12 Amazing Bhopal tourist places that you must not miss (2022)

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While Bhopal, the capital city of Madhya Pradesh centers around the twin lakes, Upper Lake (bada talab) and Lower Lake (chhota talab), it is a beautiful blend of scenic beauty, old-world charm, and urban planning. Bhopal today has a beautifully mixed profile – the architectural grandeur of the old city can be seen in its marketplaces, great old mosques, and palaces that still bear the aristocratic imprint of earlier rulers – among them a dynasty of powerful Begums who governed the city from 1819 to 1926.

The new city is as striking, with its lush, beautifully laid out parks and gardens, broad avenues, and the modern edifices. It is regarded as one of the country’s greenest and cleanest cities. The lively imprint of diverse faiths and cultures can be found here; the footprints of the Mughals and the Afghans, as well as reflections of Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism – all of which have been perfectly interwoven to present Bhopal with a distinct character.

When you are visiting Bhopal make sure to explore some destinations outside the city limit. Two of the three UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Madhya Pradesh namely Bhimbetka Rock Shelters and Sanchi Stupa are located less than 50 kilometers from Bhopal. Attractions you need to visit in the city include museums, national park, lakes, masjids and palaces. While you need just a day to explore the places of interest in the city, two more days are needed if you wish to visit nearby places including Bhimbetka and Sanchi.

Raja Bhoj Setu, an happening place in Bhopal, PC: Avsamethia/Wikimedia

Must visit Bhopal tourist places within city

Bhopal is often referred to as the “City of Lakes.” The term fits perfectly for the city, which boasts a number of natural and man-made lakes. But Bhopal has more than simply its lakes. It also has famous historical sites, ancient caves, and palaces. Whether you want to spend time with family or friends or spend quality time with your partner, Bhopal has something for everyone.

So, if you want to take a holiday, head to Bhopal. When you arrive in Bhopal, you may be wondering what the must-see attractions are. Let me help you in this regard. This list looks at some of the city’s most popular tourist attractions that are worth a visit during your trip to Bhopal.

Bhopal Tourist Places
An evening view of the upper lake, PC: Kalpana Mishra

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1.Upper and Lower lakes

The Upper Lake, also known locally as ‘Bhojtaal’ or ‘Bada Talab,’ is one of Bhopal’s best known attractions. It is India’s oldest man-made lake. The lake is claimed to have been built by Raja Bhoja in the 11th century.

The lake is overlooked by a majestic royal garden called Kamla Park, which is another tourist attraction that draws visitors year after year. The ambiance and backdrop of the two locations are too impressive to ignore, and they deserve a prominent place on your Bhopal tour itinerary without a doubt.

You can see the Lower lake or ‘Chhota talab’ right next to the Upper Lake.  Both of these lakes together form Bhoj Wetland owing to the abundance of water birds here.The lake was built in 1794 to celebrate the city’s beauty. Chhote Khan, a minister of Nawab Hayat Muhammad Khan Bahadur, supervised the construction.

Lower Lake, in particular, is serene, quiet, and beautiful, and it is flanked by majestic hills. Since the Lower Lake has no freshwater source, it receives seepage from the Upper Lake.

Snakes are an integral part to visitors of Van Vihar, PC: Kalpana Mishra

2.Van Vihar National Park

Van Vihar is a National Park and a Zoological Space that is managed by the Central Zoo Authority. It is next to the Upper Lake in Bhopal, near the Shymala Hills.The animals here are kept closest to their natural habitats, making it a haven for people who love nature. If fortunate, you can spot a vast variety of animals including leopards, cheetah, Neelgai, panthers, etc. as well as birds such as kingfishers, bulbuls, wagtails, and some migratory species.

Van Vihar National Park, founded in 1979, is one of Central India’s most famous national parks,spreading over an area of around 445 hectares. However, during my visit to the park I hardly spotted any animals except for a lion and a crocodile. For one like me who comes from Odisha, the land of Nandankanan Zoological Park and Similipal National Park. Van Vihar seems a let down. Still you can spend some good time here. The entry fee to the park is Rs 20 per adult. But you have to spend some Rs 200 more as you need a vehicle to explore it.

Bhopal Tourist Places
Musical instruments of Lakshadweep on Display at National Museum of Mankind in Bhopal, PC: Kalpana Mishra

3.National Museum of Mankind

National Museum of Mankind,, also known as the Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya  is one of the most interesting Bhopal tourist attractions. Seated on the Shyamla Hills of the city, . the museum showcases the evolution of mankind through anthropological evidences. It is also known as the Tribal Habitat Museum as many tribal cultures, lifestyles, and characteristics are beautifully displayed. The museum’s displays also speak eloquently about the country’s practically extinct Indian culture and the diversity of cultural patterns.

The “Veethi Sankul” indoor museum building houses 12 galleries with about 4462 artefacts displaying various facets of human culture exhibited in very unique and creative ways.The entrance gallery ‘ Biocultural Evolution of Man’ is designed to provide information about ‘Man’ as a physical being and his evolutionary journey from prehistoric times.Remaining galleries grouped as ‘Human Odyssey’ depict rich and diversified cultural patterns of tribal and rural India.

The museum also boasts an open air exhibition that includes themes like Traditional Technology, Himalayan Village, Coastal Village, Desert Village, Kumbhar Para and River Valley Culture. The highlight of the outdoor museum however is the Pre-historic Rock Art. Perhaps this is the only museum in the world having natural prehistoric rock shelters with rich paintings in its own campus. Entry fee to visit the museum is Rs 50 per person, but it is worth it. 

Tribal Museum, PC: Kalpana Mishra

4. Tribal Museum 

After visiting the Museum of Mankind you can head to the Madhya Pradesh Tribal Museum, one of the most famous places in Bhopal. Situated at a walkable distance from the Museum of Mankind, the tribal museum is known for the innovative displays of its exhibits. The works displayed here have their roots in the tribal culture of the state. It is advised to collect a brochure at the entrance in order to learn a few basics of tribal life, which makes it easier to decipher the works and artefacts..

The museum is meticulously divided into six galleries, each of which is dedicated to tribal culture, life, art, and mythology. One of the galleries is dedicated to Chhattisgarh which was once  a part of  Madhya Pradesh. Adding glamour to the museum is the creative presentation of the galleries and the colourful lighting.  If you’re a fan of mythology or history, this is a must-see. If you are an Indian national you just need to pay Rs 10 for entry. 

Bhopal Tourist Places
Taj-ul Masjid, PC: Kalpana Mishra

5. Taj-ul Masjid

The Taj-ul-Masajid, also known as ‘The Crown of Mosques,’ is a stunning mosque built by Bhopal’s third female ruler, Shah Jahan Begum, who wanted to build the world’s largest mosque. The mosque has a pink façade with two 18-story octogonal minarets with marble domes on top. The main hallway with stunning pillars and marble flooring is located beneath the mosque’s three massive bulbous domes.

 The courtyard’s double-storey doorway, with four recessed archways and nine cusped multi-fold openings, leads to the main prayer hall.This remarkable monument is used as a sacred school (Madarsa) during the day. When I visited it, the Mardasa classes were going on. The mosque is beautiful and gives a positive vibe. Do go there.

Bharat Bhavan, Bhopal, PC: Suyash Dwivedi/Wikipedia

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6. Bharat Bhavan

Bharat Bhavan is an autonomous multi-arts complex and museum in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, built and maintained by the state government. Mrs. Indira Gandhi, India’s then-prime minister, inaugurated it in 1982. It is a multi-arts centre designed to provide an engaging experience by the use of verbal, visual, and performing arts. Bharat Bhavan is a popular destination for those wishing to see great dance and singing performances.

 It gives a venue for contemporary expression, thought, search, and invention.Artists from all around the country perform here at the various events related to the free expression of thought. Charles Correa, the architect, was behind Bharat Bhavan’s meticulous design. Entry fee for visiting Bharat Bhavan is only Rs 10 per person.

Laksmi Narayan Temple, PC: Bernard Gagnon/Wikimedia

7.Laxmi Narayan Temple

The famous Lakshmi Narayan Temple also known as Birla temple, seated atop the picturesque Arera Hills, was constructed and is dedicated to the Hindu Goddess of Wealth, Lakshmi, and her consort Lord Vishnu. Apart from the beautiful Lakshmi and Vishnu images, the temple also houses a reclining Lord Shiva with his wife Goddess Parvati.

The Birla Museum, which is attached to the temple, houses exquisite sculptures dating back to the 12th century! Apart from being a religious shrine, the temple offers breathtaking views of the Old Bhopal city.

Tourist Places near Bhopal

Bhopal also boasts some top tourist places just outside the vicinity of the city. The attractions include prehistoric rock shelters and cave paintings, Buddhist monuments, rock cut cave temples, forts and an incomplete Shiva shrine. You can easily visit these places as they are not that far from Bhopal. Here I have listed 5 such attractions that you must include in your Bhopal itinerary. 

Bhopal Tourist Places
Bhimbetka Rock Shelter near Bhopal, PC: Kalpana Mishra

1. Bhimbetka Rock Shelters

While traveling from Bhopal to Hoshangabad on NH-46, you come across a number of  huge quartzite towers nestled on the Southern edge of Vindhyachal hills at some distance from the highway. These are the rock shelters which were home to the ancient men for several thousands years and believed to be the earliest settlement of humans in the Indian subcontinent. Bhimbetka rock shelters complex is located some 45 kilometers South of Bhopal in Raisen district of Madhya Pradesh. 

The rock shelters of Bhimbetka are an engaging place to contemplate mankind’s evolution. Whether you are a history buff, an art enthusiast, or simply a visitor seeking to explore the mysteries of the past, this ancient art gallery of India will keep you occupied for hours.

 There are around 750 rock shelters, with over 400 of them having artwork. This makes Bhimbetka the largest archive of prehistoric art in India, if not Asia.The artwork here narrates stories and provides a glimpse into the life of prehistoric men: their hunting, dancing, and royal processions, and the drawings are both captivating and thought-provoking. ASI took over the site in 1990 and UNESCO accorded world heritage site status in 2003. For the complete guide to visit Bhimbetka, please refer A Walking Tour of Bhimbetka Rock Shelters and Prehistoric Cave Paintings

Bhopal Tourist Places
The Great Stupa at Sanchi, PC: Sudeep K Guru

2. Sanchi Stupa

Sanchi, a quaint Buddhist complex, is famed for housing one of India’s most important historical landmarks, the Sanchi Stupa. It lies around 46 kilometres northeast of Madhya Pradesh’s capital city of Bhopal. The Sanchi Stupa, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1989, is widely regarded as the best preserved ancient stupa in Central India.

The magnificence of the Sanchi Stupa remains unrivalled to this day as one of the most amazing attractions to visit  near Bhopal, and possibly in India. The structure, which is believed to have been built in the 3rd century BCE during the reign of the great emperor Ashoka of the Maurya Dynasty, is one of the most remarkable Buddhist monuments in the country.

In order to spread the reach of Buddhism, the Mauryan ruler undertook redistributing Lord Buddha’s mortal remains across the country. The great dome of the Stupa houses a central vault carrying Lord Buddha’s relics. A must visit for all exploring Bhopal. For details you can read Sanchi Stupa: All you need to know about this Buddhist treasure

Bhopal Tourist Places
The iconic Bhojeshwar Temple of Bhojpur, PC: Kalpana Mishra

3. Bhojeshwar Temple 

Bhojeshwar temple in Bhojpur village is about 28 kilometers from Bhopal, but you should avoid this short-cut road. All you should do is to take the NH-46 towards Bhopal and drive till Mandideep from where take the left turn towards Bhojpur. After travelling for about 11 kilometers you reach your destination.

 As Bhojeshwar temple sits on a hillock, you catch a glimpse of the temple the moment you enter the village. The first glance of the temple is enough for you to surmise that it is an unfinished one. It doesn’t even look like a temple with the rectangular structure. This is enough for you to sense what is in store when you visit the temple site. To explore the temple and find out the answers to some of the questions that it poses to the visitors, do read the post Bhojeshwar temple: The unfinished masterpiece of Bhopal.

Bhopal Tourist Places
Rock cut art of Udayagiri caves near Bhopal, PC: Sudeep K Guru

4. Udayagiri cave shrines 

If you are travelling to Sanchi to visit the UNESCO world heritage site Sanchi Stupa, then don’t hesitate to travel a bit further and visit the Udayagiri caves. The place is home to some 20 rock-cut cave temples carved out on a hill during the Gupta period in the 5th century AD and just 8 kilometers from Sanchi.

 It is very important to mention here that the very name of the place might confuse you as rock cut cave temples with the same name (of the famous Khandagiri and Udayagiri caves)  also exist in Odisha. The Udayagiri cave temple complex we are talking about is about 57 kilometers from Bhopal in the Vidisha district of Madhya Pradesh. 

Udayagiri cave complex remains a destination that is less travelled for obvious reasons.  In a region that boasts places like Sanchi, Bhopal, Bhimbetka, and Bhojpur, to name a few, a tourist may decide to skip Udayagiri. However, if you delve a little deeper into the history of Udayagiri, it quickly becomes obvious that Udayagiri is more than just a few rock-cuts. To know more about the place, please read the post A trip to the Udayagiri caves near Bhopal.

Bhopal Tourist Places
Raisen Fort just in the outskirt of Bhopal, PC: Sheerazwiki/Wikimedia

5. Raisen Fort

The majestic Raisen Fort sits on a verdant hill, flanked by a few temples, and has multiple wells and a massive reservoir in its folds, only 23 kilometres from Bhopal. The fort, which is said to be over 800 years old, houses a temple and a mosque, as well as multiple domes, only two of which have been spared by the sands of time.

The fort is a stronghold of people’s beliefs and is famed as the shrine of Hazrat Peer Fatehullah Shah Baba, a renowned Muslim saint. Since its construction in the 13th century, the fort has witnessed the reigns of several rulers. Raisen Fort is a must-see for anyone interested in history, culture, or religion.

FAQs on Bhopal Tourist Places

Is it worthwhile to visit Bhopal?

Yes. It is a city that offers an exceptional, one-of-a-kind cultural experience. Taj-ul-Masjid, one of Asia’s largest mosques, is also located here. The famous Sanchi Stupa is also close to Bhopal. Bhopal is well-known for being one of India’s greenest cities.

Why should I visit  Bhopal?

Definitely you should. Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh’s capital city, is a mash-up of culture, tradition, history, and urban sprawl. While some of the attractions to see in Bhopal are ancient forts, palaces, caves, and temples, there are also stunning highrises and edifices that showcase modern architecture that make your day..

Why is Bhopal called the ‘city of lakes’?

Bhopal is dubbed as the “City of Lakes” because of the abundance of natural and artificial lakes that dominate the city, particularly the delightful ones flanked by gentle sweeping hills. The main source of water is known as the bada talaab, or upper lake.

How can I reach Bhopal?

Regular flights connect Raja Bhoja International Airport in Bhopal from other major cities across the country. There are also regular trains to Bhopal from other major cities in the country.

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