Lahore, the capital city of the Punjab, has a long history: many rulers have taken over and surrendered it. It has gone from Ghaznavids to Delhi-based Turkics to Mughals, Sikhs, and eventually the British Raj. It is to this day one of the most important cities of the country because of its size (only Karachi outdoes it in the country) and its contributions to the national economy (estimated to be around 13% of the total). More importantly to the traveller, though, is that Lahore has been referred to as the Cultural Capital of Pakistan. This goes beyond the fact that the Pakistani Declaration of Independence was made here and the tomb of Mohammad Iqbal (the national poet) is located in the city as well: it is in the near-overwhelming abundance of heritage sites and historic monuments in the area, as well as in the attitudes of the locals themselves.
Lahore is a lively city. There is no shortage of places to find a little peace-this is the City of Gardens, after all-but there are also a lot of places where the real attraction is in interaction with the locals. From bazaars to expositions and even to the regular music and art festivals, there are a lot of occasions where the tourist may bathe in the local culture. Lahoris love to intermingle with others, and you shall be pleased to find that many are not just very friendly but also quite able and willing to converse with you in English. This makes it easier to ask for suggestions of places to visit.
You are likely to be directed to places like the Fort. One of the best-known of the tourist attractions of the city, Lahore Fort is a magnificent complex of buildings that has already been accepted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Situated near the also-famous Badshahi Mosque, it boasts an almost fanciful appearance that often obscures the fact of it having been used as a true fort in the past, suffering assaults and even shelling (some even directed at it from Badshahi’s minarets when the mosque was occupied by invaders) throughout the ages. The fort is well-taken-care-of now, though, and is something people in the city should be certain to visit.
The Shalimar Gardens are not too far away. The Emperor Shah Jahan had these built in the 17th century and they are a serene expression of Mughal and Persian geometric styles coming together. They too are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The city also boasts the tomb of Begum Nur Jahan, the favoured wife of the Emperor Jahangir, who was said to have practically ruled the empire in his stead when he began to fall pretty to the vices of liquor and opium, as well the tomb of the Emperor Jahangir himself, which was constructed at the behest of his son, Shah Jahan. As may well be expected of the commissioned buildings of this particular Shah (the same one who had the Taj Mahal and the Diwan-e-Khas from the Red Fort built), the mausoleum to Jahangir is exquisite, a triumph of marble and stone adorned with precious embellishments of pietra dura as well as Mughal frescoes.
And this is only the beginning. There are so many other places to visit and sights to see in this city, from the Alhambra Cultural Complex to the Wagah border (where foreigners may cross from Pakistan to India and vice versa). It is not for nothing that this city was once declared among the top 5 locations to visit in the country. Lahore is certainly a must-see site for those passing through Pakistan.