Strung out along a 12km ridge, with steep forested hillsides falling away in all directions, Shimla is a good appetite-whetter for the awe-inspiring mountain tracts of the state’s interior. The Himachal capital is one of India’s most popular hill resorts, buzzing with a happy flow of vacationers and full of relics of its previous life as the summer capital of British India. Do not miss some of these best places to experience in Shimla.
The largely traffic-free Mall is the heartbeat of Shimla life. It is strung with hotels, shops, eateries, colonial-era buildings in assorted states of repair, and people everywhere. It runs up from Chotta Shimla, southeast of the centre, to Scandal Point, the official centre of town, and then continues west to the Viceregal Lodge. The top landmarks you’ll pass in an east–west walk along the Mall include the handsome half-timbered Clarkes Hotel, dating from the 1890s; the Gaiety Theatre, in action since 1877; and the Town Hall, almost beside Scandal Point, dating from 1910.
The broad esplanade extending east from Scandal Point is called the Ridge and it’s thronged with strolling locals and tourists all day. In clear weather a jagged line of distant snowy peaks is clearly visible to the north.
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At the Ridge’s east end, the very English Christ Church, opened in 1846, is one of the oldest surviving churches in northern India and is Shimla’s most famous landmark. It contains some touching Raj-era memorials and typical Victorian stained glass.
This lovely Victorian theatre has long been a focus of Shimla social life. Rudyard Kipling, Shashi Kapoor and various viceroys are among those who have trodden its Burmese teak boards. Today it hosts visiting theatre companies as well as 15 local dramatic societies, plus concerts and exhibitions. Take a guided tour, listening to its history as you appreciate the view from the viceroy’s private box.
Himachal State Museum
About 2.5km west of Scandal Point, up near the telecommunications mast, the state museum occupies an 1860s mansion and houses an impressive collection of Himachali, Rajasthani and Punjabi miniatures, as well as colourful traditional costumes and jewellery, delicate stone and wood carvings, and interesting photos of Himachal temples.
Shimla’s most famous temple, dedicated to Lord Hanuman, sits atop its highest hill, a steep but worthwhile hike of 1.2km up from the east end of the Ridge. Appropriately, hundreds of monkeys loiter around the temple, hoping for food from visitors.
Tourists here browse fashionable shops along the Mall for Himachali and Kashmiri shawls and other apparel. For a slice of more traditional commerce, wander the bazaar labyrinth below the Mall. You can buy anything here from peacock feathers and henna kits to bangles and bicycles. Different zones are devoted to vegetables, spices, fabrics and other goods.