It’s known as India’s Silicon Valley and, with its young techie population, Bengaluru (formerly known as Bangalore and renamed in 2014), is as hip as it is hectic. But scratch the glitzy urban surface and you’ll find a culturally rich city with a vibrant arts scene and unexpected historical treasures. And while you could easily spend a few days whizzing through the capital of Karnataka state, it’s also an ideal gateway city to the rest of south India. Not sure where to start? Here are the best things to see and do in Bangalore, from lakes and palaces to trendy bars and breweries.
Best things to do in Bangalore
Explore historical palaces
Tipu Sultan was the ruler of the kingdom of Mysore until it was ceded to British colonialists in the 18th century. Get a glimpse into the extravagant lives of Indian royalty at the Tipu Sultan’s Summer Palace, an impressive example of Indo-Islamic architecture. Bangalore Palace is another architectural marvel located in the heart of the city. Built in 1878, the Tudor-style palace is surrounded by more than 160 hectares of landscaped gardens and also plays host to art and culture events.
Visit the temples
Expect to be wowed at Nandi Temple, also known as Bull Temple, dedicated to… yep, you guessed it, a sacred bull. Built in the 16th century, it showcases traditional temple architecture and is home to a monumental idol of Hindu demi-god Nandi, made from a single piece of granite.
For a different spiritual experience, head to the stunning International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) temple in the north-west of the city. While the Hare Krishna society has temples all over the world, including in Australia, this is one of the world’s largest.
Soak up nature
Bangalore once enjoyed the title of “garden city” and, while the busy streets may belie that moniker today, it is still home to some beautiful pockets of green. The Lalbagh Botanical Garden, considered the lungs of the city, is home to thousands of varieties of plants, including some rare species, and birdlife. Ulsoor Lake is another tranquil inner-city spot, popular with local runners and picnickers alike.
Make time for some retail therapy
MG Road is the arterial street in the CBD where it all happens. Together with nearby Commercial Street and Brigade Road, it makes up the city’s main shopping precinct, where you’ll find malls, designer boutiques and street stalls offering everything from knock-off designer goods to handicrafts. If you’re after traditional finds – and are prepared to brave the multi-sensory rush – head to Chickpet market for silk saris and jewellery.
Get your arts fix
Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath is an arts hub that’s home to multiple museums and permanent galleries, including local folk art, as well as a roster of shows featuring contemporary local artists. Also worth visiting is the state-run National Gallery of Modern Art, situated in a heritage mansion amid a lush garden.
Where to eat (and drink) in Bangalore
Bangalore has one of the liveliest pub cultures in India and the popularity of the pubs of the early noughties has now given way to microbreweries. Brigade Road and Church Street in the CBD are home to numerous nightspots, making them ideal for a bar crawl, while Indiranagar is another trendy neighbourhood where you’ll find cool cafés and restaurants. Check out Toit, a brewpub in Indiranagar, to try creations such as the ‘Benga-lager-u’ and comfort food such as wood-fired pizza.
For a special dining experience, head out of the city to Farmlore, a sustainable restaurant set within a mango orchard committed to using hyper-local produce in gourmet creations.
Whatever you do, don’t miss a visit to Mavalli Tiffin Rooms, fondly known as MTR. A local institution, this casual chain is beloved for its traditional dosas and idlis. Its devoted global fan base has led to the chain opening overseas outposts everywhere from Singapore to London.
Where to stay in Bangalore
For the ultimate in opulent luxury, look no further than the Leela Palace Bengaluru, a hotel designed to replicate the historic Mysore Palace. The awe-inspiring architecture and interiors are complemented by unparalleled service, and interconnecting rooms make it ideal for families.
If you’re after a city-centre location, check in to The Park Bangalore, one of eight properties from this homegrown boutique luxury chain that oozes grown-up glam.