The stunning national mosque of Pakistan, designed to look like a Bedouin tent, is a beautiful mix of traditional and modern architecture that symbolises the aspirations of the country. It is one of the largest in the world, and can hold up to 100,000 in the hall and courtyard. Visitors are allowed, but non-Muslims should avoid prayer times.
This massive and breathtaking monument symbolises the country's cultural diversity and national unity. It is shaped like a blooming flower with four main petals, each representing the four majour provinces, and three smaller ones, meant to represent smaller regions, such as Kashmir.
This fantastic ethnographic museum showcases a large collection of traditional Pakistani handicrafts, including wood carvings, jewellery and textiles. It offers a unique glimpse into the artistic and artisanal past of the country. Be sure to visit the gift shop and pick up a souvenir.
This huge national park located just south of the city's main urban area is a lush expanse of gardens and trees that provide a welcome escape from the city streets for both locals and visitors. The area also houses many monuments and museums, and has hill lookouts just a 20-minute walk uphill.
The city is surrounded by the beautiful and lush Margalla Hills, and the citizens of Islamabad like to enjoy them. Daman-e-Koh is a splendid picnic spot about a 30-minute walk up the hills just north of the zoo that offers breathtaking views of the city, and specifically of the Faisal Mosque.
The archeological excavations in Taxila make for a great day-trip from Islamabad. The sites can be thoroughly explored in about 6 hours of walking, if the oppressive heat allows. The sites and museum display Buddhist sculptures, metal artifacts and coins, and other interesting finds from times gone by.
For a whirlwind tour of the cultural history of Pakistan, a visit to Saidpur, located just one kilometre from the city, is in order. This former Hindu village was famous for its skill in pottery, and it now holds a Model Village which shows off handicrafts from different regions in the country.
The Islamabad Zoo is a great place to spend an afternoon, especially for those traveling with children. The Zoo is home to a wide array of beautiful animals, including bears, elephants, baboons, and many more. Especially impressive is the huge collection of wild and exotic birds.
Offering what is beyond a doubt the best view of any restaurant in Islamabad, The Monal is nestled up among the lush Margalla Hills, away from the city noise, but providing a breathtaking panoramic view of its urban area. It is a bit out of the way, but the view and the mix of European and Asian specialties make it well worth a visit.
For a taste of Italy, Siena Ristorante is as good as it gets. Everyone's favourite Italian specialties are available, including pasta and pizza, as well as some delicious seafood dishes. This can all be enjoyed in one of the many rooms decorated in the style of a particular Italian city, or by the Venice-inspired pool.
This is more of a rugged, local restaurant than the fine dining that can be found in more expensive places, but locals keep coming back to Kabul for the fantastic Afghan specialties, particularly the barbecue and the dumplings. The place itself is simple and no-nonsense. They let the food do the talking.
Located on the road to Saidpur, Andaaz offers a truly unique experience. It combines traditional local flavours with a classy and elegant surrounding, subdued lighting and a relaxing and intimate feel. There are pictures of famous Pakistani singers hanging on the walls along with traditional instruments, which only adds tot he experience.
The Khaas Gallery is one of the city's leading modern art exhibition centres, showcasing the best young talents the country has to offer, as well as some classical pieces. The gallery's cafe serves warm drinks, fresh salads and a selection of mains, to pick you up while you enjoy the art.
Walking into Mocca Coffee, you might think you stumbled into a cafe somewhere in Stockholm or Copenhagen. The minimalist design, organic ingredients and relaxed environment could easily fool anyone. The level of specialisation here is impressive, as the coffee and fruit smoothies are expertly prepared and the flavours are wonderful.
Atrio specialises in two things: coffee and barbecue. The meat dishes range from Mexican to Italian specialties and never disappoint. If you're not that hungry, then sit back and enjoy a hot cup of coffee from the outdoor rooftop terrace, and marvel at the view of the Margalla Hills in the background.
The wonderfully located Best Western in Islamabad (right by the Shakarparian Park) offers two options in terms of nighttime entertainment. The Mashal restaurants is open 24 hours a day and offers great ala-carte dining, while the Reem Bar-B-Que restaurant is the place to go for juicy streaks and meat dishes.
The Centaurus Mall is not only a great place for shopping and eating, with its wide selection of shops and restaurants, but it can also be a nice place to spend an evening at the cinema. The Centaurus Cineplex shows all the latest Hollywood megahits and local productions on four screens.
Talkingfish is perhaps one of the few places in all of Islamabad that offers the type of nighttime entertainment one could expect to find in Western societies. They host karaoke nights on Thursdays, Bhangra night on Fridays and dance night on Saturdays. The Blue Bar on the terrace also streams smooth soul and jazz tunes.
More national obsession than national sport, cricket is huge in Pakistan. And there's no better way to have an authentic Pakistani experience than to join the crowd at the cricket stadium and cheer for the local team. You can catch international matches at the Rawalpindi Stadium for an entertaining day out.
For an authentic, albeit chaotic, shopping experience in Islamabad, you can hardly do better than Rawalpindi's Rajah Bazaar. Spreading out from Fowara Chowk, you can find vendors, shops and stalls in every direction selling everything you can think of, from clothing to daily needs. Towers remain of old Hindu temples in the area.
Massive, modern, sleek, imposing, the Centaurus Mall is truly impressive. Combining a shopping centre, a hotel and residential housing, it is a beacon of modernity in Pakistan for which Islamabad is a symbol. The mall has all you could need in terms of shopping, entertainment and restaurants, and visitors can easily spend a whole day exploring its many floors.
The Benazir Bhutto International Airport is located in the Rawalpindi area, easily accessible from central Islamabad. Taxis are readily available outside the airport, but be sure to agree on a price before stepping into a cab, as they are seldom metered. There are also a number of local buses which can transport visitors to and from the airport, but the number of routes can be overwhelming and confusing, so unless you know exactly what to take to get where you are going, it might be best to stick to taxis.
Islamabad recently unveiled its brand new network of metro buses, much to the delight of the citizenry. These modern, air-conditioned and WiFi-enabled accordion-style buses have dedicated lanes to help commuters skip traffic jams, and they connect the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi. Probably the best way to get around the city is by a combination of the metro buses and taxis. Other options for getting around include pedal- and motor-rickshaws.
Taxis are a cheap and efficient way to get around the city. You can usually find them hanging around busy areas, like the airport or train station, or at busy intersections. Be sure to agree on a price before hopping in, as they are seldom metered. One reputable company in the city is Metro Radio Cab.