One can spend a few days to a week to a month exploring Shimla town. Right from the time it was established, Shimla has been well known for its walks and hikes. In the 19th and early 20th century, riding was a preferred activity, now of course there are drives.
Shimla has historical monuments, religious places, heritage places, places of tourist interest, and a number of hikes in and around town. Apart from these, there are several treks and day-trips that can be undertaken from Shimla.
We describe here the places of popular, natural and heritage interests.
Indian Institute of Advanced Study (Viceregal Lodge) – The IIAS is a premier centre for advanced learning in the Indian sub-continent. The Institute also happens to be housed in the erstwhile Viceregal Estate, which was the official residence of the Viceroys of British India. Completed in 1888, The Viceregal Lodge is the most commanding edifice and estate in Shimla with great historical, social and botanical value.
The Himalayan Bird Park – Situated on a little hillock near the main entrance to the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, this aviary is home to several specimens of Himalayan birds. Originally built in 1972 as a zoo and aviary (it housed leopard, deer, langoors apart from birds then), today one can view the Monal, The Silver Pheasant, The Indian Pea Fowl (Peacock), the Cheer Pheasant, Kalij Pheasant, Indian Goose, and Red Jungle Fowl. The aviary also serves as a centre for rehabilitation of rescued birds as well.
Kalibari Temple – The Kalibari (literally: the House of Kali) in Shimla is considered to be a spiritually powerful temple due to the serenity and positive vibes of the temple and its sanctum. The original Kali temple on Jakhoo Hill is said to have been established in the early 1800s. The current temple was built by the British in 1845.
Christ Church – The Christ Church in Shimla (situated on The Ridge) is an iconic monument, not just because of its heritage value, but also because its profile is visible from various parts of town. It is the second oldest church in Northern India – it was built in 1844 though it was consecrated only in 1857.
Himachal State Museum – The Himachal State Museum is a veritable treasure house of paintings,sculptures, manuscripts, coins, and other artefacts. It is housed in The Inverarm, a heritage building that started off in the mid 1800s as a humble mud-roofed house in the mid 1800s, and then was enlarged and enhanced and served as the residence of Lord William Beresford (Military Secretary to the Viceroy).
Shimla Heritage Museum – This museum has a small collection of old photographs and sketches of old Shimla buildings and inscriptions on their history. The museum is located on the ground floor of one of the wings of the old United Services Club (USC) buildings which are now the offices of the Public Works Department of Himachal Pradesh. The building dates back to 1867.
Baba Bhalku Railway Museum – Named after a not-too-well-known-but-crucial Indian ally to the British engineers who built the Kalka Shimla Railway (KSR) line, this unique museum is housed at the final end of the rail line, just below the Old Bus Stand of Shimla. In addition to the various technical equipment that have been used on the KSR since it’s inauguration in 1903, the museum also showcases different artefacts used in British times, varying from cutlery and clothes to arm-chairs and cupboards. A few of the old rail coaches and a steam engine near the museum are sure to unleash the chuk-chuk-train-loving child in the traveler.
Annadale – This huge circular ground snuggled amidst the Shimla hills is visible from near the gates of Gorton Castle (while catching your breath on the way up from the Shimla Railway Station or Kennedy House, or on your way down from Kalibari Temple and the Mall Road higher up). During British era in Shimla, this place was the play-ground where all recreational and sports activities were conducted.
The Army Heritage Museum – Located at the Annadale grounds, this museum was established in 2006. This museum gives an opportunity to travelers to come abreast with the history, technology and science, equipment and other important aspects that are the backbone of the Indian Army.
Lakkar Bazaar – Literally meaning “Wooden Market”, this quaint market is situated near the Ridge Maidan and is famous for the small shops where wooden products are made and sold. A roller skating rink is situated in a building at the start of the Bazaar.
Lower Bazaar – This is the busiest market in Shimla and runs parallel to and below the Mall Road. The local Sabzi Mandi and meat shops are also located in this market. One can find almost anything in this market ranging from household items, electronics, clothes, to local specialty food joints etc. Most of the local population of Shimla does all their shopping here due to comparatively lower prices and more options as compared to The Mall Road.
The Ridge – This wide open maidan (ground) lies just above the Mall Road and offers beautiful views of mountain ranges all around. It is built on a large water tank that supplies water to the Shimla town and is the hub of all cultural activities that take place in Shimla. Three different roads connect the Ridge to the Mall Road and the roads to Jakhoo Temple and Lakkar Bazaar also start from here.
Jakhoo Temple – This ancient temple sits at the highest point of the Shimla hills and is nowadays adorned by a tall Hanuman statue that can be seen from far off distances. It is believed Lord Hanuman had stopped here during his journey to collect Sanjivini Booti. Jakhoo is one of the most religious places in Shimla and is visited by lots of tourists as well as locals all year round.
Shimla and Summerhill Stations – The railway stations at Shimla as well as Summerhill are the ubiquitous but pretty engaging places of interest. These stations offer a unique opportunity to travelers to sit back and enjoy the typical sights of a regular day on a narrow gauge railway line (quite opposite of the hustle bustle of a railway station in the cities and towns of the plains) – the small toy trains chugging in and out, guards and other railway personnel waving the red and green flags, passengers waiting for their trains while enjoying the weather, coolies in their red uniform waiting to haul the luggage by walking up the hills…
The Mall – Since the days of the British times in Shimla to the present day, The Mall is the centre of activity for all socialising, casual walking and catching ups. This arterial road is lined with various old buildings of repute and also houses different shops, eateries and other stores.
Kamna Devi Temple – Situated atop the Prospect Hill is this yet another old and revered temple of the Shimla hills. The temple can be reached by walking or driving up from the Boileauganj Chowk. On a clear day, the views of Shimla as well as the surrounding hills from the top is breathtaking.
Sankat Mochan Temple – This is the second temple in Shimla devoted to Lord Hanuman. It was constructed and began operation in 1966. It is located right at the start of the town, approximately 5 km from the centre of the city on the Kalka-Shimla highway, near Taradevi. It offers a great view of the Shimla city. Free langar (meal) is served in the temple on every Sunday.