As the cultural capital of Pakistan, the historic city of Lahore is one of the most spectacular places to visit in Southern Asia.
Yet, this city sees very few international tourists and hasn’t been changed much by globalization, allowing it to keep its refreshing authenticity.
Walking around Lahore, you can get an insightful glimpse into what local life is truly like, even in the main tourist areas.
The bustling markets and people on motorbikes flying by you might give you culture shock at first, but the sheer friendliness of the locals will make you feel welcomed right away.
Here’s how to spend 3 perfect days in the cultural heart of Pakistan, including the best places to see in Lahore and the most delicious local dishes to try.
Wander Around the Lahore Fort
Start your visit to Lahore by exploring one of the main historical jewels of the city: the majestic Lahore Fort citadel.
There are over 21 attractions and monuments within its large complex, so be sure to allocate enough time for this place — you can easily spend half a day here!
Most of the attractions inside this citadel date back to the 17th century, and walking around, you’ll see lots of monuments from the Mughal Empire.
In fact, Lahore Fort was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its splendid Mughal architecture.
Wandering around Lahore Fort is a very peaceful experience. As with almost all tourist attractions in Lahore, you won’t find any large tour groups or crowds. There’s plenty of nature and greeneries inside this complex, as well as a beautiful view of the nearby Badshahi Mosque.
The star of the citadel is definitely the Shish Mahal (Palace of Mirrors). It was built by Shah Jahan in the1630s and showcased incredible interior stucco decorations.
You’ll be amazed by all the shiny glass mirror-work inside this palace, which was built for the empress at the time!
Some of the other key places to see inside Lahore Fort include the Jahangir’s Sleeping Quarters, the Hall of Public Audience, and the Naulakha pavilion.
There are also three museums inside the complex, and they exhibit everything from miniature paintings to ancient armoury and calligraphy. Insider’s tip: the museums close about an hour before sunset, so make sure to time your visit accordingly!
Explore the Majestic Badshahi Mosque
Directly across Lahore Fort is the most famous monument in Lahore: the breathtaking Badshahi Mosque, the second largest mosque in Pakistan. The beauty and splendour of this structure are hard to put into words; you’ll have to see it with your own eyes.
Carved red sandstones are distinct features of its architecture, as they were symbols of Mughal-era art. Around 100,000 worshippers can fit into the mosque’s vast courtyard, which was used as a military base for much of its history.
Spend at least a few hours exploring every corner of this mosque and don’t forget to go inside as well; the details of its architecture will truly astound you.
The Badshahi Mosque is also a great place for photography, and one of the best spots to capture it is from its gorgeous side pavilions.
You’ll find lots of unique angles there and can also frame your shot creatively, taking in parts of the pavilion arches into the composition as well. I did that using wide-angle lenses for Sony A6400, a setup that worked great given the sheer size of the mosque!
Taste the Local Cuisine at Fort Road Food Street
Visiting the Badshahi Mosque comes with another added bonus: it’s only a 5-minute walk to the best food street in town — Fort Road Food Street.
Lahore is popularly deemed as the food capital of Pakistan, so a trip here would be utterly incomplete without tasting some of its local specialities.
There’s really no better place to start your culinary adventure than at Fort Road Food Street, which is home to a dozen restaurants offering authentic local dishes. Some of the best ones are Cooco’s Den, Andaaz Restaurant, and Haveli Restaurant.
All of them also have terraces that provide guests with a magnificent view of the Badshahi Mosque, and I especially recommend getting there for sunset; it truly makes that view extra special!
Walk Around the Delhi Gate Market
Start your second day in Lahore by strolling around one of the best local markets in the Old City: the Delhi Gate Market. This is a great place to chat with locals and get a glimpse into what life is like for them.
The market is bustling with action, movement, and beautiful colours, and the atmosphere there is absolutely incredible. It also carries an incredible history; it’s one of the only 6 gates leading up to the Walled City of Lahore that’s still standing today (there used to be 13 of them, but the rest have all gotten destroyed by war).
Admire the Peaceful Masjid Wazir Khan
The beautiful Masjid Wazir Khan is so close to the Delhi Gate Market that you can see one of its minarets from the vendor’s stalls.
Make your way there after visiting the market and spend some time enjoying the serene and peaceful atmosphere there.
Being a lot smaller than Badshahi Mosque, Masjid Wazir Khan is even quieter and less crowded. Its entrance gate is covered in intricate Mughal-era tilework and frescoes; a truly breathtaking sight.
For 500 rupees, you can also climb one of the minarets to get an incredible bird’s-eye view of the Old City of Lahore!
Take a Stroll at the Shalimar Bagh Gardens
For some more relaxation, pay a quick visit to the Shalimar Bagh (or Shalimar Gardens), where you’ll see lots of families with kids hanging around.
There’s also a large pool in the complex along with tons of fountains all around, creating a lovely relaxing atmosphere.
A fun fact to know about this garden is that it was commissioned by the same emperor who commissioned the Taj Mahal — Emperor Shah Jahan.
Discover the Stunning Tomb of Jahangir
The last stop on your second day in Lahore is to one of the most remarkable spots in the city: the Tomb of Jahangir. Jahangir was a 17th century Mughal Emperor whose tomb is the only Mughal tomb still standing in Pakistan today.
The architecture of the Tomb of Jahangir is truly something else; you’ll see some really intricate mosaic stonework called pietra dura all over the structure, which took 10 whole years to build.
Get your camera ready, because there are plenty of details to capture here! Outside the tomb, there’s also a large garden and green spaces to relax in. I recommend spending a few hours here to truly soak in the grandeur of this place!
Learn history at the Lahore Museum
As you’ve probably gathered already, Lahore is a city packed with history, and one really great place to learn about it is the Lahore Museum.
This building is home to an extensive collection of artistic and cultural artefacts, including ancient jewellery, armoury, paintings, sculptures, coins, rare manuscripts, woodwork, and musical instruments.
These items date all the way back to the Gandhara, Mughal, British, and Sikh empires.
I recommend spending around 2 hours exploring this museum, and to bring a guide with you if you want to properly understand the meaning of the artefacts there.
Shop at the Anarkali Bazaar
Not too far from the Lahore Museum is the Anarkali Bazaar, one of the largest markets in the city. This bazaar is split into two sections: the Old Anarkali and the New Anarkali.
You’ll find mostly traditional foods and snacks at the Old Anarkali Bazaar, whereas the New Anarkali Bazaar is filled with budget clothing and shoe stores.
There are also tons of traditional handicrafts, embroidery, and jewellery sold there, all at very affordable prices. To get between the Old section and the New section, I recommend grabbing a rickshaw.
It’s not only very cheap but also a great way to experience local life and immerse yourself in the environment. Even if you’re not interested in shopping, this bazaar is still an amazing place to observe local life and people-watch!
Grab a Delicious Meal at Butt Karahi
If you ask locals to recommend places to eat in Lahore, almost every one of them would mention Butt Karahi in Lakshmi Chowk, which is not too far from the Anarkali Bazaar.
This small restaurant is truly worth the hype — it really is the best place to taste karahi, the popular local speciality.
This dish typically consists of mutton or chicken stir-fried and simmered with tomatoes in a deep, circular pan. It’s then served with rich spices such as pepper, ginger, and cilantro. It’s definitely one of the most flavorful and tasty dishes you can have in Lahore, so definitely give it a try!
Explore the Magnificent Grand Jamia Mosque
The last stop on your trip to Lahore will be the Grand Jamia Mosque, the third-largest mosque in Pakistan. You’ll see that the architecture there is very similar to that of Masjid Wazir Khan and Badshahi Mosque — beautifully intricate tilework, large chandeliers, and marble floors are just a few of the common elements they share.
What this mosque offers in addition, though, is a museum in its basement that houses a rare collection of Qurans.
There are plenty of cultural and historical things to do in Lahore to fill up 3 amazing days, and I hope this itinerary has given you plenty of inspiration and ideas! Last but not least, don’t forget to chat with the friendly locals during your time in Lahore.
Many people in Lahore speak good English and love talking to foreigners — the local hospitality in this city is truly heartwarming!
Jiayi Wang is the London-based writer and photographer behind The Diary of a Nomad, a travel blog with a special focus on less-visited destinations. She hopes to inspire more people to see the world through her travel guides and photography.