From brunch spots, restaurants off the tourist track, and where to find the best coffee… here are the best restaurants to visit in Varanasi, India. Definitely don’t miss Blue Lassi!
India is a well-documented assault to the senses. There’s the kaleidoscope of colours, all saffron yellows, blues, reds and fuchsia pinks, each one brighter than the last. Then there’s the never-ending buzz of noise, which comes mostly from the tuk tuk drivers who endlessly honk their horns as they zip through the craziness of the roads.
Of course, taste is one of the most important senses in India. There are so many delicious foods and drinks to try in this beautiful country – so many! I thought I would share some of my favourite restaurants in Varanasi that I was lucky enough to try on my recent trip to India. I’m getting hungry just thinking about them!
Why visit Varanasi?
You might not have heard of Varanasi before. I visited as part of my recent group travel tour to India that also stopped off at Delhi, Agra, Tordi Gahr, and Jaipur as part of the 11 day trip. In case you don’t know, Varanasi is known as the spiritual capital of India. It’s significant to those of the Hindu faith for being the holiest out of the seven holy cities. It’s also known for being the place where families travel from all over the country to cremate their loved ones. You can see the funeral rituals taking place on the ghats throughout the day, which is a pretty incredible sight.
In some parts, Varanasi is as busy and loud as the rest of India. Crossing the road here was one of the most nerve-wracking things to do in the whole trip. I honestly don’t know how we got out alive as it was absolute chaos. There are also lots of narrow winding lanes that weave their way down to ghats and you often have to jump into the side to let people on bikes past.
However, once you get down to the ghats it has this real sense of calm. I remember walking back along the ghats after visiting one of the cafes I mention later, Brown Bread Cafe, and it was probably the most relaxed I’d felt in the whole trip. Just being by the water brings a real sense of calm and peacefulness. And trust me, that was much needed after everything else.
Let’s hop to it. Here are – in my opinion – the best places to visit in Varanasi for delicious food, authentic Indian cuisine, and awesome coffee!
My favourite restaurants in Varanasi
This is original and the best place to get lassi in Varanasi. This one is an absolute must-visit, so if you’re going to eat anywhere when you’re in town then make it here! I’d read about Blue Lassi in a blog on the way to India and so I knew I wanted to come here, but it was just as good as I imagined.
For the uninitiated, lassi is a yoghurt-style dessert in India. This place, Blue Lassi, has been running for over 75 years and is a family-run business. It’s a tiny hole in a wall place down one of the narrow weaving alleys. However, once you get there you’ll know you’re in the right place because it’s crowded out with tourists. You’ll also spot the hundreds of photographs dotted all over the wall, which you can’t help but be fascinated by while you’re waiting for your lassi to arrive. I kept trying to see if I recognised anyone.
Right, so let’s get onto the lassi themselves. What makes Blue Lassi’s offering different to rest is that they top their lassi with a huge variety of toppings. You can have anything from strawberries, banana, chocolate and pomegranate. And once you’ve had one you’ll want to try them all. We came twice while we were in town but I’m a bit sad we didn’t squeeze in a third. My favourite was coconut topped with pomegranate – so tasty!
Where can you find the best coffee in Varanasi? Well, I can tell you that after a long 12-hour overnight train journey from Delhi everyone in our tour group was feeling exceptionally tired and desperate in need of some caffeine to bring us back to life. We asked our group leader if there was anywhere that served good coffee nearby, and she recommended Open Hand. It became our second home over the next few days. Order a large Americano and you will not be disappointed – it’s like a bowl of goodness.
I’m also doing it a disservice by just talking about the coffee. It also has a yummy breakfast menu, wraps, muffins, and a whole host of other treats. We came back on various occasions – for breakfast, for coffee, and to order wraps for our coach ride to the next stop on the tour. It’s everything you want it to be, with comfortable cushions and a relaxed bohemian vibe. Go, eat, relax, unwind. It’s so chill here you could literally sit here for hours.
Where should you get brunch in Varanasi? Well, if strong coffee, fresh juice and banana pancakes are a little bit of you then I would recommend Brown Bread Café in Varanasi. This was another place I’d read about on a blog. It was definitely worth walking through all the narrow winding streets to get to. You can sit at the table and chairs on street level if you want to but I would highly recommend walking up the many stairs to get to the roof.
You’ll be greeted with a gorgeous rooftop café with a relaxed hipster vibe complete with wooden benches, cushions to relax on, and amazing views. It feels so calm and fresh up here in comparison to the bustle and noise of the alleys down below, and that makes it totally worth it. The service was faultless too. I ordered some delicious banana pancakes which came with a drizzle of honey on the side and a big glass of fresh orange. Perfection!
Paneer curry was a new discovery for me on this trip to India. I imagine it’s good at most places in India, but I enjoyed mine at a cute place called Cozy Corner Café located near to our hotel in Varanasi. It’s not a fancy place, it’s very simple and no frills, but it serves up delicious, authentic Indian food.
The restaurant is small but perfectly formed. We got one of the two tables on the tiny open-air balcony up stairs, so we were able to eat while we watched the street below. I loved the cheese naan I ordered and the curry was rich in flavour and delicious. I also have to give a shout out to the staff who were super friendly and charming. What more could you want? If you’re looking for somewhere away from the crowds and not so touristy I would recommend this as one of the restaurants in Varanasi to visit.
This was another recommendation from our lovely group travel tour guide Sana – where would we be without her? If you want to have something that’s not curry then definitely visit Vaatika Café. You can expect a good mix of pizzas, pastas, and Indian food. I opted for a pizza as a change from the Indian cuisine we’d had over the past few days and it was super tasty. They even did my favourite pizza topping – pineapple! – so I was very happy.
The restaurant is also known for its delicious apple pie. I didn’t order one but pretty much everyone else at our table did. When they arrived and the smell of cinnamon wafted my way I was super envious! With the open air location on the ghats this felt very relaxed and was the perfect place to unwind. There even was an acoustic guitar set on the go – very chill.
One other thing I have to mention is a funny thing that happened the next day. We were walking along the ghats and I saw the couple who were sitting at the next table to us in the restaurant, the acoustic guitar player, and someone in our tour group who’d gone off to do his own thing – all within five minutes of each other. It felt walking down the street at home and bumping into your acquaintances when you’re doing the shopping. Very bizarre for India, but it definitely helped to give Varanasi that warm, homely feel. And I guess that’s what it is in essence – a place that’s all about family.