Whenever I hear anything of a “cultural capital”, the first thing that comes to my mind is Saint-Petersburg, with its grand palaces, museums, domed cathedrals and special charm. Of course, I could hardly expect Vadodara, also known as the cultural capital of Gujarat, to have something in common with the Russian city on the Neva river. However, I did get a fair share of palaces, museums, domes and not only! Vadodara turned out to be a pleasant city, much cosier and greener then many other cities I’ve already visited. Imposing historical buildings, peeping out from behind the trees, are sure to make any city irresistibly charming in my eyes. So, if you you have only one day in Vadodara, what are some of the best things to do in the cultural capital of Gujarat?
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Visit Laxmi Vilas Palace
The history of Vadodara (formerly known as Baroda) is tightly interwoven with the rule of the Gaekwads, Maratha royal family. The Gaekwads ruled the Baroda State for more than two centuries, with Vadodara being their royal residence. Under their reign, lots of opulent structures adorned the city, with Lukshmi Vilas Palace undoubtedly being a centerpiece. Known as the biggest private residence in the world (four times the size of Buckingham Palace!), this magnificent building represents a sublime fusion of Islamic motifs, Hindu and Jain architectural patterns and Gothic Revival traditions. A few sections of the palace with countless works of art are open to the visitors. A comprehensive audio-guide helps one make the most of the visit. Photography is strictly prohibited inside the palace, but you can take pictures of the exterior to your heart content. And it’s really worth it!
See the paintings in Maharaja Fateh Singh Museum
Right near Laxmi Vilas Palace there is the Maharaja Fateh Singh Museum. The gallery houses the Gaekwad family’s collection of European and Indian paintings, including the works of Raja Ravi Varma. The sculptures in bronze and marble are not to be missed as well.
Enjoy the quiet of Kirti Mandir
Kirti Mandir, or Temple of Fame, is the cenotaph of the Gaekwad family. The structure was built by Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad III in the memory of his glorious ancestors. The structure features four impressive murals by Nandalal Bose, inspired by the tales from Indian mythology.
Explore the exhibits of Baroda Museum and Picture Gallery
I know, when you have only one day in Vadodara, visiting two museum may sound like too much, but there is no need to cover all the collections in one go. When visiting museums, I usually prioritize my interests and make a choice of galleries accordingly. The Baroda Museum is massive, and even if you have all the time in the world, seeing all the exhibits at once would be a strain. That’s why I skipped the collection of cloth & handicrafts, skeletons of animals and stuffed birds, but made sure to see European paintings (including the works of Constable and Turner), Japanese bronzes, glasswork, ceramics and marble statues. The building of the museum itself is something to look at. Constructed in 1984 by the British architects Major Charles Mant and Robert Chisholm, it’s undoubtedly an architectural marvel.
Relax in Sayaji Baug
It’s a large garden with a vast array of trees and flowering plants – an excellent place for walking around, feedings the squirrels and sorting out your impressions after visiting all the grand places mentioned above. The garden also encompasses an aquarium and a zoo. Toy train rides add to the charm of the place.
Stroll around and soak up the vibes
The streets of Vadodara were a pleasure to walk along – even those of them with architectural cacophony of boxes upon boxes, so typical for many Indian cities. If you get into that “cultural capital” mode and look around with a discerning eye, the city proudly reveals its standards.
And if you have one more day to spare, by all means visit the Champaner-Pavagadh archaeological park, located 50 km away from Vadodara. It will be an adventure, I promise!
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