1 Day Walking Tour Of Shimla: Best Places To Cover

Once the summer capital of the British Raj, Shimla is among Himachal’s most popular holiday destinations today. Shimla is packed with plenty of history and lip-smacking food, and the best way to experience it is to slip on your comfiest shoes and trudge through the city. Interestingly, the city is small enough for you to experience most of what it offers in a day! If you’re heading to Shimla, don’t forget to pack those walking shoes; these points for a walking tour in Shimla are must-visits!

Places To Visit On A 1 Day Walking Tour Of Shimla

Route: (The Ridge) Christ Church - Gaiety Theater - Tibetan Refugee Market - Indian Coffee House - Kali Bari Temple - St. Michael’s Cathedral - The Mall - View Point. 

Shimla Walking Tour Distance: 2.5 km.

Tour Duration: Around 5.5 hours.

A beautiful view of the hillside town of Shimla

Christ Church - The Ridge

Standing contrastingly against the backdrop of Shimla’s green hills, Christ Church makes for the perfect start to a one-day walking tour of Shimla. Built in 1857, this church is the second-oldest church in all of North India. Back in the 19th century, Simla (as it was known then) was home to a large community of Anglican Britishers. The church was constructed here at their request, and even today, you can attend Mass here every Sunday.

The church still bears the neo-Gothic elements of architecture that it was first constructed in; pointed arches mark its yellow limestone facade, and beautiful stained-glass windows tint the sun rays each day. The architect, Colonel JT Boileau, was renowned at the time and had even made repairs to the Taj Mahal in Agra. Lovers of Mowgli, here’s a fun fact for you: the original chancel window of the church was designed by John Lockwood Kipling, the father of ‘Jungle Book’ author Rudyard Kipling.

Definitely one of Shimla’s most popular and prominent landmarks, Christ Church stands on its most popular road: The Ridge. The Ridge is a broad, pedestrian-only road with stunning views of the mountains on one side and of Shimla unfolded below on the other. Starting off your one-day walking tour of Shimla on The Ridge is ideal since it takes you to prominent landmarks and great eateries too.

Things to do here: Make sure you admire Christ Church and its architecture. You can also climb up the slope on the left of the Church to reach the viewpoint, from where you get an admirable view of The Ridge stretched out in front of you. On The Ridge itself, you can grab some snacks like momos or hot boiled corn.

How much time to spend here: 15 minutes or so should suffice.

Also Read: Shimla Travel Guide

Gaiety Theater

A mere five minutes away from Christ Church and on the left-hand side of The Ridge is where you’ll find the Gaiety Theater. Properly known as the Gaiety Heritage Cultural Complex, it was designed by English architect Henry Irwin, and it opened in 1887.

It’s called a ‘complex’ because it originally was indeed a five-story complex, complete with a ballroom, an armory, a police office, a bar, galleries, and a theater. When it was found to be structurally unsound and unstable, most parts were demolished. Thankfully, the theater wing still stands, alongside an art gallery, a multi-purpose hall, a museum, and an exhibition hall that came up thanks to later renovations.

To get to the Gaiety Theater from Christ Church, simply walk along The Ridge and away from the church. It’ll come up on your left.

Things to do here: The theater is open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm on weekdays, and there’s an entry fee of INR 25 for Indian nationals with a camera. Make sure you take in the gorgeous Gothic architecture of this complex. If you’re lucky, you could catch a film in the theater or an exhibition in the gallery; it hosts multiple art and film festivals throughout the year.

How much time to spend here: 15 - 20 minutes.

The Christ Church in Shimla

Tibetan Refugee Market

Once you exit Gaiety Theater, cross over to the right-hand side of The Ridge. The road branches off and down right after the HP Tourist Booking Office; head down and hang a right to see the Tibetan Refugee Market spilled out on the entire length of the slope.

As the name suggests, this makeshift market comprises stalls set up by Tibetans selling all kinds of things to make a living. Aside from typical clothes and bags, you’ll also find Tibetan carpets, padded snow jackets, woolies, and a bunch of authentic Tibetan accessories. The market is located just below The Ridge, and you’ll need to walk down and back up its slope to get back onto The Ridge.

Things to do here: Shop to your heart’s glory! Poke around the stalls to find Tibetan trinkets and curios.

How much time to spend here: 20 - 30 minutes.

Also Read: Traveling To Shimla During Covid

Indian Coffee House

You’ve finished off with your shopping and are back up on The Ridge. Ahead, the road branches off yet again at a spot called Scandal Point. Turning back on itself, this becomes Mall Road, Shimla’s popular stretch of shops and eateries. If you walk past Scandal Point (marked by the statue of Lala Lajpat Rai), you’ll smell coffee wafting across the cool breeze. This is where you’ll find the iconic Indian Coffee House on your left. 

This coffee house was established back in 1957; like other coffee houses across India, it was to be owned, managed, and run by workers from local communities. Even today, Indian Coffee House runs on a no-profit no-loss system. Narrowly escaping closure during the pandemic, the coffee house is still going strong. Some of its prominent guests have been Indira Gandhi, Narendra Modi, LK Advani, and former Afghanistan PM Hamid Karzai.

Things to do here: Indian Coffee House is the perfect spot to give your feet a rest. Plop yourselves down at one of its tables, and make sure you order a cup of coffee! Their ‘special coffee’ i.e. coffee with a dash of cocoa powder is deliciously warming. You also have plenty of snacks to choose from. Coffee lovers can even buy coffee powder or coffee beans from here to take home with them!

How much time to spend here: 30 - 35 minutes.

Kali Bari Temple

Whether a devotee of Goddess Kali, a devotee to nature, or simply someone looking to explore Shimla to the fullest, the Kali Bari Temple has to be on your list. This old temple rests on Bantony Hill, and accessing it is fairly simple. Turn to your left as soon as you step out of Indian Coffee House and head straight down the road. You’ll pass the BSNL Office and the CTO Chowk; the Kali Bari Temple will come up on your right within 5 minutes of walking.

The Kali Bari Temple is dedicated to Goddess Kali. Dating back to 1845, this temple was originally built atop Jakhoo Hill in the vicinity of Rothney Castle. It was later that the British shifted its location to Bantony Hill. It bears a resemblance to the Dakshineswar Kali Temple located in Kolkata, credited to the fact that it was built by a Bengali Brahmin. Kali Bari features Hindu-style architecture and has a blue wooden idol of the goddess.

Things to do here: You can spend a few minutes here in prayer, or simply admiring the breathtaking view of the valley all around you.

How much time to spend here: 15 minutes.

Also Read: 7 Hill Stations In India Where You Can Beat The October Heat

A shrine near the Tibetan Refugee Market

St. Michael’s Cathedral

Yet another landmark of Shimla, St. Michael’s Cathedral is an imposing stone structure against Shimla’s green trees and gray clouds. It dates all the way back to 1885 when Lord Ripon was Viceroy of India. At the time, and due to his viceroyship, the cathedral was known as Ripon Place. It was designed by Henry Irwin, the same architect behind the gorgeous Gaiety Theater.

St. Michael’s Cathedral was the first Roman Catholic church to be built in Shimla and still is a functioning church today. The church has an unmistakable aura of peacefulness, so even if you’re a non-believer, you can still experience a sense of calm here. The gorgeous stained glass window right over the altar is sure to catch your eye.

To get to the cathedral from the temple, simply turn around and head back on the same road. In a while, you’ll notice the road branching off to the right, just before Beetle Café. This is the DC Office Road, and it winds down like a squiggle, taking you to the entrance of the cathedral. You should be able to see the spire of the cathedral as you walk down the winding road.

Things to do here: Spend a little time in the church admiring the stained glass window and soaking up the serenity. Then, make sure you step outside and to the right (into the church compound) to take in the view of the valleys and hills before you.

How much time to spend here: 15 - 20 minutes.

The Mall

St. Michael’s Cathedral marks the ‘U-turn’ of your walk; henceforth, you begin to head back in the same direction you came from. The difference is that instead of going back up and onto The Ridge, you’ll be taking the road that’s parallel to it, and is also just as popular: The Mall.

There are two routes you can take to head to The Mall, one of which is simply retracing your steps to Scandal Point and heading straight down The Mall instead of going back up onto The Ridge. Your second option is to head down Ram Bazaar Road, take a left at Madan Book Corner and onto SD School Road, and then bank left after you pass under Indian Coffee House. This will bring you back up to Scandal Point, from where you begin a leisurely stroll down The Mall, passing loads of stores and cafés along the way.

Things to do here: When walking along The Mall, drop into the many cafés here to munch on a ton of amazing food, and drop into the stores for some shopping. Head to Dim Sum for some authentic Chinese and Tibetan food including heartwarming thukpa, mouth watering fried chicken momos, and Pork Chilly! If local Himachali food is your jam, then there’s no better place than Himachali Rasoi, just off The Mall. When here, make sure you eat the thali and the savory bhaturu, served with a bowl of green chutney and warm, liquid ghee!

How much time to spend here: About an hour to 1.5 hours along the route should suffice if you stop to savor a meal.

Also Read: Traveling To Himachal During Covid

View Point

If you want to end your day-long walking tour of Shimla admiring the view, then View Point is the place to be. Getting here is fairly easy - just keep strolling along The Mall. You’ll see View Point on your right, just after a cute café called Honey Hut (that sells a wonderful range of teas and jars of honey).

View Point is the best possible way for you to end your day trudging through this quintessential Himachal destination. You get some time to rest your legs while breathing in the clear, cool mountain air; if you’re on time, the skies will be painted in shades of pink and orange as the sun sets behind you.

Things to do here: Aside from dropping into Honey Hut and taking in the view from View Point, you can head forward on The Mall for some more eateries and cafés. Definitely drop into Embassy Café for their delicious rum hot coffee and rum hot chocolate. Further down is Café Simla Times, where you can enjoy a good drink or two with some amazing continental food.

How much time to spend here: 15 minutes or so at View Point should suffice.

The View Point in Shimla

A Few Tips For Your Walking Tour Of Shimla

Ensure you start your walking tour by 9 or 10 am, so you can take your time and savor each stop. The sun sets early in the hills, and it begins to get dark as early as 5 or 5.30 pm on some days. Starting this walk early ensures you still have enough daylight to appreciate the views at View Point before heading back to your hostel, homestay, or hotel in time.

Additionally, if this walk proves to be daunting or tiring, we recommend skipping out on either Kali Bari Temple, St. Michael’s Cathedral, or both. You can make this call depending on how tired you are or how much time you have left in the day. If you do decide on leaving them both out, you can simply turn onto Mall Road at Scandal Point directly.

Also Read: Top 7 Things To Do In Himachal

Additional Tips When Visiting Shimla

This walking tour keeps you within the main city of Shimla; if you want to truly go sightseeing, you need to book a cab and head out on half/one-day trips. Some places that you should consider visiting are:

  • Viceregal Lodge & Botanical Gardens: 15 minutes away from the city center. Attend the guided tour around the lodge to learn about its fascinating history and admire its beauty.
  • Annadale & The Army Heritage Museum: 20 minutes away from the city center. Let the vast expanse of Annadale take you away, and delve into history at the museum.
  • Kufri Telescope Point & Adventure Park: 45 minutes to an hour away from the city center. Glance at the many viewpoints through the telescopes, grab a bowl of steaming hot Maggi, and head down the hill for adventures like ziplining and jeep rides.
  • Shimla Water Catchment Wildlife Sanctuary: 30 minutes away from the city center. Grab a cycle and head into the park on the well-marked trail! You won’t be able to spot any animals, but the dense forest is sure to invigorate you.

Summing Up

This one-day walking tour of Shimla gives you the best the city has to offer within a limited time. However, alongside visiting all these spots, we definitely recommend heading out to do some sightseeing. One week is the ideal time you should stay in Shimla, but you can always extend this to even a month. Shimla is also an ideal destination for a workation, in which case you should definitely spend much longer soaking in the beauty of this lovely destination!

FAQs

What Is A Walking Tour?

A walking tour is a tour of a historical or cultural site undertaken on foot. These tours take the visitors on a sort of cultural walk along the city's major tourist spots either for an hour or for a few hours, depending on the tour's route. The walk is led by a tour guide who gives information about the various tourist spots visited during the tour.

Why Are Walking Tours Good?

As expected walking tours not only provide an intimate perspective of the city being toured but also indulge the visitors in exercise through walking and getting some fresh air.

How Long Do Walking Tours Last?

Most walking tours last for about 90 minutes i.e. at most they cover routes as long as one mile.

Why Is Shimla Famous?

Shimla is known for its scenic hillside views dotted with pine and oak trees. The summer capital is also known for being a base for several trekking and camping excursions.

What Is The Best Time To Visit Shimla?

The months from March to June are the tourist season in Shimla. The weather is quite pleasant and perfect for outdoor activities like paragliding, trekking, camping, and rafting.

Is There Snowfall In Shimla?

Shimla sees heavy snowfall between the months of December and January, making it a perfect destination for snow lovers and winter sports enthusiasts.

What Should I Wear In Shimla?

Make sure to pack several warm clothes, especially if traveling during the winter months. Ensure that you pack waterproof outer layers, warm pullovers, thermal wear, warm socks, comfortable winter wear, snow pants, gloves, boots or snow shoes, jackets, beanies and caps.

How Far Is Manali From Shimla?

The road distance between Manali and Shimla is 248 km and it will take approximately 6 hours to reach Manali from Shimla either via bus or cab.