Sprawling along the shores of the Arabian Sea, Karachi is Pakistan’s shop-front to the world. This is the nation’s largest port and its most populous city, a vital, vibrant centre of trade, commerce and culture, with a full hand of historic sights and famously full-flavoured food.
Getting around Karachi means navigating the traffic, which can slow road transport to crawl, but taxis are still the fastest and most comfortable way to explore. Auto-rickshaws provide a similar service for a lower fare, and buses zip to every corner of the city. Ferries make the crossing from Keamari to Manora island.
Karachi is defined by the ocean, with a string of sandy beaches tracing the outer rim of the lagoon. Clifton Beach is the most popular spot to promenade, but more peaceful beaches stretch north to Hawke’s Bay and French Beach; there’s even a low-key surfing scene!
As you might expect, many of the city’s most famous sights are linked to Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan. The Jinnah family homes at Quaid-e-Azam House and Wazir House are now museums, and Karachi’s most famous resident is buried in a modernist mausoleum just north of the centre.
The British left an indelible stamp on Karachi in the form of colonial landmarks such as the Empress Market, Frere Hall and the Sindh High Court. British-era churches dot the bazaars of the historic centre alongside forgotten Hindu temples. The extravagant Mohatta Palace, built by a wealthy Hindu merchant in 1927, now houses a fascinating museum exploring the artistic heritage of Pakistan.
The boat ride from Keamari Habour to Manora Island offers a fine vantage point to watch the comings and goings at the Port of Karachi. To discover more about the history of this vital transit point, visit the National Museum, covering everything from ancient Mohenjo-daro to Pakistan’s Freedom Movement.
Exploring the bazaars of the historic centre and the streets of the former British cantonment are great ways to get a feel for what makes Karachi tick. As you wander, you can drop in on historic mosques, British churches such as Holy Trinity Cathedral, and atmospheric Hindu temples such as the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir. A beachfront stroll away from the crowds is a relaxing way to spend time in Karachi. Sandspit Beach and Hawke’s Bay even attract nesting sea turtles from September to January; the Sindh Wildlife Department arranges turtle-watching tours.
As you might expect from a port city, dining in Karachi has a strongly international flavour. Intimate Okra feels like a genuine French bistro, while Fuschia offers a taste of Thailand and Sakura at the Pearl Continental Hotel slices succulent sushi and sashimi. For dinner with a view, try Kolachi or the bustling eateries of Boat Basin and the Port Grand complex. The best place to find authentic Sindhi cooking is in the historic centre; Burns Road in Sadar district is fragrant with the smell of grilling seekh, chapli and boti kebabs. Prosperous Karachi-ites gather on upscale Zamzama Avenue, which is lined with local and international chains.