The largest city in central India, the cleanest city in the country, and the commercial capital of Madhya Pradesh—Indore has many tags. A city with an interesting past and a fascinating present, Indore dates back to the times of the Mughals and is a melting pot of trade, commerce, education, history, nature, culture, and cuisine. Surrounded by hills and hidden waterfalls, home to unique architectural marvels, and the custodian of some of the best street foods in the country, Indore remains a gem hidden in plain sight. By Anubhuti Krishna
The city of Indore offers a spectacle of majestic palaces, historic temples, and other Maratha-era architectural marvels.
The 18th-century Rajwada Palace, also popular as the Holkar Palace, is an interesting melange of Rajputana and Maratha architectural styles. The seven-storeyed building, built in 1747 CE by Malhar Rao Holkar, the founder of Holkar Dynasty, remained his residence until 1880 and is now a museum and monument of great significance. Having survived three massive fires, the building still stands strong with gilded columns, wooden doors, and arched balconies that run along with the central courtyard. Not far from the palace, on the banks of River Khan, Chhatri Bagh is a congregation of the royal cenotaphs of Indore. Surrounded by lush lawns, the cenotaphs are adorned with exquisite carvings and connected by a prayer hall with life-sized statues of the rulers.
The White Church, or St. Ann’s Church, is a colonial-era cathedral built of marble and white stone. Established in 1857, it remains one of the oldest and largest cathedrals in the state. Another all-white monument, ISKCON Indore is enchanting with its marble idols of Lord Krishna and his consort, Radha. The chants that echo in the premises can send you into a trance, and the prasad (offering) is good enough for you to stay until after the evening aarti. The Gommatagiri Digambar Jain Temple, with its 21-ft-high statue of Gomateshwara (a revered figure among Jains), is worth visiting. Geeta Bhawan is a religion-neutral space that welcomes everyone and its walls are donned with interesting murals and paintings. Built in pristine marble, the intricate Kanch Mandir looks like a medieval mansion from outside, replete with canopied balconies and a tiered spire. Inside, every inch of the place is covered in mirrors. Mythological characters, hymns and chants, quotes and tales from the scriptures find a place on the walls of the temple.
A few kilometres off the main city, Lal Bagh Palace has European architectural influences, and spreads over 28 acres, with gates designed like that of London’s Buckingham Palace and the ceilings painted with nymphs and angels, flowers and creepers. Earlier known as the Town Hall, Gandhi Hall was renamed after Gandhi’s assassination in 1948. Constructed in Indo-Gothic style, the imposing red building with onion domes, arched windows, and tall turrets also houses a clock tower, Ghanta Ghar.
These museums are synonymous with Indore’s intriguing history.
The city of Indore offers a spectacle of majestic palaces, historic temples, and other Maratha-era architectural marvels. Central Museum Indore, or Indore Museum, houses mythological carvings, coins from different eras, arms and ammunitions from across periods, and sculptures dating back to the 11th century. The Royal Museum is a beautiful space replete with royal regalias like a grand collection of thrones, vintage photographs, and weapons belonging to the Holkars. Nehru Center is a little-known gem tucked inside the Lal Bagh Palace that one often misses; check it out for collections of personal artefacts of Indore’s royal family, taxidermy tigers, and a Queen Victoria statue in the lawn that welcomes guests in.
Just outside Indore’s city limits are many picturesque waterfalls and mountain ranges that make for fun day trips. Of them, the 300-metre-high Patalpani Waterfalls is the most scenic and the most popular picnic spot. Just 35 kilometres from the city, the waterfall is believed to drop to unknown depths to patal—the mystical world under the earth—and this myth adds to its fascinating aura. Tincha Falls, located 25 kilometres from the city, is great for trekking and sightseeing followed by long, languorous picnics. Pipliyapala Regional Park is spread over 22 acres and is a delight for adults and children alike. Boating, musical fountains, French-style gardens, and lively cafes keep visitors engaged. It is a great spot to relax, watch the sunset, and observe the locals go about their evening rituals.
Wine & Dine
Indore shows its love for food through its night markets, street-side stalls, and interesting cafes and restaurants.
Chappan Dukan, a marketplace with 56 shops, specialises in local street food. Vijay Chaat House serves the city’s best dal bafla (baked dough ball stuffed with green or white peas and served with a side of zesty dal), kopra patties (potato patties with a filling of grated coconut and dry fruits) and kachoris (Shop 6-8, Chappan Dukan, New Palasia). Madhuram Sweets is well known for its unique shikanji or lemonade made with a blend of milk and yoghurt, topped with nuts and dried fruits. The most famous dish of Indore remains the staple breakfast of poha-jalebi; locals believe Vijay Chat House makes the best version.
Sarafa Bazaar is a jewellery market by the day that turns into a lively food street after 6 pm. The 300-metre stretch with numerous stalls is known for a variety of interesting dishes. Bhutte ka kees, a snack made with freshly grated corn cooked in milk, and served with condiments, is a speciality here. Garadu (deep-fried cubes of yam tossed in spicy masala) is a trademark, and sabudana khichdi (one-pot dish of tapioca pearls and vegetables), a staple. Joshi Dahi Vada House is known as much for its dahi badas (lentil dumplings soaked in yoghurt and served with chutney) as it is for the performance art of the
owner who tosses the bowl in the air at every step of assembling it (24, Bada Sarafa, Sarafa Bazar). Sweets like malpua (fried pancakes in sugar syrup) and jalebis help offset the heat, and frothing sodas from Jai Bhole Soda are the perfect way to wash them all down.
Not So Desi is a colourful new-age restaurant serving interesting fusion food and cocktails (78, Part II, Vijay Nagar). Mediterra, a rooftop bar at Sayaji Hotel, offers the excellent Mediterranean and Italian cuisine with a side of the splendid panorama of the city. Little Monk serves innovative food and drinks at private cabanas in an alfresco setting and is a local favourite. Mr Beans, a French bistro-style cafe with a seating capacity of over 100, serves the best coffee in Indore.
The Piano Project, a chic club-restaurant with live music, DJ, and alfresco setting, is the coolest nightspot in town. With chic luxurious interiors, crystal chandeliers, long community tables, and a terrace lounge, the place rewards you with sweeping views of the city. Diamante, a high-energy lounge bar at Indore Marriott Hotel, is the place where party-lovers head to for some weekend fun. This funky lounge bar offers a mix of live music and DJ nights and is great for a fun night out with friends and colleagues.
With handicrafts and local souvenirs on offer, the bazaars and emporiums still rule the shopping landscape of Indore.
With the nearby towns of Chanderi and Maheshwar boasting a rich weaving culture, Indore is a hub for handcrafted fabrics and saris. The city has also earned a GI (geographical indication) tag for its handcrafted leather toys. Packets of namkeens like Indori sev, dalmoth, and dhania-chivda stay fresh for several weeks and make for good gifts. Head to Om Namkeen to get your hands on the best of such savoury local snacks. Madhya Pradesh state emporium, Mrignayanee, stocks some good pieces of leather toys. For a more authentic small-town experience, you can check out smaller shops in Imli Bazar and Chimanbagh. Mrignayanee is also a great place to pick up bagh prints in Chanderi and Maheshwari fabrics—both are specialities of the state, known for their delicate handloom weaving. Avanti Handloom is a tried and tested place to get chanderi apparels (501, MG Road), and Rehwa is popular for authentic Maheshwari clothing.
International and homegrown hotels coexist to bring a wide range of experiences for those visiting Indore.
27. Indore Marriott Hotel A luxurious and imposing property, Indore Marriott Hotel is a blend of style and glamour. Italian marble-laid powder rooms, Belgian flooring, chic and minimalist decor, and floor-to-ceiling windows make this contemporary hotel a delightful
stay. The spa and outdoor pool are great for rejuvenating after a long day, and each diner at the hotel is unique in its own way. Indore Baking Company—serving gourmet coffee, cakes, soups, salads, and hand-rolled pralines—is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Indore Kitchen is an all-day-dining restaurant with Indian, Italian, and Asian delicacies on offer, and One Asia offers Pan-Asian cuisine, focussed specifically on Sichuan, Thailand, and South-East Asian fare.
Address: H-2, Scheme No. 54, Meghdoot Garden, Vijay Nagar. Starts from INR 8,066/USD112.
28. Radisson Blu Hotel Indore Located in the quiet Vijay Nagar, Radisson Blu Hotel Indore is a 25-minute drive from Devi Ahilyabai Holkar Airport. Subtle and stylish interiors with modern luxuries make a stay here pleasurable. The fine dining outlets let you indulge in fresh international dishes, Chinese offerings, and Indian flavours. The Creative Kitchen, for example, is a great place for a fresh breakfast, while evenings can be spent at Indiya Oye or Ni Hao, the Indian and Asian speciality restaurants respectively. Ni Hao also offers private dining rooms that can be reserved upon request; Ethyl Bar, meanwhile, is a great place to catch up with friends over cocktails and small bites with live music.
Address: 12, Scheme No 94 C. Starts from INR 7,100/USD99.
29. WOW Hotel Indore Located in a calm tree-lined avenue, WOW or World of Winway is a unique hotel in the heart of Indore that draws its design inspiration from the most flamboyant bird—the peacock. The hotel’s interiors are done in bright emerald, deep cobalt blue, and turquoise, punctuated with gold. The high-rise open atrium lets in natural light. All the 125 guestrooms (including 11 suites) across three categories embody world-class amenities, and elegant ergonomically designed upholstery ensures comfort and luxury. Three dining options bring you a range of local and international flavours. The outdoor pool, the well-appointed spa, and a modern gym help you relax and unwind.
Address: Plot No. 106 Scheme No. 54, AB Road. Starts from INR 3,599/ USD50.
30. Sayaji Hotel Indore One of the oldest and most loved luxury properties in Indore, Sayaji is a favourite with the locals. Smart well-appointed rooms available across four
categories come with unique amenities like the i-remote—that can be used to change television channels, adjust room temperature, and regulate lighting. The hotel’s staggering eight dining outlets are some of the finest in the city and offer everything from Asian to Indian and Mediterranean. Its spa, Zivaya, is quite well known for its range of treatments and is a great place to relax and unwind after a long day of exploring the city.
Address: H/1, Scheme No.54, Vijay Nagar. Starts from INR 6,700/ USD93.
Indore is well connected to all major cities by rail and air. Devi Ahilyabai Holkar Airport is about nine kilometres from the city centre and connects Indore to cities like Delhi, Lucknow, Mumbai, Hyderabad, and Kolkata. Indore Junction (railway station) lies about a kilometre away from the main city and is on the route of major trains. The city has a good public bus service with both air-conditioned and non-air-conditioned buses plying across the city. Pre-paid cabs and radio taxis are easily available and reliable.