Founded in the 5th century BC as Patiliputra – the marvellous ruins of which lie adjacent to the modern city – the capital of India’s eastern state of Bihar is one of the country’s fastest growing cities. In the wake of recent boom in real estate development, steadily shaping Patna’s infrastructure for further tourism, here’s our guide to the most exciting sites and activities worth pursuing on your visit to the wonderful and exciting city of Patna.
Golghar, the undisputed architectural landmark of Patna, evokes marvel and a lot of curiosity. This unique domed structure to the west of the Gandhi Maidan was built by Captain John Garstin in 1786, as a granary for the British Army. The engineer was probably inspired by Stupa architecture and surprisingly made no use of pillars to support its 29m of height and 125m diameter. Climbing the spiral staircase around the Golghar, once used for loading and unloading, promises wonderful panoramic views of the city and the Ganges River.
Just outside Patna Junction, Mahavir Mandir, also known as Hanuman mandir, is many visitors’ first taste of religious culture in Bihar. It was once a nondescript little structure, and gained popularity with incoming Hindu refugees following the partition of India in the forties. The present structure was erected in 1987 with a distinct modernist take on traditional motifs. Architecture however is not the measure of its greatness as much as the devotion it attracts. Winding queues of faithful on Saturdays and Tuesdays, the worshiping days of Lord Hanuman, are a sight not worth missing.
Takht Sri Patna Sahib
Reaching Takht Sri Patna Sahib – a Gurdwara or Sikh place of worship, famous for being built on the site of Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s birthplace – is an adventure in itself. Navigating through the narrow streets and congested traffic of Patna’s city center, you’ll eventually reach this stately 18th century meditative palace of white marble on the banks of the Ganges, welcoming pilgrims and secular visitors alike. If a couple hours of serenity aren’t enough, visitors are invited to stay the night, as is the custom with Sikh temples, in an adjacent housing complex.
Jalan Museum, or Quila House, is an eclectic private museum and a residential house situated on the banks of the Ganges. Home to five generations of the Jalan family since 1919, it’s a gem of a place, overflowing with objects d’art and antiques acquired by Radha Krishna Jalan. The collection includes elaborate Mughal-period silverware, Sèvres porcelain once belonging to Marie Antoinette, and the wooden bed of Napoleon III. Full of surprises round every turn, it is well worth the time to call 48 hours ahead and make an appointment. Since the house is not a public institution, this is the only way to secure a visit.
For an immersion in Bihar’s glorious past, head to the ruins of the ancient university of Nalanda. Monumental red brick walls and stupas proudly stand on the site of what was the longest running university in Indian history. It was established by Buddhist monks in 450C and is thought to have accommodated over 10,000 students and hosted Buddha Siddhartha himself. All that remains today are ruins spread across an area of 14 hectares, ample space to enjoy the tranquil surroundings. At some 80 kilometers from Patna city and easily accessible by bus, there are few better ways to spend an adventurous day trip.
Purposely built in 1917 by the British following an eclectic style incorporating elements from Mughal and Rajput architecture, Patna Museum houses a collection of over 20,000 historical and archaeological artifacts discovered in the vicinity of the city. The grand building is worth a visit in its own right. The real treasures of the collection, however, include a fossil of a tree said to date more than 200 million years, a casket excavated from the Stupa of Vaishali allegedly containing the ashes of Gautama Buddha, and the museum’s most prized artifact: the life-size Didarganj Yakshi statue (300 BCE), one of the world’s finest examples of Mauryan art.
The steps leading down to the Ganges, close to the small ferry terminal, is a fantastic spot from which to soak in the peaceful rhythms of the river and observe an authentic slice of Indian reality. Couples hang out here occasionally, kids play and bathe and if you look vaguely like a tourist you’ll be offered a short boat ride after negotiating the price. On Saturday and Sunday evenings at around 18.00, crowds flock here to witness Hindu priests draped in saffron robes perform the Aarti ritual, an offering of light and fire to the deities accompanied by songs of praise.
30km west of Patna city center, in the environs of Maner, sits Chhoti Dargah, one of the finest and least known Mughal mausoleums of Eastern India. It is a magnificent three-storey domed structure with four twelve-sided minarets in its flanks. Its walls are adorned with intricate designs and passages from the Koran are inscribed on the ceiling. The mausoleum was erected in 1616 in honor of Sufi Muslim saint Makhdoom Shah Daulat who was buried on the spot some years prior. Summers see the large body of water in front of the building turn into local children’s favorite swimming baths.
Jain Temple of Pawapuri
Despite being one of the oldest of the ancient Indian religions, Jainism remains shrouded in obscurity to many visitors. Pawapuri, or the sinless city, is a major pilgrimage spot for Jains from all over the country. Here, they believe all sins are absolved. Lord Mahavira, founder of Jainism, breathed his last at this place around 500BCE. A beautiful marble temple, the Jalmandir, was later built at the center of a large water body.
Sanjay Gandhi Jaivik Udyan
First established as a botanical garden in 1969, this most popular of green areas among Patna residents combines vast open spaces containing more than 300 species of trees, herbs, and shrubs, as well as one of the country’s largest zoos. It is an ideal place to gather for picnics, or simply to take a walk through indoor orchid houses and rose gardens. The Zoo is rather extensive and particularly well kept, featuring more than 800 animals from some 100 species, including hippos, tigers, Himalayan bears and rare breeding pairs of Indian Rhinos.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.