Welcome to modern India. As the capital of the nation’s IT industry, Bangalore (also called Bengaluru) is known as the “Silicon Valley of India”. A tolerant and cosmopolitan metropolis, in India’s third-largest city (population 10 million and counting) you’ll meet upwardly mobile professionals and trendy students at a surprisingly Western selection of pubs, clubs, restaurants and shopping malls.
But while Bangalore has changed in recent decades, it hasn’t forgotten its past. Indian classical music and dance thrives here, and the temperate climate, wide streets and numerous public parks make this southern beauty thoroughly deserving of another of its nicknames: “the Garden City of India”.
The 120-hectare Cubbon Park and 100-hectare Lalbagh Botanical Garden are among the best of Bangalore’s green spaces, and great places for taking a breather from the pollution and overcrowding of urban India.
Historical monuments include Bangalore Palace (a remnant of the Raj, inspired by England’s Windsor Castle) and the Indo-Islamic architecture of Tipu Sultan’s Palace and Fort, which, along with the Jumma Masjid (the city’s oldest mosque), is located near the colourful Krishna Rajendra Market (aka City Market).
For family entertainment, there’s the Wonderland Amusement Park, the Jawaharlal Nehru Planetarium, and Innovative Film City, a mini-Universal Studios that celebrates the vibrant local film industry. You can visit many of Bangalore’s attractions on the Hop On, Hop Off (HOHO) municipal bus service.
Eat and Drink
Bangalore may have got its name from Bendakalooru (“the town of boiled beans”, after the legend of King Veeraballa of Vijayanagara, who got lost in a forest and met an old woman who gave him beans for dinner), but today the city offers an exciting global food selection.
The Mavalli Tiffin Rooms on Lal Bagh Road provides a classic Bangalore eating experience, specialising in vegetarian fare such as masala dosas. For street food, try “Food Street”, or Thindi Beedhi, in VV Puram, and sample a coconut biscuit at the iconic VB Bakery while you’re there.
Also, you really should investigate the craft breweries, English pubs and other drinking establishments that gave Bangalore one of its other nicknames: the “Pub Capital of India”. The Indiranagar neighbourhood alone has more than 200 pubs and restaurants.
Where to Stay
A number of five-star hotels can be found in the busy entertainment district around Mahatma Gandhi Road (usually called MG Road). Luxury hotels, upmarket health retreats, golf resorts and even an underground cave resort have also been established in quieter parts of Bangalore, and out near the airport.
The racecourse area is also home to some high-end as well as mid-range hotels. Good, cheap accommodation isn’t as easy to find in this prosperous city as it is in other parts of India, but if you’re on a tight budget the areas around the bus terminus and City Market have lower-priced options.
Bangalore produces some of the best silk in the world, and if you’re looking for a silk sari, or any other silk clothing for that matter, wander down MG Road, where you’ll also find local sandalwood and rosewood carvings and other handicrafts. For a shopping trip around India without leaving Bangalore, go to Residency Road, where various Indian states have government-run handicraft showrooms.
Brigade Road is well known for its electronics and fashion, and Western-style malls are popping up all over the city. For a more traditional experience, City Market is another place to buy silk, and is also considered Asia’s biggest flower market. It’s a photogenic venue for some early-morning hustle and bustle.
Bangalore Like a Local
The arts are alive and well in Bangalore, and the city’s well-educated population loves to get out and about to theatres, music bars, art exhibitions and comedy nights, enjoying performances and exhibitions that might not go down so well in more conservative parts of India. Look out for live roots music at venues such as CounterCulture and the Humming Tree; jazz at Windmills Craftworks; and stand-up comedy at Kyra.
You can also enjoy Western and Indian classical music at venues including Alliance Francaise, JSS Auditorium and the Indian Heritage Academy. If you’re planning a longer stay, classical music lessons are widely available.