The smart city initiative in India has transformed quite a few cities across India. We’ve been to a few of these and Vadodara which has done quite well for itself surely has a few interesting things to do. Most natives and even my aunt who lived there earlier had one question to ask “What’s even there in Baroda?”. We believe every place has a story to tell and what makes every place special is the way its story is told!
This is a well-suited guide for anyone looking to spend a long weekend in Vadodara.
How and when to reach?
Vadodara is an easy 5-6hr drive by road or a train ride from Mumbai and it would be ideal if you decide to start early in the morning and reach the city just in time for a fulfilling Gujarati lunch!
We took the Gujarat express train no 22953 which departs from Mumbai at about 6 AM and reaches Vadodara at around 1 PM.
Where to stay?
The city offers plenty of options in all kinds of budgets however, we highly recommend staying close to the railway station as this makes it easy to explore the most important sites on foot. When your place of stay is close to the station or airport (based on your mode of travel) you also end up saving precious time on the day of entry and exit.
We got an amazing deal for “Regenta Inn” which is conveniently located next to Ved Mall opposite the Railway station. This is a 3-star hotel with comfortable rooms and as it has a mall right next to it, you have access to shopping, street food, and one of the best ice cream parlors in town!
Things to do in 48 Hours.
We walked to our hotel from the railway station and after a comfortable check-in, headed out for lunch at the renowned Sasuma Thali. A Gujarati thali comes with two-three varieties of roti/bread made of a variety of grains, shaak/vegetables in spicy or sweet gravy, dal and Kadhi. They are usually accompanied by a range of sweet and savory snacks, pickles and chutneys. Sasuma Thali also boasts of hosting a large number of celebrities throughout the year. What I loved most was a sweet that resembled Gujiya (we traveled on the Holi long weekend) and the bhindi/Okra shaak!
After a short nap at our hotel, we decided to spend the rest of the evening at the enormous botanical Saayaji baug. A short walk through a posh residential street took us to the park. One can easily spend an entire day here and choose to just laze around reading a book, hearing the calls of various birds, exploring some old forgotten temples at the back of this park, or visit the archeological museum. What we recommend as a must-do activity here though is to take the toy train ride; it is fun to share a child’s excitement and watch kids waving at you, adults sharing laughter over jokes, or watching a coy couple trying their best to seem casual. Post sunset there’s not much to do here so you can now head out to savor some amazing street food.
Bang opposite to the park is a Khau gali (eat street) where you can try the various street food specials of Baroda however, being foodies we already had a list of must-eat items to tick off! We headed straight to the Sur Sagar lake which looks stunning at night, with the humongous Shiva statue in the middle of the lake glowing in lights that change colors. At this point let me also mention how seamlessly we used app-based cab services like Uber, which helped us get from one point to another hassle-free. Almost every ride cost us just 30 bucks thanks to the size of the city and well-regulated traffic.
After taking a few pictures around the lake and spending sometime chit-chatting here with the family we started walking in search of the famed Pyarelal Kachori. On the way do not miss the gorgeous hues of the Nyay mandir (district court) of Vadodara which is a masterpiece of the Byzantine architecture. This exclusive Vadodara dish is not an actual Kachori but like a Raj Kachori filled with bhel. While most of my family members did not like it, Raghav and I loved it simply because I love Bhelpuri in any form and also for the novelty of the dish. We then moved towards another special dish on our list, the Ragda Petis at Dayal’s, apparently it is the oldest shop selling Ragda in this city since 1960! With minimal spices and a simple recipe, they won our hearts for sure. We also tried some tawa pulao and Pav Bhaji in the stalls next to this one.
Before calling it a day, we noticed a shop selling Lassi, Falooda and other dairy products next to our hotel at Ved Transcube plaza. We tried Kulfi, Lassi and some falooda at the wonderful shop called Barkadevi Ice cream. Who knew we were going to come back repeatedly over the next two days!
As enthusiastic photographers, we tend to start our days early while traveling but it is always essential to take into consideration the time of sunrise at a place and the topographical direction of monuments that you visit. Hence, although we planned to start the day by 7 AM we realized it was best to start a bit late as it was still winter here in Vadodara. Our first stop was Kirti Mandir, while the main monument isn’t that interesting we sneaked into some ancient temple ruins right next to this one. Trespassing is ok but not with a DSLR apparently, so we managed to click some pictures of the Mahadev temple on our phone. Do not miss the beautiful murals that adorn the walls of this temple.
Our next stop was for breakfast at the Canara Coffee house which is very popular for their Puneri Misal, we did like it. However, a coffee house that doesn’t sell coffee is unpardonable. After a disappointing breakfast sans coffee, we walked to the Aurobindo Ashram, which was next door. We highly recommend a morning visit to this place for its serene ambiance and meditation rooms.
Every place in Vadodara is close by and if this wasn’t a family trip we would have just walked the city like we usually do. In-fact there are some very beautiful walking tour trails curated by ‘vadodara by foot’. There are self-exploratory app-based audio guides available in Hindi, gujarati and English. Our next stop was the magnificent Lakshmi Vilas Palace. We’ve seen architectural wonders around the world and a few palaces as well but nothing as exquisite and spectacular as this one.
A beautiful narrative on the audio guide takes you through the palace bringing every inch of it alive. My most favorite spot was definitely the huge darbar which has hosted plenty of talented artists. As you take a look around the huge hall the varied forms of art like murals, stained glass painting, etc. will stun you. The best part is you’ll hear his Royal Highness himself breaking into a beautiful bandish(A hindustani classical form of music) on the audio guide as you enter the darbar, it brings the place alive.
The heat and all the walking around made us crave for some cool curd rice and light south Indian fare! Did I mention the ease of use of Uber in this city already? All we had to do was “uber” an auto and zero in on the restaurant in this case it was Dakshin at Karelibaug. We’ve been disappointed plenty of times at these so-called “south indian” restaurants and hence had low expectations from this one as well. To our pleasant surprise the rasam rice, tamarind rice and the curd rice were almost close to home-made quality! We gorged on the food and decided to head back to the hotel for a nap.
After an extended nap, we went back to the old town around Sur Sagar. We wanted to take a photographic walking tour and also savor some popular dishes which were left on my bucket list. We started walking from Raopura clock tower towards the lake. We are usually fascinated by old art-deco styled theatres hence our first stop was Pratap Talkies, we then moved towards the district session court which looks beautiful both with and without lighting. Walking from Lehripura gate to Mandvi gate you’ll notice the old architecture of the city, vibrant market and lots of eatables being sold on pushcarts.
The timing for our visit was perfect, it was Holi time and pushcarts were selling vibrant colored gulaals, pichkaari etc. and we were also fascinated by the variety of cookies and biscuits being sold on the street. If Gujarat is known for its food I would say Vadodara is its capital! We walked for almost 2 hours and still felt energetic; we had to put all our food plans aside because we were losing out on the daylight. We did manage to pack some tamtam (a mix of almost 50 savory snacks mixed into one and served with chopped raw mangoes, green chilli, onions etc) which is available only in Vadodara.
We headed to the khau gali opposite sayaji baug to devour some lip-smacking chow mein and local pizza! Finally, how could we not end the day at our new favorite lassi shop? This time though I had cold cocoa and it was no surprise that it was divine!
The next day we headed to Champaner and stayed at a palace, yes an official palace but that is a story for another day. Hope this guide helps you plan your next trip to Vadodara a perfect smart city, suited for every kind of traveler.