Exploring Shimla with kids like locals
Exploring Shimla with kids like locals
After this experience, I absolutely agree – Shimla is a Walker’s Paradise. Every lane boasts of a history, every house has a story and as you walk by there are more Y-junctions to explore. Come with me, while I go exploring Shimla with kids like locals. Eventually, you will agree with me that the best way to explore the Heritage zone of this summer capital of the British India is on foot.
With a guide from Shimla Walks, we started our tour at the Ridge
The Ridge is the largest open space in the heart of Shimla. It is the hub of all cultural activities. You can see four gems of Shimla’s heritage zone here – Christ Church, State Library, Bandstand and Gaiety Theatre.
Designed in neo-Gothic style and built in 1884, Christ Church is the second oldest in North India. The church contains five fine stained glass window, representing Christian virtues of Faith, Hope, Charity, Fortitude, Patience, and Humility. Lit at night to illuminate it, the Church acts as a lighthouse for Mall road!
This 19th century tudor styled timber and stone building is home to more than thousands of rare and old books. I could see how inviting its wide wood-panelled windows and sloping roofs can be during a snowy evening with books for company!
Constructed in 1920 with a backdrop of towering green Jakhu hill at a little distance, the band stand was a place where people could rest and enjoy the beauty of the snowclad Himalayas. Apparently, military bands used to play music at this place and hence it got the name ‘Band Stand’. The state tourism department has now converted this to a restaurant called “Ashiana”. I could not visit it but heard good reviews about the food.
You get a good outside view of this lovely Victorian theatre, originally inaugurated in 1888. It served as entertainment place for the Anglo-Indian community during the British era. Built in stone with huge glass windows and doors, it has been maintained quite well. We did not get time to see it from inside but the old theatre hall is said to be a delight. This hall is equipped with Stage lights, traditionally unique curtain arrangement with sand bags and pulleys and natural acoustics! Today, it serves as a stage for Shimla Amateur Dramatic Club and for promotion of other cultural activities.
Large water tanks with a capacity of 10 lakh gallons exist underneath the Ridge. Constructed in the 1880s with just lime mortar, these tanks have been the main water supply for Shimla but with growing population, additional sources of water have been enlisted.
The view from the ridge is replete with firs, pines, the Himalayan oak and rhododendron trees with dotted red or green roofed chalets and Gothic Government buildings!
This probably will pique your interest as it did mine, while I was exploring Shimla with kids like locals. This famous address in Shimla got its name in the 19th century and is a must visit for tourists. Situated where the Ridge and the Mall (road) converge, it got its name in the 19th century.
The most common story told about the Scandal Point is that of the colourful Maharaja of Patiala, Bhupinder Singh. He apparently eloped with the British Viceroy’s daughter in 1892, post which he was banned by the British from entering Shimla. As a result, he constructed a summer capital for himself at a small village called Chail. This intersection of the Ridge and the Mall where he eloped with her, came to be called as Scandal Point!
This heritage general post office was opened during the British raj when Shimla was the summer capital of India. Constructed in 1882, it is a timber structure with tin roof. This is the oldest post office in Northern India and was called Conny Cottage. Interestingly, even today, the mail is distributed to people using tonga mail delivery!
Headquarters of the Indian Army
This green and white building was where the planning and execution of WWI and WWII. Both Indo Pak wars were planned and conducted from here. Now it is home to “The Army Training Command” and is responsible for training the entire Army.
Exploring Shimla with kids like locals, you will see the majestic red and off white building which is now office of CPWD and the Superintendent of Police.
Right opposite you get a lovely aerial view of Annadale grounds.
As we walked towards our destination, we crossed most quaint Vidhan Sabha that I have set my eyes on, with the white oak and Rhododendrons growing in the valley opposite it.
The Cecil Oberoi
Finally, we reached our first official stop – The Cecil Oberoi, a welcome break as we were on our foot since we started exploring Shimla with kids like locals. It started with a modest beginning in 1883 as a one storied house, called the Tendril Cottage with its famed resident, Mr Rudyard Kipling. It is claimed that Rudyard Kipling penned novels inspired by the Queen of Hills from here.
As we stepped in, I could see why it was so popular during the British Raj. It was famous for its fabulous ballroom dances and fashionable clientele.
We walked past a lobby with marble fireplaces and entered a comfortable lounge which is lit from above by a skylight that covers the hotel’s signature atrium in its entirety. The restored grand ballroom now serves a wide range of Indian, local and international cuisine
The Viceregal Lodge
Finally we reached our destination – The Viceregal Lodge
The Viceregal Lodge is an elaborate Mock-Tudor stately home that is surrounded by immaculately maintained gardens. Surrounded by immaculately maintained gardens, The Viceregal Lodge is an elaborate Mock-Tudor stately home. Designed by British architect Henry Irwin, it was the summer residence of the British Viceroy of India. It offers a mesmerising view of the valley as it is built on the summit of Observatory Hill, which is the second highest point of Shimla, The entire summit of Observatory Hill was flattened and leveled, local gray sandstone and light blue limestone were transported to the construction site by mules for its construction.
Construction of the Lodge started in 1880 and took 8 years to complete. The lodge boasts of a vast wine cellar, a room for empty suitcases and an indoor tennis court! Luxury at its best 🙂
The Viceroy Lodge has been witness to many significant decisions about India, including the 1947 partition discussions which created India and Pakistan. It displays some of the ancient articles and photographs from the times of the British Rule in India. In addition, you can see the British coat of arms on the façade of the lodge.
The summer capital of British India was of little use to the President of India who visited it only for a few days in the year, if at all. Professor S. Radhakrishnan handed it to the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies to put it to better use.
Interesting facts about Viceregal Lodge
Filled with the latest technology of the time, in addition to being an architecturally charming structure, the Viceregal Lodge was a place to recon with.
- It had a complex piping system to provide both hot and cold water
- Rain water was stored under the lawns in the front of the house.
- A large steam generator installed which provided the lodge with electric lighting in 1888, much before the rest of the town of Shimla
- Equipped with a sophisticated firefighting mechanism through wax-tipped water ducts, the building was almost a marvel. This feature was was proudly displayed during our tour of the lodge
As my exploring Shimla with kids like locals came to an end and we walked back, I couldn’t help but imagining the life of luxury the British enjoyed while their rule in India. Maybe they did give us some great architecture and systems, yet the luxury and comfort that they experienced here was beyond anything they would have had back home.
Have you enjoyed the heritage walk exploring Shimla with kids like a local ? Do share your experience in the comments
Things you may want to know before the travel (Travel tips)
- Reaching Shimla
- Air – Visitors can fly into Jubbarhatti, located 23 kilometers from Shimla. Flights operate from New Delhi, Chandigarh and Kullu daily
- Rail/ Train – The nearest railway station that connects to Shimla is at Kalka. It takes about 5.5 hours to cover 96 kilometers, crossing 102 tunnels, 864 bridges, 919 curves and crossing 20 railway stations. You can read more about it here
- Road – Shimla is well connected from New Delhi and Chandigarh through national highways. It takes approximately 8 hours from Delhi and 5 hours from Chandigarh. Tourists can opt for buses plying from cities like Chandigarh and Delhi
- Most monuments had free entry and opened from 9 AM to 5 PM
- Visitors can buy tickets at Rs 10 (Indians) and Rs 25 rupees (non Indians) for Gaiety Theatre
- Viceregal Lodge is open from 10 AM – 5 PM
- Visitors can buy tickets at Rs 40 (Indians) and Rs 85 rupees (non Indians) in the old fire station adjacent to the Viceregal Lodge
- You can spend about 45 minutes exploring this place
- You will almost take 4-5 hours from start to finish for the heritage walk
- Most noteworthy, a guide is highly recommended
- Visitors should carry water, sunscreen, hat / caps and wear good comfortable shoes. Walk at your own pace to enjoy the beauty and architecture