Ahmedabad has all the trappings of a big city; but the heart of old Amdavad gives the city its rich multicultural character. This buzzing metropolis has a rich history, an atmospheric old quarter, remarkable buildings, excellent museums, fine restaurants and fabulous night markets.
In this extract from the Ahmedabad travel guide, we tell you about the top experiences in the city.
Mahatma Gandhi’s presence pervades the rooms and galleries here, making a visit to the Sabarmati Ashram a powerful experience. The ashram is a close representation of how Gandhi spent a simple life. His spinning wheel, writing floor desk, bedroom and kitchen are preserved just as they were along the banks of the Sabarmati River. The large complex comprises his house as well as a gallery displaying large paintings, sketches, blow-ups of his illegible scribbles and photographs.
The House of MG
This 1920s baroque building opposite Siddi Sayid’s Mosque was once the home of textile magnate Sheth Mangaldas Girdhardas. It was converted into a beautiful heritage hotel in the 1990s by his great-grandson. All the rooms are vast, verandah-edged and masterfully decorated, with a homey yet luxurious ambience. The iconic building is hugely popular. The rooftop terrace of the city’s finest restaurant, Agashiye, features a daily-changing, all-veg menu and the traditional thali, with diverse dishes delivered to your plate.
Read More: Gujarat’s Lesser Known Treasures
Read More: World Heritage Sites of East & West India
Calico Museum of Textiles
The Calico Museum of Textiles is a window into one of the world’s finest collections of antique and modern Indian textiles, all handmade and nearly 500 years old. There are some exquisite displays of opulent textiles and embroidery. You’ll see Kashmiri shawls that took three years to make, and
double-ikat cloths whose 1,00,000 threads were each individually dyed before weaving.
The Jama Masjid is an oasis for the weary traveller after trudging along the hot, dusty streets of the old city – a calm respite from the surrounding mayhem. A flight of steps lead to a massive courtyard with a water tank in the middle and the mihrab and the prayer hall on one side. Built by Ahmed Shah in 1423, the mosque ranks as one of India’s most beautiful, and is enhanced by an enormous courtyard and a calming vibe. Note the lotus-like carving of some domes, which are supported by the prayer hall’s 260 columns. There were once two ‘shaking’ minarets, but they lost half their height in the great earthquake of 1819; their lower portions still flank the prayer hall’s central portico.
Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel National Mumorial
The glitzy museum bears the historic address of the erstwhile Moti Shahi Mahal. Reserve at least a few hours to walk around its sprawl of cosy rooms and galleries, with exhibits on the life and times of the ‘Iron Man of India’. The museum is well-maintained, brightly lit and features informative exhibits. It is yet another example of Ahmedabad’s interest in technology-aided display of public infotainment.
Wind your way through the swarming crowd inside the heart of the old city in the Manek Chowk area. The frenetic atmosphere is built from a whirl of activities – shoppers, butchers, traders, mosques and temples – one that you can never get bored of. There is much to browse in the market. The labyrinth of narrow alleyways at the back is marked by vintage havelis with intricate woodwork. At night, visit the glittery stalls that serve typical Gujarati snacks and inventive items like the chocolate sandwich. This all-vegetarian food hotspot winds down only at midnight.
New Lucky Restaurant
Dining with the dead is not something you would expect in a regular itinerary, but it offers the delicious experience of doing something unique. Have the famous bun-maska and a cup of tea in the midst of old tombstones, which are sometimes right beside your table. The fact that no one really knows anything about the identity of the deceased takes away the somberness and leaves behind a lighthearted curiosity about this bizarre address.
Law Garden Night Market
This evening market packed with stalls selling glittering wares from Kutch and Saurashtra is chock-a-block with fantastically decorated cholis (sari blouses), chaniyas (long, wide traditional skirts), embroidered wall hangings, costume jewellery and more. The kilometre-long line of shops makes it impossible to tear yourself away midway, even though the wares are repetitive. Prepare to leg the entire stretch, entranced by the bright, colourful textiles and the ridiculously low prices as compared to the showrooms.