things to do in Ahmedabad - restaurants, hotels, + sights
If you are into sustainable fashion and textiles, chances are Ahmedabad is on your radar for it's khadi and dedication to natural manufacturing methods. So, I made this round-up of things to do in Ahmedabad Gujarat India complete with where to eat, sleep, adventure, and shop. And, I even made you an interactive map to help you get around! I hope you enjoy this guide, and please feel free to share your fav places in the comments section.
This Guide Includes:
- Where is Ahmedabad?
- Why visit Ahmedabad?
- When is the best time to visit Ahmedabad?
- Is Ahmedabad safe?
- Best shopping in Ahmedabad
- Best places to eat in Ahmedabad
- The best sightseeing in Ahmedabad
- Best hotels in Ahmedabad
- Getting around – interactive map
Where is Ahmedabad?
Ahmedabad is located in the center of the Indian state of Gujarat. Gujarat is just north of Maharashtra (the state Mumbai is in) on the west coast of India. While Gujarat is technically not South India, there are a lot of south Indian vibes here.
What is Gujarat like?
Gujarat is beef and booze-free. Well, technically you can get booze, and I think beef from what I have heard. I have never tried to get beef in Gujarat, because, why would I? I am veg. And, after all the time I spend in Goa (the party capital of India) I welcome the total detox of being in a dry state. But, if you are a person who enjoys a cocktail with dinner or needs a glass of wine before bed, don't worry. As a tourist, you can get a special license that will allow you to drink alcohol at some hotels and restaurants. Almost any hotel you stay at can help arrange this for you.
When is the best time to visit Ahmedabad?
Like many other areas of India, Ahmedabad and Gujarat have 3 seasons summer, monsoon, and winter. When it comes to backing you don't need anything special - or, nothing that you would not need in any other part of India you may be visiting.
The best time to visit is during the winter season from September to December when the weather is perfect - think LA.
From January to around March is Monsoon. Monsoon differs from year to year. Some years there will be a few sprinkles a few times a day, and some years the rains are relentless and never-ending.
After monsoon is summer from April - August. April to July tend can get really hot. So, if you aren't a hot weather person you might want to avoid those months. Or, plan your travels allowing for plenty of time to rest and hydrate in the shade.
Just how hot does Gujarat get during the summer?
A few years ago I used to work with a factory in Umbergoan, Gujarat. Umbergoan is about a 3-hour drive from Mumbai. On one trip back to Mumbai instead of having my regular driver from Mumbai come to pick me up I let the factory convince me into using a local guy from the village. He showed up in a car that had no AC and the back seat had no cushions, it was just a metal bench wrapped in fabric. And, of course, true to India, there were no seatbelts.
I had a flight to catch and didn't have an extra 3-5 hours to wait for another car to come from Mumbai. So I got in the car, and prayed we would make it and not break down on the side of the road. We made it. But, right outside of Mumbai, about an hour, hour and a half from the airport, we hit traffic.
How is this story relevant to summer in Gujarat?
Well, it just so happened to be summer. As we sat in the traffic baking in the 110-degree heat, I rationed the last of my water bottle. And, for the first time in my life (I occasionally do Bikram yoga, so I am pretty used to extream heat) thought, I might pass out. I didn't. But, it was an extremely uncomfortable ride.
My advice, spare yourself the discomfort and visit during the winter season if you can.
is Ahmedabad safe?
In short, very. And, yes, Ahmedabad is safe for women.
Gujarat is one of the safest places in India for women. Generally, when I am traveling alone in India I am home around sunset if I am in a new place where I don't know anyone. When the sun goes down, things can change quickly in India, safety-wise. In places like Jaipur, I will stay out until 10ish. But, I only stay out this late with my driver, and as we ride home we usually only see men hanging out on the side of the road.
How I learned about Ahmedabad's safety.
So, on one visit to Ahmedabad, I decided to stay in an Indian business hotel. These hotels are basically cubes of concrete, I have been in ones that don't even have windows. They are barebones, and kind of depressing. But, for the most part, they are clean and relatively cheap.
So I am sitting in my room, getting ready for bed around midnight. And I start to hear a hissing sound coming from the HVAC unit in the wall. I don't pay much attention to it. But, then I notice a faint smell. Egh, whatever. About 30 minutes later I have a headache and am starting to feel woozy. So, I call down to the front desk and explain what is going on. They hang up on me (this behavior is typical of India, when people in India do not have an answer for you, they will just ignore you). So, I go downstairs and talk to the front desk guy. I explain what's happening. And he tells me that it's impossible. So I say, come up to my room let's smell and hear the HVAC together. He agrees.
Before even entering the room, like literally the door was still closed, he proclaims - I don't smell anything. I am like ok, how about you come inside first. He comes in and insists he doesn't smell anything.
We go back and forth for about 45 minutes. Finally, he admits that work had been done on the roof that day and that a pipe was hit. They thought they had patched the pipe, but apparently, the patch did not hold.
So, I pack my bags and book the Park Hyatt a few blocks away. By this time it's around 1:30 am. But there was no way I was going to stay at that hotel with a mystery gas leak.
For the record, I never stay at such fancy hotels in India. But, I chose something nice and expensive because it was so late at night. And I didn't want to walk into an unknown situation at an unknown hotel. I asked the Park Hyatt to send me a car with one of their drivers.
***Ladies traveling alone, especially at night in India. If you are unfamiliar with the area always take a hotel car. Do not get into an Uber. ***
Women, never feel silly for being overly cautious. Or, spending a little more money for nicer accommodations in an emergency. Yes, other women will tell you of all the reckless things they did on their one-month backpacking trip through India, and they were "just fine". But take it from someone that is there all the time - it's better to be safe than sorry. For every woman who brags about their careless behavior, there is generally another, less vocal one, embarrassed of the dangerous situation they put themself in.
Anyway. We drive to the Park Hyatt and I was amazed by the scene on the street at 1:30 am. Women, hanging out. Drinking chai, having snacks. It was crazy. I could not believe it. That was when I really realized that Ahmedabad was different than most other Indian cities.
Why Travel to Ahmedabad?
If you are traveling to India, there are probably hundreds of places you want to visit, but sadly, you probably don't have enough time to see them all. So why visit Ahmedabad?
So by now, you are probably starting to get it. Ahmedabad is chill, it's safe, and in my opinion, it's the perfect place to start your trip to India.
Why start your India trip in Ahmedabad?
Ahmedabad is the perfect city to acclimate to India. Compared to other Indian cities the pace of life is slow, the traffic isn't bad, and the entire city just has a good vibe. Basically the total opposite of Delhi.
India, anywhere you go at first, is a shock to the senses. The smells, colors, chaos, and total culture shock is a lot for anyone to handle. Even the most seasoned traveler. That is why Ahmedabad is so perfect to start out in. It's an extremely easy city to navigate while you are still getting your barrings and adjusting to jetlag. And, in my opinion, it has some of the best food in India. But, more on that later.
Flights to Ahmedabad
There is are two great flights from JFK to Ahmedabad one is run by Etihad (layover in Abu Dabi) and the other Emirates (with a layover in Dubai). If you are unfamiliar with those lines both of them have new planes, amazing staff, and decent enough food.
What cool about starting your trip to Ahmedabad is that the airport is a port of entry. That means you go through immigration and customs at the Ahmedabad airport. Usually, most flights will go through Delhi, Mumbai, or Hyderabad. And those airports are nuts. I have heard of people waiting in lines to clear immigration for hours. In Ahmedabad, you are much less likely to encounter that problem as only a few international flights a day are arriving there compared to the other ports.
Getting Around Ahmedabad
I would recommend hiring a driver for your trip to Ahmedabad. Financially, drivers are extremely reasonable to hire by the day. I have an amazing driver in Ahmedabad if you need a reference - happy to help anyone plan their trip (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Of course, there is Uber also. The problem with relying on Uber in Ahmedabad is the waits can be long. I once waited for 15 minutes and had 3 drivers cancel on me for no reason. Be prepared to wait around if you go this route.
Where to Eat - Ahmedabad best restaurants
For me, Ahmedabad is all about the food. I have mentioned before, food in India isn't like Babu Ji or Tamarind in NYC, or that "really authentic" spot in your neighborhood. Just like the United States, food in India is regional.
So, what are the must go to places in Ahmedabad that will give you a taste of what Gujarati food s all about?
I literally plan reasons to go to Ahmedabad to just to eat here. Now, there is a second location in Mumbai, but I love the one in Ahmedabad. My favs on the menu are sabudana kchichdi. Sabudana is kind of like an oversize tapioca ball, but it is made from palm trees. The balls are a little bit squishy and a little bit firm, kind of gnocchi but much much smaller - about the size of a pearl. The dish comes with a yogurt sauce and peanut sauce.
Also, try the panki chatni. These are super thin - like almost see-through rice pancakes that are steamed in banana leaves with Indian spices. And, honorable mention to the dosas and puris. While you can get these types of dishes all over India, they are still solid choices here.
Also, the iced coffee comes with ice cream. Indian's especially those in Gujarat, love their sweets.
After eating, right next door, to the right, is Shangar Art & Craft. A great place to check out local clothes, accessories, and fabrics. I have found some great fabrics and accessories here in the past.
House of MG has a similar thali concept called Agashiyei. But, I much prefer Vishalla for its ambiance and cheaper price point. Vishalla is an all you can eat experience.
This is a spot where you can really experience what Gujarati cooking is. Gujarat is known for its salty-sweet combo. The food here isn't so much spicy - but don't worry spice is available if you like, it's more like a take on chocolate covered pretzels… but not so extream.
As you walk in you are greeted by a long walkway lit up only with candles. Upon arrival, you pay a fixed rate at the door and are taken to be sat on the ground. A giant banana leaf is put in front of you, and the food starts coming. For the life of me, I can not remember all the different dishes that they bring out non-stop. Come wearing stretchy pants because you are going to eat a lot of traditional Gujarati food.
There are also dance shows and puppet shows, swings, and other surprises on the grounds that you can explore to walk off dinner. As a gentle reminder, it is always nice to tip the performers.
There is also a utensil museum at the restaurant. For about one USD more, you can take a tour. It basically is what it sounds like, a collection of utensils, pots, pans, and even locks and keys from all over India. It sounds kind of weird. But, everyone who I have taken here loves it.
Much more reasonably priced than it's sister restaurant Agashiyei, is The Green House. I recommend coming here for lunch if you are not staying at the House of MG. I don't know what it is about this heritage hotel I love so much - the entire property has the feel of Bar Palladio in Jaipur, except way less let's go to see and be seen, and more chill.
So, what should you order?
I always start with the fried snacks platter. You get to choose three from options like samosas, methi na gota (gram flour dumplings), bataka vada (Indian croquet), and more. There is also a steamed snack platter, with totally different options, that is equally as good. My suggestion is to go with the mixed plates so you get to try a little bit of everything. And of course, there are your typical Indian street food snacks like puris.
The show stopper of the entire menu, IMO, is the besan na gatta nu shaak curry. It's gram flour dumplings in a delicious yogurt-based curry with just the right amount of spices. If you order anything, order this.
Things to do in Ahmedabad
Of course, there is more to do than just eat, although I would be totally happy just eating my days away. And, the list of activities and sights could go on forever - after all Ahmedabad is Gujarat's biggest city. But, the following are some of per personal recommendations.
Best places to shop textiles in Ahmedabad
Ahmedabad is basically the khadi capital of India. And, for good reason. Gandhi spent much of his life here.
Normally I like to go in-depth about where to shop for fabrics. But, for this article, I am not going to do that. I have a few secret shopping spots in Ahmedabad that I am not sharing. They are small local khadi suppliers, everything is organic, and everything is dyed with natural dyes. Their textiles are some of the nicest I have found in India. I am not about to blow that secret source up on the internet. It's already hard to get orders from them as they are stretched thin trying to keep up with demand. Access to my VIP textile list is exclusively for my clients.
So here is what I recommend while shopping for fabrics. Plan your trip around seeing the sights. Then hop on yelp, or another location-based search engine and choose spots that are close to where you are at the moment. It will allow you to discover hidden gems on your own. And, I guarantee you will find amazing textiles. Seriously, Ahmedabad is full of amazing fabrics. You don't really have to look that hard for them.
Khadi is not just fabric. It can be anything hand made. For example paper. Across the street and down the road a bit from the Gandhi Ashram Museum is an amazing khadi paper manufacturer. All the paper is hand-pressed, and they make novelty papers with leaves and flowers pressed into them.
Or, check out a textiles museum to get inspired - Calico Museum
This place is impossible to get into. They are only open at certain hours, and on certain days of the week. You can't just show up. You need to book a reservation MONTHS in advance.
Plan ahead, get your tickets early and experience one of, if not the best, textiles museums in India.
A few more shopping tips
Check out the Law Garden (close to Swati Snacks) This is a great place to purchase traditional chaniya-cholis also known as Kurtis - those long tunic looking dress shirts you have probably seen Indian people wearing.
The area around is great if you are looking for jewelry.
Is a place for local artisans to sell their handicrafts. Except to see lots of color and embellishments like embroidery on the clothes here.
The market is below Ellis Bridge and you can find everything here from second-hand clothes to antiques, to electronics. Do yourself a favor and skip the shopping malls - stick to the markets and street-side shops.
Ok, now that we have shopping covered, make sure your cameras are charged and ready to go for these sights
Adalajvav is a stepwell located about 19km from Ahmedabad city center. A stepwell is a fancy hole in the ground with steps along the walls that were, and sometimes are still, used for collecting water during the wet monsoon season and then used for the rest of the year. Stepwells are pretty cool in general, I have been to a ton of them. But, this one is one of my favorites.
Most stepwells do not allow visitors to climb down them. This is for two reasons. The first is if you fall you're probably dead. The second is, the structures are old so they can not handle tourists using them constantly. But, this stepwell is different. You actually get to climb down it. And, it is more set up to resemble a temple than a traditional plain geometric stepwell.
As an added bonus, it makes for an amazing backdrop to take photos.
The Dada Harir Ni Vav is another stepwell in Ahmedabad that is equally as stunning and does not require much travel outside of the city center. Yes. You can walk down and around this one also, and it is equally as stunning for photos.
Image: Architect Magazine
This is an underground art gallery, with really cool architecture. From the surface, all you can see are domed roofs. The museum was designed by Balkrishna Vithaldas Doshi and is the home of works by MF Hussain. At night there is a light show.
The Gujarat Science City is located about 12km outside the city center. This interactional educational theme park is great for both kids and adults alike. It was originally built by the Indian government to encourage more students to become involved in science, but it has evolved into a tourist destination.
Do yourself a favor and come here early in the morning. That is when the sun is just right, and the photo you take will legit look magical.
At one point in time, the Jama Masjid was the biggest mosque on the subcontinent - with 256 columns and 15 domes. The mosque was commissioned by Sultan Ahmed Shah. You can see in the architecture the fusion of Muslim and Hindu cultures by the use of lotus flower decorative carvings and large domes.
India loves kites. In January and February, there are kite festivals all over India. They are such a big deal that everyone takes off from work and school for the day to go fly a kite. Seriously, I have been at factories, and they are like um, sorry we are not getting that done today we are flying kites.
Anyway, the festivals are really fun. It's not just about flying kites, its also about batteling them. A skilled kite flyer can fly their kite string into someone else and cut it, causing their adversaries kite to float away.
The Kite Museum in Ahmedabad houses Bhanubhai Shah's personal collection of kites. The museum guides you through the history and evolution of the kite in India. And, argues that kite flying is a science, not just a game for kids.
The complex of pavilions and tombs about 9km from Ahmedabad's city center is a great place for a stroll. And, perfect for anyone that loves architecture. The original purpose of the area was a retreat for Gujarat's rulers of the 15th- century.
This is located right across the street from the House of MG if you decide to stay there - but more on accommodations later. The highlight of this mosque is the stone-carved jaali windows that depict the tree of life. If you decide to go in, like all mosques you must take your shoes off.
The temple is intricately carved from white marble and was built in 1848. It is dedicated to Dharamanath - the 15th Jain tirthankar.
Is this temple as impressive as the Jain temple Ranakpur, IMO no. But, it's still a great temple to visit.
This is where Mahatma Gandhi spent much of his life living and working. The ashram has been turned into a museum with an extensive history of the swadeshi movement and India's road to independence.
You can even visit Gandhi's house and see where he lived. Or, try your hand at spinning and weaving khadi.
Located about 29 km outside Ahmedabad city center is the Akshardham Temple. The temple was carved from over 6,000 tonnes of pink sandstone by thousands of artisans. The temple is surrounded by beautiful gardens. It is definitely worth the 30-minute drive outside of the city to check out.
About 15km outside of the city center is Auto World which is a museum dedicated to world vintage cars of India. There are Bentleys, Maybachs, Rolls-Royce, Cadillacs, and more.
The lake is Ahmedabad's biggest. This is a great place for families with kids as there are lots of activities for children, including a toy train that kids can ride, a tethered hot air balloon, trampoline, and chaat food courts for yum snacks.
A beautiful and colorful Hindu temple, definitely worth checking out and learning about the Hindu religion. To me, this lavish temple almost resembles a palace.
You can take a stroll along this riverfront that runs through the entire city of Ahmedabad. It's often nice to work off some of the food, that you might be overindulging in. There is nothing special to the walk, and it could easily be enjoyed from a car going to and from sightseeing.
Speaking of walks, if you are feeling the need to stretch your legs away from the traffic and chaos of the city, a great place to visit is Victoria Garden. The garden is named after the Queen Victoria herself, and is complete with a statue of her in the center.
There are 5 water park attractions in Ahmedabad alone. That's a lot. Personally I would skip them.
Best Ahmedabad Hotels
I would recommend the House of MG. A room during the high season is about $80. But. Look at what you get for that. I literally had a couch swing in my bedroom. It's the ultimate luxury, with an authentic Indian vibe (none of that silly prayer hands BS) for a totally reasonable price. I am just going to shut up about this place and let the video of my room do the talking.
PS. As an added bonus the hotel has free guided walking tours through the city twice a day.
What I have learned from bringing people to India is that sometimes at the end of a long day they can be left feeling overwhelmed. And, just want something to "feel like home". If this is you, that's ok. I would recommend the Hyatt Regency. The hotel has an amazing staff, pristine amenities, and feels, well, a lot like the west.
For a budget hotel try Treebo Trend Paradise
Treebo boasts itself as India's top-rated budget hotel chain. And, they are consistently pretty solid for about $30 per night. Of course, you can find cheaper, as low as $5 to $8 per night. But, personally, whenever I make a trip to Ahmedabad I like to treat myself and spring for a few more pricy luxuries.
Interactive Map - So you don't miss anything!
Did I forget anything? Tell me your fav places in Ahmedabad in the comments!