North India had left my head spinning – after exploring the cities of Delhi and Agra with my three close friends in what was already becoming a whirlwind trip, someone suggested Gwalior. Initially, I wondered why but when I read up on the city I was immediately mesmerized. So it was decided that we add Gwalior to the itinerary and see its majestic landmarks and more. So how exactly does one explore this lovely, sprawling, medieval city in the most efficient and comfortable way? We decided to choose a single chauffeured vehicle for the entire journey. The best way was to book a reliable and licensed taxi service in Agra.
Visiting Gwalior Fort
The most prominent landmark of Gwalior is its fortress – dominating the skyline and giving the city an eternal charm. Our trip from Agra was a Friday evening one so I woke up the next morning fresh and ready to explore the ramparts.
The fort, if dated by its oldest parts and remnants is more than one thousand years old so visiting it was like turning back the many layers of Indian history. The structures built by Man Singh Tomar are the most well preserved – the Gujari Mahal and the Man Mandir and I spent a lot of time marveling at the details of these beautiful landmarks.
Apart from the royal palaces, the Jain temples and shrines astounded me with their intricate designs. In Gwalior, you can see the more traditional Hindu style of architecture – influenced by the Rajasthani and Mughal styles. Teli ka Mandir is another perfect example of this old architecture. There are so many things to see in the Gwalior Fort but alas, I just had one day and I had heard so much about its street food so that was next.
The Food of Gwalior
Food is the best way to feel the pulse of a city – that is a statement that I can safely apply to Gwalior. Wandering around with my friends in those crowded streets in the evening, we ran into many local stalls and even conversed with some of the owners and managers – all gleefully happy to share some tips on what to order.
Around the rather impressive town hall building, there are quite a few shopping complexes and markets. Poha is probably associated with breakfast but it provided me with a wonderful evening snacking experience – and yes, I specifically had poha because Gwalior is apparently famous for it. The Naya Bazaar area in Gwalior has a constant buzz about it and that is where I sampled some of the best boondi ladoos at the one and only Bahadura Sweets. Foodies in Gwalior cannot miss this legendary establishment.
Sunday Scenes in Gwalior
On our second day in Gwalior, we first decided to visit the Italian gardens and we were wowed by the designs and layout of the place. I wanted to just catch a glimpse of Madhya Pradesh’s famous tigers so we decided to do a quick scan of the zoo, which was pretty close to the Italian gardens. It was pretty crowded, being a Sunday, but I enjoyed seeing some of the rare species here. The tigers were the main draw but there were also many snakes and birds that I was not familiar with.
The musical heritage of Gwalior is very rich. This is where many forms of classical music started. Tansen is a name synonymous with Gwalior – a singer who was part of the Mughal king Akbar’s court and was the emperor’s favourite. His tomb is there in the city and we made sure we visited it.
We also spent a lot of time moving around Lashkar, one of the prime areas in Gwalior. I found the monument at Jayaji Chowk very impressive and we also decided to go see the Jai Vilas Palace, another splendorous royal structure of Gwalior.
Before we wound up our trip, we visited some of the old markets and picked up some gifts and souvenirs. Maharaj Bada is where we spent the most time as it has plenty of options and provided that old-school setting that we craved for. We had quite a simple dinner but I clearly remember the Gwalia kebabs – very uniquely prepared meat dishes that our server told us were distinctive to the city. I am so glad we stumbled upon these succulent treats.
Gwalior is a city that seduces the wandering soul – you will want to take one more turn, explore one more lane, and enter one more shop. We did not realize that two days had passed so fast and yet it felt like the city had more to offer.
I am certainly heading back to explore this gem of Central India as soon as possible and I would recommend others to do so. We had a simple itinerary that you may find useful. After seeing the monuments of Delhi and the Taj Mahal, you can book a cab from Agra to Gwalior. Be ready for a history lesson with generous dollops of culture and cuisine. Gwalior is amazing – you will not regret visiting.