Gwalior is one of the districts being developed under the Smart Cities Mission of India’s Prime Minister Modi. Its future is promising and bright; its past majestic and remarkable. The historic city in Madhya Pradesh state is surrounded by rocky hills and sits on a valley. Its colorful history tells of rule by northern kingdoms and a fierce rebellion. Now, the metropolitan center remains an important tourist destination. Gwalior has some of the most majestic temples and palaces in the region. An archeological museum offers a glimpse at the city’s eventful past. Your travels in this ancient hill fort district should be guided by our definitive list of top things Gwalior is famous for.
1. Jai Vilas Palace
Jai Vilas Mahal was established by the Maharaja of Gwalior in the late 19th century and designed by Michael Filose, a Knight Commander of the Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire. Living descendants of the Maratha Scindia dynasty still call the palace home. Their private quarters are closed to the public. Twenty-five rooms of the palace are now serving as Jiwajirao Scindia Museum. The commodious Darbar Hall is clad in solid gold and has two majestic chandeliers. The facade presents combined styles from various traditions. Apart from the impressive facade and spectacular Darbar Hall, the palace boasts singular art and decorative pieces adorning its 400 rooms.
Jai Vilas Mahal
Address: Lashkar, Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh 474007, India
Website: Jai Vilas Palace
Opening hours: Thu - Tue: 10am - 4.30pm (closed on Wed)
Price: 2 USD (Indian nationals), 8 USD (foreign nationals)
2. Gwalior Fort
Gwalior Fort is as impenetrable now as it was in the 10th century. The main palaces are fortified by defensive structures first of which is a wall of sandstone. This “Pearl Amongst Fortresses” may have been built as early as the 6th century. Its high vantage point on a rocky mountain makes it a dominant feature of Gwalior. The fort has six temples within as well as water tanks. There are six palaces in all, the most elaborate of which is the Man Mandir Palace. The fort is an important landmark for architecture as well, with various sections representing decorative motifs from different regions and dynasties in India. You will reach this most important monument in Gwalior after a steep climb up a winding road.
Address: Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh 474008, India
Website: Gwalior Fort
Opening hours: 6am - 5.30pm (daily)
Price: 1 USD (Indian nationals); 3.34 USD (foreign nationals)
3. Gopachal Parvat rock-cut sculptures
Gopachal Parvat Jaina monuments are rock-cut sculptures in Padmasana and Kayotsarga postures on the eastern face of a cliff. It may be quiet there during your visit because uninterested tourists do not stop by on their way to Gwalior Fort; a missed opportunity. The sculptures range in size from 2 meters to 10 meters (6.6 feet to 32.8 feet). Some statues are defaced but most are intact. There are intricate carvings to view as well, and hidden caves to explore. There are stairs to climb to reach the statues and you need to do so barefoot. The carvings are believed to have been made between the 7th and 15th centuries.
Gopachal Parvat rock-cut sculptures
Address: Phulbagh Rd, Gopachal Marg, Lashkar, Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh 474002, India
4. Street food
When walking the streets of Gwalior you’re likely to find excellent Jodhpur waale ki Kachaudi (kachori), a popular snack. Essentially, it’s a deep-fried bread. Choose a stall with a long line. They’re guaranteed to serve great street food. How about something sweet? Bahadura waale ke laddu is an Indian confection made with sugar, flour, and sweetening and rolled into bite-sized balls. In Gwalior’s busy streets you’ll find fresh bundi laddus made before your eyes. Even if you don’t have a sweet tooth, it would be difficult to resist the temptation at Bahadura Sweets. You’ll find it at Naya Bazar, Gwalior. The street is narrow and crowded and there’s not enough sitting space, but they have the best laddu as it is made of pure clarified butter - desi ghee.
Address: Lohiya Bazaar Road Near, Bajaj Oli, Naya Bazaar, Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh 474009, India
Website: Bahadura Sweets
Opening hours: Mon - Sat: 6am - 7.30pm; Sun: 6am - 1pm
5. Tansen Music Festival
Tansen Samaroh or Tansen Sangeet Samaroh is a celebration of Indian classical music and the life and works of the great musical legend, Mian Tansen (Ramtanu Misra). The musical extravaganza starts on December 17 and ends on the 21st. Tansen was a vocalist, instrumentalist, and composer in the court of the Mughal Emperor Jalal ud-din Akbar. The Ustad Alauddin Khan Kala Evam Sangeet Academy and Madhya Pradesh government work together to organize the annual event, which is the most esteemed music festival in the country. You should visit Gwalior in December to experience the best classical musicians in India. Renowned international artists perform at the cultural festival as well.
Address: Tansen Samadhi Parisar, Hajeera, Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh
Website: Tansen Samaroh
6. Gwalior Trade Fair
Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing
The largest trade fair in Madhya Pradesh happens in Gwalior. The cattle trade is the star of the show, and for more than a hundred years the fair has been attracting a humongous number of people yearly. The Gwalior Trade Fair was established by Maharaja Madhav Rao Scindia in 1905. Merchants, artisans, budding entrepreneurs, and people of all ages buy and sell goods of every kind from daybreak until late in the night. Cultural and musical performances add color to an already extravagant event. You’d want to check out the Shilp Bazaar for some of the finest handmade goods sold in India. Visit Gwalior in December for a chance to experience this remarkable trade fair.
Gwalior Trade Fair
Address: Mela Ground (Pragathi Maidan), Race Course Road, Gwalior, India
Photo is only for illustrative purposes
A bowl of namkeen could see you through a hectic day of sightseeing around Gwalior. Namkeen or numkin is a collective term for savory snacks in India. Some of the most popular namkeen are punukkulu, tikha gathiya, chivda, farsan, Gujarati gathiya, and sev. They are packed with flavor, filling, and made with a variety of Indian spices. You can get them freshly made by street vendors. You’ll find them in supermarkets as well. Meanwhile, gajak is a special treat from Madhya Pradesh. It is an ancient recipe that has been expanded through generations. Essential ingredients for this dry confection are sugar, jaggery, and sesame seeds. Gajak is usually made in the cold months. Packaged versions are available from supermarket shelves if you want to bring them home for family and friends.
New Rathore Namkeen Bhandar
Address: B Block, Chouraha, Anand Nagar Gate, Anand Nagar Chouraha, Lashkar, Bhohdapur, Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh 474002
Opening hours: 10am - 9pm (daily)
8. Tansen Tomb
According to legend, Tansen enchanted animals, and made it pour with his vocal prowess. The gifted Hindustani musician was born in 1500 and passed away in 1586. The Mughal Emperor brought him to his court after hearing about his talents. His astounding performances were documented by court historians, mixing fact with flights of fancy. As mentioned above, Tansen’s brilliance as a musician is commemorated yearly in the Tansen Samaroh. His influence can still be felt today particularly in the Dhrupad compositions he left behind. Visiting the Memorial of Tansen in Gwalior is a way of paying tribute to his contribution to the world of music in India. The tomb is also in itself an architectural marvel and testament to the decorative bent of Mughal architecture.
The Memorial of Tansen
Address: Gwalior,, Tansen Nagar, Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh 474002, India
Opening hours: 8am - 6pm (daily)
9. Maharaj Bada (Jayaaji Chowk)
Maharaj Bada (Jayaaji Chowk) is a central grand square in Lashkar that is surrounded by heritage buildings. Bada is a market where the hustle and bustle of the city are palpable. Before your attention turns to the stalls, jewelry shops, and business establishments, look around Bada and its architectural marvels. At the center of the square is a white marble platform bearing the statue of Shrimant Jayajirao Scindia, who ruled Gwalior as Maharaja from 1843 to 1886. Surrounding the square in an oval ring is the abandoned Victoria market, the Devghar Mandir beside Gorkhi gate, the General Post Office Building, the SBI ATM building, the Town Hall, and the Government Press. Bada should be easy to find as it is located in the center of Lashkar.
Address: Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh 474001, India
10. Sun Temple
Surya Mandir in Gwalior is a temple for the Sun God and modeled after the Konark Surya Mandir in Odisha. It is a popular spot for tourists and one of 20 sun temples in India. It is an important place of worship as well. The Sun Temple was built in 1988 by Ghanshyam Das Birla, an industrialist and philanthropist associated with Mahatma Gandhi. The temple used white marble for the interiors and has a red sandstone exterior. The design of the temple is that of a chariot with seven horses. The reins of the chariot are held by the Sun God himself. Though not made in ancient times, it is the product of remarkable artistry and craft.
Sun Temple (Surya Mandir)
Address: Residency Rd, Mahaveer, Morar, Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh 474004, India
Opening hours: 6.30am - 12pm; 1pm - 6 pm (daily)
Named Gopgiri in ancient times, Gwalior is still one of the most important historical and cultural pillars of Central India. The city is the spiritual core of Madhya Pradesh and a promising destination for the curious and adventurous.
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