Aligarh, located in the doab region of Uttar Pradesh, is situated 150 kilo meters (kms) away from the national capital Delhi and 300 kms away from the state capital Lucknow. Popular as the ‘City of Locks’, Aligarh has much more to experience and discover than a normal tourist can think of! So let’s get started!
Getting here wouldn’t be a difficult task for anyone as Aligarh has a well-connected railways and road transport system.
By Air: The nearest international airport is the Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi. From there, one can easily get a paid cab and reach Aligarh in three hours.
By Railways: Aligarh is well connected to all major cities of northern India by railways. The Aligarh railway junction is also expanding currently.
By Roadways: Aligarh has a brilliant roadways network connected to it. The 8-lane Yamuna Express Highway connects it to Delhi & Agra and the recently built Agra-Lucknow Expressway has made it more convenient for anyone from Eastern Uttar Pradesh to visit the Aligarh.
For any tourist visiting Aligarh, Hotel Palm Tree would be the most prime choice of course. Its the best hotel in Aligarh, a premium 3-star hotel, restaurant & banquet. Located 1 km away from the City Centre and 3kms away from AMU, this remains the best choice for staying in Aligarh.
For anyone visiting Aligarh, it is strongly recommended to take a whole tour of the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) campus firstly. The beautiful campus of legendary AMU spreads across 400 acres. Besides AMU, there are a number of historical and cultural sightseeing places in Aligarh.
Here are some of the places which are a must if you visit Aligarh! –
◾ Bab e Syed : This is the main gateway of Aligarh Muslim University and the most picturesque location of Aligarh. Built in the Indo-Islamic style of architecture with Pietra-Dura carvings on it, this one’s a must visit!
◾Sir Syed House : Perhaps the hub of photography in Aligarh, this used to be the house of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, the founder of AMU. The house is now museum and contains various past reminiscences of Sir Syed & his associates. Besides this, is a relaxing garden where one can go and enjoy nature.
◾K.A. Nizami Centre for Quranic Studies : Situated in the Sir Syed House Compound itself, a very beautiful mosque which presents a colossal and compelling view to the visitors. It’s an architectural beauty.
The building of this centre has been designed by the world renowned architect Professor Abdel Wahid Al-Wakil, recipient of the Agha Khan Prize for Architecture (UK).
◾Sir Syed Hall Compound : This compound is home to several Historical monuments i.e. Victoria Gate, Strachey Hall, Jama Masjid, Nizam Museum & Lytton Library. For history geeks, this place’s a must as this is the place where one can get to know the history of the great Aligarh Movement. It’s the place from where the Mohammadan Anglo Oriental (MAO) College started in 1877 and later became the AMU in 1920.
These buildings are built during the British rule in India. Now, this compound is a full fledged residential hall for students and is known as the Sir Syed Hall, where students of AMU reside.
◾Maulana Azad Library : The central library of AMU, named after first Education Minister of India Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. A random stroll through it would be nice if someone visits Aligarh.
◾Kennedy Auditorium : This is the main auditorium of AMU, perhaps we may call it an architectural masterpiece. With a capacity of 2000 people, this Auditorium is home to various cultural & musical evenings organised by cultural clubs. You would be lucky, if you get to witness any play or musical evening here during your stay in Aligarh.
◾Musa Dakri Museum : If you’re an archeology enthusiast, this is the place for you! It houses numerous archaeological objects like sculptures, carved stone pieces, concrete panels, acheulian tools and Terracotta Figurines which Sir Syed preserved during his lifetime. This museum is home to sculptures and terracotta figurines which date back from 3rd Century B.C. to 11th Century A.D. The botanical collection like fossils dates back to 300 million years ago!
◾Moinuddin Ahmad Art Gallery (MAAG) : Fine Arts enthusiasts ! if you’re here, you’re at the right place! This little compelling art gallery will give you the real artistic feeling. MAAG also organizes numerous art events and exhibitions, if you’re lucky enough you can catch up one!
The history of MAAG dates back to the year 1928 when Prof. Moinuddin Ahmad got constructed this Gallery in AMU Campus. His vision was to disseminate the art of painting in Aligarh. It was reinaugrated in 2013 by the then Vice Chancellor of AMU, Lt Gen Zameer Uddin Shah.
Outside AMU Campus
◾Clock Tower : This is the main Clock Tower of the city, popularly known as the “Ghanta Ghar” by the local inhabitants. It is similar to that of “Big Ben” in London in terms of Architecture.
◾Shekha Jheel Bird Sanctuary : This bird sanctuary and lake has a lot to offer, especially for a tourist in winter season. Birds from Russia and Central Asia migrate here every winter. It’s a very beautiful picnic spot, frequently visited by the locals for a refreshing time in the bounty of nature. Situated at Grand Trunk (GT) Road around 15kms from the City Centre, this is a must visit for Nature lovers!
◾Aligarh Numaish/Mahotsav : The annual industrial, agricultural and cultural exhibition, popularly known as numaish, is held at the Exhibition Ground in January and February every year. The cultural shows takes place at three grand stages (Kohinoor, Krishnanjali, Muktakash). In all, more than 150 stage events featuring artist from across the India take place during a period of 28 days. From traditional food and textile stalls to celebrity performances, it has a lot to be experienced. This Numaish is not just merely an event, this is a culture which runs through the bloodstream of every Aligarh resident. The festive environment of that one month just can’t be explained! A visit to this exhibition is a must, if you’re in Aligarh in Jan/Feb to get the real feel of this event.
◾Aligarh Fort/Qila : Again a place for history lovers, the Aligarh Fort has a lot to discover. This fort is now in ruins and stands on a hill. It is the work of the French engineers under the control of de Boigne and Perron. The fort was build by Muhammad, the son of Umar who was then the Governor of Koil (Aligarh) during the reign of Ibrahim Lodi. Also, the Battle of Aligarh between the French and the British was fought here in 1803. This would be a great place for someone who wants to relive History, so if you’re in Aligarh, try to at-least get a stroll through it!
◾Centre Point : As its name tells, this is City Centre of Aligarh. This can be called as the “Times Square” of Aligarh. From multi cuisine restaurants and food chains to branded multinational clothing stores, the relishing aurora gleams from every corner of this heart of the city.
◾Old City/Upper Fort : If you’re looking for that traditional Indian old and clumsy but happening marketplace experience, then you need to be here! Similar to that of Chandani Chowk of Delhi, a big “Eidgah” welcomes you here! With mouth watering non-vegetarian food stalls in every corner and traditional old shops, the rejoicing and happening atmosphere awaits you!
Aligarh is known for its non-vegetarian Mughlai foods. You can find some really good non-veg dishes out here at very reasonable price. The major restaurants Moti Mahal, Fazle Kareem, etc. are in Centre Point location which is considered as posh market of Aligarh. But if you want to Explore the local taste, go for various road side dhabas such as near Tasveer Mahal and Purani Chungi area. And you can food almost round the clock in Rasal Ganj area of Aligarh.
Dodhpur, is one of the main food streets of Aligarh. Food just lives in the atmosphere here, you cannot find better non-veg food than here anywhere else.
Chai (tea) is not just merely a drink in Aligarh, it’s a culture, it’s a tradition that lies within! No morning or evening can be without Chai in Aligarh. So if you’re in Aligarh, be ready to explore various roadside tea stalls all round the city, especially in Shamshad Market and Tasveer Mahal area.
Aligarh is a city with a touch of culture, tradition, heartiness and glamour! A city that needs to be discovered and explored!
Views expressed by the author are personal. Claims made by the author must be checked.