizzas!), great shakes, freshly ground coffee, innovative cocktails – the USP of this café is its mesmerising views of the snowcapped mountains and the lush valley. This is THE place to watch the splendid spectre of the sunset in Shimla.
Tip: Notice the hand painted ceiling of the cafe while you are here. It covers all these popular attractions in Shimla and more. A ready arty checklist of ‘things to do in Shimla’!
16. Live music at Eighteen71
Set in a colonial estate dating back to 1871 originally owned by Arthur James Craddock – the Architect and Builder of Shimla – this cookhouse and bar offers an elaborate Indian, Oriental and Continental fare. The speciality however is the nitrogen cocktails at their bar (must try!) and the live band that plays here on weekend evenings. Undoubtedly, the best way to end your day!
If you are staying at Hotel Willow Banks, the travel desk can help arrange all kinds of walking tours – heritage, nature walks etc and take you through all the popular sites mentioned above while enlightening you about the history of each of the places. For details visit, http://www.willowbanks.com
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