Few Indian cities have transformed as rapidly since Indian independence as Bengaluru. Once India’s modestly sized ‘Garden City’, Bengaluru is now a lively, happening metropolis, and a major IT hub to boot. Aside from cosmopolitan nightlife and café scenes, this clean and relatively calm city has lots to lure visitors including royal palaces, Raj-era architecture and ample greenery.
Bengaluru’s narrow, pot-holed and occasionally absent pavements are in need of work, hence walking is not always the best choice. Instead, try using the modern air-conditioned metro lines and, for where they don’t go, bus. Autorickshaws are taxis are both viable alternatives.
Though much of Bengaluru is dominated by the commercial and new, the central district retains its Raj-era good looks. Among the most striking landmarks left behind by the British is Bangalore Palace, a 19th-century structured modelled on England’s Windsor Castle. Other even older traces of Bengaluru’s past can be seen at the Tipu Sultan’s Summer Palace, an exquisitely carved teak structure once occupied by the 18th-century ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore.
Bengaluru was once known as ‘the Garden City’, and despite the recent deluge of construction, it’s not short on green space. The most prized open-air site is the vast Cubbon Park, where bamboo groves, flowers and birdlife make the harried streets of the nearby business district seem far away.
Those who want to dive into the city’s spiritual life should make a beeline for the 17th-century Kote Venkataramana Temple. The striking Hare Krishna Iskcon Temple, which blends traditional and ultra-modern architectural styles, is a newer, though no less fascinating addition to the city’s collection of religious monuments.
For an entertaining if somewhat chaotic glimpse into local life, plunge into the crowds of Krishnarajendra Market. With shouting vendors, nostril-tweaking aromas and a rainbow-colored assortment of fruit, vegetables and spices, much of the pleasure comes from simply absorbing the flurry of activity here.
Less than three hour’s south of the city lies India’s second-largest waterfall: Shivasamudram Falls. Here, sheets of water plunge down rocky cliffs sending up a fine misty spray high into the air. With the verdant forests of the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary surrounding the falls, they are a jaw-dropping spectacle indeed.
Another possible destination for a day excursion is Ramadevara Betta Hill. Bollywood buffs know this spot as a filming location from beloved ‘70s blockbuster 'Sholay', and day-trippers come here to hike the rocky terrain. Keep an eye on the skies above, where long-billed vultures have been known to occasionally fly by.
Like many fast-growing cities, the dining options in Bengaluru are increasingly globalised. If you wanted to, you could feast for weeks without ever having any local food pass your lips. But oh, how regrettable that would be! South Indian vegetarian food dominates the menu here; highlights include soft, spongy idlis (savoury steamed rice cakes), masala dosa (rice pancakes packed with spiced potatoes and chutney) and paddu (black lentil and rice dumplings). Cafés are everywhere in Bangalore and while espresso-based coffees are widely available, the more authentic order would be South Indian filter coffee, which is typically made using an Arabica-chicory blend.