Though not a top tourist draw (yet), Bhopal, the capital city of Madhya Pradesh, is a royal odyssey.
Founded by Raja Bhoj, Bhopal’s history dates back to the 11th century. The present city was established by an Afghan soldier, Dost Mohammed, in the 18th century. Interestingly, unlike any other princely state in Indian history, Bhopal was ruled by four women, each being the first-born daughter of the former queen.
The Indian city has so much to offer to a traveller looking to explore its soul, sights, and sounds. The historic areas coexist seamlessly with the modern well-planned urban developments. The two main lakes – the Upper Lake and the Lower Lake – form the nucleus of the city.
Bhopal is a perfect amalgamation of various cultures and periods in its history. Visitors are taken in by its greenery, sprawling parks, open spaces and laid-back charm. And there are a lot of refreshingly different things to do here. Presenting a list of best tourist places to visit in Bhopal.
A Walk Through Bhopal’s History
The woods are dark and thick. A park in Bhopal / Gitika Saksena
Madhya Pradesh Tribal Museum: celebrate the tribal history
This museum is spectacular. It marks the traditions, craftsmanship and daily life of the seven major tribes in the state – the Gond, Bheel, Korku, Baiga, Sahariya, Kol and Bhariya. The museum is very innovative with the way exhibits are presented. High roofs, brightly coloured galleries, well-lit artefacts, cleverly positioned artworks effectively bring out the richness and drama.
Tribal Museum in Bhopal / Gitika Saksena
Shaurya Smarak: for nationalistic pride
This new kid on the block was only inaugurated in 2016 but already features among top Bhopal attractions. The war memorial is spread over 12 acres, and the park is dotted with statues and galleries celebrating the Indian war heroes. There are artworks, portraits, badges, models of warships, aircrafts and submarines – on display.
Shaurya Smarak Boot Statue / CC BY-SA 4.0 / Vijay Tiwari09
Taj-ul-Masajid: visit one of Asia’s largest mosques
Commissioned at the end of the 19th century by Shah Jehan Begum (Bhopal’s third female ruler), this mosque was left incomplete after her death till work started again in the late 20th century. The architecture and interiors are impressive – a pink facade, tall minarets, arched roofs, three huge domes, marble flooring, massive pillars, ornate ceilings and a huge central hallway.
Taj-ul-Masajid / CC BY 3.0 / Pranshu Dubey
Remember Bhopal museum: know more about the gas tragedy
This is a sombre experience. This activists-run museum exhibits pictures, possessions, audio clips of the survivors of the terrible gas strategy that struck Bhopal in the winter of 1984. Forty tonnes of highly toxic Methyl isocyanate (MIC) was accidentally released from the Union Carbide plant. Private tours to the abandoned factory site can be arranged.
A 300-year-old hammam: India’s only functional Turkish bath
The family-owned Qadimi hammam was built in the early 18th century. Do not go for luxury or lavish interiors. Great value for money is guaranteed though. Oil massages and steam bath options are available. The hammam is used by the women in the day, and by men in the night. The recipes of the scrubs are a family secret and made from locally available spices and oils. Located in the Kamala Park area, the hammam opens every year on Diwali and is functional until the Holi festival. Do include this place in your Bhopal sightseeing list!
Bhojeshwar Temple: An unfinished story
This fascinating temple ruin is located on a hill 32 km away from Bhopal. The incomplete structure houses an 18 feet tall single stone lingam of Lord Shiva in its sanctum sanctorum. Construction of this temple started in the 11th century but was later abandoned. There are unfinished materials strewn all over including rocks with architectural drawings carved on them.
Bhojeshwar Temple / CC BY-SA 3.0 Bernard Gagnon
Chatori Gali, Bapu Ki Kutia and Manohar Dairy: for food
Chatori Gali in Ibrahimpura, also called the Gali Madina Hotel Wali, is a paradise for meat lovers. Do try out the popular dish – ‘Dilli ka nalli Nihari’. Walk past the outlets, each displaying its menu of meat dishes. Hotel Gazala opens in the evening around 7 p.m. and offers a delectable fare of Nalli Nihari, Bhuna Korma, Nargisi Kofta, Bater and Aloo Sabzi among others. Vegetarians need not fret – Bapu ki Kutia in TT Nagar is an excellent dining option! Started in 1964, this restaurant offers classic Indian dishes. For sweet tooth cravings, head to Manohar Dairy in Peer Gate Area. Near the Jama Masjid in the old city, check out Kalyan Singh’s Swad Bhandar for its hot and fresh Bhopali poha with sev and jalebis.
Mouthwatering street food / Gitika Saksena
There you go, you are all set for a Bhopali holiday! Get going and make the bookings.
Tips for visiting Bhopal
Extend your trip: From Bhopal, you can plan a trip to Sanchi Stupa, Maheshwar, Mandu and Bhimbetka Rock Shelters.
Shopping in Bhopal: Visit the Chowk, Old city bazaar, New Marker and Bittan Market for Maheshwari and Chanderi sarees, accessories, jewellery and traditional craft items. The Mrignayani State Emporium is a must visit as well.