Bhopal, the capital of the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, is a city of contrasts. In one side, there’s the Muslim-dominated Old City, a mesmerizing district of stunning mosques and vibrant markets. On the other side of Bhopal, the beauty of the Old City is countered by a bleak, sobering landscape: here you’ll find the infamous Union Carbide chemical plant, site of one of the world’s worst industrial tragedies, the Bhopal Disaster
. Heading South you’ll find a more modernized and hopeful dimension of Bhopal, with wide roads, shopping complexes, and upmarket hotels and restaurants nestled comfortably in the Arera and Shamla Hills, which overlook the lakes and the Old City beyond. Read on for our guide to the top ten sights and activities to explore in this multifaceted city.
Upper Lake or Bhojtal is the oldest manmade lake in India, said to have been built by the Parmara Raja Bhoj during his tenure as King of Malwa (1005–1055). It’s fabled that the waters of this lake cured the skin disease of the ailing king. Today, the Upper Lake serves as the major source of potable water for the residents of Bhopal. This lake also is a hub for fun water sports and other lakeside activities in Bhopal, such as sailing, paddle boating, and exhilarating motor boat rides. The beauty of this lake is only enhanced by the charms of the nearby Kamla Park.
Near CM House, Bhopal, India +91 755 2766750
Developed by the Madhya Pradesh State Tourism Development Corporation, Sair Sapata is a new tourism and entertainment complex situated on the banks of the Upper Lake in Bhopal spread over a vast area of 24.56 acres. Opened in 2011, the Sair Sapata offers a range of delightful attractions, including a musical fountain, a suspension bridge, and a toy train for joyrides. The starring feature is the center’s amusement park, which boasts numerous rides, several types of swings, and a bevy of tasty food kiosks. This is a perfect weekend trip for families traveling with children, or for a fun and memorable date.
Admission Fee: Budget
Opening hours: 9am-7pm
Prempura, Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh +91 755 2766750
Van Vihar National Park
Situated in the center of the city, the gorgeous Van Vihar National Park stretches across a staggering 445 hectares. This green expanse offers a new home to a wide variety of orphaned animals, brought in from other parts of the state or acquired in exchanges with other zoos. This is a unique national park where the herbivores roam freely, while the carnivores are enclosed in areas fitted with trenches and walls in order to prevent poaching. Predators like tigers and lions are fed mutton, while other animals like sambar, black buck and blue bull feed on the lush grass and other plant species growing in Van Vihar. The national park also shelters an admirable number of endangered species. This is a must-see for outdoorsy types and anyone interested in Indian wildlife.
Admission Fee: Budget
Opening hours: 9am-5pm
Shymala Hills, Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh +91 755 2766750
Known as the ‘The Crown of Mosques’, the Taj-ul-Masajid is a gorgeous mosque which was built by Bhopal’s third female ruler, Shah Jahan Begum, who wanted to create the largest mosque in the world. The mosque features a pink façade, on top of which stand the two 18-storey octogonal minarets with marble domes. Below the three huge bulbous domes of the mosque lies the main hallway with beautiful pillars and marble flooring. The double storey gateway in the courtyard with four recessed archways and nine cusped multi-fold openings leads to the main prayer hall. The mosque is gorgeous and gives a feeling of calm. Do visit it.
Opening hours: 6.30am-7pm
Address: NH 12, Kohefiza, Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh 462001 +91 755 2766750
National Museum of Mankind
The National Museum of Mankind or the Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya is the only museum in the world to combine its installations with actual tribal habitats, pairing exhibits of contemporary tribal cultures with actual-size dwellings of typical the tribal villages found in different Indian states. The features at this museum are broadly divided into three categories: open-air exhibitions, indoor galleries, and periodical or temporary exhibitions. The main building encompasses exhibition halls, a reference library, indoor and outdoor auditoriums, and other miscellaneous facilities in approximately 16 levels. Covered with Dholpur sandstone cladding from all sides and featuring authentic Kota stone flooring, this museum is a treat for the architecture alone, and a fantastic resource for learning about tribal lifestyles and histories all over India.
Opening hours: 10am-5.30pm
Shymala Hills, Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh +91 755 266 1458
Regional Science Centre
Opened on 12th January 1995, the Regional Science Centre in Bhopal is one of the 27 constituent units of National Council of Science Museums (NCSM). At this fun science center, visitors can witness rings defying gravity, pendulums creating chaos, and colored liquids changing into mind-bending alchemic spectacles. Other displays at this centre include carom boards shaped in the form of an ellipse, magnets with (in) visible lines of forces, and other enjoyable contraptions. Their Hall of Energy installation will teach you about the different forms of energy in the universe, delving into their production, practical applications, and potential environmental impact. The centre also houses a mini portable planetarium with an inflatable dome, offering a 30 minute show that allows visitors to get acquainted with different stars, constellations, and zodiacs of the night sky.
Admission Fee: Budget
Opening hours: 10.30am-6pm
Banganga Road, Shymala Hills, Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh +91 755 266 1655
Located around 46 Km north-east of Bhopal, Sanchi is famous for outstanding specimens of Buddhist art and architecture, its pieces ranging in age from third century BC to twelfth century AD. Perhaps the most notable of Sanchi’s many monuments is the Sanchi Stupa. Stupas are large hemispherical domes, containing a central chamber in which the relics of the Buddha were placed. The Sanchi Stupa is one of the best preserved early stupas in central India, recognized by UNESCO as an important World Heritage Site.
Opening hours: 6.30am-6.30pm
Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh +91 755 2766750
Inaugurated by Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on 13th February 1982, Bharat Bhawan is a multi-arts complex and museum established and funded by the Government of Madhya Pradesh, founded to create an interactive experience combining verbal, visual, and performing arts. The main entrance of this building is marked by a series of terraced gardens that can be seen cascading down to the Upper Lake. The many units of Bharat Bhawan include Roopankar (the museum of fine arts), Rangmandal (a repertory), Antrang (an indoor theatre), Bahirang (an outdoor theatre), Vagarth (a centre of Indian poetry), Anhad (a library of classical and folk music) and an art gallery. This thriving contemporary arts center is a vital stop to better understand the huge variety and diversity of India’s performing arts scene.
Admission Fee: Budget
Opening hours: February-October 2pm-8pm daily; November to January 1pm-7pm daily
Lake View Road, Shymala Hills, Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh +91 755 2660239
Unquestionably one of the best restaurants in Bhopal, you’ll find the brilliant Za-aiqa in the upscale heritage hotel Noor-Us-Sabah Palace. The restaurant serves Mughlai and Peshwari cuisine in a picturesque setting, with gorgeous views overlooking the lake, and an equally entrancing view of the see-through live display kitchen where you can watch as your meal is prepared. The meat and seafood here are the starring attractions, so come hungry and prepare for a sumptuous meal of biryani and fish tikka.
Price: High range
Opening hours: 12pm-3pm 7pm-11pm
Watch out for: their non-vegetarian platter
VIP Road, Kohefiza, Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh +91 755 422 3333
Manua bhan ki Tekri is a very famous Jain temple in Bhopal. To reach this secluded, sacred site, you have to use a special ropeway, which offers magnificent scenes of Bhopal along the way. The ropeway itself is a novel experience offering a unique perspective on the city, and once you’ve reached the temple, you can sit back and relax with the family while absorbing glorious Jain architecture and Bhopal’s exotic scenery.
Opening hours: 10am-7pm
Sun City, Lalghati, Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh +91 755 2766750