If you’re looking for things to do in Islamabad then this post will help you out.
After spending 2 weeks in Islamabad experiencing many things with my friends who are from there this is what I recommend for you to do, as it’s exactly what they recommended to do.
On top of that my wife is from Islamabad just to give you added trust in the authority of this post about the city.
I go into more practical details for your visit to Islamabad at the end of the post but as you’re obviously here to see what to do in Islamabad those are up first.
Things to do in Islamabad
1. Eat at F10 and F7 Neighbourhoods
Eating the food in Islamabad is actually my favourite thing to do there and the F10 and F7 neighbourhood are the best for it because as well as the great food options they also have a great atmosphere to them.
The F7 area is a bit more modern and rich than F10 but still has a chilled vibe especially at night where it has one of the best night markets in Islamabad.
F10 makes the perfect place for a breakfast especially if you want to stick to more local food from the region.
One favourite is to have a cup of chai (milky tea) at a street side cafe and enjoy a fresh warm naan bread to dip in some chana (chickpeas in sauce).
Quetta Tea is a popular place with the locals and I highly recommend it.
Chai and chana breakfast at Quetta Tea in F10.
F7 is a great area to go for lunch to have some barbecued kebabs.
A very good choice here is the Kabul restaurant which is where I tried my first food in Pakistan (thanks to my wife for showing me).
They have mouth watering kebabs and other specialities like beef mantu (dumplings).
Food at Kabul restaurant in F7.
Kahari is basically meat cooked in sauce. Most are cooked in the animals own fat and are delicious.
The sweets and bakeries in Islamabad are out of this world!
The best sweets in Pakistan I found in bakeries after visiting many is called Tehzeeb. This place is very popular and for a good reason.
The selection of traditional Pakistani sweets is awesome and the ones I got addicted to the most are gulab jamun and halwa.
Outside our favourite bakery – Tehzeeb.
A election of Pakistani sweets.
If you only have a short time in Islamabad then just head to F10 or F7 to get your food fix!
2. Hiking in Margalla Hills National Park
One of the best things about Islamabad is its access to nature, as well as being a decent green city in general with its huge F9 park (see further down the post).
The Margalla Hills National Park is part of the foothills of the Himalayas and is right next to the city overlooking it.
There are a number of trails that go up the hills to hike on and some are easier than others.
They are rather unimaginably named by numbers, so Trail 1, Trail 2, and so on.
There are 6 trails worth doing and our favourites are Trail 3 and 5.
Trail 3 is tougher with some very steep trails at time to get up and can be hard work.
Trail 5 on the other hand is a gentle hike by the side of s stream for the first 20 minutes or so before getting more vertical. But going up is not that bad and is gradual in parts.
Trail 5 will eventually after a few hours end up at Monal restaurant (see further down).
At the beginning of Trail 3.
A view from Trail 3 onto parts of Islamabad.
Up in the Margalla Hills National Park on Trail 5.
Enjoying the nature on Trail 5.
So get your hiking shoes on and get up into the Margalla Hills, at least for 2 hours for some views.
3. Relax in F9 Park
F9 park sits between the F10 and F8 neighbourhoods (obviously) and is huge.
As I said one of the best things about Islamabad is the green spaces and you could spend hours wandering around this park.
There’s 3 main entrances and sometimes at night people gather to hear musicians near them.
One of the entrances to F9 park.
One of the awesome things about Islamabad is all the eagles!
They are everywhere hovering over the city and in F9 park you will see loads of them, either flying or chilling in the trees.
Eagle on top of a tree in the park.
The park is best to go to in the evening especially in the summer on a hot day as it’s cooler to walk around.
On a sunny day you can catch a great sunset there.
Enjoy the park!
4. Visit Faisal Mosque (Best at Sunset)
Even if you’re not religious, or of a different religion from the place you visit, religious places of worship are always beautiful to see for the architecture and the modern Faisal Mosque is just that.
Not only that but I also met some of the friendliest people in Pakistan there and met with a group of Pashtun children on a school trip who were hilarious.
The best time to visit like many places, Faisal Mosque being no exception, is at sunset.
It has a more serene and peaceful feeling around that time.
Sunset at Faisal mosque.
Our transport for seeing some of the things in Islamabad.
5. The Daman-e-Koh and Monal Restaurant Viewpoints
The Damon-e-Koh and Monal viewpoints are located in the Margalla Hills and so make a good accompaniment for viewpoints on any visit to them.
If you come earlier in the day to Monal restaurant by car (take a Careem car if you don’t have your own transport) and are not bothered with getting night views you could hike back down on Trail 5.
View at night from Damon-e-Koh viewpoint.
Monal restaurant is one of the most popular restaurants to eat at in Islamabad simply due to its amazing view.
We did think about eating there but my friends suggested a better place in the city for what we wanted so I can’t mention wether the food is good or not.
But it’s worth stopping for the view.
As mentioned in the Margalla Hills section Trail 5 will eventually end up at this restaurant so you could hike up for dinner.
View from Monal restaurant.
6. Eat at and See Saidpur Village
Saidpur village is in a ravine in the Margalla Hills (yes a lot of things happen around these hills) and is good to go to for some peace and (yes) more food.
It’s also near the Daman-e-Koh lookout point so you can combine them.
The best time to visit is in the evening/night as it has a better atmosphere if you want to relax and enjoy eating there.
There is an old Hindu shrine in the village where you can also see a small art gallery.
Old Hindu shrine in Saidpur village.
Good places to eat on outdoor terraces.
Saidpur village is good for 1-2 hours for a meal and to get away from the busier city for a while.
7. Day Trip to Murree and Nathia Galli
Yes technically it’s not part of Islamabad and that’s why it’s at the end of the post but going to Murree and Nathia Galli for the day if you have time is worth it.
They are up in the Murree Hills and Murree will be only around a 1 hour drive from Islamabad and Nathia Gali around 2 hours so it’s easy to do them.
The weather will be cooler and there’s some hiking you can do or simply enjoy a meal and a walk around.
Nathia Gali is the more relaxed and quiet of the 2 and you can try a short horse ride and see a centuries old wooden church that’s very serene.
Only do this option if you have a few days in Islamabad otherwise skip it and concentrate on the F7 and F10 areas, the F9 park, and Margalla Hills for some short hikes and views.
Centuries old wooden church in Nathia Gali.
Enjoying dinner with friends in Murree.
Shopping in Islamabad
If you want to go shopping in Islamabad there are a few places that are the best places to go to.
For those interested in mall shopping the Safe Gold Mall in F7 neighbourhood is good for clothes shopping with a few souvenir stalls as well.
But also nearby if you go there in the evening is a night market to check out as well that has some clothing options as well as (mentioned before) some good food options while there.
In the F6 neighbourhood up a side street from United Bakery (Google Map search it) are a few dried fruits shops. If you want to stock up on some nuts, dates, etc this is the spot to go. You will get decent prices and very good quality.
If you want some very modern shopping then go to the big Centaurus Mall in the Blue Area neighbourhood. It’s all international brands and some souvenir shops. If you want to go to the cinema in Islamabad when there they have a good one on the top floor.
Finally the F10 area has a few modern brands as well you can find if stopping by for some food.
Places to Stay in Islamabad
As fare as looking for places to stay in Islamabad there indefinitely one neighbourhood in particular I would recommend for that – F7.
As mentioned in the beginning F7 is a very vibrant area with good restaurants, cafes, and night market, all set in modern surroundings.
But on top of that you can also find some of the best deals on places to stay.
I personally didn’t stay at any of these as I stayed with my wifes friends, but these are ones that were recommended to us if we did need somewhere.
The other neighbourhood to choose from would be F10 but there are less budget options around there and it’s very cheap for transport to get around Islamabad by using the car booking apps Uber or Careem. From F7 to F10 for example it will only cost you around 1 US dollar in an Uber ride!
Transport in Islamabad
To put it simply use Uber or Careem cars for getting around. They are very cheap and handy and there will always be a ride for you.
Careem is the more popular one to use.
You can use them to get up to viewpoints and between the different F neighbourhoods.
As you can see Islamabad is a great city to visit and pretty relaxed with the green open areas and nearby hills along with amazing food options.
My recommendation to get the best out of the city to be honest is to hang out in F10 and F7 especially at night and enjoy the food and street ambience and enjoy the nearby park for a stroll and maybe a few hours hiking in the hills.
If you’re. in Pakistan stop in for at least 2 nights and take it all in.
For a great few days getaway into the mountains not far from Islamabad check out this post about visiting Naran and Lake Saiful Muluk.
Also if you want one of the best food experiences you will ever have (yes Pakistan is all about the food) go to ancient city of Peshawar for a long day trip (or spend the night).
I highly recommend to take travel insurance for any travels especially if heading into the mountains in Pakistan just in case something goes wrong. I have used WorldNomads for travel insurance for years and highly recommend them.
Enjoy your time in Islamabad and Pakistan!
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