Vadodara (often known as Baroda) lies 106km southeast of Ahmedabad, a little over an hour’s drive along National Expressway 1. Vadodara has some interesting sights, but the main reason for coming here is to use the city as a base for a day trip to the nearby World Heritage Site of Champaner and Pavagadh. The city is far less hectic than Ahmedabad, and parts of the Sayajigunj area near the university have a college-town feel.
After the Marathas expelled the Mughals from Gujarat in the 18th century, their local lieutenants, the Gaekwad clan, made Vadodara their capital. Vadodara retained a high degree of autonomy, even under the British, right up to Independence in 1947. Maharaja Sayajirao III (1875–1939) was a great moderniser and laid the foundations of Vadodara’s modern reputation as Gujarat’s cultural capital, and the city's main attraction – the palace – is part of his legacy.