Steeped in a splendid past, Gwalior is definitely one of the finest examples of a traditional city turned modern. This historic city was established by the warrior Suraj Sen for the revered sage Gwalipa, who cured him of leprosy. Of course, there's lots to discover here, towering palaces, ancient temples and mosques. But the favourite for all remains the magnificent Gwalior Fort. Almost impenetrable, with sides leading to a sharp fall in the valley, this Fort houses within it a large number of interesting palaces, temples and gateways. Gwalior is the land of sword fights, rock carved temples and intricate palaces. Take in its several attractions in a perfect holiday!
Auto rickshaws, taxis and mini buses are the cheapest and most common modes of transport within the city of Gwalior. Though you can travel by public buses within the city, for excursions and full day sightseeing, it is advisable to hire a private vehicle.
Gwalior Fort: Nestled on an enormous sandstone hill, the fort is definitely the most recognized structures in Gwalior. The walls of the fort that encircle it stand over 10 m high and are absolutely solid - hence impenetrable. The fort is accessible by a steep road, whose sides are marked by beautiful Jain statues. Out of the three main entrances, only the eastern and western are accessible. The eastern end is guarded by the Urwahi Gate and six gates guard the western entrance. The Urwahi Rock inside, has two sides leading to a sharp fall in the valley and which is home to almost 22 Jain rock carvings. Among the most interesting structures is the Gujari Mahal, now converted to an Archaeological Museum. This museum has on display an extensive collection of rare and exquisite stone carvings. Particularly worth seeing is the statue of Shalbhanjika the tree goddess from Gyraspur. This statue is made visible only on request. The Man Mandir Palace is another impressive structure showcasing extensive use of bright colours, motifs and design. This palace is also known as the Chitra Mandir or the Palace of Paintings because of the tiled and painted decorations of peacocks and other birds. Most of the designs and patters are adorned appropriately and ornately with carved animals, flowers, and the human form. Also within this palace is the dancing hall bounded by a balcony and a courtyard. Suraj Kund is particularly noted as the place where Sage Gwalipa cured Suraj Sen of leprosy from the waters of this pond.
Interestingly made are the Saas-Bahu Temples, which are a group of two temples located adjacent to each other and derive their names from the difference in their sizes. The larger of the two (Saas Temple) is profusely sculpted with graceful figures and intricate patterns. Both are designed in a similar style and date between the 9th and 11th centuries. The Saas Temple with its ornate base is dedicated to Vishnu while the Bahu Temple is dedicated to Shiva. The Teli-ka-Mandir is believed to be the oldest in the fort. It exhibits a Dravidian style of architecture and the sculptures are distinctly North Indian. Dedicated to Lord Vishnu, the Garuda bird can be seen on top of the 10-metre-high doorway. The fort also houses the beautiful Scindia School, which is one of India's finest educational institutions.
Open from: Temples & Palaces within - 8.00 am-5.00 pm (Saturday - Thursday)
Tomb of Mohammad Ghaus: This famous structure is dedicated to the Islamic saint Mohammad Ghaus. The stone carving for which the skilled artisans of Gwalior were justly famous is apparent in the huge panels of lacy screen work, which combine with an interesting architectural design to create a delicate, ethereal appeal.
Memorial of Tansen: Adjacent to the tomb of Ghaus is another small white, austere tomb dedicated to Tansen, a famed musician, and one of the nine gems in Akbar's court. Held annually here is the Tansen Sangeet Samaroh, a world-renowned music festival, which draws in scores of tourists.
Surya Mandir: This famous temple is said to have been built in a similar design as the famed Sun Temple at Konark in Orissa.
Jai Vilas Palace and Museum: This is an opulent structure, set in carefully laid lawns. Part of the palace functions as residence of the royal family while the other has been converted into a museum that effectively documents a more leisurely and princely lifestyle. The museum exhibits, consisting of collections of the Scindia family, include such things as chandeliers weighing several tons, a silver toy train whose wagons were used as serving dishes and a glass cradle from Italy used for Lord Krishna at Janmashtami.
Open from: 10.00 am-5.00 pm (Wednesday Closed)
Kala Vithika: Situated near the Gwalior Railway Station in the heart of the city, Kala Vithika is a good place to venture into if you are looking for some information on the history and culture of Gwalior.
True, there is hardly any signature cuisine in Gwalior, and most known here are sweet and salted snacks, available at the popular snacks joints. Of course, almost all hotels have their in-house restaurants and cafés, so eating out is not really a problem. Kwality Restaurant is a popular hangout where you can indulge in tasty Indian cuisine. Cook's Fast Food Joint located on Patankar Bazar is a great place to grab a quick bite, especially pav bhajis and sandwiches. Landmark Restaurant offers a good range of dishes to choose from for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Chotiwala Restaurant is one of the better places to try out Indian snacks and sweets. The restaurant inside Usha Kiran Palace is known for its delectable selection of authentic Indian cuisine. Blue Fox Restaurant in Hotel Shelter is quite nice for a leisurely dinner. Regular Indian food is available at Volga on Jayendraganj Road and pure vege thalis can be had at Bhojan in Patankar Bazaar. Their rotis and kadis are particularly nice. Do make your way to the Indian Coffee House located on Station Road for quick snacks and superb coffee. And finally, all sweet-lovers should try the Morena Gajak, a crunchy wafer made of sugar, jaggery and sesame seeds and best available at Daulat Ram.
This is one place to fill your goody bags with curios and souvenirs. And what makes the experience even better is the fact that most shops here were patronized by the royalties of Gwalior. Hence, replicas of royalties are commonly available here. On the lookout for authentic souvenirs? Explore the shops near Rajwara, Laskar and Patankar Bazaar. You can rummage through a wide range of lacquer ware, dolls, hand-woven carpets, wall hangings and jewellery. The region is famous for its Chanderi Saris and you can get these from the shops lining the Chowk or the downtown Bada. Mrignayani is the official shop for handicrafts, Chanderi Saris and other craft items. The Government also manages Emporiums, which offer quite a range of arts and crafts.
Held in November end, the Tansen Music Festival is dedicated to the great musician and Indian classical singer, Tansen, who was also one of the nine gems of Akbar's court. This festival witnesses music lovers and performers gathering from all corners of the world to take part in the 5-night festivities. Another popular celebration is the Baredi or Yadav Dance, which is celebrated one-day after Diwali. During this, dancers and folk artists sing to the accompaniment of music and bright garments. Along with these, the marriage rituals of the locals, which include some of the most interesting forms of dances, are also exciting to watch.
From top end to budget hotels, mid-range and palaces-turned-heritage hotels, Gwalior has quite an array of staying options. The Taj managed Usha Kiran Palace is one of the most prominent hotels in Gwalior. With its friendly service, warm hospitality an great food, this is one of the most-loved options here. Hotel Suruchi is a good budget hotel that offers a comfortable stay with modern amenities. The hotel is conveniently located in the centre and is easily accessible. Hotel Shelter is ideally located in the heart of the city and has an in-house coffee shop. Hotel Sita Manor is a great budget hotel with stylish interiors offering magnificent views from all floors. Tastefully decorated in marble Hotel Landmark is suited for the luxury traveler. Another good option in the heart of the city is Hotel Shelter, which is located conveniently close to the station.