Islamabad lies on the on the Pothohar Plateau, which is one of Asia's earliest settlement sites. Indeed, very early stone age artefacts have been discovered there and these are believed to date back to as many as a million years ago. When Pakistan achieved its independence in 1947, Karachi became the first capital city. However, Karachi was considered too distant from everything and the decision was made to construct a new capital close to Rawalpindi. Therefore, Islamabad was planned and developed section by section on a grid system and is now believed to be one of South Asia's most well-planned cities.
In recent years, Islamabad has experienced something of a boom and, in addition to being the capital, it's also an important financial and business centre. Over the last 10 years, the city has enjoyed a growing positive reputation. Far from being the typical 9-5 urban environment, Islamabad is alive with new restaurants and smart hotels that have popped up to serve an increasingly affluent population with its rich culture. International cuisine, a touch of nightlife and quality shopping are just some of the things visitors can enjoy in Pakistan's exciting capital.
People come to the city from all over Pakistan and the rest of the world to enjoy its pleasant ambience with green spaces and appealing scenery. The city is also an excellent base when visiting valleys such as Swat and Kaghan and northern destinations like Chitral, Gilgit, Hunza and Skardu in the Himalayas.
When spending time in the city, its museums are unmissable. Visit the Pakistan Monument Museum, which is visually stunning and boasts wonderful artefacts. Also, Lok Virsa Museum portrays a fascinating cultural heritage.
For a real taste of Pakistani arts and culture there are a whole host of equally unmissable annual events in Islamabad, including the Book Fest, Music Mela and Lok Mela.
Things to do
Visitors will find plenty of animating things to see and do in the city, as there's something for every taste. Indulge in the city's history, markets and shops, international cuisine and wonderful verdant outdoor spaces, which rival any other capital city's attractions.
Must-See Islamabad Sights
History buffs will find the Islamabad Museum and The Museum of Natural History superb places to visit to learn more about the city and its culture. Both are home to wonderful treasures from very early civilisations and seeing these in a museum near to where they were found makes the experience even more special. Other popular sights include the city zoo and the beautiful Rose and Jasmine Garden, which has several hundred types of roses and a variety of Jasmine.
Shops and Markets
For those whose interests lie in shopping and markets, Islamabad's covered markets are easily accessible and offer up a lot of fresh produce and groceries. Many of the city's residents shop here and the vibrant, lively atmosphere is an experience in itself.
Just a Smidgen of Nightlife
The public consumption of alcohol is banned in Islamabad but many upscale hotels and some embassies have bars. The Marriot Hotel has a sports bar, which is popular with visitors and is a lively place for a drink. Although the city has no nightclubs, it's not uncommon to find special events such as dance events for visitors and ex-pats. Ask locals and/or check local Facebook pages for details.
Parks and Open Spaces
The city's Fatima Jinnah Park is one of the loveliest and most frequented parks and lies in the F-9 sector. Eminently green and with some man-made features and landmarks, the park took five years to create. Lake View Park is also a magical place by Murree-Islamabad Highway. It surrounds Rawal Lake, which offers fishing and boating as well as bird watching and picnicking on its shores.
The Best Restaurants
Pakistan's capital is spoilt for choice when it comes to restaurants serving cuisine from around the world. For Pakistani food, visit Monal Restaurant on Pirsohawa Road, or 1969 TGO on Garden Avenue Road, renowned for its parmesan crusted chicken! Eat Asian food at Little Asia Restaurant in F-6, as well as Chinese, Thai, Continental and Mediterranean dishes in various other parts of this food-loving city!
Calendar of events
Islamabad hosts some excellent annual events with literature, music, culture and important religious events such as Ramadan all celebrated during the year in various ways across the city.
The Annual Book Fair: Towards the end of April, book lovers can visit the city's biggest and best book fair at the Pak-China Friendship Centre. Famous booksellers and publishers host stalls with books on various topics. Furthermore, there's a discount of over 50% on various books. Each fair has a theme, for example, Life, Hope and Light in 2017. The National Book Foundation runs the event in collaboration with National History and Literary Heritage (NHLH) in connection with National Book Day.
Lok Mela: This highly popular cultural festival takes place annually during the first week of April. It's staged at the Lok Virsa and hosts several hundred performers, including singers, artists and artisans who represent different strands of culture. The festival is renowned for its exuberant and colourful performances that portray rural Pakistani life and culture.
Ramadan: An annual event that's celebrated everywhere in Pakistan and the capital city is no exception. Many top restaurants charge their menus during Ramadan and put on meals that are especially welcome after a 16-hour fast. Different restaurants in the city offer some superb Ramadan meal deals. Also, there are often Ramadan festivals and exhibitions featuring a variety of attractions from jewellery to clothing and artwork.
Music Mela: Music lovers in are in for an annual treat with an event that thrills audiences and unites cultures as dozens of famous Pakistani, American and international artists perform at the Music Mela event. Every year, it's held towards the end of April at the Pakistan's National Council of the Arts.