There’s an old Punjabi saying that goes: “Anyone who hasn’t seen Lahore simply hasn’t lived.” Staring out my rickshaw while riding through the vibrant and bustling streets of this city, that phrase started to make more and more sense to me. Lahore is completely filled with life, and the more I saw of it, the more I was drawn by it. In this article, you’ll find all the best places to visit in Lahore as well as the most essential things you need to know before traveling to Pakistan. I hope by the end of it, you’ll be inspired to see this remarkable city for yourself too!
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First off: Some Interesting Facts About Lahore
- Lahore is the second largest city in Pakistan and the capital of the Punjab province
- It has a population of 11.1 million
- 16 different dialects are spoken in this city because people all across Punjab come here to work — it’s a commercial hub!
- Lahore is often called the ‘City of Gardens’ due to its large amount of parks and green spaces
- This city is the cultural heart and food capital of Pakistan – get ready to satisfy your taste buds!
The Best Places to Visit in Lahore, Pakistan
1. Badshahi Mosque
Built in 1671, Badshahi Mosque is the crown jewel of Lahore, a symbol of the Mughal Empire (1526-1857), and one of the most beautiful places in Pakistan. Its architecture is characterized by carved red sandstones, which was typical of the Mughal era. The vast courtyard of the mosque can hold up to 100,000 worshippers, making it the second largest mosque in Pakistan! I recommend spending at least a couple of hours here to admire all the marvelous details of the architecture.
For much of its history, Badshahi Mosque was used as a military base by the Sikhs, who ruled Lahore from 1799 to 1849. The courtyard of the mosque used to be a stable for army horses during that period. When the British took over after the fall of the Sikh Empire, they continued to use the mosque as a military post. It was only in 1947, when Pakistan gained its independence, that Badshahi Mosque was restored back to its original purpose — worship and prayer.
Opening hours: 8 am - 8 pm daily How to dress: Please fully cover your body from wrist to ankle; women should also wear a headscarf
2. Fort Road Food Street
Less than a 5-minute walk from Badshahi Mosque is Fort Road – a really popular food street in Lahore lined up with vibrant and colorful buildings. Some buildings here have so much detail; you’ll notice something new each time you look at them again! What makes it even better is that there are numerous restaurants here that offer a spectacular view of Badshahi Mosque, such as Haveli Restaurant, Andaaz Restaurant, and Cooco’s Den.
Top Tip: I recommend coming here just before sunset and having dinner at one of the restaurants listed above — you'd be treating yourself to a magnificent view of the sun setting over Badshahi Mosque while enjoying some delicious local cuisine!
3. Lahore Fort
Directly facing Badshahi Mosque is the historical Lahore Fort — a monument you have to visit especially if you’re a history buff. This fortress started off as merely a mud-brick fort back in the 11th century, and for the following 500 years, it was destroyed and rebuilt again and again as Mongols, Timur, and Pashtuns invaded the region. The fort was completely rebuilt in the 17th century during the Mughal Empire, damaged again afterwards by the Sikhs and the British, and today, it is partially restored.
The fort’s complex is huge, so make sure to allocate an ample amount of time for wandering around its many palaces, gardens and museums. You can easily spend half a day here! One of the highlights to see is the gorgeous Sheesh Mahal, ‘The Palace of Mirrors’. Built in 1631 by Shah Jahan, its interiors are decorated with countless reflective glass tiles. To make things even better, you also get a stunning view of the rest of Lahore Fort and Badshahi Mosque from there.
Opening hours: 8:30 am - 5 pm daily Entrance fees: 500 PKR ($3 USD)
4. Tomb of Jahangir
The Tomb of Jahangir is another one of the most remarkable historical places in Lahore. Completed in 1637, it’s a mausoleum built for Jahangir, one of the most accomplished emperors of the Mughal Empire who ruled between 1605 and 1627. The architecture of this place showcases some beautifully intricate pietra dura, which are pictorial mosaics made with semi-precious stones. The tomb took 10 years to build and is the only remaining Mughal tomb in Pakistan! I recommend spending a couple of hours here wandering inside the complex, which also features a large garden where locals have picnics and gather with their families.
Opening hours: 8 am - 5 pm daily Entrance fees: Foreigners: 200 PKR ($1.3 USD) | Pakistani citizens: 10 PKR
5. Shalimar Gardens
If you’re looking for relaxing things to do in Lahore, then walking around the Shalimar Gardens — locally known as Shalimar Bagh — is a great option. This garden complex dates back to the Mughal era and was completed in 1642 under the rule of Emperor Shah Jahan, the same emperor who commissioned the Taj Mahal (he’s also one of Emperor Jahangir’s sons). There’s a big pool with fountains in the garden complex, and the vibe there is very chill, making it the perfect place to take a stroll.
Opening hours: 8 am - 6 pm daily Entrance fees: 500 PKR ($3 USD)
6. Delhi Gate Market
The Walled City of Lahore (also known as the Old City) used to have 13 gates leading up to it. When the British conquered the region, almost all of them were destroyed. 6 gates were rebuilt since then, and Delhi Gate is one of them. Today, there’s a bustling market leading up to this gate, and the atmosphere there is superb and filled with life — I highly recommend taking a walk around! It’s also a great place to meet locals and get a glimpse of local life in Lahore.
7. Masjid Wazir Khan
From the market at Delhi Gate, you can see a yellow minaret standing in the distance. If you walk towards it, you’ll reach Masjid Wazir Khan — one of the most peaceful and serene places in Lahore. This mosque was built in 1641 by Emperor Shah Jahan, and its stunningly ornate tilework will captivate you as soon as you approach the entrance gate. It only gets more breathtaking from there, as every interior surface of the mosque including its ceilings and archways are covered in gorgeous, intricate patterns and Mughal frescoes.
If you visit in the evening, you’ll most likely hear an evening prayer call. You won’t be allowed to stay in the mosque’s courtyard during the prayers and will have to wait in the designated prayer rooms (there are separate ones for men and women). At the end of the prayers, the etiquette is to wait a couple of minutes before going back outside because it is believed that during sunset, spirits return home through the mosque’s courtyard.
Top Tip: You can pay 500 rupees to the men who collect shoes at the entrance of the mosque, and they can let you climb up one of the mosque’s minarets! The view from up there is quite fantastic as you not only get to see the entire mosque from a bird’s-eye perspective, but you can also spot the busy streets of Old Lahore!
Opening hours: 5 am - 5:30 pm daily How to dress: Please wear clothes that fully cover your body from wrist to ankle; women should also wear a headscarf
8. Gurdwara Nankana Sahib
About 1.5 hours west of Lahore is Nankana Sahib, the most important religious site for Sikhs. This city was named after Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, and is home to 9 major Sikh gurdwaras. The main one — Gurdwara Nankana Sahib — is believed to be situated right at the birth site of Guru Nanak. It’s visited by millions of pilgrims every year, and is definitely worth seeing if you’re interested in wandering a bit outside of Lahore.
How to dress: Please wear clothes that cover your whole body, from ankle to wrist. Both men and women need to cover their heads as well.
9. Lahore Museum
If you want to get the ultimate lesson on Pakistan history and culture, then visiting Lahore Museum is a must. Inside this museum, you’ll find Pakistan’s largest and oldest collection of historical and cultural artifacts, ranging from rare manuscripts, old coins and carved woodwork to ancient jewellery, musical instruments and Buddhist art. The famous “Fasting Buddha” statue from the ancient Gandhara Kingdom can also be found here, as are collections from the Sikh, Mughal and British empires.
Opening hours: 9 am - 7 pm Saturdays to Thursdays | Closed on Fridays Entrance fees: Foreigners: 1,000 PKR ($6 USD) | Pakistani adults: 50 PKR | Pakistani children & students: 20 PKR
10. Anarkali Bazaar
If you want to see more of Lahore’s local life, then Anarkali Bazaar is a great place to spend the afternoon/evening. This bazaar has two sections: the ‘Old Anarkali Bazaar’ and the ‘New Anarkali Bazaar’. In the Old section, you’ll find lots of traditional foods, while in the New section, there are tons of clothes, jewellery, embroidery and handicrafts. Even if you don’t plan on buying anything, simply observing the bustling activity of the markets makes for an interesting experience. With that said, it’s always good to support the local economy! 🙂
11. Grand Jamia Mosque
If you’re curious to see more mosques, then head over to Grand Jamia Mosque, the third-largest mosque in Pakistan and definitely one of the best places to visit in Lahore. The architecture of this mosque was largely influenced by that of Badshahi Mosque and Masjid Wazir Khan; you’ll see lots of ornate tilework, marble floors, and chandeliers. This mosque can accommodate up to 70,000 worshippers and also houses an Islamic academy in its basement, as well as a museum that contains a rare collection of Qurans!
Opening hours: Tourists can visit at any time aside from prayer times How to dress: Please cover your body fully from wrist to ankle; women must cover their head too
Where to Stay in Lahore
You can find a variety of accommodations in Lahore on Booking.com, but keep in mind that because tourism isn’t very developed here, it’s hard to find a hotel with really good conditions unless it’s a luxury hotel.
($$) Comfort recommendation: Lawrence View Hotel ($20 USD/night)
If you want a place with air-con or heating, then forget budget hotels. You’ll find them in mid-range hotels, and this one is the best one we found that didn’t break the bank. Our stay here was good for the most part, but don’t expect top-notch service or for everything to work. For a more seamless experience, check out the luxury hotels ($50 USD – $200 USD/night).
Best Time to Visit Lahore
For the best weather: March (16° C – 27° C / 60° F – 80° F), October (20° C – 32° C / 68° F – 89° F), November (14° C – 27° C / 57° F – 80° F)
If you prefer a bit of a breeze, then you can visit in December (9° C – 21° C / 48° F – 69° F), January (8° C – 19° C / 46° F – 66° F) or February (11° C – 22° C / 51° F – 71° F)
Temperatures can get as high as 37° C – 40° C / 98° F – 104° F between the months of April and September, so I’d avoid that time if you don’t enjoy high heat
How Many Days to Spend in Lahore
Recommended: 4 days
As you can see, Lahore has plenty of cultural attractions and leisure activities to offer. Some places to see can also easily take up half a day each, such as Lahore Fort and Badshahi Mosque as both complexes are very huge. Getting around the city can also take some time, and it’s likely that you’ll be stuck in traffic or experience some logistics mishap during your time here. That’s why I suggest giving yourself 4 days here so that you don’t have to stress or rush.
How to Get the Pakistan Visa
The Pakistan visa application is quite simple: tourists from 175 countries (including the US, UK, Canada and most of the EU) can apply for an online visa. You must be residing in your country of citizenship to do this though because you might be called in for an interview. Some countries are also eligible for a visa on arrival. The turnaround time for both is 48-72 hours.
To apply for your Pakistan visa, visit https://visa.nadra.gov.pk/
To check Pakistan visa fees, click here
Pakistan Travel Insurance
I highly recommend getting travel insurance before you visit Pakistan. It’s always a good thing to have just in case. The service I use is World Nomads, and I can highly recommend them for their affordable rates, amazing coverage, and 24/7 on-call customer service. They also allow you to make claims online while on the road.
How to Get to Lahore
If you’re coming from abroad, you can fly into the local airport Allama Iqbal International Airport (LHE) from Uzbekistan, Thailand, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Canada, and Malaysia. The airport is located 20-30 mins from Lahore’s city center.
If you’re coming from within Pakistan, I recommend using a bus company called Faisal Movers. It connects Lahore to other major cities such as Islamabad and Karachi. It’s also the most convenient and affordable way to get to Lahore from those places if you don’t have a car.
If you’re coming from Islamabad, you can take Faisal Movers from the nearby town of Rawalpindi (40 mins by car from there). The bus ride to Lahore takes around 4-5 hours and costs 1200 rupees ($7.5 USD) for a standard class ticket and 1650 rupees ($10 USD) for a business class ticket. I recommend the latter as the seats are a lot more comfortable and well worth the small price difference! On both classes, you get free food and water (but better food on business class).
Top Tip: There’s often debate about which bus company to use: Daewoo or Faisal Movers, as both of them connect the major cities of Pakistan at similar prices. While I personally had a great experience with Faisal Movers and didn’t get to use Daewoo for comparison, all the locals I’ve met have told me that Faisal Movers is better. Just something to keep in mind!
How to Get Around Lahore
I highly recommend hiring a local guide or private driver to help you get around Lahore. It will save you a lot of time and hassle.
I’ll explain. Getting around Lahore on your own can be very mentally taxing. You can use Uber or Careem (the local equivalent of Uber), but from my experience, each time I booked a ride, around 4 to 5 drivers on average would cancel, oftentimes 15-20 mins after accepting the ride. One time, I waited 45 minutes for a ride due to a string of cancellations because the drivers didn’t like my destination (it wasn’t far). The logistics nightmares didn’t just stop there. Our hotel also sent us to the wrong bus terminal once. In short: getting around Lahore on your own can be very challenging.
This is normal in Lahore though, because the city isn’t really used to tourists so its tourism sector isn’t very developed. Having your own guide or driver can therefore make things go a lot smoother. One simple way to get a private driver is to ask a taxi driver if he/she would like to drive you around for a whole day or two. Some drivers would even offer you that service themselves. A whole day around the city with a private driver should cost you roughly 1000 PKR ($6 USD).
If you prefer to get around entirely on your own, definitely download both Uber and Careem. Both options are cheaper than taxis (which may also be hard to find depending on the area you’re in), and you’ll find that sometimes you have to use them both simultaneously in order to successfully secure a ride. You can also flag down any rickshaw passing by!
Is Lahore Safe for Solo Female Travelers?
Short answer: Yes! When you first get into Lahore, you may feel overwhelmed by the very congested roads and how close motorcycles and rickshaws get to you as they fly by. You will also get stared at a lot if you look different from the locals. All of this may give you a false sense of insecurity. But don’t worry. In a small matter of time, you’ll realize that the locals are incredibly friendly, and that if they stare at you, it’s just because they’re not used to seeing foreigners around. You’ll also get used to the ‘crazy’ traffic pretty fast.
I never felt unsafe in Lahore. I did on many occasions feel intimidated or uncomfortable because we were in an unfamiliar place and often had trouble getting from A to B. But as I mentioned before, that can easily be resolved by hiring a private driver or local guide. Lahore is safe for travelers of all genders. If you’re a solo female traveler, simply take general precautions and be prepared to be bombarded with lots of Pakistani warmth and hospitality! 🙂 Which leads me to…
People in Lahore/Pakistan
Pakistanis are some of the friendliest and most welcoming people I’ve ever met. To name a few heartwarming encounters — we met taxi and rickshaw drivers who wouldn’t let us pay them because “we’re guests of their country”. We met kind strangers who happily let us use their hotspots to book Ubers when our data wasn’t working. We met a ticket officer who bought us two bottles of Coke as a simple welcoming gesture. We met amazing strangers at a shopping mall who helped us shop for a whole hour. I could go on and on, but you get the point. The locals here showed us genuine warmth and hospitality, and I was beyond touched by it.
Insider’s Tip: You will get asked for a lot of selfies during your trip. In many cases, it’s a great chance to make new friends. However, if you feel uncomfortable for any reason, know that it wouldn’t be considered socially acceptable for a local Pakistani man to ask a local woman for a selfie if they were just strangers, so keep that in mind if you ever feel hesitant about saying no!
The Security Situation in Lahore
If you read western governments’ travel advisories, you’ll likely come across paragraphs warning you of recent terrorist attacks in Pakistan, and that such situations are still very likely to happen even in big cities like Lahore. To be honest, these attacks usually only target specific places or groups of people, and you’re just as likely to encounter them when traveling in Europe (such as in the UK, France, and Germany, which have all seen frequent terrorist attacks).
So while you should take government advisories seriously, I wouldn’t get discouraged by them. What I recommend is to always research the present political situation in the city before you go — particularly, look out for protests, demonstrations, or any large public or religious gatherings that might be coming up. Attacks in the past usually target public places and government forces, so if you’re worried, try to avoid big events where there are large crowds of people during your time in Lahore.
Food in Lahore – What to Eat
As I mentioned before, Lahore is the food capital of Pakistan, so get ready to eat your heart out! Pakistani cuisine is extremely delicious and flavorful, and some of the must-try dishes are: nihari (a breakfast meal made of stewed beef in ghee & masala), karahi (a spicy meat curry), tikka (tasty meat cutlets), kunafa (a cheese pastry soaked in rose water and topped with pistachios), tawa chicken (spicy marinated chicken), gol gappay (a typical Lahori starter made of tamarind syrup), besan + fried rahu (a local fish dish), daal mash, pan (a dessert made of edible silver), and khatai (a sweet & nutty Lahori biscuit).
Where to Eat – The Best Restaurants in Lahore
- Cooco’s Den – This restaurant offers an incredible view of Badshahi Mosque. Their food is delicious too. I recommend coming here during sunset to have the most surreal scenic dinner!
- Butt Karahi (in Lakshmi Chowk) – This is the best place in town to have karahi; famous amongst locals and the experience is very authentic!
- Barańh – This restaurant has an amazing atmosphere and fantastic, high-quality local specialties such as gol gappay, tawa chicken and pan. The owner is very nice too!
- The Monal Lahore – A fancy all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant in Gulberg, a modern part of town. Their tikka is absolutely exquisite, you have to have it here!
Currency & ATMs in Lahore
The currency in Pakistan is the Pakistani rupee (PKR), and $1 USD is roughly 160 PKR. ATMs are easy to find in Lahore — you’ll see them outside a lot of banks, and they accept both Visa and Mastercard. Many banks also accept UnionPay. You therefore don’t need to walk around with large amounts of cash on you, although it’s always a good idea to have a bit more than you need just in case.
Lahore Travel Budget
Accommodations (per night): ~$10 USD budget / $20 – $50 USD comfort / $50 – $200 USD luxury
Food: ~$7 USD per day
Ubers/Careems: ~$6 USD per day if you go everywhere by car
Rickshaws: ~$0.15 USD per kilometer
One-way bus to/from Islamabad: $7.5 USD standard class / $10 USD business class
Entrance tickets to attractions: ~$3 USD per attraction (but many are free)
SIM card: $9.5 USD for 12 GB with Zong
How to Dress – Are Headscarves Required?
Clothing: The locals in Pakistan dress very modestly, so I recommend wearing loose clothes that cover your entire body. This is especially important when entering mosques and other sacred places; it’s disrespectful to show even your ankles and wrists in these sites, so please make sure your garments cover them completely! I personally wore long sleeves and trousers underneath my dresses.
Headscarves: Women must cover their heads before entering mosques. If you’re a foreigner, you’re not required to wear headscarves in other places around the city. With that said, Pakistan is a Muslim country and almost all women here wear headscarves. If you’re a foreigner, you will already stand out from the crowd and get stared at a lot. So I personally wore my headscarf no matter where I was just to blend in with the locals more and not draw even more attention to myself.
Internet & SIM Cards in Lahore
If you stay in a mid-range priced hotel ($20 USD/night) in Lahore, the Wifi there is usually quite stable. However, I still recommend getting a SIM card with data so that you’ll have an easier time navigating the city. But one thing to remember:
Do NOT get your SIM card at the airport! It’s a scam and the card won’t work.
Foreigners are only allowed to purchase SIM cards at the main carrier franchise store in the city, where they have to register with their passports and visa documents first. I recommend using Zong as it has the best coverage. The location of Zong’s main franchise store is here. Please keep in mind that it may take 1 or 2 whole days for your SIM card to get activated, as it did in my case!
Is English Spoken in Lahore?
If you’re worried about language barriers in Pakistan, then don’t stress because English is a co-official language of Pakistan! Along with Urdu, English is widely used in schools and universities, and it’s even the language in which Pakistan’s Constitution was written! So don’t worry, many people in Lahore speak English (especially the younger generation) and you won’t be facing many language-related obstacles.
Traveling in Lahore (and Pakistan) was not easy, but despite the hurdles I’ve faced, this city remains one of the most impressive, captivating, and unique destinations in my book. I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys history, architecture, and a rewarding adventure! 🙂 I hope this article not only helped you find the best places to visit in Lahore but also provided you with some helpful insights into traveling in Pakistan!