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

Can you spot the 3 iconic structures at the Ridge here ?

Can you spot the 3 iconic structures at the Ridge here ?

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.

Christ Church

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!

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I found quiet and peace in the lovely Christ Church at the Ridge in Shimla

I found quiet and peace in the lovely Christ Church at the Ridge in Shimla

State Library

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!

The state library at the Ridge

The state library at the Ridge

Band Stand

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.

Bandstand and State library at the Ridge as we went exploring Shimla with kids like a local

Bandstand and State library

Gaiety Theatre

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.

Gaiety Theatre view from the Ridge

Gaiety Theatre at the Ridge

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 largest open space in the heart of Shimla, The Ridge. Underneath the Ridge are large water tanks, with a capacity of 10 lakh gallons.

The largest open space in the heart of Shimla, The Ridge. Underneath the Ridge are large water tanks, with a capacity of 10 lakh gallons.

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!

You can imagine the memerising view ahead from the Ridge, can't you ?

You can imagine the memerizing view ahead from the Ridge, can’t you ?

Scandal point

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.

Scandal point is a famous address in Shimla and got its name in the 19th century

Scandal point is a famous address in Shimla and 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!

Post Office

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!

Can you spot the oldest post office in Northern India ? Yes, it is the quaint white building up ahead

Can you spot the oldest post office in Northern India ? Yes, it is the quaint white building up ahead

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.

The Army Training Command - This green and white building was where the planning and execution of WWI and WWII

The Army Training Command. This green and white building was where the planning and execution of WWI and WWII

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.

We saw this magestic building cum office as we were exploring Shimla with kids like locals

We saw this magestic building cum office as we were exploring Shimla with kids like locals

Right opposite you get a lovely aerial view of Annadale grounds.

Aerial view of Annadale grounds from Shimla

Aerial view of Annadale grounds from Shimla

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.

We caught Rhododendrons in bloom

We caught Rhododendrons in bloom

The view of new Shimla as I went exploring Shimla with kids like locals

The view of new Shimla as I went exploring Shimla with kids like locals

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.

The iconic Oberoi with its green and white facade

The iconic Oberoi with its green and white facade

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.

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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 famous Oberoi atrium lit from above by a skylight

The famous Oberoi atrium lit from above by a skylight

The Viceregal Lodge

Finally we reached our destination – The Viceregal Lodge

The Viceregal Lodge

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 🙂

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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.

Let us compare, who is redder ?

The ticket counter – Let us compare, who is redder ?

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.

Flowers of Viceregal lodge

Flowers of Viceregal lodge

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

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A daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend, IT professional and now – a travel blogger. I just love traveling, exploring new places and this inspired me to share travel experiences and memories with others.

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A daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend, IT professional and now - a travel blogger. I just love traveling, exploring new places and this inspired me to share travel experiences and memories with others.

25 Responses

  1. That’s a comprehensive guide! Thank you Swati

  2. neha says:

    Your posts always bring back fond memories for me. Because we seem to have explored similar kind of destinations. I have been to Shimla twice – once when I was a kid and once with my kid 🙂 And I must say, it was a great experience exploring the cobblestoned streets, particularly the ones around Mall Road. Top that up with an ice cream in your hands!! And it becomes an ever cherished memory.

  3. I’ve heard about Shimla in a movie, and from that day on, I have always wanted to traipse my feet here and amble around while enjoying all what it has to offer. Knowing that this place own a rich history, I would be very happy to know more about Shimla. The cobblestoned streets is just amazing in its own innate state. This is exactly looks like the one in Vigan, Philippines because of the stunning old houses that has much history to offer. Thank you so much for sharing this with us, and I really hope that I’ll be able to traipse my feet here soon.

  4. Jane says:

    I also heard about Shimla from a movie, the 3 idiots! It is one of my favorite movies because of all the scenic places throughout the movie. I think they even shot a scene at the Band stand! It’s great to see more of the place that you just saw from the movies, in a very comprehensive post like this. I wish I can see the Viceregal Lodge someday and marvel at the amazing view too.

    • admin says:

      Jane, I will eventually get to my post on Chail which will get you even closer to 3 idiots. Chail palace was Chanchad Bhawan 🙂 . Glad you could relive some of the movie through my post

  5. CARMEN says:

    I enjoyed reading your post and looking at your marvelous photos. You have there some of the most beautiful architecture. The State Library doesn’t look like a library, but I like the look! And yup! The Scandal Point also piqued my interest. What a fascinating story!

    • admin says:

      Stories galore in Shimla (or any old place like this). I enjoy learning about them and sharing. Glad you liked the pictures and the post

  6. Marge Gavan says:

    Judging by your clothing, it must be cold in Shimla. I like the overall look and feel of the place, it looks very European especially the Scandal Point, which I understand is due to the British influence. But did I understand it right? It was called Scandal Point because of the elopement? The Cecil Oberoi and the Viceregal Lodge look equally amazing. I agree, Shimla is perfect for a walking tour.

    • admin says:

      Yes Marge. It is typically summer in the plains but it was cold in Shimla due to rain the night before and cold winds blowing. Yes, the structures are from the British times and preserved well. Scandal point got its name due to the elopement 🙂 . You will enjoy the walking tour , if you like walking and history

  7. Shreya Saha says:

    How nicely you took your kid around the beautiful hill station! I had been to Shimla some 20 years ago I guess. Still I remember the places. Your photos just refreshed them. Viceregal lodge seems to be really interesting, Thanks for the share,

  8. Ambuj Saxena says:

    What a wonderful travelogue to Shimla. Suruchi, your pic brings a smile to my face and your family pics light up the entire day. I have been to Shimla a couple of times to give my civil services examinations but due to a rushed trip, I could never explore it fully. Through your blog I feel I have visited the most important parts of Shimla!

  9. Katie says:

    Wow you saw a lot on foot on the way to your accomodation. The lodge looks lovey and i would certainly consider staying there. Love your photo collection too. Thanks for sharing

  10. Wow….Shimla is so beautiful and so colorful…lovely. I especially loved the Viceregal place!!!
    Your travel tips are very comprehensive and helpful.Thanks

  11. Resfeber says:

    The building look lovely, such varied architecture. Nice post. Ian @ Resfeber

  12. eli says:

    Thanks for a very informative guide! I like the history behind Scandal Point. Always cool to know the stories behind the names of places

  13. YUKTI Agrawal says:

    Very comprehensive and detailed guide on Shimla. I loved the pictures of Band stand and State Library. Also Scandal point is very colorful.

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