10 Tips For Women Travelling to Lahore, Pakistan

By Sonya Rehman

Much has been said and written about Lahore’s hospitality and its alluring charm. Known as the cultural capital of Pakistan, Lahore is the kind of city that pulls you into a warm embrace, refusing to let go, shoving morsel upon morsel of delicious grub in your face! Lahoris take their food very seriously, but more on dining out later…

The city is home to gorgeous art fairs, theatre, heritage events, literary festivals, glitzy fashion weeks, a plethora of food and music festivals, awe-inspiring heritage sites, and the prettiest ethnic jewellery you’ll ever get your hands on.

In the city, you’ll also find an interesting blend of the old and the new, high-end brands and post-colonial buildings, Eastern classical jazz (yes, you read that right – Lahore’s first-ever live jazz orchestra by way of the well-known Sachal Studios), fine dining restaurants and the tastiest street food picks found in every nook and cranny in the Old City’s winding streets.

Illustration by Xin Lee for Zafigo

1. The best time to visit Lahore

Make sure you book your ticket for fall/winter – the summer is a big no-no. Why? Soaring temperatures and incessant electricity load-shedding will make you want to scream all the way back to the airport and hop on a plane back home. Even if you’re staying at a hotel, walking around the city outdoors is practically unbearable in the thick of a sweltering, claustrophobic summer. Besides, Lahore is prettiest in the winters – so save your woolies, warm coats, boots and gloves for a chilly vacay in Lahore with your fam-jam, or, on your own!

2. Where to stay

If you want to stay at a swanky, contemporary hotel, The Nishat Hotel is the place to check in at. Also, it’s located in the heart of the city and is a stone’s throw away from a number of the city’s popular eateries and boutiques. On the other hand, there’s also good old Pearl Continental and Avari, on Lahore’s glorious Mall Road; 5-star hotels which have been in the business for yonks, so, super dependable.

Although on the flip side, if you can stay with a friend in Lahore to experience true ‘Lahori culture,’ even better.

3. Eating out

Let’s get one thing straight: Lahoris quite literally, live to eat. From fancy fine dining, to the most scrumptious street food delights – the city has it all. For breakfast, make sure you don’t miss out on halwa poori – a rich, gluttonous and utterly delicious Pakistani breakfast platter full of soft pooris, a piping hot and spicy potato curry, in addition to a mouth-watering chickpea curry. Be warned though, immediately after you polish off your platter, you’ll be hit by a food coma so intense, you’ll have little choice but to hit the sack and snooze it off.

Other food spots to check out: cruise through MM Alam road in Gulberg for Pakistani, Chinese, Italian and continental cuisine, apart from a few fast food options. Pro-tip: make a pit stop at Khalifa Bakers – Lahore’s most famous bakery, known for their melt-in-your-mouth, nutty nan khataai cookies best devoured with a mug of sweet tea. For an incredible view of the Old City, (particularly the Lahore Fort and the Badshahi Mosque), dine out at Andaaz (preferably for dinner). While the food at Cuccoo’s Den restaurant (a stone’s throw away from Andaaz, on the same street) is nothing to write home about, do make sure you check it out – the space is jam-packed with utterly beautiful paintings, artifacts, ethnic art pieces and furniture. You’ll love taking pictures and selfies at Cuccoo’s for Instagram.

4. Transport

Make sure you get a local sim card (once you land at the airport) and immediately download the Careem app onto your phone. I’ve always been a big advocate of Careem because their drivers are polite and respectful (not to mention, most are decent drivers), and a far cry from all the Uber horror stories I’ve been hearing about. If you want my advice, only use Careem and a taxi service called Albayraq. While sightseeing in the Old City, don’t forget to grab a colourful ‘rangeela rickshaw’ – though the rates are a bit high, it’s worth every rupee as the rickshaw-wallah will drive you around the Old City in a pimped-up ride, in style!

A rangeela rickshaw in the Old City. Photo: Sonya Rehman

5. Sight-seeing in the city

The list is endless, but let me try to whittle in down for you: the Lahore Fort, the Badshahi Mosque, the Wazir Khan Mosque, the Shahi Hammam, Jahangir’s Tomb, Minar-e-Pakistan, Bagh-e-Jinnah (in addition to the Quaid-e-Azam Library located in the same vicinity), Shalimar Gardens, and more. If you’d prefer to tag along with a local tour company, do check out The Mad Hatters and Turr Lahore, also, if you have time, there’s a local tourism bus service, Sightseeing Lahore Bus Service, that’s totally worth checking out too.

View of the Badshahi Mosque from Cuccoo’s Den. Photo: Sonya Rehman

6. Hot shopping spots

Apart from the city’s countless boutiques and shopping spots (peppered in and around Gulberg and DHA, primarily), spend one full day at Lahore’s Liberty Market. Here, you’ll go crazy over the rolls of loose fabric in every colour and type imaginable! Apart from fabric, Liberty Market is home to gorgeous shawls and stoles (if you’re visiting during the winter season), junk jewellery, lace and button shops, and, most importantly, lovely ethnic footwear. For shoes, stop by at Khussa Mahal for khussas, kola puris and leather slippers. I bet you’ll leave the shop with at least five pairs of shoes! For pure silver jewellery and little jeweled trinkets to take back with you as gifts for loved ones, check out Kabul Handicrafts (shop #162-G) at Liberty Market. If you can’t find it, ask any shopkeeper to direct you to the Afghan jeweller’s shop. Everyone knows who he is.

Other must-visit shopping spots include; Auriga Complex, good old Anarkali and the Pakistan Handicrafts shop (on Davis Road) for pretty souvenirs and artsy bits and bobs for your home.

These are the kinds of gems you’ll find at Liberty Market. Photo: Sonya Rehman

7. Malls

Mall culture in Lahore has taken off in a big way, so if you’re keen to kill some time (and splurge some cash while you’re at it), visit the Mall of Lahore, Packages Mall and Emporium Mall – three of the city’s coolest shopping malls that house a number of brands under one roof.

8. Safety

Dress appropriately at all times. If you want to wear pants, pair it with a long tunic and a scarf/stole – particularly when you visit the Old City. They won’t allow you inside the Badshahi Mosque without your head suitably covered. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. And when in Lahore, enjoy Pakistani fashion! Lahoris are generally very friendly people, but set your boundaries as you go along. Stick to taxis for transport. For emergencies, keep these numbers handy: 15 (police emergency), 115 (ambulance).

9. Book shops

Liberty Books (at Packages Mall) and The Last Word have a wonderful, eclectic selection of new titles and numerous genres for you to pick from. So if you’re looking for a good book to keep you company on your flight back home, look no further.

10. Museums

While the Lahore Museum should be a given on your Lahore bucket list, the Fakir Khana Museum is a gleaming jewel set in the heart of the Old City, that must be visited. Imagine, the space houses the largest personal collection (approximately 20,000 pieces of art) in all of South Asia! Once at the Old City, ask a local to direct you to Bazaar-e-Hakima (in Bhatti Gate). Once there, anyone will be able to lead you to the museum. Don’t forget to take photos!

The Fakir Khana Museum. Photo: Sonya Rehman

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