Depending on who you are and where you go, you may see Pune either as a pensioner’s paradise or a young, chirpy student town. The city wears both these identities with ease. If zen is what you’re out for, it has plenty of options, including the very famous Osho Ashram. If a night about town is more your scene, Pune is packed with clubs, restaurants and breweries. If old-school classical music gives you peace, it has one of India’s most iconic music events and in NH7 Weekender, it hosts one of the youngest and happiest indie music festivals. How then do you pick the best places to visit in Pune? Here’s a guide
If you have a nose for history, Pune will serve you well. It is the seat of the Maratha empire, which led the rout of the Mughal dynasty. The most important attraction is the Shaniwar Wada, the home of the mighty Peshwas. The 18th century fort has a rich history of the arts, but also of strife, sabotage and war. The fact that it sits at the heart of the city makes it even more unmissable. Younger in the years, the Aga Khan Palace, which was built in 1892, also has stories to tell. During the British Raj, it served as a prison where Mahatma Gandhi and wife Kasturba Gandhi were incarcerated.
Museum lovers should visit the National War Museum, which has a MIG fighter aircraft on the premises, as well as tableaus and dioramas that detail India’s military exploits. Film buffs should visit the Prabhat Museum, which houses artefacts of the now shuttered Prabhat Film Company, and is run by the Film and Television Institute of India.
Pune is dotted with Ganesh temples—there’s one at virtually every street corner. But the most famous among them all is the Shreemant Dagdusheth Halwai Sarvajanik Ganpati temple, where the gold adorned idol is a sight to be behold. Pataleshwar Caves, which feature a temple carved into the rock centuries ago, is another religious site that will leave you spellbound.
Pune is home to the Sawai Gandharva Bhimsen Festival, which takes place every December. This is India’s largest classical music festival and has been running for over 60 years. If contemporary music is your scene, mark your calendars for the NH7 Weekender, scheduled towards the latter half of the year. But Pune’s most iconic cultural event is Ganeshotsav—the best of Marathi song, dance and food are on display during this 10-day extravaganza.
One cannot visit Pune and not visit Camp, the cantonment area, which still shows signs of its colonial past. Take time out to catch a movie at Victory Theatre, a single-screen that was popular with British officers. Opposite the theatre is Kayani Bakery, which you must pick up a packet of their freshly made Shrewsbury biscuits.
The neighbourhoods of old Pune, known as Peths, is where you will get a feel of the city. Homes, markets and temples jostle for space in these clusters. Best explored on foot, the peths of Pune will give you a taste of the local life.
Pune has a range of options when it comes to partying in the city. From dive-like live music venues to clubs in luxury hotels, you have many ways to spend your evening (and your money) over the weekend.
If its malls you’re looking to shop at, Phoenix Marketcity and Amanora Town Centre are the most popular shopping centres. At both you’ll find international and local high-street brands for everything from clothing to food and beyond. Like MarketCity, also in Koregaon Park, you can make your way to Nitesh Hub, for a day of shopping, which you can cap with a meal at Mamagoto, the Asian eatery. If you’re looking to take photos, or stock up on groceries, make your way to Phule Market, where you can pick up fruits and vegetables directly from wholesalers. During a walk around the Camp area, which is full of Parsi and Irani influences, you can make a stop at Dorabjee’s, a modern supermarket to pick up the essentials. A must-visit for the fashion-savvy is Laxmi Road, where you can find jewellery stores, sari stores and more. If you’re feeling peckish, there’s a host of street food to sample as well, from sugarcane juice to misal and more. Another street to walk down is Tulsi Baug, which is overflowing with everything from jewellery to clothes and more. If you’re putting together a wedding trousseau, check out Mairah, the first multi-designer store in Pune. Nivedita Saboo is known for her amazing outfits and has two stores in the city. Also worth checking out is city-based Cuero, which makes shoes for men and women, and Coppre, a store where you can find a range of items hand crafted out of copper.
If you’re visiting Pune, a short stay at the Osho Ashram is an opportunity to centre yourself and explore an irreverent version of spirituality. If you want to test your luck, hit the historic 19th century racecourse, and punt on the horses. The season extends from July to October, and the Independence Cup and RWITC Gold Cup are the highlights of the calendar.
Animal lovers should visit the Katraj Snake Park, which plays host to a range of snake species, including the King Cobra, and where interactive sessions and educational talks let you learn more about the slithering reptiles. Lastly, make sure to take a trip to ABC Farms, where you can eat at one of the five restaurants and stop by to pick up some local cheese. (If you’re visiting in November or December, you have the annual cheese festival to look forward to.) For something off the beaten path, consider taking an Astronomy workshop at the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics. Depending on your interests, you can learn about the night sky, how to make a telescope and lots more.
For those who want a bit of adventure, Pune offers some excellent treks nearby. Sinhagad Fort, the site of a bloody battle in 1670, is just a few minutes out fo the city. During the monsoon, you can look out from the fort at a spectacular green ridge, though be warned, the ground can get slippery too. Lohgad is another option for those looking for an adventurous daylong trip. Mulshi Dam and Pawana Lake are two other popular getaways, both of which are best visited when the rains drape a fine mist that hangs over the area. From Pune, Kamshet offers paragliding to those looking for some adrenaline while Lavasa is for those looking to spend a weekend in the purpose-built city.
If you have more than a day to spare, escape to the Mahabaleshwar, which retains vestiges of its past as a British summer retreat. In winter, you can go strawberry picking in the fields, and have them with fresh cream, English style. Those with a sense of music may want to poke around nearby Panchgani, where a little boy named Farookh Balsara was born and raised. He would go on to become Freddy Mercury, but always remained proud of his Panchgani roots.
|New Airport Rd, Lohegaon, Pune, Maharashtra 411032||PNQ|