Every Indian should at least once set foot in the hills of Shimla – it is one of the most important cities of the modern India. Shimla for almost a century before the independence of the country was the summer capital – and as you can understand, in a country where 8 months is summer, was the actual capital – Kolkata and Delhi being only the official one. The decision that broke the country into parts – the Great Partition of India – was taken in this city.
The name ‘Shimla’ is believed to have originated from ‘Shyamala’ – a name of goddess Kali. The city has a strong connection with the Hindu Mythology. The ‘Jakhu Hill’, the highest point of the city is believed to be a place where Hanuman – the Monkey God- took rest while getting medicine for wounded Laxmana – the brother of Lord Rama. The Temple on the top of the hill and a giant statue of the Monkey God is a big attraction. Mixing perfectly with that, the city has some of the most beautiful churches in the country. The British have built many of them and those are an excellent exhibition of the colonial architecture of the country.
For its fantastic weather, scenic beauty and romantic ambience – Shimla is a must go place. Let us take a look at what to do when you are there.
Must Visit Places:
The Mall (Ridge): You plan it or not – You will end up most of the time here. Find a corner and seat watching people around – you can spend your whole day without doing anything.
Christ Church: A fabulous looking building marking the art and architecture of church design.
Indian Institute of Advanced Study (IIAS): An amazing exploration of British Colonial Architecture. It was the Viceregal House before Independence and bears the history of British Rule in the country. This is the building where the decision of partition was taken.
Jakhu Temple: The temple itself might not be attractive enough but the trek can be fun. the view from the highest point of the city is also mindblowing. You may take the ropeway to avoid the long climb.
Army Heritage Museum: A grand exhibition of artillery used by the Indian Army
Himachal State Museum: The ancient building itself is a grand showcase of how time flies and its anthropological collection are extremely beautiful
Heritage Museum: It is not one of the biggest museums but the display of timeline of the local culture and tradition will help you know the place better.
The Places you may avoid visiting:
Johney’s Wax Museum: Non-realistic, disproportionate figures of only a few celebrities. Not advisable to visit. The entry ticket (Rs.250/-) is not worth its value.
The Temples: Unless you are going for a rich spiritual and religious tour – the Tara Devi Temple, Sankat Mochan temple, Kamna Devi Temple, Kali Bari Temple can be avoided visiting. These are really small temples with no architectural value.
Glen: It is a picnic spot – might be interesting for the locals but not worth tourist attraction.
What to eat?
Shimla was a part of Punjab and that touch of Punjabi has been there in the culture and cuisine of the state. Authentic Himachali Cuisine is very similar to the Punjabi foods with a different name. It is not very easy to get authentic Himachali Food in Shimla rather Punjabi, Italian and continental dishes are in plenty.
There are few restaurants which offer authentic Himachali Dishes and you have to find them out. ‘Himachali Rasoi’ is one such place which offers awesome Himachali Food. The restaurant has excellent Kangri and Mandyalli Thali which are less spicy and oily on offer. The Sweet Siddu is one item that I liked the most. The place is not very easy to locate because it is located in the less visible Middle Bazar. You have to find out by asking the locals.
In case you want to taste extremely good Punjabi food Sher-e-Punjab (Regd.) is a very good choice. Be sure to find the (Redg.) at the nameplate because there are few more in the same name and all are not equally good.
Cafe Sol is another extremely good choice if you are looking for a bar-cum-restaurant. This restaurant is a perfect option for breakfast and snacks. Cafe Sol offers excellent Italian food. It is little costly but can be worth a try. Baljee’s near the DAV Public school is again an excellent choice for a heavy lunch or dinner. Their continental, Indian and Chinese items are extremely good. Goofa Ashiana located at the ridge is a must-visit restaurant. Ran by HPTDC, this restaurant has a wide variety of cuisines available and all are extremely delicious. The historic Indian Coffee House has no other alternative when it comes to having a superb evening tea or breakfast. You get Shimla’s best tea here and at the cheapest price. Always filled with chattering locals and tourists, coffee house has an ambience that has no match. Aunty’s Kitchen near the fire brigade is another cheap joint where you get authentic Chinese. Their momos and soups are simply best in Shimla.
What to buy:
In my opinion, Shimla is not a very good place to increase your luggage. If you have Manali in your itinerary, don’t buy woollens in Shimla. Most of the woollens here come from Kullu – you can enter one of the factory outlets there and buy those at half the price.Some people also buy fruits and dry fruits from Shimla. In this case, also Manali and Kullu will be a better and cheaper place to have those. Another must buy is the cedar vinegar – This you get at the same price everywhere in Himachal. So, you may buy it from here. Fruit Barfi is also a highly recommended item you should not miss. You get these items both in Shimla and Manali.
One thing you can buy from here, which you don’t find in Manali, are the wooden items. Visit Lakkar Bazar adjoining The Mall and you get many shops there who sell fantastically crafted wooden items.