City hitlist: Varanasi

Set on the banks of the Ganges, Varanasi is India’s spiritual and street-food capital, attracting pilgrims and gourmands alike.
Views from Brijrama Palace.

Views from Brijrama Palace.

Samantha Hewitt

Where to eat

Deena Chat Bhandar

Varanasi is known for its streetside chaat (snacks). Stop by at local hotspot Deena Chat Bhandar from 2pm until late for moreish bites such as samosa (stuffed and fried pastries), pani puri (fried hollow pastry filled with spiced potato and flavoured water), and tamatar chaat (tomato gravy served in petite terracotta pots; above).

Hanuman Mandir, Ramapura Luxa Rd.

Canton Royale

Skip the mixed cuisine and go for the thali, a selection of traditional dishes and sides including dhal, roti and raita, all made in-house using fresh, local ingredients. The restaurant is located inside Hotel Surya, and you can choose to enjoy your meal in the heritage palace or in the garden.

Hotel Surya, S20/51, A-5, The Mall Rd, Varanasi Cantt.

Dosa Cafe

This pocket-sized café serves South Indian-style crêpes called dosa, which are perfect for a light lunch or afternoon snack. Made from fermented rice batter, the golden, wafer-thin, slightly crisp crêpes are filled with cheese, tomato, onion or masala (spiced potato). Ask for extra sambar and chutney on the side.

D15/49 Maan Mandir, Dashashwamegh Ghat.

Blue Lassi

Beat the heat with a refreshing lassi – here, tropical infusions of banana, mango, pomegranate, guava and coconut are topped with nuts and fresh fruit.

CK 12/1 Kunj Gali, Kachaudi Gali.

Tamatar chaat and pani puri with flavoured water at Deena Chat Bhandar.

(Photo: Samantha Hewitt)

Where to shop

Visit the weavers’ village of Sarai Mohana and shop for renowned Banarasi silk sarees – garments traditionally worn by Indian women on special occasions such as festivals and weddings. Local artisans handweave the sarees, which are known for their fine quality, intricate gold and silver brocade work and opulent embroidery. Silks made in this village are used in the Taj Hotels throughout India.

Where to stay

Brijrama Palace

This riverside palace was built in 1812 to serve as a fort, and has since been transformed into a luxurious 32-room hotel. The building is one of the city’s oldest landmarks and is admired for its detailed exterior and grand interior. Perch by one of the river-facing windows and soak up the spectacular views, or relax in the sitting area and enjoy the nightly sitar serenade.

Near Munshi Ghat, Bangali Tola,

Brijrama Palace.

(Photo: Samantha Hewitt)

What to see

Wake up early and take a gentle boat ride along the Ganges to watch the sunrise. You’ll see locals and pilgrims descend in hordes onto the ghats, the steps that lead down to the water’s edge, to bathe and pay their respects to the river. At dusk, head to Dashashwamedh Ghat near Vishwanath temple to witness the Ganga Aarti, a powerful and uplifting ceremony where fire is used as a religious offering.

Boat ride along the Ganges.

(Photo: Samantha Hewitt)

Getting there:

Airlines including Qantas, Virgin Australia and Singapore Airlines fly two-stops to Varanasi from select Australian cities.

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