Split by a pair of lakes, Bhopal offers two starkly contrasting cityscapes. In the north is the Muslim-dominated old city, a fascinating area of mosques and crowded bazaars. Bhopal’s population is 40% Muslim – one of India’s highest concentration of Muslims – and the women in black niqabs (veils) are reminders of the female Islamic rulers who built up Bhopal in the 19th century. North of here is a reminder of a more recent, tragic history – the Union Carbide plant, site of the world’s worst industrial disaster.
South of the two lakes, Bhopal is more modern, with wide roads, shopping complexes and upmarket hotels and restaurants nestled comfortably in the Arera and Shamla Hills, which overlook the lakes and the old city beyond. The central district here is known as New Market.
The main train and bus stations are just off Hamidia Rd – the main budget hotel area – with the bustling chowk (marketplace) slightly further southeast. Hamidia Rd is accessed via the Platform 5 end of the train station. The Platform 1 end is where you’ll find left luggage (you need your own padlock), MP Tourism, the post office and an ATM.