Almost a decade back, when I came to Bangalore for higher studies, I was surprised that many people did not know the name of my hometown. How was it possible? It was the capital of India’s central state after all.
Talk about the most popular tourist destinations in India and certainly Bhopal doesn’t find a place in this list either.
But being born and having spent a considerable time here, I can say Bhopal is one of the underrated tourist destinations in India.
Once known for the infamous “The Bhopal Gas tragedy”, the “City of Lakes” today has many accolades to its name. Bhopal is one of the greenest cities in India. It has also been rated as the cleanest state capital in India for 3 consecutive years (2017-2019). Apart from Natural beauty, Bhopal has a rich history too. Founded in 1707, this city has a rich cultural and architectural heritage.
In this blog, I am sharing a list of the top 15 stunning attractions within the city. If you are visiting Bhopal for the first time you must explore these fascinating places.
Must-visit Places in Bhopal
Upper lake (Bhojtal)
One of the most popular and fascinating hangouts in Bhopal, Upper Lake is the pride of the city. Dating back to the 11th century, the lake was built by Raja Bhoj. Also known as Bada taIaab or Bhojtal, it is considered to be one of the oldest man-made lakes in India. Today the lake is sprawling with cafes and activities like boating, evening cruise, and many other water sports. There are many spots from where you can enjoy the majestic view of this iconic Lake. The most popular spots are
1. The upper lake boating club,
2. Drive through VIP Road
3. Kamala Park, the royal garden overlooking the lake.
Tip: Visit the lake during the evening to enjoy the breathtaking sunset vista
Van Vihar National Park
Situated right next to the upper lake is the Van Vihar National park, acres of sprawling green space in the heart of the city. Van Vihar is home to many wild animals and birds including peacocks, porcupines, white tigers, turtles, bears, crocodiles, snakes, and other reptiles. Apart from the wildlife (which you can observe from a distance), there is a wide variety of flora too. A perfect place for nature lovers and adventure enthusiasts. If you are traveling with kids, then it’s a must-visit.
Timings: 6 a.m. to 7p.m. (time may slightly vary according to season). Van Vihar remains closed on Friday.
Entry Fee for Van Vihar: INR 15 for Indian & INR 200 for Foreigners
Time required for the visit: 1.5 hours – 2 hours (by walk it can take more time, you can take an auto or the cab inside the park)
Tips: 1. If you visit Van Vihar during February and March, you can enjoy the beautiful “Flame of Forest Bloom”
2. Plan an early visit so you can combine the visit to Van Vihar and boating at Upper lake
Bhojeshwar Temple, Bhojpur
Situated 28 km from the city, in the rustic settings of Bhojpur village is another architectural marvel. In the 11th century, the Bhojeshwar temple was built by Raja Bhoj. The construction of this temple was abandoned for unknown reasons and hence temple remains incomplete, which is something unique here. Interestingly, even today one can witness the site plan engraved on the rocks in an open area. This gives an idea about the construction planning and techniques used during those days. The sanctum of the temple enshrines a 22ft tall Shivalinga carved out of a single rock, which is the tallest in the world.
Apart from the Bhojeshwar temple, the area is also home to Parvati caves located on the bank of river Betwa, the 11th Century Jain temple, and an ancient dam (the remains of which can be seen even now). Read more about Bhojpur by clicking this link
Timings: 6.00 a.m. to 7 p.m. on all days
Entry fee: none
Time required for the visit: half a day
Tips: 1) Plan a visit to Bhojpur early morning to avoid heat and strong sun.
2) Avoid a visit on Monday and other festivals (like Shivaratri) as the temple is usually crowded during these days.
3) You can plan half a day picnic (ample space is available near the river)
4) The restaurant in Jain temple serves a vegetarian meal
Manuabhan ki Tekri
Looking for a surreal view of the city, Manuabhan ki Tekri is the perfect destination. A Jain Temple is situated at a hilltop known as Mahaveer giri. Along with religious importance, Tekri offers a breathtaking panoramic view of the city. One can either go on foot or take a ropeway to reach the hilltop. At the temple, the footwear of Jain saint Maharaj Shri Vijay Suriji, Shri Jindutta Sureshwarji, and Acharya Manutung’s are kept for worship.
Timings: 6.30 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Entry fee: none
Ropeway fee: INR 66 for a 2 way
Time required to visit: 1.5 to 2 hours
Tips: Visit during the evening to enjoy the Sunset view.
Taj ul Mosque
If you thought Delhi’s Jama Masjid is the largest mosque in India, well you are wrong. Its Taj ul Mosque in Bhopal. Construction of Taj ul Mosque was started by Nawab Shah Jahan begum of Bhopal, after her death it was carried on by her daughter Sultan Jahan Begum, however, the construction was finally completed in 1985. Inspired by Mughal architecture, the Mosque has 3 gigantic white marble domes, tall minarets, and impressive pillars in the main hallway. Built on an elevated platform, the mosque is surrounded by water bodies giving it a serene appearance even from outside. An architectural delight that must be explored. The best part is photography is allowed inside the Mosque.
Timings: 6 a.m. -8 p.m. (closed on Friday for non-Muslim visitors)
Entry fee: none
Time required for visit: 1 hour
Tips: 1) Visit early in the morning or evening. The sandstone gets hot during the day. You need to take off your footwear to enter the mosque campus.
2) Dress modestly
3) Avoid visiting during the prayer timings
Another gem reminiscing the magnificent past of Bhopal. Moti mosque is situated in the heart of the city. Although much smaller than Taj ul Mosque, the Moti mosque is no less impressive. Built by Sikander Jehan Begum of Bhopal in 1860, a fleet of stairs lead to the Majestic entrance of the mosque. As you go inside, a white marble structure surrounded by dark red towers welcomes you. The mosque also houses a beautiful water body. If you like to explore ancient monuments and architectural buildings, the Moti mosque is a must-visit.
Timings: 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. (on all days)
Entry fee: None
Time required for visit: 1 hour
Tips: 1) Plan a visit to Moti Mosque along with other historical places like Taj ul Mosque, Gohar Mahal, Sadar Manzil and Shaukat Mahal, etc.
2) Visit the mosque during the morning or evening. Avoid visiting during prayer times or on Friday.
3) Dress modestly
Overlooking the glistening waters of the upper lake is yet another masterpiece showcasing the craftsmanship of the Nawabi era. Situated right at the start of VIP road, Gohar Mahal was built by Qudisiya Begum, the first women ruler of Bhopal. Maintained by Madhya Pradesh tourism, this heritage site is the perfect fusion of Hindu and Mughal architecture. Gohar Mahal has airy hallways, a beautiful garden, and a terrace overlooking the lake. Although the place is in ruins, attempts are made to restore its old-world charm. A lot of exhibitions displaying artworks, handlooms, and regional crafts are organized on its premises every year.
Timings: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Entry Fee: none
Time required for visit: 1 hour (or depending upon how much time you spend on exhibitions)
Tips: Best time to visit Gohar Mahal is during the evening. The colorful lightings make the place look even more charming.
Looking for some fun and relaxation, Sair Sapata is the place to head to. Developed by Madhya Pradesh state tourism development corporation, Sair Sapata is a tourism and entertainment complex situated on the banks of Upper lake. It makes for a perfect picnic spot. Multiple attractions like the suspension bridge, toy train, dedicated play area for children, musical fountains, and many eateries make it a perfect spot to spend quality time with the family.
Timings: 11 a.m. to 10 pm
Entry fee: INR 20 for adults
INR 10 for children
Time required for visit: 2-3 hours
Tips: 1) Best time to visit is early evening
Lakshmi Narayan Temple (Birla Mandir)
Popularly known as Birla Mandir (after the famous Birla family who built it), the temple is an iconic landmark in the city. The main deity in the temple is Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Vishnu (also known as Narayan). Temple also houses idols of Lord Shiva, Goddess Parvati, and Lord Hanuman. Temple is surrounded by a soothing lush green garden. Another attraction is the panoramic view of the city from the temple premises.
Birla museum that houses art and sculptures from various states of Madhya Pradesh is attached to the temple. The artifacts in the Museum dates back to the 12th Century.
Timings: 4 am to 9 pm
The museum is open from 9 am -5 pm (except for Monday)
Entry Fee: None (temple), INR 5 per person (Museum)
Time required for the visit: 1-2 hours
Tip: Best time to visit is early morning or during the evening
Madhya Pradesh Tribal museum
A unique museum that takes you on an immersive journey through the cultures of the local tribes. The colorful installations and models depict tribal traditions, customs, believes, art, and many other aspects of local tribes. Museum offers a lot to see and learn. Every Friday and Sunday evenings, traditional performances are hosted at the museum. One-of-a-kind museums to observe and understand different facets of tribal living.
Timings: 12 noon – 7/8 pm (depending upon the season, the museum is closed on Monday)
Entry fee: Indian citizen – INR 10 /person (10 years or more)
Foreigners – INR 250 /per person
Camera – INR 50
Time required for the visit: 2-3 hours
National Museum of Mankind (Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalya)
Curious to know more about Human evolution and want to learn it? Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalya, the biggest Anthropology museum in India is the right place for you. It showcases exhibits under different categories like Open -exhibitions, Indoor galleries, periodicals, or temporary exhibits. You can see many outdoor models showcasing various settlements including tribal habitat, coastal village, desert village, and Himalayan village. A visit to the museum definitely enhances your understanding of human evolution and culture.
Timings: 11 a.m. to 6.30 p.m. (timings may slightly vary according to season, Museum remains closed on Monday)
Entry Fee: INR 50 per person
Time required to visit: 2-3 hours
Tips: Museum is located on lake view road. The trip to the museum can be clubbed with a visit to the boat club and Van Vihar. Bharat Bhavan (a multi-art complex and the museum is located next to Manav Sangrahalya can also be included in your itinerary)
Shaukat Mahal & Sadar Manzil
Enter the chowk area and you will be greeted by a beautiful white & red building stretching from one corner of the road to another. Although not in very good shape (the restoration work has started) but this magnificent building represents the charm of the bygone era. What makes Shaukat Mahal different from other monuments in the vicinity is a unique blend of Islamic and European elements in its design.
Shaukat Mahal was constructed in the 1830s as a wedding gift to Sikandar Jahan Begum, the ruler of Bhopal. It was designed by a Frenchman considered to be a descendant of the Bourbon kings of France.
Next to Shaukat Mahal is Sadar Manzil, which served as the hall of a public audience for rulers of Bhopal. Surrounded by a picturesque garden, this resplendent red building reflects the grandeur of the past.
If you are a history lover or photography enthusiast, you must visit these monuments. The rustic atmosphere in these ruins makes for a perfect location for photoshoots.
Timings: Both the places are open throughout the day
Entry fee: None
Time required to visit: 1 hour
Situated 14 kilometers away from Bhopal, Islamnagar was once the capital of Bhopal princely state of Dost Mohammad Khan, the founder of Bhopal. Several members of the Royal family of Bhopal including Shah Jahan Begum were born in Islamnagar. The Islamnagar fort has 2 parts, The Chaman Mahal and the Rani Mahal.
As the name suggests, the Chaman Mahal is surrounded by beautiful gardens and fountains. The palace also has floral motifs and depicts the Mughal and Malwa architecture. The Rani Mahal a double-story complex was the residence of the queens of Dost Mohammad Khan.
Timings: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Entry Fee: INR 10 per person
Time required for visit: half a day picnic can be planned here.
Rani Kamlapati palace
Designated as the Monument of National importance by the Archaeological Survey of India, Kamalapati palace is situated inside Kamala park on the bridge that connects the upper lake and the lower lake. Built-in 1722, the palace was the residence of Rani Kamalapati, the wife of Gond Ruler Nawal Shah, Chief of Ginnorgarh. The palace showcases 18th Century architecture and offers a breath-taking view of both the lakes.
Timings: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Entry fee: Nonel
Time required to visit: 1 hour
Known as the “City of Lakes”, Bhopal has many stunning lakes to boast about. Lower lake or chotta talaab is one of them. The lake offers an idyllic setting for visitors from all walks of life. The lake was built in 1794 to beautify the city. The lower lake is situated beside the bridge named “Pul Pukhta” hence it’s also known as “Pukhta-Pul talao”. Enjoy an evening stroll by the lake and witness a breathtaking sunset view.
Timings: 24 hours
Entry fee: none
Time required to visit: 30 mins
To sum up, Bhopal has a lot to offer to all kinds of tourists/travelers. Be a nature lover, adventure enthusiast, history buff, passionate photographer. The capital of Madhya Pradesh will charm you in one way or the other. What do you think? In my next article, I will share a list of amazing places in and around Bhopal. Stay tuned!
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13 thoughts on “15 Best places to visit in Bhopal for first-time visitors 2021”
What a thoroughly engrossing post!! Thanks for sharing this! I am ashamed to say that I only had one overnight stay in Bhopal and completely missed the opportunity to do any sightseeing – the loss was clearly mine! Great post!! 🙂
Thanks for reading it and appreciating .means a lot. I am sure next time you can find more time to spend and explore the city
You are most welcome! It was an enjoyable and interesting read!! 🙂 Stay safe! 🙂
Wow, so many unheard and picturesque places. Would love visit these some day.
Yes you guyz should come we can plan a visit once things get better
I stay in Indore. And I have been to Bhopal only twice for a day or two, mainly for staycation purpose. This post gave me ample of reasons to visit and explore the city.
Thanks a lot.yes city has a lot to explore in and around 😊
Lovely list of places to visit in Bhopal! The local architecture looks beautiful. We have good things about the street food in Bhopal too and we would totally love to visit the city.
Thanks a lot. Yes the street food of Bhopal is popular too😊 you would love it 😊
What an amazing post! I have never come across such a detailed guide on Bhopal, listing such unheard yet stunning places. I had Bhopal visit planned just before lockdown last year and had to cancel the trip. But thank god as I didn’t know so many cool places existed and I need to add them to my list!
Thanks a lot dear ,I am glad that you liked my post .yes bhopal has many hidden treasures.hope you get to explore them soon 😊
I had never heard of Bhopal before reading your post, but it looks like a beautiful area to visit! Thanks for bringing it to my attention!
I am glad you liked it . Yes it’s a little offbeat location in India 😊