A day out in Bangalore city
A vibrant, cosmopolitan and a beautiful city, Bangalore is a great place to visit if you are a tourist or travelling on work. Known as the Garden city, Silicon Valley, Pub capital and the Start-up capital of India, the city’s ethnography includes people from all over the country, making it the most diversified city in India. Being born and raised here, I am jotting down a list of top ‘Things to do in Bangalore’ if you have only a day to spare and these include some of my favourite experiences, places to visit and eat.
Lalbagh Botanical Gardens: There’s no better way than to start your day early, than by visiting this beautiful green garden space. This otherwise popular tourist attraction, is best utilized by locals early morning. You will see people of all ages, doing all kinds of exercises, while you walk around to see the many things here such as the 3000-million-year-old rock formation, The glass house, India’s first lawn clock, A 300-year-old tree and many more. The garden itself is abundant in flora and was built in the year 1760 by Tippu Sultan, as his own personal garden space by importing plants from all over the world. Every year twice, flower show takes place inside the glass house showcasing various themes, and attracts several thousands of people to come watch it.
Tip: There are 4 gates to Lalbagh gardens. Lalbagh Main gate is close to MTR restaurant, which you can visit next after exploring this place. Plastic bottles are not allowed inside the gardens, so if you are carrying bottled water make sure it’s steel, glass or a Tupperware bottle. Buggie cart is also available for a fee of Rs.100 per person, for a 40- minute tour inside the gardens.
MTR (Mavalli Tiffin Rooms): There are several MTR branches spread across the city, but the one that I recommend is the original restaurant on the Lalbagh road (close to the East side entrance of Lalbagh botanical gardens). This is a great place for breakfast and its history goes way back to 1940’s, serving delicious South Indian breakfast with the star being the Masala Dosa, generously coated with ghee and best washed down with a cup of filter coffee. This place has served a lot of dignitaries and famous actors with some of their photographs displayed on the walls, and it still continues to hold the charm of the yesteryears.
Tip: This place can get really crowded specially on weekends, try getting there as early as possible. Sharing a table is common here, but this is also a great way to chat up with people most of whom are locals, who would tell you their love for this restaurant.
Bull temple: Visit this 500-year old temple to see the monolithic statue of a bull carved out of granite stone, which won’t fail to impress you. Closely located to the MTR restaurant, this temple attracts a lot of devotees and tourists everyday and is also open throughout the day unlike other temples which closes down during the noon time. The story of this temple is quite an impressive one, the reason for which the area is called Basavanagudi meaning ‘The abode of the bull’. I would recommend you to go all the way inside and take blessings (the priests are friendly towards tourists). Sit here for few minutes and observe people come in and go, it will give you a lot of insights into the temple customs.
Tip: It is mandatory to leave your footware outside the main temple area which will be guarded by the caretakers for a small fee. When you go inside to take the blessings, do leave a small tip inside the donation box, since this will go towards the maintenance of the temple. You can be dressed casually and modest for this temple and anything knee length or sleeveless will also do.
Chitrakala Parishath: The Parishath is a one-stop space for a school of art, museum, gallery and also a space where art & cultural performances take place. The gallery contains beautiful paintings of students and few renowned artists and gives you an idea on the artists inclination on various subjects, specially people and Indian architecture. Very often local flea markets also take place in this premises, where craft makers display unique items from different states like blue pottery, glassware, silks, traditional jewellery etc. Once a year in January month, the biggest street art festival in India called ‘Chitra Sante’ takes place on the open road next to the Chitrakala Parishat, where art work from artists across the country display their work for sale and thousands of people throng this place for it.
Tip: The gallery is closed on Sundays, although the local sante if any, operates in the common grounds outside the building.
Bangalore Palace: Built by the Mysore kings in the 1800’s during the British rule, this palace is inspired by Tudor architecture and has a charm of royalty to it. The inside of the palace has a Royal Ballroom, Durbar hall with neo-classical furniture, an open courtyard with Spanish influence, separate quarters for the ladies and men and many more. Beautiful paintings of famous artists and old photographs of the royalty adorn the walls. There are also lovely wooden furniture’s, artefacts, and items of decoration bearing both Indian and European influence. Hunting was a favourite pastime of the Kings, and you will notice a huge elephant tusk on the wall, along with a stool made from its legs.
Tip: The tickets cost Rs. 240 for Indians and Rs. 480 for foreigners. Mobile and camera fee are charged extra. The audio guide tour comes with the ticket fee, but make sure you carry an ID card for procuring it.
Soda Bottle Opener Wala: This Bombay café Irani bar is just the place you want to visit for some great finger licking food, suited for vegetarians and non-vegetarians. The restaurant is almost always crowded, with old Bollywood music playing in the background of chitter chatter of people. The décor is quite colourful and quirky with some amusing signages to laugh at while you wait for your order. There is also a train track that circles the restaurant near the ceiling, and if you’re lucky you might see that functioning too. Some of their dishes that are worth trying are the Bori Kheema Pav, Vada Pav, Khanda Bhajjiya, Dhan Shak, Crispy Okra and my favourite dessert the Matunga Coffee Cake!
Tip: This place can get really crowded, specially weekends and the wait can be long, so getting there early is advisable. They also have season specialties like Mango dishes in the summer time, which is worth trying.
Cubbon Park: One of the reasons why Bangalore is called the Garden city, is because of this green lung space in the city centre established in the year 1870. This huge park boasts of children’s play area, a tennis pavilion, and colonial structures like the Museum building, State library and the High court of Karnataka built pre-independence. A leisurely walk through this space will make you forget about the busy traffic and pollution in the city. It’s a great place for running and exercising which is what you will notice in the morning hours. This is my favourite go-to place for just relaxing or reading a book and also a great way to see few pre-independence buildings, that are painted brick red and stand out against the park’s greenery.
Tip: This is a great place for kids, specially the children’s play area, where you can enjoy a ride in the toy train running inside the premises. You can also visit the government museum for a small fee and the state library for free.
Vidhana Soudha: The pride of Bangalore is this Parliament house built post-independence where the state government functions, and you cannot leave Bangalore city without taking a picture here. It is the largest legislative – secretariat building in the country and is very impressive in terms of its architecture which is Dravidian, in contrast to the High court building on the opposite side having colonial architecture. There is a newer building next to this, having similar architecture and much smaller called the Vikasa Soudha, built few years ago to accommodate the growing members of the state administration. A huge statue of Mahatma Gandhi sits between these two buildings.
Tip: For a better picture of the Parliament house, get onto the opposite side of the road. Entry is restricted inside this place due to security reasons.
Commercial Street: Although mall culture in Bangalore is picking up, by and large commercial street is still the place you will want to visit if you have shopping in mind or not! It’s a good place to walk around for window shopping as well, and this is where locals frequent for pretty much all things branded and local – clothes, shoes, accessories, home décor, antiques, dress materials and even stitching where some tailors have an amazing turnaround time of just 2hrs! While the main shopping street has just about everything, there are smaller streets, by-lanes and buildings know for some specialization like silver jewellery on Jewellery’s street, Silver Plaza for fabrics, Narayan Pillai street for dupattas etc.,
Tip: You can bargain only in the local stores/street shops/Kashmir handicraft stores. At the branded stores you have to pay a fixed price. The shops shut down by 8.30pm, so plan your shopping if you have a big list.
Brigade Road: Bangalore’s smaller shopping area compared to the commercial street, the Brigade road is all things entertainment with stores branded and unbranded, cafes, bars and restaurants. A famous pastime for college going students, just taking a walk down this road will give you an idea of the pulse of the city and its outgoing culture. At the beginning of the street is the landmark Cauvery Emporium, an old building best visited for shopping souvenirs and handicrafts items.
Glimpse into a small street called the rest-house road and you will spot many pubs here like the famous Pecos, which is a rarity to find in Bangalore where the pub culture and rock music has died down. At the end of the street is the Opera house that was once famous for its entertainment during the British era, now restored and reopened as the Samsung Experience centre.
Tip: Take a walk down this road, rather than driving past it, to get a better vibe of this area.
Permit Room: Permit Room is the place you want to visit to celebrate the best of Indian food and beverages with a twist. The dishes have a strong affiliation to South India cuisine with some popular ones including Cubbon Park salad, Non- resident Idlis, Brain dry fry, Nalli Biryani and Baked Mysuru Pak to name a few. Even the bar menu is exciting with cocktails like Fizzy Kosambari, Ammachis Kashayam, Guntur Liquid Chutney adding an Indian touch to it. Whats even better is the ambience and décor. You won’t get bored looking around the place, matching up its theme to make it look as quirky as possible. From movie posters with interesting themes to pillars sporting old matchbox designs, this is a great place to visit for family and friends.
Tip: You can reserve this place in advance specially during the weekends when it gets crowded very fast. You can always check with the waiters to suggest you dishes depending on your taste and spice levels.