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The complete guide to Chandigarh

Modern India’s first planned city, Chandigarh has everything you could ask for. Designed by French architect Le Corbusier in 1950, its broad boulevards, lakes, gardens and civic buildings make you feel like there’s a little bit of Europe in India. Here’s how to make the most of your stay in Chandigarh

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What to See and Do in Chandigarh

With a little planning and a Chandigarh map in hand, it isn’t hard to cover the city’s stand-out cultural offerings in a day or two. First time visitors generally head for Le Corbusier's collection of public buildings to get a feel of the city’s architectural core. Situated in Sector 1 and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, The Capitol Complex is made up of a lake and some splendid buildings: The Palace of Assembly, The Secretariat, The High Court as well as The Open Hand Monument—all of which are classic pieces of 1950s architecture that are typified by their brutal lines and acres of sweeping concrete.

For a quick recap of the city’s history, stroll down to The Government Museum and Art Gallery. This crowd-pleasing museum showcases documents, sketches and photos of Le Corbusier—stunning examples of 20th century architecture and design.

Among all the places to visit in Chandigarh, a visit to Nek Chand’s Rock Garden has to top your to-do list, here. This Instagrammable garden is the complete opposite of Le Corbusier’s modernism—it’s humane, welcoming and imperfect. A creation of a local government official who, starting in 1957, spent almost 20 years building more than 2,000 sculptures with urban waste.

While the Rock Garden gets all the attention, you must spare some time for Leisure Valley—a patchwork of stunning gardens, paths and lakes. This 7km-long stretch of green serves as the lungs of the city. It begins from Sector 1 and snakes its way around Sukhna lake (on hot summer days, this can get more crowded than the city’s other watering holes), which then leads you to the Zakir Hussain Rose Garden and from there onward to the Topiary Park and the Garden of Fragrance—giving locals a brilliant fitness trail and tourists a breath of fresh air.

End the day on a more dramatic note by watching a thought-provoking play at Tagore Theatre in Sector 18, and then head to one of Chandigarh’s many famous restaurants for a meal you won’t forget. If you’d like an extended trip, there are many places to visit near Chandigarh such as Kasol, Shimla and others.

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Where to Eat

There’s more to the Punjabi fare than sarson ka saag and makki di roti. Here are a few unfussy restaurants that serve up delicious food.

  • Pal Dhaba, Sector 28

    Is this the best place to have butter chicken when in Chandigarh? If Bollywood stars and the locals are to be believed, the answer is a resounding yes. The aloo paratha drenched in desi butter, the keema kaleji and the missi roti are all bestsellers.
  • Nik Baker’s, multiple locations

    Like the best bakeries in the world, you can smell the freshly baked bread and waffles a mile away. Breakfast is where you can do a bit of people watching here over the fluffiest ham and chicken omelettes. Sink your teeth into buttery croissants, lamb burgers, and sinful pastries. And buy a bag of tequila-filled chocolates for the night. The perfect way to spend your bread, if you ask us.
  • Whistling Duck, Sector 26

    If you want to serenade your lover with a live band playing your song request under a starry sky, you now know where to go. Whistling Duck (there are no ducks on the menu though—we’re Punjabis) is a striking, sun-filled place. It ain’t easy to find the restaurant but once you do, it’s hard to leave without trying their experimental menu: the quirky karela salad, burnt butter mounted chicken and apple and cinnamon kheer are all standouts. This is certainly one of the unique places in Chandigarh to try some unique dishes.
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What to Buy

Browse for everything Punjab at Phulkari, the state-run emporium located at Sector 17. Surprisingly affordable in a city where new money is perpetually on show, here you’ll find handmade jootis, phulkari (an embroidery unique to Punjab) dupattas and gorgeous wooden furniture. What else to buy? Adaah Couture, at Sector 8-C, is the go-to place for bridal and traditional womenswear. An elegant home to the best Indian designers in Chandigarh: this is where the latest collections of Tarun Tahiliani, Rohit Bal, JJ Vallaya and Sunit Verma can be spotted.

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Where to Stay in Chandigarh

Busy and bustling with life, this city makes for a brilliant if exhausting holiday. Here are some of the best hotels in Chandigarh where you can relax at the end of a packed day.

  • Taj Chandigarh, Sector 17

    Given its enviable location right in the heart of the city, this hotel in Chandigarh is the first choice for business travellers. The fact that it houses the Lava Bar, a favourite local hang out, adds to its appeal. Insider tip: ask for a room with a view of the city’s spectacular rose garden.
  • JW Marriott Hotel Chandigarh, Sector 35

    Situated in the city's business district, near Sector 17, the Marriott’s biggest draw is its rooftop pool. With amazing views of the city, soundproof windows, and spacious bathrooms—you’ll never want to leave.
  • Medallion Chandigarh, Zirakpur

    This hotel makes for a very good option if you have business to finish in the industrial belt around Chandigarh, or if you are a tourist on your way to Himachal Pradesh or Amritsar. The trendy hotel has a multi-cuisine restaurant, a funky bar and lounge space and a 24x7 pantry. Best of all, it has a wheelchair-friendly room for differently abled guests.
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6E and Cheeky

You’ve done the sights, taken in the views. It’s time now to satiate that adventure bug in you. Anyone who feels Chandigarh doesn’t have any secret haunts is in for a prickly surprise. Come along then. Think of Chandigarh and beautiful landscaped gardens come to mind. But how about a garden that’s all thorny and desert-life like? The botanist, who doesn’t much care for flowers will fall in love with Sarkaria Cactus Garden (it’s Asia’s largest) in neighbouring Panchkula: breeze through more than 200 species that are spread across seven acres of endangered spiked plants and fresh blooms will look boring. Yes, bouquets of cacti are what the world needs. Save the roses for the ex. From prickly plants to thrilling rides. The adventure seeker should check out the Kikar Lodge nestled in the foothills of the Shivaliks, about 90 minutes away from the city. Sign up for the zip-line tour that lasts for two hours—outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy splendid aerial views of the forest beneath. If you’re planning to making a holiday of it, book one of the resort’s inviting cottages spread over 1,800 acres! And the last stop of your trip just has to be the International Dolls Museum, Sector 23, to see a range of handmade dolls from all over the country. Unleash your inner child.

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