Enjoying a hot cup of coffee at the Indian Coffee House, Shimla
Though summer vacations are coming to an end, a holiday destination that is popular year-round, is Shimla in Himachal Pradesh. This beautiful town was the summer capital of the British Empire when they governed India, and retains some of the colonial charm of that bygone era, till date. Many would have visited or read about Shimla earlier, so today I will tell you how to make the most of Shimla’s historic ‘British Raj’ allure, on your next visit.
- STAY AT THE OBEROI CLARKES HOTEL
This grand heritage hotel is a boutique property dating back to 1898. Its location at the tip of the Mall Road and its old-world atmosphere enhance its appeal.
If you don’t mind splurging on some British–era hospitality, check out the Oberoi Cecil Hotel, located slightly outside of main Shimla town.
Read my review of the Oberoi Clarke’s Hotel here.
Book a stay in Shimla here.
- STROLL THROUGH THE ICONIC MALL ROAD
Mall Road is the shopping street and hub of this town. It is a pedestrianised area and gets very crowded during tourist season. However, this hill-side market place with fantastic views of the valley, has an unbeatable charm.
- TAKE PHOTOS AT THE LEGENDARY GAIETY THEATRE
This local club, located between the Mall and Ridge roads, was built in 1887. Its Gothic façade stands till today. Entry to the club is only for members and their guests, but it’s curlicued gates are a nice place to take a selfie.
The Gaiety Heritage Cultural Complex, however, is open to public and houses a museum, art gallery and the Victorian theatre where many great actors have performed in the past.
Scandal Point, Shimla
- OBSERVE HUMANITY PASS YOU BY AT SCANDAL POINT
Scandal point marks the place where the Mall Road meets the Ridge. According to a romantic legend, the Maharaja of Patiala eloped with the Viceroy’s daughter, at this particular point. It’s a lovely place to take in Shimla’s vibrant life.
- ENJOY A HOT CUPPA WITH SOME TRADITIONAL FARE AT INDIAN COFFEE HOUSE
This iconic coffee house opened in the 1950s, when Pandit Nehru sought to provide employment to workers from local communities. The Indian Coffee House on Shimla’s Mall Road is one of the only coffee houses to survive to this day and do well.
The delicious coffee, uniformed waiters, and 1960s atmosphere makes up for the dingy interiors.
The Shimla Book Fair
- PERUSE ANTIQUARIAN BOOKS AT MARIA BROTHERS SHOP IN MALL ROAD
This shop on Mall Road is mecca for those that enjoy perusing old leather-bound books. Shimla has always had a prominent reading culture. In fact, when I visited last month, I enjoyed a stop at their local book fair too.
- VISIT ONE OF THE OLDEST AND GRANDEST BOARDING SCHOOLS OF INDIA- BISHOP COTTON SCHOOL
There are many boarding schools of note in Shimla, but the Bishop Cotton School is one of the oldest in Asia, dating back to 1859. It definitely merits a visit for its beautiful architecture, unbeatable legacy and rich historical past.
- GORGE ON SOME DELICIOUS MITHAI
Walk down the Lower Bazaar on Mall Road and enjoy some lip-smackingly delicious Mithai at Shimla’s oldest Halwai shop, Mehru’s or Mehar Chand, as it is now known. The shop was established in 1902 and has been famous ever since, for good reason. Don’t miss the milk cake and laddoos sold here!
A traditional soft-serve ice cream or softie
- BRAVE THE COLD AND ENJOY A TRADITIONAL SOFTIE ICE-CREAM
If you prefer ice-cream to traditional mithai, then Shimla Mall road is the best place to enjoy an old-school softie. The soft-serve ice-cream, or softie, was all the rage in the 1940s! Enjoying a softie in Shimla’s rains makes one feel thoroughly nostalgic.
Ridge road in Shimla
- TAKE A HORSE-RIDE THROUGH THE RIDGE ROAD
Enjoy a horse-ride on the wide flat road known as the Ridge and feel transported back in time.
Christ Church on Ridge road, Shimla
- VISIT THE BEAUTIFUL CHRIST CHURCH
Located on the Ridge, this beautiful church is the second oldest in India, dating back to 1859. It is a fine specimen of Gothic architecture and definitely merits a visit.
While this is my list of places to visit in Shimla that have a colonial charm, Shimla also has many modern delights to offer. These include the cable-car/ gondola ride up to the Jakhu temple, the Johnnie’s Wax Museum, the Municipal park with many rides for children, a number of cafes and bars and even a local brewery.
What is your favourite part of Shimla? Tell me in the comments below!
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