Liberally sprinkled with British Raj–era buildings – including the famous Residency – and boasting two superb mausoleums, the capital of Uttar Pradesh plays a somewhat unwarranted third fiddle to Agra and Varanasi, but caters well to history buffs without attracting the hordes of tourists that sometimes make sightseeing tiresome. By contrast, Lucknow's modern side boasts a unique Iron Curtain-esque feel, with grandiose monuments and overstated parks and gardens, many boasting marble sidewalks and pink sandstone a plenty (we imagine they were going for a Washington, DC aesthetic but ended up more Pyongyang). It's nothing if not interesting.
The city rose to prominence as the home of the Nawabs of Avadh (Oudh) who were great patrons of the culinary and other arts, particularly dance and music. Lucknow’s reputation as a city of culture, gracious living and rich cuisine has continued to this day (it conveniently rhymes in Hindi: 'Nawab, Aadaab [Respect], Kebab and Shabab [Beauty]'). And eating out is still a major highlight of a visit to the city.
In 1856 the British annexed Avadh, exiling Nawab Wajid Ali Shah to a palace in Kolkata (Calcutta). The disruption this caused was a factor behind the First War of Independence of 1857, culminating in the dramatic Siege of Lucknow at the Residency.