There was a time when a visitor would come to Bengaluru only to get to somewhere else. Not anymore. The Bengaluru of today is bursting with flavour, with so many things to see and do. From temples and palaces to dosas and beer, it’s got it all if you’ve got the time.
What to see and do in Bangalore
On arrival at the Bangalore airport head straight to the Hatti Kaapi stall and ask for a pot of filter coffee with a hot peanut bun. The dosas and idlis can wait; this is your first taste of Bangalore.
Begin your tour of the city with a visit to the century-old Someshwara Temple at Ulsoor or the ISKCON Temple, which is one of the largest ISKCON temples in the world. Don’t leave without sampling the lunch prasadam. And make time to admire the largest granite monolith of Nandi, the sacred bull at—you guessed right—the Bull Temple. Could you ask for a more auspicious start? Next, visit illustrator Paul Fernandes’ gallery Apaulogy located near Richards Park. You’d want to pick up all the framed posters and art that humorously portray a slice of old Bangalore.
Time to stretch your legs? Explore Bangalore by foot. Sign up for the Bungalow Trail or the Cathedral Walk organised by Unhurried Tours that takes you through old English settlements in the city. Alternatively do a culinary sojourn with Oota Walks.
Culture vultures, watch a play at Ranga Shankara. Nurtured by Arundhati Nag, the city’s famous film and theatre artiste, this is where the city’s culturally inclined can be spotted, and you’ll find no Bollywood movies here.
A visit to the country’s tech capital and you’re still as clueless about the techie life? Not if we can help it. A Bengaluru-based travel platform organises an informative, guided tour of start-ups across the city. The tour by Explore Life Traveling will take you inside start-up workspaces and give you a chance to chat with the employees and founders. No funding queries, please.
You could do with some peace and serenity now. Sign up with Bangalore WALKS for a guided tour of Lalbagh Botanical Gardens or Cubbon Park, the lungs of Bangalore. Spot some rare species of birds and plants, all perfectly Instagrammable. That done, breakfast could be a dosai at a Maiya, MTR (with restaurants/outlets dotting the entire city) or Janatha in Malleswaram. Other monuments of interest are Tipu Sultan’s Summer Palace and Fort (built in 1537, the fort is regarded as a testament to the king’s battle against British rule) and the Bangalore Palace (inspired by the Windsor Palace and now owned by the royal family of Mysore, it’s a must-see for lovers of art.)
The best places to shop in Bangalore
A trip to Bangalore can’t possibly be complete without taking home a bagful of sandalwood infused soaps, face masks and incense sticks from Cauvery Handicrafts Emporium, MG Road. For silks and fabrics head over to Mysore Saree Udyog on Commercial Street where everything’s available at wholesale rates while you jostle with excited brides-to-be and foreign tourists with mile-long shopping lists. One of Bangalore’s best kept secrets, Vimor, is tucked away in an old home in Victoria Layout. With Sonia Gandhi, Sheila Dixit, Shabana Azmi, and Nandita Das as clients, you should drop by as well for their exquisite south Indian temple sarees. Eka in Ulsoor is a delightful store that should be on your must-visit list. A trove of intricately carved chubby Ganeshas and other painstakingly sourced artefacts, Eka is a little gem in itself. For eclectic and quirky designer wear, there’s Rain Tree (housed in a 75-year-old colonial bungalow opposite the ITC Windsor Hotel), Varnam at Indiranagar where you can find Channapatna’s famous wooden toys and other quirky homeware, Cinnamon in Ulsoor for their furniture range and the newly launched Nicobar at Walton Road, an ode to the globetrotting hipster in you.
The best restaurants in Bangalore
Where do we start? Get the sattvic meal at The Higher Taste, ISCKON temple, a north Karnataka meal on a plantain leaf at Kamat Yatri Niwas, tear-inducing biryani at Nagarjuna, the softest idlis and crisp vadas at Veena Stores, the ‘help, I can’t get up’ meal at MTR, rusk and cake at the Iyengar Bakery, OG Variar and Sons, the best filter coffee ever at Kalmane Koffees or Truffles (Ice and Spice) for lamb burgers that could put McDonald’s to shame, the char siu at Fatty Bao, pork tortellinis at Toast & Tonic, or the almost literal death by chocolate at Corner House Ice Creams. So much to eat, so little time. Best to stick with the essentials:
Koshy’s, St Marks RoadWe don’t know what Queen Elizabeth II had for lunch when she visited this iconic restaurant all those years ago, but you should stick with the tried and tested. We recommend the liver on toast and fish and chips served with a pot of tea. Indian Coffee House, Church Street: Another favourite with locals, stop by to while the hours away over a cup of coffee and mutton cutlets. And try not to take a selfie with the waiters sporting their red turbans. It’s just rude.
Green Theory, Convent RoadA lovely little garden café dishing out wholesome vegetarian organic food. This is the perfect place for you to begin the first few chapters of that book you’ve been meaning to write, while you sip on freshly brewed blueberry tea.
Airlines Hotel, Off Lavelle RoadUnder the shade of a tree that’s seen history go by, ask for one by two coffee, akki roti, and perhaps a plate of channa bhatura if you’re feeling brave.
MTR (Mavalli Tiffin Rooms), LalbaghHow can you leave the city without queuing up for a quintessential Karnatak meal of masala dosa or a rava idli at Bangalore’s most celebrated restaurant? The rava idli is an edible piece of history in itself. During World War II, raw rice to make idlis was in short supply. The restaurant ingeniously substituted rice with rava. Of course, rice isn’t scant anymore but try telling that to the hordes who queue up for it in the early hours of the day. Swalpa adjust maadi.
Karavalli, Residency RoadFor authentic coastal food that stretches all the way from Goa to Kerala, a meal at the Taj Gateway’s Karavalli is a must. The story goes that the founding chef knocked at some coastal homes and persuaded home cooks to part with their secret recipes. Try the Alleppey fish curry, and soak it up with steaming appams or a thali to sample the whole caboodle.
Toscano, Vittal Mallya RoadFor when you want to visit northern Italy while in the city. The restaurant’s outlet at UB City is where most loyalists still choose to dine at. Under the stars, with a glass of Chianti for company and a warm spinach ravioli–la vita e bella. Harima, Residency Road: When in Bangalore, do as the Japanese do. Visit Harima for superlative sushi and sashimi. There’s also low-table seating if you want to go the whole way.
Byblos, IndiranagarSure, this is a great Lebanese restaurant. But that’s not why it’s on our list. The restaurant keeps surplus food from its kitchen in a fridge outside its outlet for the homeless. The initiative called the ‘fridge of kindness’ is open from noon till the restaurant closes around midnight and more than 20 underprivileged people pick up food from the fridge on a daily basis. So dine here to support a fantastic cause. And of course, for their almost perfect baba ganoush and chicken shawarma.
The Permit Room, Magrath RoadRecommended by the Masterchef Australia trio, this innovative restaurant does a nice spin on south Indian staples: Paati’s magic rasam, idli soufflé, jhum jhum tiger balm. Never mind the crazy copywriter, the food is fabulous.
The best places to party in Bengaluru
Bangaloreans have always known how to have a great time, never mind the city’s constant traffic woes. From the best microbreweries to pulsating music venues, Bangalore has the most chilled-out places to party in.
Arbor Brewing Company, Magrath RoadABC serves some exemplary craft beers like a Salted Caramel Porter, Bloomsbury and Detroit Swing. A favourite with the ad crowd, the 90s music pairs well with the brewpub’s comfort food. Sweet potato fries, spicy pork chops, chicken wings. Sometimes your heart just wants it.
The Humming Tree, IndiranagarSome of the city’s best live gigs take place here. This is where you head, with or without your gang, for a taste of Bengaluru’s legendary music scene. They encourage local artists like Dingus Cheer as well as global bigwigs like Skrillex and Mark Ronson. Of course you don’t really go for the food here but the pizzas and pitchers of beer are more than decent.
Toit, IndiranagarWe’ll have the thin-crust pizza with the basmati blond beer. This brick-walled microbrewery may not have the best selection of craft beers in the city but the never-ending crowd says otherwise. Nevertheless, you’ll be mad to miss out on their baked nachos and the Long Beach Iced Tea, which they’ve mastered to a T.
The Terrace at Windmills Craftworks, WhitefieldWhy party indoors when the weather is almost perfect? Drink exquisite, expensive crafted beer and then let loose on the imaginative buffet.
The 13th Floor, MG RoadMake your way here for the best views of the city’s skyline, wind-swept hair and some ingenious cocktails. Skip the menu and ask for gunpowder eggs, the ultimate chilly beef and The Devil Wore Pink. That last one is a drink, and it’s rather nice.
Where to stay in Bengaluru
The Taj West End, Race Course Road. It’s a no-brainer. If you can afford it, this is the place that reflects all that’s genteel about Bangalore. High ceilinged rooms, an old rain tree planted way back in 1848, exotic birds waking you in the morning, and one of the best spas in the city. Escape Hotel and Spa, Indiranagar: Located in buzzing Indiranagar, home to the city’s best restaurants and drinking holes, this hip hotel is more than proud of its Mediterranean-styled terrace restaurant, Bricklane. End your meal with the south Indian coffee brulee. Coffee in a desert bowl—so very Bangalore.
jüSTa, off MG RoadThe hotel's location is the clincher, right next to the MG Road metro station, which means travelling to the business district will be easy. Opt for the surprisingly quiet luxury rooms for a view of the trees and the peaceful lane outside the hotel. Fashion designer Deepika Govind has handpicked furniture and added style to this boutique hotel. Casa Cottage, off Richmond Road: Run by an Indo-French couple this is a refurbished 1915 heritage cottage. The trees that were found on site still stand and provide the owners with delicious avocados every year. Room tip: Ask for one on ground level since the spiral staircase can be a challenge and remember, it’s a lovingly restored English bungalow, not a flashy hotel.
Aloft Bengaluru Cessna Business ParkZipping through the city on a business trip or carefree vacation? Check into this hotel at the Cessna Business Park, an IT hub that’s home to companies such as Cisco, and feel right at home. Everything about it spells geek, from the high-speed wi-fi in public areas to the electronic ticker in the lobby that scrolls fun bits of trivia. Re:fuel, the food and beverage area at reception level is great for visitors who just want to pick up a sandwich or coffee and head for their next meeting.
Villa Pottipatti, MalleswaramIn the heart of one of the oldest parts of Bangalore–Malleswaram, this property offers traditional living at its best. Browse through the markets for a bit of local culture and round it up with a benne dosa and filter coffee at nearby CTR.
Getaways from Bangalore
You can never get tired of Bangalore. But if you do, here are some places worth venturing out for:
HampiYou can do so much more than gawk at the wondrous ruins at this UNESCO heritage site. Cliff diving, coracle rides, cycling tours, the list goes on.
MangaloreThe beaches are a treat here. So is the seafood. The Mangaladevi temple has a celebrity following and don’t leave without sampling the city’s unique ice cream: gadbad.
YercaudJust five hours away from the city, this is an as yet undiscovered little hillstation.
ChikmagulurGo if only to relax at some of the loveliest homestays in this part of India. And of course for the single estate coffee.
6E and cheeky
If you want to stop being a tourist, here’s a list of unusual things to do in Bengaluru. Wake up at 6 am and do the Russell Market walk. Built in 1927 by the British, this market is beautiful and chaotic. Buy fish, crabs, veggies, flowers and fresh local produce, if you’re up for cooking while in the city. A bit of de-stressing is on the cards, we think? Uber a ride to Soukya, a lush, 30-acre facility meant for those with serious ailments as well as those who want to experience the good life. Celebrity guests include the likes of the Dalai Lama, the Duchess of Cornwall, Sting, Tina Turner and the late George Harrison and Pandit Ravi Shankar. You’ve been so good, it’s time to relax with a glass of wine and ponder about its origins. Take a tour of 410 acres of vineyards at the Grover Zampa plantation, followed by an impressive lunch and wine-sampling with the Nandi Hills as a backdrop. Hic!
Now how about experiencing the real thing and fly high over the city the next morning. Book a ticket for a microlight flying experience at the Jakkur Airfield. Sit in the cockpit and fly over the garden city as a co-pilot. End the day by dining at the concept restaurant Dialogue in the Dark, in Whitefield. Served by visually challenged staff, the mission of the restaurant is to sensitise diners to the visually impaired while having a thoroughly immaculate dining experience in complete darkness. You know what they say: in darkness, there shall be light.