LahoreAs Pakistan longs for a surge of international visitors, its second city – Lahore – sits at the gates, prepared to swing them open at first notice. The capital of Punjab and recognised cultural centre of the country, Lahore holds some rare remnants of Mughal rule, Pakistan's largest number of academic institutions, splendid gardens, and endless culinary delights, living up to its reputation of a gastronomic paradise.
The CityThe city core is contained within the walls of the Lahore Fort, built by the Mughal emperor Akbar in the late 16th century, and further extended by subsequent rulers. Although most of the old city attractions can be explored on foot, those who venture elsewhere will need to secure efficient transportation, as most other attractions are set far apart from one another. Lahore has recently launched its first red double-decker sightseeing bus, whose entire route takes an approximate 2 hours to complete, and includes stops at the city's most prominent sights, such as the Badshahi Mosque, the Minar-e-Pakistan independence monument, and a few others.
NightlifeAlcohol consumption by Muslims is illegal in Pakistan, which means the only places that potentially serve drinks to non-Muslim foreign visitors are upscale hotels such as the Pearl Continental. Instead of bars and clubs, nightlife in Lahore centres around dining, and its popular food streets really come alive as the sun sets.
Do & See
Start your tour of Lahore inside the old walled city, a historic and relatively compact area that's easy to get around on foot. Some of Lahore's major attractions, such as the Lahore Fort and Badshahi Mosque, with the nearby new Food Street (in Fort Road) are located here, at the heart of the sprawling greater city, which holds further sights and experiences.
The province of Punjab is known for its especially abundant culinary offerings, and Lahore in particular is heralded as a hot spot for gastronomy. Some of the dishes you'll certainly encounter on restaurant menus include all manner of meat grills and kebabs, spicy chicken karahi and Lahori, along with a variety of further chicken dishes, and deep-fried goodies sold off street sides. To acquaint yourself with local dining culture, begin at the new Food Street nearby the Lahore Fort, eventually working your way down to Anarkali Bazaar.
High tea and Sunday brunch are big at Lahore cafes, the latter immensely popular with local families. An attractive spot for an outing is never too far away, regardless of which part of the city you find yourself in, which includes locales serving Punjab specialities and Continental foods.
Shopping opportunities are abundant in Lahore; in fact, entire city neighbourhoods are taken over by stores and vendors peddling all manner of goods. Items worth purchasing include gold, silver and precious stone jewellery, silk and textiles, carpets, pashminas, leather goods (including footwear), spices and cooking paraphernalia, and more. Remember to haggle, for prices are rarely fixed outside of major modern shopping malls.