Cosmopolitan Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore) is one of India's most progressive and developed cities, blessed with a benevolent climate, a modern metro system, and a burgeoning drinking, dining and shopping scene. Its creature comforts are a godsend to the weary traveler who has done the hard yards off the beaten track, and it's a great city for mixing with locals in craft-beer joints or quirky independent cafes. Though there are no world-class sights, you'll find lovely parks and striking Victorian-era architecture.
The past decade or so has seen a huge surge of development, coupled with traffic congestion and rising pollution levels. But the central district (dating back to the British colonial years) remains little changed, and the landmark corporate headquarters and business parks of the city's booming IT industry are mostly in the outer suburbs.
These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Bengaluru (Bangalore).
In the heart of Bengaluru’s business district is Cubbon Park, a well-maintained 120-hectare garden where Bengaluru’s residents converge to steal a moment from the rat race that rages outside. The gardens encompass the red-painted Gothic-style State Central Library. Unfortunately, Cubbon is not completely closed to traffic, except on Sundays, when there are concerts, fun runs, yoga and even a small farmers market.
For a taste of traditional urban India, dive into the bustling, gritty Krishnarajendra Market and the dense grid of commercial streets that surround it. Weave your way around the lively, colourful stalls, past fresh produce, piles of vibrant dyes, spices and copper ware. The vibrant flower market in the centre is the highlight.
Housed in a century-old mansion – the former vacation home of the raja of Mysuru – this world-class art museum showcases an impressive permanent collection (and exhibitions). The Old Wing exhibits works from pre-Independence, including paintings by Raja Ravi Varma and Abanindranath Tagore. Connected by a pedestrian bridge, the sleek New Wing focuses on contemporary post-Independence works by artists including Sudhir Patwardhan and Vivan Sundaram. Guided walks (11.30am Wednesday, 3pm Saturday) are a great way to learn about the museum's highlights.
Recently restored to its former glory thanks to the financial might of Samsung, the British-era Opera House has been transformed into a temple of tech, complete with virtual-reality experiences and gleaming displays of smartphones and notebooks. Commendably, the original structure has been sensitively renovated, its beautiful interior combining twin colonnades, an elegant curved balcony and a stage framed by classical columns. There's a cafe, and you can book the home-theatre zone to watch a film.
For a peek into India’s aeronautical history, visit this wonderful museum past the old airport, where you can see some of the indigenous aircraft models designed by HAL. Interesting exhibits include a MIG-21, home-grown models such as the Marut and Kiran, and a vintage Canberra bomber.
A superb gallery with a wide range of Indian and international contemporary art, as well as permanent displays of Mysuru-style paintings and folk and tribal pieces from across Asia. A section is devoted to the works of Russian master Nicholas Roerich, known for his vivid paintings of the Himalaya. The Pan Indian Panorama collection includes progressive art from SG Vasudev and Yusuf Arakkal.
Spread over 98 hectares of landscaped terrain, these expansive gardens were laid out in 1760 by famous ruler Hyder Ali. As well as amazing centuries-old trees, it has very diverse species of plant – check out the bonsai, giant silk-cotton tree and Japanese gardens. Try to visit in the early morning for the bird chorus. You can take a tour here with Bangalore Walks.
A worthwhile stopover between Bengaluru and Mysuru, this museum is dedicated to the preservation of local rural culture. It has a wonderful collection of folk-art objects, including 500-year-old shadow puppets, festival costumes, musical instruments, a superb temple chariot and a replica of a traditional village. Cultural shows are performed on the last Sunday of every month in the open-air theatre. It's 53km south of Bengaluru, 3km from Ramnagar; Mysuru–Bengaluru buses (except non-stop services) can drop you here.
Built by the Hare Krishnas, this impressive hilltop temple, inaugurated in 1997, is lavishly decorated in a mix of ultra-contemporary and traditional styles. There are many food stalls here, so bring an appetite, and concerts and lectures are regularly held. It’s around 8km northwest of the centre of town.