ENJOY A BANGALORE BIRIYANI
- Try a gently spiced coal-cooked biriyani
- Ride in an auto rickshaw
- Smell, and shoot some roses
Taj hotel in Shivaji Nagar looks nothing like the monument after which it is named. This crowded neighbourhood is best accessed by an auto rickshaw if you are up for the ride. The service is fast; the cooking slow. The biriyani gets its fragrance from the short-grained rice cooked over coals, the melt-in-the-mouth mutton or chicken, and is lightly spiced with cloves, cardamom and cinnamon. Vegetarians and vegans can opt for a masala dosa at Hotel Ashoka nearby.
Work off your food or work up an appetite by walking through Russell Market. Housed in a Colonial-style building, this market sells fruits, vegetables, fish, fresh-cut meats, and best of all, fragrant rose, tuberose, marigold and jasmine garlands that are strung by men with lightening hands. Great for photo buffs.
VISIT THE STREET WHERE ALL OF BANGALORE COMES TO SHOP
- Buy bangles, bindis, baubles and breakfast all in one shot
- Tailor or buy a traditional Indian kurta or sari blouse
- Punctuate this with fresh-cut guavas
Commercial Street, the saying goes, sells everything except your Mom and Dad. Ten minutes by car from the hotel, you can spend an hour or five over here buying things you didn’t know you needed— like peacock fans, wooden drums, puppet strings and pots from vendors who trawl the streets. Shops open only at 11 am and the best ones open at noon so there’s no need to rush. Wander through the alleys and you will find tiny shops selling cheap costume jewellery, glass bangles, bindis (that Indian women wear on their forehead), sandals, and hair clips. Men on bicycles peddle baskets of fresh guavas. Those with strong stomachs can have the fruits cut right there (wash them with bottled water if you like), and dusted with salt and red chili powder. Several shops like Lal’s and Salone sell silk and cotton fabrics by the yard. For a quintessential Indian experience, buy a metre or two of fabrics and ask the shop to guide you to a tailor down the street. Many stitch a kurta or blouse (for saris or other clothes) in a day– or if pushed, several hours. Designing a blouse or kurta while sitting across a tailor is something every Indian has experienced.
Another option is to visit Brigade Road with an ethos similar to the one described above.
VISIT A MUSEUM THAT ONCE WAS A HOME
- Wander through the old raintrees that define Bangalore
- Commune with art
The National Gallery of Modern Art is housed in a lovely white mansion that once used was the home of the Velu family, whose descendants still live in the area. It was once called Manickyavelu Mansion (yes, quite a mouthful) after the patriarch. Today, it has a rotating roster of shows and exhibits that include global, national and Indian artists. The manageable size of the museum means that you can duck in and out in an hour while en route to the airport, or spend three hours wandering through its quiet rooms and verdant yard. Visit the small temple next door that is dedicated to the Hindu monkey god, Hanuman. Across the street in an alley is Shruti Nandan, which has yoga classes in the mornings and occasional music concerts in the evenings. This too is housed in a lovely home with red oxide floors.
VISIT A CHILDREN’S BOOKSTORE, A CARTOONIST, AND A PARK
- Visit Bangalore’s best children’s bookstore
- Laugh over some cartoons depicting Bangalore of yore
- Walk through a neighbourhood park or have a coffee
Lightroom, tucked away in Cooke Town is Bangalore’s best children’s bookstore. Here, you will discover book that are not found anywhere in India. Some are not to be found anywhere else in the world. Curated by a passionate bibliophile, Lightroom is a haven for tired and cranky children (and adults) who can browse, or buy picture books on Indian folk art, mythology as well as good story books. Apaulogy is the gallery of Paul Fernandes, Bangalore’s beloved cartoonist (and brother of Susan Fernandes who owns Anu & Susan—written about in the one-hour shopping section). Wander through his wonderfully whimsical and compact gallery to learn about, and laugh at Bangalore through the ages. Richards Park epitomizes the neighbourhood parks that used to dot the city. Walk through the park to Corner House ice cream or Happy Belly Bakes bakery for cookies. On the way back, stop at Cinnamon, a well-curated boutique that has stores selling contemporary Indian saris (Raw Mango), lovely embroidered kurtas (Ahilya), yoga apparel, a café, and homewear.
WALK OR RUN AMONG TRESS THAT WERE SOURCED FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD
- Take a nature walk in Lalbagh
- Stand on one of Bangalore’s oldest rock formation
- Eat at an iconic restaurant
Lalbagh, beloved of Bangaloreans is a 240-acre park that– depending on time of day, will take you 15 minutes or 45 to get to. Like most parks, dawn and dusk are its peak hours for running, walking or people-watching. Two men: a Sultan and a German were responsible for creating this park. Tipu Sultan hired Gustav Krumbiegal, a German horticulturist to source trees from all over the world. Nature buffs will recognize these fruiting and flowering trees from Madagascar, Peru and Australia. Birdwatchers can look for egrets, spotted owlets, barbets, ducks, and dozens other species—carry your binoculars. Amateur geologists or mere rock-climbers can clamber over a rock formation that is 3.4 billion years old– dating back to Precambrian times. After the cacophonous traffic, Lalbagh is just a nice place to decompress.
Most people walk or run through Lalbagh and then have a coffee or breakfast at the iconic Bangalore eatery, MTR or Mavalli Tiffin Rooms. Try the soft spongy rava idlis or the crisp dosas.
VISIT A CONTEMPORARY GALLERIA AND HAVE A CRAFT BEER AFTER
- Buy or browse through local and global luxury brands
- Buy jewelry
- iHave a Indian, Pan-Asian, Mediterranean, or Mexican meal
UB City is where affluent Bangalore comes to shop, eat and drink. Global luxury brands like Ferragamo, LVMH, and Tumi have their stores here, as does Apple and Samsung. The café level has a number of popular and good restaurants. Pick a cuisine and walk in. The high footfall (and rents) ensure quality.
More interesting perhaps are the luxury Indian brands that dot this neighbourhood. Across the street in a discreet beige building is Bangalore best jeweler, Ganjam. Walk in to see exquisite diamond, gemstones, and gold, set in amazing—and expensive—designs. If Umesh Ganjam, the owner, is at hand, pepper him with questions about the heritage of India, which happens to be his passion. Round the corner from UB City are Forest Essentials for fragrant Indian skin and hair potions and Good Earth, which curates and sells some of Indian most innovative designs and products.
The area is also home to buzzing bars, brewpubs and stand-alone restaurant. Biere Club for beer, Sunny’s, Toscano or Fava for excellent Mediterranean, and Bootlegger or Skyye bar for cocktails.
LISTEN TO A CONCERT OR ATTEND A DANCE PERFORMANCE
- Listen to live music
- Dance the night away
- Shop for clothes
Bangalore was once called “Pub City,” for its drinking culture. 100 Feet road in the Indragar neighbourhood is ten minutes away by car. Go after dinner for live music, poetry readings, and if you are in the mood for it, dancing. Take 5 is a music bar that obviously alludes to Dave Brubeck– it has live music. Humming Tree does music too, but also poetry and stand up comedy. Toit is a brewpub with a variety of draught beers. Walk into any of the high-end shops that line the road for clothes. Dance the night away at Black Night or Loft.