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Vadodara is one of Gujarat's most appealing cities, with fine food, elegant palaces, and bustling bazaars. But what elevates it above other destinations is the ruined medieval city of Champaner, a short drive away and one of India's most fascinating historical attractions.
Part of a single medieval complex around 30 miles from Vadodara, Champaner and Pavagadh was the stronghold of the Chavda Dynasty in the 15th century. The Chavdas have gone, but the incredible architecture remains.
Back in Vadodara itself, this 19th-century royal palace is achingly luxurious, with its mosaics, art, and ornate architecture. It's the city's must-see historical attraction.
Vadodara has an excellent zoo (set in the sprawling Sayaji Baug gardens), while there are also great attractions for kids, like S-Cube Water Park, to enjoy.
Also set in the Sayaji Baug gardens, the city museum is a huge place, boasting Chinese and Indian paintings, ivory carvings, and intricate miniature artworks from the Mughal period.
Gujarati food includes massive thalis, biryanis, and a host of vegetarian delights, and Vadodara restaurants like Peshawri are the place to try them.
For the best sightseeing conditions, head to Vadodara between February and March, and from October to December. Temperatures should be around 80 degrees (not scorching as in the summer months).
Flights from Delhi and Mumbai arrive at Civil Airport Harni (BDQ), around eight miles from the city. Expect a taxi to cost around ₹70.
Vadodara Junction is a major rail hub, with services from all over India. Services from Delhi cost around ₹500 and take 15-17 hours.
If you are driving from Mumbai, take Highway 48 along the coast. From New Delhi, take Highway 48 to Ahmedabad, then the NE1 to Vadodara.
Buses run into Vadodara Junction from all over Gujarat and western India. Make sure you book Intercity buses to ensure an air-conditioned ride.
High-quality city center options include the WelcomHotel Vadodara, the Royal Orchid Central, and the Gateway Hotel Akota Gardens, all of which have gyms, restaurants, and plenty of amenities.
Lalbaug - a relaxed area south of the city center, Lalbaug is dominated by the Laxmi Vilas Palace.
Nava Bajar - just northeast of the center, Nava Bajar is where locals go to stock up on textiles and jewelry. It's a fabulous place to shop.
Akota - home to many of the best hotels, Akota is also the city's dining center, with great places like Orizon and Saffron to choose from.
VITCOS runs a city-wide bus network and charges ₹1 for their basic fare, so it's a cheap way to get around.
Taxis in Vadodara should cost around ₹40 for the meter drop, then ₹18 per mile.
Car rental options near the city center include Royal Travels and Shree Mahi Travels, where you can find deals for as little as ₹300 per day.
Nava Bajar is the best shopping area, and is bursting with colorful fabric vendors and craft stores. Be sure to check out the camel leather accessories as well - a local specialty.
Supermarkets include D-Mart and Reliance Fresh, and prices are low. Expect to pay around ₹180 for a gallon of milk.
The most elegant and upmarket place in town is probably Peshawri, but other highlights include Mandap: the Authentic Gujarati Thali in the Hotel Express Towers, and Barbeque Nation. The cost of a meal should be around ₹150.