The IT industry and the pubs that Bangalore is known for today, are highly incongruous with the humble origins of this glitzy metropolis. Historians believe that the area on which Bangalore stands today was probably inhabited even during the Stone Age and Iron Age! Much later, a succession of dynasties such as the Hoysalas and the Talakadu Gangas occupied Bangalore, before giving way to Tipu Sultan and subsequently, the British. For the British, Bangalore was one of their important cantonments in South India. They have left behind a fine legacy, mainly in the form of exquisite churches and other buildings. Several of these can be seen even today. From being a ‘pensioner’s paradise’ in the ‘70s and ‘80s, Bangalore has morphed into a bustling, multi-ethnic centre of commerce and education today.
Here’s a two day plan for you to sample some of what the city has to offer. We hope that this will make you return to the city soon for a second helping!
- 9 AM – Breakfast at Koshy’s
When in Bangalore, do as the Brits did. Have a breakfast that harks back to the time when the Burra Sahibs and their ladies used to pick up knife and fork, dressed in their daily best. The crowd at Koshy’s today is very modern and arty, but the building, the décor and the food all retain an old-world air. The waiters here do have a stiff upper lip, but if you ignore that and focus on the sausages, cutlets, omelettes and ‘full English’ breakfast, you will feel justifiably happy. Koshy’s is on St. Mark’s Road, close to where the road meets M.G. Road.
- 10:30 AM – Tipu Sultan’s Fort and Summer Palace
This is a gem hiding in plain view. The Summer Palace is situated bang in the middle of the city – next to the City Market – yet most Bangaloreans themselves don’t know its location. Its teak pillars and frescoes make for an interesting study. The ruins of Tipu’s fort lie close by.
- 12:30 PM – Commercial Street
One of the most popular street markets in Bangalore, Commercial Street is a good place from where to buy clothes, shoes, jewellery, furnishing and trinkets at reasonable prices. Bargain hard, as you would in most other markets of India.
- 1:30 PM – Lunch at Mathsya
Mathsya opened just over a year ago, but became almost an overnight hit. An all-vegetarian affair, the food is memorable, and is served graciously and generously. While they have an excellent a la carte menu, the better choice would be their buffet. Offering a wide and interesting spread that varies from day to day, this is superb value for money. Mathsya is situated on Church Street, which runs parallel to M.G. Road.
3 PM – Browse at the old bookstores such as Bookworm, Blossom’s and Select Bookstore
Time was, when the Church Street-M.G.Road-Brigade Road district used to be dotted with bookstores. Most of them have vanished, which is why you should dive into at least one of these three stores. For all you know, they may be running on borrowed time. Each of them offers a wide and eclectic range of books from crime thrillers to medieval art to classical literature. It helps that the store owners are book lovers who can have an intelligent conversation with you, should you be so inclined.
- 5 PM – Rangoli Metro Art Center
This is situated right next to the M.G. Road Metro station, and is a good, if rare, example of a thoughtful project undertaken by the city’s administration in recent times. It was built as part of the restoration of the MG Road boulevard. It is fast becoming a hub for activities related to culture, photography and art. Photo and painting exhibitions, multi-media installations and monthly Drum Jams (where a random crowd assembles and starts drumming together) are held here. End your visit with a few moments amidst the foliage on the walkway and have filter coffee at Dasaprakash.
- 6:00 PM – St. Andrew’s Church
Feel the din of traffic fade away as you gaze up at the beautiful red building of this church, with its tall belfry and chiming clock. This 150 year old church is a fine example of Gothic architecture, as interpreted and followed by the orthodox Scottish Presbytarians. This was the central place of worship for the Scottish Regiment of the British Army stationed in Bangalore all those years ago. Spend a couple of hours taking in the architecture, the stunning stained glass work and the trees in the compound. One of the few remaining pipe organs in the world can be found here.
- 8:30 pm – Dinner at Hyderabad Biryani House
There are a lot of pretenders, but the one we are talking about is located in Victoria Layout, near the Lifestyle store. The pale blue-green building is unpretentious, but the biryani served inside (including the vegetarian version) is worth killing for. It is perfectly spiced and cooked, without an overdose of oil. And the mirchi ka salan, which is served along with the biryani, must rank among the best in India.
- 9 AM – Breakfast at New Krishna Bhavan (NKB)
Start the day with breakfast at one of the best restaurants for South Indian food in Bangalore. New Krishna Bhavan is actually quite old. It is located on Sampige Road in Malleshwaram, diagonally opposite the Mantri Square Mall. Wade into crisp vadas, soft Kotte Kadubus and fragrant rava khichdi, before you wash them down with superb filter coffee. This simple eatery is extremely popular with the locals, and has every reason to be so.
- 10 AM – Karnataka Chithrakala Parishath
Chithrakala Parishath is Bangalore’s premier center for the arts. The complex on Kumara Krupa Road near the Golf Course houses a good collection of traditional Mysore paintings, leather puppets and sculptures. Some of the paintings of the famed Russian painter Svetoslav Roerich are also kept here. On most days, you are likely to find an exhibition, a workshop and a performance of folk art going on here. Some works of art are available for sale.
- 1 PM – Lunch at 13th Floor
As the name suggests, this roof-top restaurant is perched on the thirteenth floor of Barton Centre (on M.G. Road). Since the weather in Bangalore is pleasant for most part of the year, you can enjoy your meal at one of the tables laid out on the terrace. The hawk’s-eye view of central Bangalore is a unique and perfect accompaniment to lunch. 13th Floor offers Indian, Asian and Mediterranean cuisines; take your pick.
UB City is the grandest place for leisure and entertainment in the heart of Bangalore. It has a luxury mall (with stores of Louis Vitton, Canali, Jimmy Choo, Bang & Olufsen, etc.), a performance arena, a few spas, restaurants and watering holes. A great place for retail therapy and a drink.
Hop on the Metro for a jaunty ride. The 7 km stretch from M.G. Road to Bayyapanahalli runs on an elevated track and gives you a good view of the city’s roads and buildings. You will see the Trinity Church, the lush lawns of the army-owned Ranjitsinhji Institute, the temples of Ulsoor and the periphery of Indira Nagar. You can get down at Bayyapanahalli and take the next train back to M.G. Road.
- 7 pm – Take in a play or a concert
If you are in the mood for a play, head to Ranga Shankara in J.P. Nagar. This is the pre-eminent venue for plays in Bangalore. Ranga Shankara stages a wide repertoire of excellent plays in different languages. To attend a concert, the Chowdiah Memorial Hall in Vyalikaval would probably be your best bet, though there are other good venues too. Check the listings in the day’s newspaper or ask your hotel for help.
- 9:30 pm – Dinner at Thindi Beedi
The people who named this place Thindi Beedi couldn’t have chosen a more apt name, because this is actually a street full of food carts and stand-up eateries. In Kannada, Thindi Beedi means Food Street. Bangalore’s ode to street food wakes up in the evening and is in action until way past midnight. Here, you will get roasted and sweet corn, bondas and bajjis of different kinds, regional specialties like the Davangere Benne Dosa, Neer Dosa and Akki Roti, pav bhaji and vada pav. Chase them down with desserts like Gulkhand, Holige, Falooda, Kulfi and ice cream. Thindi Beedi is situated in V.V. Puram, very close to Sajjan Rao Circle. Don’t miss this experience.
Do not miss
St. Mark’s Cathedral
A shade over two centuries old, this church has some excellent Roman arches, woodwork and ornate carvings. And large dollops of peace. The Cathedral is on M.G. Road, opposite Cubbon Park.
A commune situated about 30 kms outside Bangalore, Nrityagram is a dance school which follows the gurukul tradition. Founded by the late dancer Protima Bedi, it is situated amidst beautiful surroundings in Hesaraghatta.
If you are in the mood for a quick getaway to the hills, Nandi Hills is a good bet. Just 65 kms from Bangalore, Nandi Hills makes for an easy day trip. Try to watch the sunrise or sunset from there.
Flea markets aka Santhes
Bangalore has quite a few exciting flea markets like the Sunday Soul Santhe and the Lil Flea. Ask a local friend or your hotel to help you find one. Or, check the internet.