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Islamabad

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Asia : South Asia : Pakistan : Islamabad
Revision as of 14:49, 14 August 2012 by 200.252.135.73 (Talk)

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For other places with the same name, see Islamabad (disambiguation).
The Islamabad-Rawalpindi freeway.

Islamabad [1] has been the capital of Pakistan since 1963.

Understand

A relatively quiet city, Islamabad consists of mainly Federal Government offices, Parliment House, the official residences of the President and Prime Minister along with the Diplomatic Enclave, an area next to the Parliament House dedicated to foreign embassies and missions appointed in Pakistan; and covers an area of 1,165.5 km² (450 mi²) of which 906 km² (349.8 mi²) is Islamabad proper.

Although the majority of the population in Islamabad traditionally have been employees of the Federal Government, the wealth of the Musharraf years fuelled a boom in Islamabad and it is becoming an important financial and business city. In the last decade there have been vast changes in the city's traditional reputation. From it being a typical 9 to 5 city, Islamabad has become more lively with many new restaurants and hotels springing up to service this new wealth. A lot of international food chains have opened, and generally a great improvement in nightlife with increasing shopping areas opening till late. However during winter season streets are considerably quiet after dark.

Even now, Islamabad remains a city where people come from all over the country to enjoy its peaceful, noise-free atmosphere with a lot of greenery and nice surrounding scenery. It also serves as a base camp for people from the south and coastal areas like Karachi visiting valleys like Swat and Kaghan and northern areas like Gilgit, Hunza, Skardu & Chitral located in the Himalayas mountains.

You'll soon notice that Islamabad is laid out on a grid system - with E7, F6, F7, G6, G7 being the oldest sectors, F8, F10, F11, G10, G11, I8 being where the 'new money' has been invested. E8, E9 are occupied by military housing complexes and are effectively out-of-bounds, G7, G8 and G9 are the poorer areas where the city planners wanted the cleaners and office clerks to dwell. The H and I sectors are a hotchpotch of mixed use residential, academic and industrial areas. E11, E12 and even now D12 are under construction, there is even a G13 being built up. F6 and F7 are where most of the action happens, but the numbers of embassies and powerful Pakistani's dwelling in these areas mean a lot of security, concrete barriers and boomgates that happily are largely absent elsewhere. However in choosing your guesthouse F6 & F7 may be your best bet.

Get in

By plane

  • Benazir Bhutto International Airport (IATA: ISB) situated in the middle of Rawalpindi receives flights from a variety of international destinations, including in Europe via Turkish Airlines (London, Manchester, Birmingham, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Paris, Istanbul), the middle east Dubai (via Emirates, Pakistan International Airlines PIA [2]),Shaheen Air [3]), Sharjah (AirBlue [4]), Muscat, Doha, and Baghdad (Iraqi Airways)) and other Asian cities such as Urumqi (China Southern Airlines) and Bangkok (Thai Airways). Worth noting that other international destinations are served direct from Karachi and Lahore, including the only link to central Asia (Uzbekistan Airways fly from Lahore to Tashkent). A taxi from the airport to Islamabad is around Rs400 (in a yellow non a/c cab). You can easily walk out of the airport and hail a taxi to get a cheaper price.The white Toyota Corolla aircon radio cabs will set you back Rs800/

Islamabad airport can get busy and groan under the weight of departing passengers, meaning giving yourself 2 hours prior to departure is a good idea. As with most places in Pakistan queuing is a optional concept and hence checking-in can involve getting those elbows out and pushing to the front.

By bus

  • Niazi Express, Skyways and Daewoo Sammi [5] (+92 51 111 007 008) are some of the nicer long-haul operators. Skyways offer some direct services to/from Islamabad and Lahore, Peshawar and Karachi. Daewoo has its own terminal on the road from Islamabad just outside Rawalpindi. The majority of buses arrive and depart from Rawalpindi, a few kilometers and a 45 minute taxi ride from Islamabad. It's best to book Daewoo by phone in advance if possible. At the moment they serve Karachi, Peshawar, Lahore, Murree, Sialkot, Abottabad, Bahawalpur, Faisalabad and Multan.

By train

Since First Class travel with Pakistan Railway is good, it's worth knowing that Rawalpindi, the neighbouring city, has railway connections with various major cities including Karachi, Lahore & Peshawar.

Get around

Taxis in Islamabad are abundant, popular and generally safe. Cost is around Rs50 - Rs60 per sector traveled, depending on your bargaining skills. Prices will be higher at night, especially departing from places like Jinnah Super (F-7). It is always advisable to agree the fare before traveling.

Car Hire is also a good way of getting around. Although road signs and directions are only available on main roads, the city's grid and numbering system make it relatively easy to find your way around. There are various car hire companies in Blue Area F-6 and also in G-8 Markaz where cars can be hired with drivers. Most major hotels have their own car hire services and are relatively cheap. A tip to the driver at the end of the booking period is appreciated but not mandatory.

See

The site of Pakistan Monument
The site of Pakistan Monument

Museums & Art Galleries

  • Lok Virsa Museum[6], Shakarparian Park (next to H7 & G8) US$5 for foreigners. Recently renovated, a delight. Definitely worth a visit. Islamabad's premier museum featuring more than 25 large galleries in four blocks linked through passages depicting cultural linkages with Iran, Central Asia and China. There are large halls dedicated to architecture, musical heritage, textiles, romances, Sufi shrines and several other cultural themes. It has a large collection of embroidered costumes, jewellery, woodwork, metalwork, block printing, ivory and bone work on display. The Heritage Reference Library of Museum has a great collection of data on art, music, history and crafts of all regions of Pakistan. Books on culture, heritage, audio and video cassettes of folk and classical vocal and instrumental music are sold at the Lok Virsa's Sales Centre. Lok Virsa celebrates the national events in a befitting manner with musical concerts, exhibitions and public film shows on cultural heritage.
  • Golra Pakistan Railways Heritage Museum, Golra Sharif train station (west of F11 - (look on google maps)), 051 4316954. 8AM-4PM. A little known gem - worth seeking out for a trip back in time to the glory days of the North West Railway - the station house has been renovated and houses a small museum, and several old locomotives and rolling stock are there to be explored. Makes a nice cycle-ride from Islamabad. Rs 5.
  • Pakistan Museum of Natural history [7] this is more a place for school trips than a tourist destination - however an impressive blue whale skeleton has recently been constructed outside
  • National Art Gallery (F5/1) Opened in 2007, the gallery is a modern, light filled, air conditioned edifice that would not be out of place in many european cities. A diverting collection of almost 450 art pieces, purchased or gifted by the artists for National Art Gallery. Covers a surprising diversity of contemporary and classical paintings, sculpture and other installations. The Gallery is also home to an indoor and outdoor theatre (word-of-mouth and local press for schedules). Open 7 days a week - from 11AM-1PM (free) and 2PM-7PM (Rs. 500) - hence it is empty in the afternoons and you may find yourself trailed by gallery staff turning the lights on and off for you! Located in F5/1, on the corner of Jinnah & Constitution avenues, opposite the Parliament building. [8]
  • Private art galleries are at the centre of Islamabad's art scene, with new exhibitions opening almost weekly. The three main gallaries are:
  • Rohtas Gallery House 57-B, Street 26, F6/2, 051 2271390 [9], Nomad Gallery House 22, Justice Abdul Rashid Avenue, F6/1, 051 2273725 [10], and Kuch Khaas House 1, Street 2, F-6/3, 051-8357483, [11]. There is also the Jhoraka Art Gallery House # 8, Street 28 F8/1 [12].

Parks, viewpoints and green spaces

  • Daman-e-Koh, a lookout point in the hills above E-6 with great views of the city on a clear day/night. Its beauty is enhanced by the greenery and flowers at different sites. High quality restaurants, good food, live music, hiking trails and lush green hillsides make it a favorite place for local and foreign tourist alike.
  • Shakarparian a beautiful wild and hilly area for a nice evening walk in a green natural atmosphere. Is located south of G6 and G7.
  • Japanese Park, is a children's park located near Islamabad Zoo. It is popular among children, families and to those visiting Islamabad from other cities due to its park facilities and children swing facilities.
  • Rawal Lake has recently been upgraded by the Capital Development Authority. On the north side is Lake View Park (access from the road to Murree) - a beautifully laid out park with gardens, picnic spots, and secluded paths and views over the lake. Is now home to an aviary, go-kart track and climbing wall. The terraced garden and the lake are used for fishing and boating. On the south side of the lake is another small park with a nice lookout, Red Onion restaurant and old Hindu temple. The highest point in the garden offers a panoramic view of Islamabad. Boating, sailing, water skating and diving facilities are organized by private clubs. To the west of the lake is the Islamabad Club, which offers different sporting facilities.
  • Fatima Jinnah Park; also known as the F-9 park is considered one of the largest in South East Asia. F9 park is ideal for jogging around, and also has a cricket ground and some tennis court (minus nets). The park also has a large children's playground, some interesting sculptures, and an indoor facility with a nice bowling alley.
  • Pir Sohawa. An overlook of Islamabad located in the Margalla Hills above the city. There are now two eateries at Pir Sohawa and both worth visiting. A walk up from Trail 3, from F-6/3 will get you to the hill top in around 2 hours with the perfect appetite, but you can reach Pir Sohawa by road in around 35-40 minutes.
  • Rose & Jasmine Garden is located near Islamabad sports complex & Jinnah Stadium. South of Shahrah-e-Kashmir road and east of Islamabad Highway. Not too far from Rawal Lake.
  • Margalla Hills. Take a nice nature walk in the hills surrounding Islamabad.

Mosques, shrines & monuments

  • Faisal Masjid, Islamabad's most recognizable landmark, a very large mosque gifted by King Faisal of Saudi Arabia. Beautiful in the day or night, definitely worth the short taxi ride. Dress and act respectfully, this is much more a place of serious worship than a tourist site. Is open to non-Muslims outside of prayer times, but is sometimes shut altogether.
  • National Monument near Shakarparian, represents Pakistan's four provinces and three territories. From air the monument looks like a star (center) and a crescent moon (formed by walls forming the petals), these represent the star and crescent on Pakistan's flag. Also a small museum and a nice view of the city.
  • Imam Bari Shrine Historical shrine of a Sufi saint located in the valley of NurPur Shahan near G5.
  • Golra Sharif Shrine of Pir Mehr Ali Shah(RA), a Sufi Saint located in a village of Golra (Islamic religious site).

Other

  • Islamabad Zoo is located at the foot of Daman-e-Koh view point. It has more than 300 animals including 200 birds of different kinds, and tigers, lions and other animals.
  • Blue Area, is Islamabad's financial center and is the main arterial road which leads up to the main government buildings at the Constitution Avenue.
  • Saidpur Village used to be a sleepy little village lying in the foothills of the Margallas with a mystic past and breathtaking natural beauty. It has now been remodeled. The village now become popular with the citizens of Islamabad who want an occasional break from the frenzy of urban life. Surrounded with lush, tranquil wilderness, the centuries old village is furnished with rustic fittings and offers amenities like a wide range of local food outlets and restaurants. Exhibitions are held regularly to show case the traditional arts, crafts and the rich cultural heritage of Pakistan.
  • Attend open-air theater or just sit by the Lotus lake and relax. Check to see if there are is anything happening. The schedules are entirely calendar and weather dependent.
  • Chattar bagh is a small park in the hills, around 25 minutes away from Islamabad. A water park with a few amusement rides, but will not offer much excitement for those who have seen other amusement parks or water parks.

Do

Horse riding

  • Mushtaq Riding School - opp. the Best Westen hotel / Rawal Chowk. Based in very rustic settings Mushtaq offers 1 hour lessons or guided 2 hour trips in to the Shakarparian park (highly recommended) - Mushtaq has been running his school for years and has a good reputation for caring for his horses (he won't offer riding during the hottest times of the day during the summer for example). Need to book in advance. Rs1,000 per hour. 0300 557 0220 (no sms)
  • Islamabad Riding Club - Ms Orrick White, who is a Canadian, is a certified riding instructor who is available to give lessons to people in the expat community. She keeps her own horses at the Islamabad Riding Club which is now under new management. She teaches all levels from beginner to advanced using English saddles. 0300 850 4220

Go karting - F1 Traxx- Lake View Park (Rawal Lake) [13] - there is another track in Bahria Town, Rawalpindi

Shooting - Islamabad Gun Club [14]

Golf at the Islamabad Golf Club (next to the [www.islamabadclub.org Islamabad Club]. Two other golf courses are available in Rawalpindi

Fishing – Rawal lake

Climbing - there is a climbing wall in Rawal Lake's Lake View Park

Para Gliding – at Margalla Hills. The Pakistan Adventure Foundation is the place to call, reservations are recommended.

Rowing at the Islamabad Rowing Club, next to Lake View Park

Cycling – Mountain biking is fast becoming a much-loved activity because of the weather and the terrain. If you're in the mood for some adventurous cycling down one of Islamabad's beautifully scenic bike trails, get your bike ready. Information can again be had from the ASG's hiking publication. Cheap bikes can be purchased for Rs6,000 - Rs10,000 in Islamabad and Rawalpindi. Alternatively you can hire decent quality bikes from K2Riders - based in F8/2 [15]

Night Life – it exists, but it's not easy to find. Try befriending some hip locals, and see if you can tag along. There are no regularly open 'night clubs' in the city - however periodic special events are organised in various venues about once every two months - spread by word-of-mouth and increasing via Facebook. Less excitingly some of the embassy clubs in the diplomatic enclave have 'dance parties' and the like but these tend to be exclusively expatriate and rather low brow. See Jenny's List for details.

  • Potohari - Art & Craft Village (Starting soon), Shakarparian - Near Rose and Jasmine Garden (Just across the Kashmir Highway on 7th Avenue). 11AM to 7PM. A craft bazaar with a food court serving 5 regional cuisines plus 3 Chai Khanas serving assorted teas and snacks. Built by the local Capital Development Authority but conceptualised and supervised by the Indus Heritage Trust.
  • Asia Study Group, Above Dunkin Donuts, Blue Area, 051 2875891, [16]. Tu-Su 3-6PM. Running for nearly 40 years the ASG organises various events, including seminars, hikes, weekend trips and the like - principally for expats but also Pakistani's. Rs. 2,000 annual membership.

Jenny's List is an email distribution list which is worth signing up to if you are in town for a while - lists all the upcoming events in the city covering art exhibitions, restaurant openings, musical performances, dance parties etc. as well as people selling stuff. Email islamabadinformation at gmail dot com and ask to subscribe.

Walking in the Margalla Hills

The Margalla Hills are effectively foothills of the Himalayas – and are very easily accessible from Islamabad. However these are quite big, steep hills, and shouldn’t be underestimated – if you are planning on a walk up to the top of the first ridge (ie where the Monal restaurant is) then sturdy footwear, a large water bottle, and a change of t-shirt are necessary (good chance you’ll be drenched in sweat by the time you get to the top). Between March and November it is best to start walking in the early morning (before 7.30AM, or 6.30AM in the height of summer) as it is uncomfortably hot during the day.

There are many trails to choose from, some of which have been numbered by the city planners. The more popular walks are Trail 3, Trail 5 and the Zoo Trail. Google Earth gives a good way to orientate yourself before you set out.

Trail 1 – also known at the E7 or Faisal Mosque trail. Little used, in part because it is so difficult to find the trailhead. Head to the carpark to the rear of the Faisal Mosque, and look for a gate with a Margalla Tree Planting Project sign next to it. Head through the gate, take the first right, then right again (at a grey metal box with a hole in the top) through a small clearing, and turn left at the end. Walk north toward a large concrete water storage tank, and walk to the right of this on to a well defined path (GPS coordinates 33.734112° , 73.038421°) from here it should be plain sailing. Trail 1 winds its way up to the ridge, where you can turn right and reach the Pir Sohawa road, near the turn-off for Talhaar. Takes about 2 hours to get to the top. From Pir Sohawa road its a 20 minute walk to the Monal restaurant, and you can catch a taxi back in to town, or head down Trail 3 or the Saidpur village trail.

Trail 2 / Zoo trail – Trail 2 begins a little way up Pir Sohawa (just past the Jungle Shack drinks bar – GPS 33.7346° , 73.0545°) or you can start from the right of the entrance of the Islamabad Zoo. This is a good choice if you are looking for a 1-2 hour walk – the trail leads up to the Daman-e Koh viewpoint – if you want to continue walking a trail up to Cactus Ridge leads from next to the Police checkpoint near the entrance to Daman-e Koh. From Cactus Ridge you get a good view of where AirBlue flight 202 crashed.

Trail 3 - begins from Margalla Road, F-6/3 (the junction between Margalla Road & Ataturk Avenue). It is a little steep and strenuous in the first leg, which goes up to the Viewpoint and is about a 30 - 50 min. trek. After the Viewpoint you can continue on for another easy-going 45 - 60 mins and reach the Pir Sohawa, where you can choose from 3 restaurants for food, The Monal, Treehouse and Capital View Restaurant. This is the most popular walk, hence litter levels are high.

Trail 4 – this is a link trail between Trails 3 and 5

Trail 5 also begins from Margalla Road in F-5 (about 500m down from Trail 3 - opposite Judge's Enclave) and is initially an easier trail to climb. Trail 5 connects with Trail 3 (via Trail 4) and meets beyond Trail 3's viewpoint. If you continue on Trail 5 you eventually meet the Pir Sohawa road (33.7675°, 73.0771°) although it is possible to get lost on Trail 5 and veer too far east, ending up on the top part of Trail 6. Either way you'll eventually hit the Pir Sohawa road so it's difficult to get truly lost. From the top of Trail 5 it is 1.5km to the top of Trail 3 – hence you can do a loop, taking 3 – 4 hours.

Trail 6 is in the valley to the east of Trail 5. Start from the Trail 5 carpark, walk parallel to the blocked off dual carriageway heading east and then head north when you see the mouth of the valley. Walk past a small cluster of houses and then you'll come across a sealed single track road, follow this for a short while and you'll end up on the path, and follow this up the valley, ascending to the left side. You'll eventually end up on the Pir Sohawa road. From here you can head west to the top of Trail 5. The Trail is without signposts or markers, is little used but very scenic.

Saidpur trail - follow the river through the village (including ducking though some back alleys) and you'll emerge in a valley and a trail that leads up to the Monal restaurant - and hence you can easily do a loop coming down Trail 3. Saidpur trail isn't much used so it largely free of litter.

Bari Imam trail – for the more adventurous this is a good hike. Drive to Nurpur Shahan (east of the government complexs beyond the end of Margalla Road) – head to a road junction at 33.7457°, 73.1050° and turn left, until you reach a turnoff for a small guesthouse at the start of the trail (33.7569°, 73.1135°). The walk starts with steps leading up to the Bari Imam cave, then you can continue up the steep hill behind, then traverse round to the Pir Sohawa road, where there are a few cafes and a hotel (33.7843° , 73.1107° – it is about 5km from here to the Top of Trail 3 if you follow the road). You can return down the valley back to your starting point. Beware however that you pass into Khyber Paktunkwa on the walk and you may have to charm yourself pass some policemen.

Both Trail 3 & Trail 5 have large maps and guidance boards placed at the entrance.

For more walks and information buy a copy of Hiking Around Islamabad (available in Saeed Book Bank in F7 Markaz) or read through the original 1992 version.

Buy

Islamabad is divided into sectors, each sector having its own central shopping area (or markaz) where all local amenities are located. Some of the more popular markazes are the F6 Markaz (aka Supermarket) F7 Markaz (aka Jinnah Market), G6 Markaz (aka Melody Park), G9 Markaz (aka Karachi Company) and so on. There isn't much going on in the markets of F8, G7 an G8 that would interest the tourist. Each markaz has its own peculiarities and each one is worth visiting individually. However most things are catered for in each markaz i.e. clothing, shoes, fast food etc. There’s always a real buzz in the evenings when all the shoppers come out, particularly in the run up to Eid.

  • 7th Avenue, located at Jinnah Super Market (F7 Markaz), has large selection of western food products.
  • Best Price, located at Super Market (F6 Markaz), also sells western food products and is of the better value 'western' style supermarkets.
  • Handicrafts, The Capital Development Authority, has recently established a handicrafts village near super market, where small stalls with handicrafts from around the country are available. You should be able to walk from there to Mahraja (next to united Bakery) and find plenty of other stores much larger and with a much better collection of handicrafts and traditional items. This is a MUST visit for all first time visitors and a useful stop for quick gift items for people back home. A good present for the ladies is Pashmina shawls or wraps, which can cost anywhere between $15 to as much as $700. Remember to bargain, you will be charged Gora price.
  • Art See above. Some of the places to visit are, Khaas, The National Art Gallery and Nomad Art Gallery.
  • Music Peak Shop 4, Amant Plaza, Main Double Road, F10 markaz. Small modern music shop, with guitars and other instruments.
  • Haroons, the perfect place to shop for gifts and women accessories. Is in Super Market.
  • Saeed Book Bank is the largest bookstore in the city, located in the F-7 Markaz. A wide variety, from old books of local interest ("The Story of the Malakand Field Force" by Churchill, for instance) to modern best-sellers. Plenty about geopolitics and war in Pakistan and Afghanistan as well.
  • Furniture: There a are a number of places selling antique or new furniture made from antique wood pieces, such as Wood Heritage, Pak Turk, and another small but packed one in E-7.

*Shopping malls in capital:

*Centaurus mega mall:everything in one package from multiplex to food court.

  • World trade centre:Abig shopping centre with many handicraft stores build by WTO.
  • AL Taqwa mall:Good shopping mall with food court and playland.
  • DHA Gold crest.

*AL Safa gold mall.

  Information by SARMAD Iqbal.'

Foreign Currency Exchange is easily available from F-6 Blue Area where there are 100's of money changers in privately owned shops. It is advised to check the rate with a few of them before going ahead with it.

Eat

At first glance the visitor may feel that Islamabad offers little to excite the taste-buds, however beneath the surface there is a thriving restaurant scene. Many of the better restaurants are away from the main markets of F6 and F7. Most do not serve alcohol, but some allow you to bring your own. Call ahead to ask.

For ease of use restaurants are organised by sector:

F6

  • Majlis, Hill Road (northern end, on the F6-3 side), a trendy place with good Lebanese food. A place where you will find the the movers and shakers of the city and a large portion of the Arabic diplomatic community. The food is pretty good (although some would argue that the Lebanese Cafe in F10 is more authentic), and the setting just right. Though those visiting on a tight budget can choose to avoid it, it sure is worth a stop. It also delivers.
  • Mango Tree / Nana's Kitchen, 2 Hill Road F6/3 (old UN Club building), 051 2279313, [17]. lunch & dinner. Tastefully understated refurbishment of the old UN club building. Mango Tree offers great Thai food, a delicate combination of fresh ingredients and authentic Thai flavours. A bit pricey - the owners play the old trick of slapping on 17% tax and 10% service to the bill, hence mains are about Rs 700 a pop. The upstairs balcony is particularly pleasant. Downstairs Nana's kitchen serves up a decent lunch and dinner menu with Brunch on Sundays. And their cupcakes are famous in Islamabad. The decor is tastefully done in soft tones and is accented by a large beautifully built fireplace.
  • Table Talk, Khosar Market, 051 227-1927. lunch and dinner. understated, home-cooked, well presented Asian and European food, in a small, cosy inside-outside restaurant with London Books (shop) next door. The place is aimed squarely at the expat market, and priced with this in mind. Owner also runs Riffy's restaurant in Chak Sharzad - call for details.
  • Khiva offers a Central Asia Cuisine. It has indoor and outdoor seating. Address: House no.64, Main Margalla Road, F-6/3, Islamabad
  • Nandos, F6 super market, south side. lunch and dinner. recently opened branch of the popular chicken chain mains Rs 300.
  • Cafe Khaas, No. 1, Street 2, F-6/3. Cafe Khaas, is an extension of Khaas Art Gallery. A lunch only place that is normally packed, though expensive has great food. They also boast one of the finest art collections in Islamabad. Look for "Mouse" or the manager, and you will be given personal attention. Make sure you get a suggestion for what is best, and work your way through the limited, but exquisite menu. At the lunch hour, this place is filled with yet more, movers and shakers of Islamabad, from the business men, to politicians, models and expats. The place is always kicking for the sophisticated lunch.
  • Luna Caprese, 34 School Road, F-6/3 (look for a house with L C on the gates), +92-51-2825061. Famous for being the site of a bomb attack in 2008, offers acceptable Italian dining with an extensive menu covering, pastas, seafood and meat. Wine and beer available at a price (Rs 600 for a glass of red). Nice garden out back. pricey.
  • Cafe Melange House 6, Street 41, F-6/1. Eat in, take away or delivery. Pizza is some of the best in Islamabad. 023 136 352 643

F7

Pizza Hut in F-7 Markaz, near Saeed Book Bank.
  • Espresso Lounge, F-7 Markaz (Jinnah Super), Behind Shell Petrol pump and standard Chartered Bank. Best Cafe of the town. Specialize in a variety of coffees, pastas, salads, sandwiches, desserts. 051-2652943
  • Upper Deck, F-7 Markaz (Jinnah Super), above Gourmet Bakery, near north-west corner of Markaz. A very nice, up-market restaurant specializing in seafood. Popular with expats and well-off locals. Nice ambiance, a variety of well-prepared fish, fish & chips and a fish burger. Decent cheesecake and chocolate cake for dessert. Main courses Rs300 - Rs800.
  • Namak Mandi, 51 Bhittai Road, F7/1 (Opposite to Telenor Head Office). Only for dinner. Set in a pleasant garden behind a large guest house. Pakistani food, traditional music playing, aimed firmly at expats. Service is slow but the food good. Drinks available at a price (Rs2,500 for a bottle of wine). There is a better restaurant with the same name in Rawalpindi
  • Signature, 47a Bhittai Road (opp. F7 markaz), 051 2651804-5, [18]. lunch & dinner. Opened in May 2011 and after a patchy start this place has found its feet. Tastefully decorated house restaurant offering an excellent choice in European dishes - try the Mediterranean chicken with olives, prunes & sun-dried tomatoes or the chocolate hazelnut timbale for dessert. The resident pianist adds to the occasion. Together with the Polo Lounge this is one of Islamabad's best restaurants. Can bring your own drinks. Recommended. mains from Rs600.
  • Papa Sallis, F-7 Markaz (Jinnah Super)(Ph: 2650550-3), Very well known place (Please ask any local shop for directions) for steaks and pizzas since 1991. Prices are quite high for Pakistani standards, but from a Western perspective still very cheap.
  • Kitchen Cuisine / KC Grill, 81 Bhittai Road, F7/4 (just off the southeast corner of Jinnah Super) 051 2655712. Adequate cafe restaurant with a nice terrace - serves european and Pakistani cuisine at reasonable prices (mains Rs 400). There is a popular bakery with really fresh and tasty bakery products downstairs, including chocolate fudge cakes, cheese cakes and low cholesterol items. Made to Order services are also available.
  • Ye Olde Hangout, F-7 Markaz (Jinnah Super), behind Shell petrol station. A wonderful little coffee shop/sheesha bar. They serve a small selection of global and local food, and play sexy Bollywood and Egyptian videos. Posters of Jimi Hendrix, 50 Cent, Marilyn Manson and Angus Young are on the walls. One room is all men. Another for mixed couples and ladies only. No alcohol of course, but lots of cigarettes and a good tea selection.
  • Civil Junction, F-7/3 markaz (Gol Market) offers good coffee and an interesting array of drinks and 'mocktails'. Light snacks are also offered along with coffee and drinks. The place offers occasional live music from upcoming local bands, making it a popular hangout with the youth of the city.
  • Hot Spot, One of the few places that Islamabad can claim as theirs first. F-7/3 (Gol Market) also offers a great ice-cream place. Though the menu has now increased from just ice-cream to milkshakes, pies, sandwiches and plenty more, the place still has the feel of an ice-cream joint. With a unique, rather artistic decor, Hot Spot is a must visit for any first time traveler to Islamabad.
  • Pizza Hut, F7 Markaz (near Saeed Book Bank), 051 111 241 241, [19]. Not the same as worldwide, but still better than a few.
  • Clique Cafe, House 10-A, Street 13, Sector F-7/2, 051-2608965, [20]. 12 noon - 11PM. Opened in 2010 this place is still trying to establish itself. Its Euro-russian menu and tasteful modern décor make it worth seeking out. Mains Rs. 500.
  • Olive Garden, Street No.4, Goll Market, F7/3, 051-2610914, [21]. lunch until late. Set in the wealthy back streets of F7 the Olive Garden is popular with wealthy Pakistani's and is a great place to people watch on a weekend. Food is variable, but the setting is nice, with a fire pit in winter, and plenty of sheesha. Not part of the American chain. Rs. 500 for mains.
  • Kabul Restaurant, F-7 Markaz (Jinnah Super), +91 51 265 0953. 11AM-10PM. This large restaurant just off the markaz serves up tasty kebabs and Afghani specialties, and is usually very crowded with locals and expats at dinner time. Mains Rs 75-200.
  • Seoul Club Korean Restaurant, House 21a, Street 55, F7/4, 03015063354. 7-11PM. Hidden away in F7's back streets is this house-converted-to-restaurant run by a Korean women. Most other diners are Korean expats craving a taste of home. Most Korean favourites available, including dolsot bibimbap, and piles of Kimchi. No 'cook at your table' bulgolgi however. Moderately expensive. Alcohol available, but ask the price before ordering.

F8

  • China Town Restaurant, Street 55, F-8/4. A large and popular Chinese restaurant. It offers Sichuan Cuisine with Firepot as one of it's specialities coupled with the modern blend where the waiters use PDAs to take orders. China Town enjoys a very loyal patronage from its customers. The restaurant is being re-located to a beautiful 8,000 sq ft building on Street 55, F-8/4. It features a professional kitchen in the basement, a beautiful lounge on ground floor, a fine dining hall on the first floor, and a roof top sitting with a fantastic view of Margallas.
  • Dumpling Zhang Chinese Restaurant, 32a Street 55 F8/4 (opp. the Christian church (there is no sign outside, just a security guard)), 051 2853623. 7-10PM. Low key Chinese restaurant set in a suburban house, run by a Chinese family. Food is more authentically Chinese in comparison to the Pak-China food you get elsewhere in Islamabad, demonstrated by the fact that half your fellow diners will be from China. The potions are designed to share between 2 so remember to order half sizes. An added plus is that this place will serve you a cold beer with your food (Rs300 a bottle). Mains Rs300-700. Dumplings are especially good value at Rs300 for 30..
  • Patio Lounge, House no. 1, street 17, F-8/3. Opened in May 2011 this place is still finding its feet. Tastefully furnished garden with wall mounted fans keeping down the summer heat. Menu is standard western fare, although the steaks are considerably better than average. Also serves Sheesha as a digestive.
  • The House of Bombay, 18 Margalla Road, F8/3. 051 831 2705/6. [22] Opened July 2011 this place is establishing itself as the place to go for decent south Asian cuisine. What separates HoB from the rest is that everything is made fresh and has a real home cooked taste to it and the cooking oil is kept to a minimum. Mains Rs700. Can bring your own drinks.
  • Tahzeeb, 35 Park Road, F8/1, 051 2856513, [23]. lunch & dinner, closed Mondays. Recently opened high-end restaurant serving European and Pakistani cuisine. Good food (try the caramelised steak) good service, a pleasant garden and local art on the walls makes this place worth seeking out. Has a clothing boutique upstairs also. Mains Rs500-800.
  • LA balto Sheesha bar it has a very good offering flavours as well as snacks pizzas too.. a great place to visit
  • 19th House 6-A, Street 69, F8/3. 0345-5236578 / 051-8356280/1. Another Chinese restaurant set in a house, this one with a Shezhuan flavour. The chef, Ami Qin speaks both English and French.
  • Urban Lounge Street 21, F8/2. A new coffee house opened up in 2011, this joint caters mostly to youngsters with its fairly budgeted and western food. The desserts are definitely worth a try and with ample seating at indoor sheesha allowed, its more than 90% of the time occupied!

F9

McDonald's next to Fatima Jinnah Park.
  • McDonald's is situated in the south-west corner of the F-9 Park. It also has a drive through service. Very popular with families.

F10

  • Italian Oven, F10 Markaz, facing the Park, 051 2103133. Pleasant, locally orientated Italian restaurant - extensive menu covering pizzas, pasta, meat and seafood - and all done pretty well (except the pizzas). Nice views of the F9 park from the upstairs seating area. mains Rs 400.
  • Lebanese Cafe, Tariq market f10/2 (just off street 14). Run by a Lebanese family, the cafe restaurant is the perfect excuse to delve in to the back streets of F10 - the setting is nothing fancy, but the food is excellent, and very good value. Home deliveries available. No sheesha however.
  • Eclipse Cafe, 3a Street 65, F10/3 (right at the end of Street 65), 0300 5277638. Young hip hangout in the back streets of F10 - menu is simple but tasty, with many European favourites. Excellent rooftop sheesha bar. This is a popular place for Islamabad's young and wealthy. Open until late. mains Rs 350.
  • Rock Bistro, Street 11a F10/2 (off Street 8), 051 2547764, [24]. Open until late. Worth visiting just to see the custom made building. Nestled in the suburban sprawl of F10 this place offers a varied menu covering many cuisines, and doing a pretty good job at most of them. One of the more memorable places to eat in the city and certainly worth seeking out. Mains Rs 450+.
  • MJ's Specialities, MJ Plaza, Street 14, Tariq Market, F10/2 (from F10 Markaz take double road towards F11, last traffic lights turn right, then first right to street 14 and you are there), 051 2210371, [25]. 8AM-midnight. Specialist European style bakery, pizzeria and BBQ. Excellent food, specialty breads, cheesecakes, gelato ices. Outside lawn for BBQ.
  • MJ's Coffeehouse, Street 14, Tariq Market, F10/2 (above MJ's Specialties), 051 2210371, [26]. 8AM-midnight. A little gem of a coffeehouse serving the best coffee this side of Gloria Jeans in F6. Serves proper coffee in tasteful surrounds, and a great collection of cakes to boot - just a shame its all the way out in F10 Espresso Rs90.

"Inkantray" (Incantare) a nice place for hangout with friends. Mostly for shisha. In basement of Pizza Hut.

F11

  • Masoom's Cafe, Shop 6-9, Hassan Arcade, F11 Markaz, 051 2228300, [27]. 8AM-midnight. Restaurant, cafe, patisserie - modern decor, plasma screens, surprisingly good food and service - has a nice outdoor area for sheesha and snacks also. mains Rs.400- Rs.700.
  • PappaSallis (Lord Trade Center, F11 Markaz). 051 210-1136. Recently opened (Feb 2011) sister branch of the longstanding Italian restaurant. Pakistani flavoured italian food. Mains Rs600.

E11

  • Des Pardes A sister restaurant of the popular Pakistani eatery in Saidpur village. Someone has clearly spent some money on opening this place - set in a huge tent in E11 markaz. Excellent Pakistani food, but you may find it quiet on a weeknight.
  • Blak Lounge, E11/3 Markaz, 051-2228463, [28]. Overly stylish sheesha lounge and cafe, very much the modern face of Pakistan and a place to go to meet the hip, young and rich.
  • Homestyle Cafe / Funky Bake swish cafe in E11 markaz, has a great little made-to-order cupcake setup (Funky Bake) attached.

G6

  • Melody Food Park In Melody G-6 Markaz is a newly opened food area with variety of food to choose from with some nationally famous restaurant names having outlets there. Plenty of BBQ and traditional Pakistani food with a variety of fresh fruit juices to choose from.
  • Rakaposhi, pastry shop at the Serena, has some of the best coffee and pastries in Pakistan. Worth a visit if you just want to relax or get some work done. The Serena also offers wireless internet, so, it is an ideal place to sit and get some work done if you like.
  • Kamran Restaurant In Aabpara, G-6/1 is also a famous place for traditional Pakistani cuisine.
    • Real French Bakehouse At back side of Melody food park shop 9 block 21 is one of the leading baker of Islamabad producing a variety of French and local products with its expert team in a hygienic way. Cell 051-2603390.
  • Nirvana Cafe and Spa, popular spot with 'ladies who lunch', business meet and greets and devotees of the tuna sandwich. House 18, Street 90, G-6/4. The thai red curry is good.

G9

  • Khyber Afghan Restaurant, Street 55, G9/4. Pleasant local Afghan restaurant set in a small house, and a good excuse to explore the back streets of little-visited G9. Can eat well for under Rs. 500 per person.
  • Tapas, Shop No. 1, Jehangir Market G-9/2, 051-2854455, [29]. 11AM-12PM. Quality fast food. Pathooras, burgers, french fries, shawarma, roll paratha, salads, pastas and soups.

I8

  • Masoom's cafe, Anique Arcade, I-8 Markaz, 051-3029922. Small & pleasant cafe and pâtisserie, a place for lunch or a coffee rather than a dinner
  • Habibi, Executive Center, I8 markaz, 051-4448222. Open until late. Upscale Afghan style BBQ restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating - look for the big red sign
  • Hot Plate, Shop 8, City Arcade, I8 markaz, 051 4862331. lunch & dinner. Notionally Italian - in pleasant dark wood surroundings. Certainly I8's nicest looking restaurant. Serves a range of salads, pastas, steaks and sea food. Worth making the trip to I8 for. Mains Rs400-500.
  • Rayyan's, I-8 Markaz, +92-51-2855496. Fast Food Take Away,
  • Haleem Ghar, I-8/1 Mughal Market, 051 4432606. Pakistani Cuisine Low Range.

Blue Area

Rahat Bakers in Blue Area, across from Wong Fu Chinese restaurant.
  • Red Onion Chain of Restaurants Blue Area, opposite the Saudi Pak Tower building stands one of the oldest restaurants in Islamabad. Established in 1991 with buy one, get one free pizza. Wide range of cuisines i.e Mexican, Italian, Chinese, Pakistani & Continental. Prices are moderate, ambiance is modern & service is friendly
  • Lasania Restaurant, 66 West Junaid Plaza, Blue Area (Ph: 227-3200, 287-2200). This place is very nicely decorated and is also situated in a very nice location. They have a huge selection of BBQ, Pakistani and Chinese food items on the menu. Their food is not extremely spicy like most other places.
  • Cinnamon, Beverley Center, Blue Area, 051 2206988. One of Islamabad's best European restaurants, serving a range of continental pastas, salads and meat dishes, as well as a range of refreshing mocktails. The décor is absolutely superb, with black and white motifs and photographs, and the service and quality of food equally good. The perfect place to have a quiet albeit slightly expensive dinner. [[30]
  • The Cave, Awan Arcade, Blue Area (near the eastern end of Jinnah Avenue, north (F6) side), 051-2270595, [31]. lunch & dinner. Curious restaurant in a basement with a plasticy cave theme going on. Food is acceptable, with large portions of European (steakhouse) and Pakistani food. More curious than the restaurant itself is the fact that this place tops the Tripadvisor listings for Islamabad. Mains around Rs400-500.
  • Rahat Bakers, F-6 Blue Area, Driving along the main road in blue area, with pizzas, bakery products, rich creamy milk ice creams etc are available. A big range to choose from. Although it is a fairly big store, there are no eat-in arrangements. Right next to Rahat Bakers is a place called Safilo, which offers a wide range of ice-creams, milkshakes and juices. They pride themselves in their cleanliness.
  • Subway is a franchise of the international Subway and has two branches, one in Blue Area, and the other one in F11-Markaz. It offers subs and salad.
  • Domino's Pizza, Block H, Blue Area, 051 111 366 466, [32]. Take away, dine in and free home delivery.
  • Usmania Restaurant In Blue Area is also a famous place for traditional Pakistani cuisine.
  • Bolan Saltish Afghani and Pakistani restaurant, known for its Khadda Sajji.
  • Jahangir's, Masco Plaza, Blue Area is one of the most popular local restaurant chains. Its delicious local or 'desi' items and barbecue are a treat, garnering it lots of appreciation from food lovers. Known for their Pakistani and Indian specialties.
  • Bar-B-Q Tonight (Bar-B-Q Tonight), Shorab Palaza,Block 32, FazlL-e-haq Road Islamabad. (on the G6 side of the Blue area, off A.K.M Fazl ul Haq road), 051-8317131, 051-8317132, [33]. 12-24. Popular new BBQ restaurant, with consistently good food and a varied menu of Pakistani favorites. Same owners as the branch in Karachi. Big rush on dinner timings. Price ranges from 300-700 per person. Free delivery available. 300+.

Diplomatic Enclave

  • Kanpai, Street 4, Diplomatic enclave (near Standard Chartered Bank). Expensive but not bad Japanese restaurant, and one of the few restaurants in the Diplomatic enclave outside of an Embassy and hence open-to-all. Serves a range of Bento boxes, tempura, noodles, sushi and sashimi, and in all fairness the food is fairly authentic (the owner/manager is Japanese). Can bring your own drinks also. set meals from Rs. 1,000.
  • Cordon Rouge, Embassy Road, Diplomatic Enclave. Lunch & dinner. Something of a diplomatic enclave institution. Cordon Rouge serves up authentic French cuisine in softly lit surroundings. A bit pricey but decent food. Extensive wine list.

Saidpur Village / Margalla hills

  • Des Pardes, (In Saidpur village off the Margella Road), +92-51-2825151, [34]. lunch & dinner. A great choice for top notch Pakistani food - evenings are best when Saidpur is illuminated with subtle floodlighting, and you can relax on the terrace and admire the architecture. Can be very busy on weekends so reserving a table is recommended - the parking can be chaotic also. Mains Rs.400.
  • Polo Lounge, Saidpur village, 051 282-1677, [35]. Decent fine dining restaurant, with a long established sister restaurant in Lahore. European menu, excellent steaks, professional chef, drinks available. The upstairs terrace is wonderful, if a bit chilly in winter. Reservations recommended. mains Rs.700+.
  • Monal, Pir Sohawa (Road to Pir Sohawa starts from 7th Avenue at junction of F6 and F7), +92-51-7165915, [36]. Set at an altitude of 3900 ft on Margalla Hills, Monal offers a spectacular view of the city. It is the largest restaurant in Pakistan in terms of seating capacity
  • Chicken Shack - in Pir Sohawa about 5km past Monal a simple BBQ place with great views to the north and south. Mains about Rs300.

Rawal Lake

  • Kinara, Jinnah Road, Bani Gala (On the southern bank of Rawal Lake. From Rawal Chowk take Park Road, after 2km turn left following signs for Bani Gala, follow this road for about 1km.), [37]. A lovely setting on the southern banks of Rawal Lake, and offering great sunset views over the water. Its all outdoor and set in a garden, with a few gazebos to shade you from the sun. Food is BBQ & standard Pakistani, and good value also. You may want to bring a map if its your first visit as its a little tricky to find. (33.69443115,73.13398245)
  • Red Onion Near the dam on the southern end of the lake. Standard food but a nice setting on the lakeside, with views across the water to Islamabad.
  • Lake View Park Restaurant is the only place to eat on the northern part of the lake. Which is a shame as the place is over 1km from the waters edge and the food is overpriced for what you get.

Drink

Drinking alcohol in public is nominally banned although most of the top end hotels have their own bars, as do some of the larger embassies if you befriend a diplomat. The windowless basement sports bar in the Marriot is probably the most frequented of the hotel bars.

Most Pakistanis though would find it extremely rude and offensive if you show or drink alcohol in public.

Non-Muslim visitors can obtain from the local police a so called 'non-Muslim declaration'. This permit gives you the right to legally buy a limited amount of alcoholic drinks like bottles of wine or beer. For instance, Pakistan's small Christian minority is by law allowed to consume alcohol.

Try local brands like Murree Brewery, in addition to that there are other brands such as Budweiser and Bavaria with non-alchoholic beer. There is a small off-license around the side of the Marriot hotel (next to the dry cleaners) - you'll need a 'non-Muslim declaration' (or maybe just a foreign passport if you turn on the charm) to be able to buy anything.

In soft drinks, all the usual western brands are available but better to try local limca cola which makes "pop" sound when opened. you can also try Pakola; Pakistan’s premier soft drink brand which is available in different flavors like Ice cream soda, Lychee, Orange, Raspberry, Apple sidra, Vino, Double cola, Bubble up etc. A 'fresh lime 7-up' is a better alternative for people who don't like standard soft drinks.

In other drinks try strawberry milk shakes and dhamaka soda (dhamaka means bang - the bang that happens when one opens the bottle) from Jinnah super market.

  • Gelato Affairs (Gelato Affairs), F-6 (Main Kohsar Market), 0512610919.
  • Mocca Coffee, Shop #1, Kohsar Market, F-6/3 (Main Kohsar Market), [38]. The classic expat coffee shop - typically expensive with exclusive decor, display and sale of World-renowned contemporary Nordic design, such as Georg Jensen, Arne Jacobsen, Stelton, Eva-trio and Rosendahl.
  • Jia's Deli, Beverly Centre, 0512814110. This café has a certain cosy charm. The low ceiling has photographs of their regular customers on display, and a few bright abstract oil paintings to brighten up its plain wooden walls. Bread is home made, and came in four varieties. Coffee is of extremely good quality, served with chocolates that appear to be hand-made: salted caramel, walnut and tiramisu, mocha java cake flavours all works real well. The service is spot on, with even minor details such as the topping up of bread faultless. There is an array of desserts and some great cakes.

Sleep

Budget

Budget accommodation in Islamabad is fairly lackluster and questionably clean. There are many guesthouses around the city that make a nice alternative to a hotel.

  • The Boys Hostel (TBH), G-8 (campus), F-10 (Campus) & G-10 (Campus). Phone: 2102352, 2256705, 2224012
  • Hotel Blue Sky, Sitara Market, G-7 Markaz. Double rooms from Rs300, with cable tv from Rs. 400.
  • Hotel Friends Inn, Aabpara Market, G-6 Markaz. Double rooms from Rs1000, single room from Rs. 600
  • Hotel Meraj Next to National Bank of Pakistan, G-9 Markaz, Karachi Company. Tel: +92 (0)51 2282587, 2255056-7 Double rooms from Rs. 1600
  • Caravan Park Opposite Aabpara Market and a little distance away from the Shakarparian Hills. This place is open and accessible only for foreigners, making it exclusive and safe. Adequate facilities are provided to make visitors to the area comfortable and at home. Rs50 per person, Rs100 per vehicle (bicycles free). Popular with overlanders.
  • Sohawa Heights Hotel, Pir Sohawa Up in the Margalla Hills about 5km past the Monal restaurant. An alternative to staying in Islamabad proper is to stay up in the hills overlooking the city. Rooms are en suite, have satellite TV, and great views over the city (from the roof terrace) and view to the north over the picturesque valley behind from your bedroom. Only really an option if you have your own transport, as its a 30 minute drive from town up the hill. There is a popular restaurant (The Khokha) and some shops / restaurants nearby. Rs. 1,200 per room.

Mid-range

  • Cape Grace(New) Guest House, H 8, Justice Abdul Rasheed Road, F-6/1, +92 (300) 5252232 (), [39]. 3-star range GuestHouse with 5MB WiFi@Fiberoptic, air conditioning & heating, powerbackup. Starting from 2,500PKR per night.
  • Chez Soi, 6 Kohsar Rd, F-7/3 (Nearby to Jinnah Super Market), +92 (51) 265-1451 (). Same owner as Upper Deck restaurant. Chez Soi has been hosting the diplomatic community exclusively since 1993. Starting around Rs4000/night..
  • Continental Inn, 94-B Nazimuddin Road, F-8/4 (Opposite Centaurus and Blue Area), +92 (51) 2854093-94 (, fax: +92 (51) 2256-INN(466)), [41]. Starting around Pak Rs 3,000/night.
  • Crown Plaza, 99-E Jinnah Avenue, Blue Area (near Citibank and Zero-poin), +92 (51) 227-7890 (), [42]. 4-star range hotel (not related to the Crowne Plaza chain) around Rs9000/night.
  • Envoy Continental Hotel, 111-F Fazal-e-Haq Road, Blue Area (near Clinc Chowk), +92 (51) 227391-7 (), [43]. 3-star range hotel, nice rooftop restaurant, internet center and phone center. around Rs3,500/night.
  • Paramid International Guest House, House # 248, Street # 31,G-8/2, +92-300-8525521 (), [44]. 3-star range guesthouse with WiFi, air conditioner and heated rooms. Starting around Rs. 1800-2800/night.
  • Rooms Islamabad, Street 50, Rohtas Road, G-9/1, +92 (364) 4912278 (), [45]. 4-star range Guest House with in-room LCD TVs, satellite channels, powerbackup, and WiFi, available to let on daily, weekly and monthly basis. Starting from 2,000PKR per night.
  • Sabipak Travelers Home Hotel & Guest Houses Network Pakistan (Dreams Hospitality), House No. 21, Street No. 38, Sector F-6/1, +92 (0)300-5192413 (), [46]. Affordable rooms. around PKR 2200/night.

Splurge

  • The Riviera, House 5 , F-8/1. +92 (0) 51 2816157, [47]. "The Riviera", a Corporate only premium service guest house and business centre located in the heart of the city.
  • Serena Hotel, Khayaban-e-Suhrawardy, F-6. +92 (0) 51 111-133133, [48]. This 5-star hotel is the nicest in the city, with great restaurants and a gym. Rooms and suites $300-700. Presidential suite $2000.
  • Number Three, 3 College Road, F-7/3. +92 (0) 51 2822070 -71, [49]. A boutique hotel in a posh residential area, with private terraces and stunning views of the Margalla Hills.
  • Number Three Lush, House 27-A, Street 18, F-7/2. +92 (0) 51 2651070 – 72, [50]. A boutique hotel in a posh residential area, with a restaurant and business center.
  • Marriott Hotel, Agha Khan Road, Shalimar 5. +92 (0) 51 111-223344, [51]. Once one of the top hotels in the city, it was ravaged by a truck bomb in September 2008. Rebuilt in just 3 months, it's once again open for business. But now the security is improved.
  • Embassy Lodge, Club Road (close to Rawal Lake). A comfortable and safe place with good service.
  • Islamabad Club, a fine and prestigious place to stay. Reservation required and only for members and their guests.
  • Centaurus hotel and convention centre7 star hotel with convention centre,mega mall and many other amenities.It is one of the largest hotels in the world and largest in pakistan.it is like a heaven.
  • Grand Hyatt tower and apartmentsat constitution avenue, it is another luxury in the capital with luxury apartments and a shopping mall and a five star hotel.
  • Intercontinental hotel,five star hotel of international standards.
  • LE MERIDIAN hotel,another luxurious hotel under construction.
  • Jumeirah hotel,7 star hotel in capital.
  • Sheraton hotel and country club,Bahria town,a luxurious hotel.
  • Pearl continental hotel,in the neighbourhood Rawalpindi

Contact

The area code for Islamabad is 51. To dial from within pakistan, dial 051-xxx-xxxx

The Police emergency number is 15. There are various Police stations in the city with staff available 24/7.

Embassies

  • Gm-flag.png Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany, Ramna 5, Diplomatic Enclave/P.O. box 1027,Islamabad, +92-51 227 9441 (visa) or +92-51 2279 430-35 (emergencies) (fax: +92-51 2279 436), [52]. Mondays to Thursdays from 08:00 to 13:00 and 13:30-15:00, Fridays 08:00-13:30.
  • Gr-flag.png Embassy of the Hellenic Republic - Greece, 33A, School Road, F-6/2, 44000, Islamabad, +92-51 282 5186, Emergencies:+92 303 519 3105 (, fax: +92-51 282 5161), [53].

Stay safe

Islamabad is generally a safe and calm city. The security forces seem to have put a lid on things, and the city has been calm since the beginning of 2010 with no bombings, shootings or kidnappings (other than targeted at Pakistani politicians).

The police have set up numerous checkpoints on roads to sensitive buildings and on the roads entering the city. These are usually harmless and they'll wave you through, but to access Constitution Avenue (inc the Serena hotel) the police will want to look in the boot of your car.

While travelling in city, you should keep your national identity card, passport, or driving license with you to prove your identity.

Crime-wise Islamabad is safe. Men can walk pretty much anywhere in the city day or night with little to fear. Lone women will attract male attention, particularly in areas of the city not often frequented by westerners. The Red Mosque in G6 and immediate surrounds aren't recommended given the history attached to this area.

Stay healthy

Bottled water is a good idea. Although water in Islamabad is generally clean, it is mainly gained from mountain water and tube wells and may contain minerals your system is not used to, and may not be stored and carried in the cleanest of ways.

Most locals do not drink tap water, but may get water from Govt. istalled filteration plans. Tap water is normally boiled and it is strongly suggested that you carry bottled water and request it at all food places. If you are unsure about the hygiene of a particular place, try to avoid ice in all your drinks.

There are 3 major hospitals in Islamabad. Pakistan Institute of medical sciences also known as PIMS next to G-8 Markaz, Shifa International Hospital in H-8/4 and Poly Clinic in sector G-6.

Also, there are various private hospitals in every sector in Islamabad providing extensive health care with different price ranges. Ali Medical Centre in F-8 Markaz is one of them.

Blue Area and Super Market (F-6) both have the two most trustable names in drug stores, Shaheen Chemists and D. Watson. Both the stores are reliable and will be able to offer sound advice for minor ailments. They also carry a wide variety of European and American foods, albeit at a high price. They may even have a doctor at the facility, should a quick suggestion be required.

Respect

Although Islamabad may look relatively modern, superficially hinting at a Western lifestyle, there are some basic guidelines to keep in mind given the cutural values of Pakistan's society:

  • People are very friendly and indeed very good hosts. Many of Islamabad's citizens are well-educated and speak English very well, working for the government and in the private sector. Be gracious in accepting invitations to people's houses for lunch, tea or dinner: it will reflect well on you if you verbally ensure that you are causing them no inconvenience.
  • Generally, women do not shake hands with men, though this varies greatly by social class, social setting, age and personal upbringing. A good rule of thumb for both men and women: do not shake hands with members of the opposite sex unless they extend their hands first (in which case it would be rude of you not to shake hands). The best way to greet someone is to nod and say "Assalam-u-alaikum:" smiling always helps!
  • Don't consume alcohol in public.
  • It's a good idea to avoid taking photographs of military establishments, police stations and anyone in uniform (army officers wear khaki, naval officers wear white, and the Islamabad police wear navy blue trousers with a light blue shirt). If in doubt, permission can be requested from the officers concerned.
  • Islamabad is relatively safe, compared to other Pakistani cities, or indeed most other capital cities: violent crime is very rare, but use precautions as you would in any other city.

Media

Newspapers

English Local Newspaper The Dawn, The News, The Express Tribune, The Nation & The Daily Times are national newspapers in English supplemented with local news sections.

Business Recorder is the only newpaper providing national and international business news. However, newspapers like International Herald Tribune, Financial Times, Khaleej Times, Gulf News, Sunday Times and etc., are also available. These international newspapers usually arrive in Islamabad a day after publishing.

All newspapers (international, national and local) are available at book stores in leading hotels like Serena & Marriott. They can also be purchased from leading book stores such as London Book House (Kohsar Market in sector F-6/3), Saeed Book Bank (Jinnah Super Market in sector F-7), and Mr. Books (Super Market in sector F-6).

Get out

Islamabad is well situated for day trips and weekend trips to nearby cities and attractions.

Day trips


  • Taxila, an ancient Buddhist and Hindu site with strong Greek influence from Alexander the Great's time. Worth a visit and a picnic. Should you be interested further in the subject, guided tours can be arranged for sites around the museum.
  • Murree & the Galis, One hour scenic journey through beautiful mountains to the hill resort of Murree which is a nice place to visit especially during the summer. A small place has a weather entirely different to that of Islamabad and much similar to most cities of Northern Europe. However the town is suffering under the sheer number of visitors and the small number of colonial buildings have been swamped by a plethora of cheap hotels - and consequently many visitors feel the town does not live up to its guidebook hype. Chairlifts of Murree and Patriata, Kashmir point are attractions for tourists. A two kilometer "Mall" is the center of gravity of Murree where all the shops and hotels are located. If you want to escape the crowds head further north towards Nathia Gali where there are several small towns with easy access to the mountains. If driving to Murree be aware that the roads are very winding and busy - and not fun to drive in the dark. Driving through Murree is also not much fun.
  • Simly Dam It is situated at a distance of about 30 km east of Islamabad (look for the route on Google maps). A very picturesque lake spread over an area of 28,750 acres. There is not much there, some walking trails to the side of the lake (not possible to do a full circuit) and there is a guesthouse / lodge / cafe place on the dam itself. This isn't a place many Islamabad dwellers visit, and can be eerily quiet - best not to visit alone.
  • Khan Pur Lake a 1 hour drive north-west of the city. [54]
  • Kallar Kahar lake is 2 hours down the motorway - can go boating on the lake and visit some pleasant nearby shrines.
  • Ketas Temples and the Khewra Salt mines makes for a pleasant day trip - the Salt Mines are good to visit in the summer as a place to escape the punishing heat of the salt range. The road between Ketas and Khewra is also spectacular.
  • Malot temple in the Salt Range makes for an off-the-beaten-track destination about a 2 hour drive from Islamabad down the motorway. Coordinates are 32.684537° N 72.799391° E. You need to drive through the Lafarge cement factory to get there - the vista is as spectacular as the temple - and a nice spot for a picnic.
  • Chiniot is an oft overlooked gem located just off the motorway near Faisalabad (about a 3 hour drive). Interesting old town and a centre for wooden furniture manufacture (hence a great place to go if you are furnishing a house). The Umar Hayat Palace is quite amazing also.
  • Rohtas Fort 2 hour drive south of Islamabad off the GT road - enormous old fort that makes for a great day trip from Islamabad. Leave the old water well until last.
  • Peshawar can be visited in a long day trip - about 2.5 hours on the motorway - visit the museum, have lunch, then go for a guided wander around the old town before heading back to Islamabad. May not be safe for Westerners.

Weekend trips

  • Lahore makes a great weekend destination - although you'll need more than 2 days to see everything. Gets very hot in the summer however so this makes a good winter weekend break.
  • Combine a trip to Chiniot and Faisalabad spending a day in each. Staying in Kallar Kahar (a lake halfway to Chiniot) on the Friday night is also a possibility.
  • Perhaps a bit ambitious for a weekend but you can visit India through the Wagah border. Usually, visiting Delhi should take you half a day by car, however you will need a visa. On the way, it is advisable to see the Golden Temple in Amritsar, and many other inspiring sights.
  • Trips to the northern mountains are possible if flying - PIA flies to Chitral, Gilgit and Skardu - flights can be unreliable with cancellations for poor weather / not enough passengers common. This makes a weekend trip a bit of a gamble in case your flight is cancelled and you get stuck up north. Also in a weekend there isn't enough time to get in much walking. An alternative is to drive to the [Kaghan Valley] which is a 6 hour drive from Islamabad and can be done in a weekend (eg leaving Friday lunchtime and overnighting in Abbottabad) - but better to plan 3 or more nights if you can. Beware of landslides however if it has been raining - these can easily get you stranded for a week or more - best to save Kaghan for the dry season.
  • Bishkek via Kyrgyzstan Air. Was on Friday nights around 7PM for around 340 USD one way, but this was before the Kyrg revolution. The travel agent in Islamabad, as of October 2009, is GSA Vital World Travel 9251 2274648-9 or 03125128227. airkyrgyzstan@dsl.net.pk. He accepts credit cards and is off Kulsum Plaza, Blue Area, Islamabad (flight no longer running as of 2011)
This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!




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