Ahmedabad stands at the confluence of the old with the new. At first glance traffic-ridden and polluted, this city of textile mills and millionaires hides the gems of its glorious past. Beautiful mosques, carved havelis and ancient temples are screened from view behind its steel-and-sky-scraper facade. It's a city on the brink of change, like most urban centres in India, not quite here, not quite there.
So while you have the option of roaming the labyrinthine streets of the old city, drinking at the sites of its atmospheric mosques, the citizens of Ahmedabad are flocking to shopping malls, buying happy meals at McDonalds and strutting around in Levi's.
That said, they are fiercely protective of their city, and gracious hosts. They might throng McDonalds but if you are their guest they will take you to the roadside kiosk serving the best sandwich dhokla in the city and stuff your face with khaman. Soft spoken and friendly, the people of Amdavad will take care of you.
Three bridges connect Old Ahmedabad to New Ahmedabad. Some of India's most prestigious institutes of learning thrive here. The city's beautiful architecture exemplifies Indo-Islamic style and the two communities have lived here in peace since over half a millennium.
Places to Eat in Ahmedabad
For Gujaratis, food is not incidental. Gujarati cuisine is big on snacks and savouries, which means that small roadside kiosks are peppered all over the city, serving everything from dhokla to khamani to sev to buff vada to poha. Wash all this down with a tall glass of cold coffee from one of the ubiquitous ice-cream parlours. And don’t miss the sandwich dhokla! Teen Darwaja is good place to try these savouries.
Non-vegetarian food is hard to find but if you are serious about your penchant for all things animal, head towards Bhatiyar Gali in the Old city. This Chandni Chowk-like alley is cramped with shops after shops selling delicious kebabs, varieties of biryani, Roganjosh. Another option is the Simran restaurant in the Khanpur area (next to Le Meridian).
Havemore is another popular restaurant with branches all over the city. It serves vegetarian Indian fare - try the sumptuous Gujarati thali. For those looking for real Gujarati cuisine in authentic ambience, visit Vishala.
Also visit Chandravilas at Manek Chowk in Old Ahmedabad. Located on Fernandes Bridge, apart from gorging on farsaan and fafda here, you can browse through a thriving street book market under the bridge!
In New Ahmedabad, do not miss Khau Gali in Law Garden for some fiery street food. The new city is also ideal of you want to take a break with some other cuisine apart from Gujarati. With options ranging from Kathiawadi, Saurasthra and Rajasthani to Punjabi, Thai and Italian, you really can't go wrong with food in Ahmedabad. Popular Punjabi restaurants include Mirch Masala at Swastik Cross Road, Tomato's at CG Road (Also famous for shopping in Ahmedabad), 9 Spice at the Sarkhej-Gandhinagar highway, Chuttneez at Fun Republic and Copper Chimney on CG Road. The restaurants at Fun Republic also serve Thai, and Little Italy serves Italian.
Shopping and Popular Buys in Ahmedabad
The major shopping areas include Gandhi Road and Relief Road in Old Ahmedabad. CG Road in New Ahmedabad is lined with rows of all brands possible. But if it's something traditional that you are looking for, head towards the National Handloom Emporium near CG Road.
Also visit the daily flea market opposite Law Garden (also famous for Gujrati street food) for some 'ethnic chic', everything from clothes to jewellery to bags. The area around the Teen Darwaja is ideal if you are looking for antiques, ethnic furniture and traditional artifacts. Tamanna, Bandhej, Gurjari and Avasar Creations are high end boutiques offering good quality, traditional fabrics, clothing and furniture.
Places to see in Ahmedabad
Old Ahmedabad is fascinating, with its labyrinthine alleyways, old havelis and vibrant bazaars and is best explored on foot. New Ahmedabad offers the trappings of civilisation of one of the richest urban centres in Indian, complete with multiplexes, shopping malls, bowling alleys, entertainment parks and even a drive-in cinema. Fusion architecture is everywhere, obvious in the mosques and mausoleums of the city, which blend Islamic principles of design with sculpted ornamentation from Hindu art.
The havelis in Ahmedabad paint a clear picture of the lavish lifestyle led by the rich in the 19th century. Another place worth a visit is the Shahibaug Palace which was built in 1622 AD by Shahjahan and has now been converted to Sardar Patel Memorial. The 600 year old Bhadra Fort in the old city was initially built with a fort wall that had 12 entrance gates or darwazaas, of which Teen Darwaza is the famous one amongst the few that are intact. Besides the monuments in the city, Nagina Wadi, a summer palace on a lake island is worth visiting. For those interested in a little colonial touch, the 300 year old Dutch cemetery near the lake would provide an opportunity to see the tombs of the Dutch and English pioneers who started the industrialisation of Ahmedabad by establishing their factories here.
This ancient city is home to some of the finest museums in the country. A must visit is the Calico Museum, arguably one of the finest textile museums in the world with a collection showcasing rare textiles and costumes dating back to the 17th century, as well as furniture and crafts. Located on the banks of the River Sabarmati, Sabarmati Gandhi Ashram has a fine collection of Mahatma Gandhi personal belongings including wooden shoes, some articles of clothing and a pair of round spectacles. A one-hour light and sound show is held at the ashram, which narrates the story of his life.
Things to do in Ahmedabad
The Kankaria Lake is a favourite picnic spot since it is surrounded by the Kankaria Zoo, a boat club and the Balvatika which has a collection of mirrors that deform shapes, thus providing a good laugh. The 'Our World'; complex has a multiplex theatre, restaurants as well as entertainment activities such as go karting, bowling, pool. It lies near Gandhinagar, approximately 40 minutes from Ahmedabad. Enjoy a film at the only drive in cinema of the country! Lounge in your car with snacks and drinks and have a picnic with a twist.
Ahmedabad celebrates many festivals and events with great pomp and gaiety including the famous Navratri Festival. Ahmedabad hosts many special events every year that draw people from far and near. An international event, International Kite Festival sees participants from all over the world and lasts for two days. You must participate in the festival if you are in the city around January 14. Vikram Sarabhai International Arts Festival is another noted annual event of the city. Held in December, the festival draws artists from all over the world and is a culmination of all performing arts, combing dance, music, theatre and even puppetry into breathtaking performances.
The discotheques are located on the outskirts of this 'dry' city. Come here to shake a leg to the latest Bollywood numbers amid hi-tech disco lights, albeit without alcohol. But the youngsters in Ahmedabad are not complaining - even if the entry fee is redeemable on paneer tikka and pakoda, the 'discs' run packed. Don't be a spoilsport, pick up a glass of khas sherbet and join the swaying multitudes! Bootlegging is common and if you have the right connections, procuring all kinds of exotic liquors is easy. If you don't, however, you can spend many frustrated evenings chasing illusive promises of booze and ending up with local, hardcore products. Stay away.
Although Ahmedabad itself offers plenty of sightseeing and leisure options, but there are a number of nearby getaways that you can visit. Visit the ruins at Lothal (70 km), which dates back to 2400 BC making it one of the earliest human civilisations. Lothal's dock is also the world's earliest, which connected the city to an ancient course of the Sabarmati river on the trade route between Harappan cities in Sindh and the peninsula of Saurashtra.
Approximately 102 km away from Ahmedabad, Modhera is renowned for its 11th century Sun Temple that was built by King Bhimdeva, a Solanki Rajput ruler. Situated on the bank of Pushpawati River, the temple has a beautifully carved entrance and its design is such that at dawn, sun's rays converge at the statue of the deity. A scientific marvel, its walls are decorated with beautiful intricate carving. Head towards Patan (133 km) to see 1000 year old step well, 'Rani Ki Vav', which is meticulously sculpted and is seven stories deep.
Close by are the remains of an artificial lake, Sahastralinga Talao with stone ghats and remnants of a Shiva Temple. More than anything else, Patan is famous for potala saris which are worth a fortune since each sari takes about six months to weave and there are only three families in the world that can create these!
Traveller Tips for Gujrat
Consumption of alcohol is prohibited in Gujarat state. However, foreign nationals and non resident Indians can obtain a one month liquor permit by showing their passport while resident Indians from states other than Gujarat can obtain a 'health' license by submitting the following documents: