The How-to City Series is for travellers on a tight budget (say, grad students like me!). Two Bangali Backpackers will choose a new city each time and draw up an itinerary packed with interesting, offbeat and fun things. Unlike other itineraries that are jammed with activities every hour or so, we offer you enough breathing space and also a bunch of options that might be of interest to you. Our aim is to keep the budget within $15/INR 1000.
Mavalli Tiffin Room, Basavanagudi | 8 AM
Start your day with breakfast at MTR, a Bangalore institution. It has nine branches around the city and we visited the one in Basavanagudi. Order the Masala Dosa (INR 78/$1.19) or the Rava Idli (INR 50/$0.76), both accompanied by tiny bowls of ghee, along with a tumbler of kaafi (INR 33/$0.5). You can request a visit to their kitchen if you are a fan of both end-product and process.
Bull Temple | 9:30 AM
The Bull Temple lends its name to Basavanagudi: basava translates to bull and temple is gudi. A giant monolithic statue of Nandi, the doorkeeper of Kailash, is the main attraction here. According to legend, a bull ravaged the groundnuts in the farmland in this area every year and once an angry farmer flung a club at him. It became motionless and turned to stone. This frightened the villagers and they built a temple to appease Nandi who is one of Shiva’s ardent devotees. Even today, the Kadalekaayi Parishe or the groundnut fair is held here is the Hindu month of Kartik. An inscription here states that a spring beneath Nandi’s idol is the source of the Vrishabhavati River.
Tipu Sultan’s Summer Palace | 10:30 AM
Be prepared for your jaws to hurt from an extended period of gaping: First, the façade with rows of ornately carved teak columns and scalloped arches; second, the floral motifs in the zenana quarters that still show-off their vivid pigments; third, the realization that you are standing in a place where once upon a time Tipu Sultan held courts, a place whose silence once reverberated with the voices and laughter of women in opulent drapes. The small gallery downstairs has a replica of Tipu’s fabled tiger, a painting of this throne, and sketches by James Hunter among other memorabilia. Frankly speaking, we felt the restoration committee has simply repainted the pillars instead of restoring them. While the exterior appears a little too overdone, the second-floor and the zenana quarters are quite well-preserved. (INR 15/$0.3 for Indians & INR 200/$3 for foreigners)
Kote Venkataramana Temple | 11:30 AM
Keep your head held high as you pass through the ornate gopuram of the Kote Venkataramana Temple before you walk into the mantapa where compound piers composed of clusters of colonettes alternate with intricately carved yalis. The mantapa leads you into the garbagriha where Lord Venkataramana resides. The temple was constructed in the late seventeenth century by the Wodeyars of Mysore.
Bangalore Fort | 12:30 PM
One half of Two Bangali Backpackers has a thing for built heritage and thus we ended up at the Bangalore Fort. Not much remains of this 200-year-old structure except the Delhi Gate, remnants of masonry work and a small Ganesh temple but once you step inside through the massive gates with iron spikes hammered into the wood, you will feel a surge of awe. Originally there were 26 bastions (only 1 remains today), 6 gates, and Tipu’s palace and the Kote Ventaramana Temple were inside the fort that was surrounded by a moat. Look for ornate stucco work, and motifs and figures carved into the granite. The dungeon where Tipu Sultan confined Sir David Baird is no longer accessible nor are the stairways that lead to the top of the bastion.
N.V. Naidu Military Hotel | 1:30 PM
Forget cutlery and use your hands to dig in into the piping hot palav (INR 140) with a side of peppery chicken fry (INR 120/$1.83)! Bangalore’s military hotels are the best places to taste the non-vegetarian cuisine of the region. According to history buffs, these hotels mushroomed in the 17th century to cater to Shahji Bhonsle and Shivaji’s meat-loving Maratha army. Other famous ones include New Govind Military Hotel, Shivaji Military Hotel, Ranganna Military Hotel, and S. Govindrao Military Hotel.
Krishna Rajendra Market | 3:00 PM
For a taste of real India, head to the 95-year-old Krishna Rajendra Market or simply City Market for some street photography. Once a battlefield, the area now hosts Bangalore’s oldest bazaar. There are stalls heaped with fresh produce, spices, and flowers and before you realize, your olfactory nerves are in overdrive trying to tell one aroma from another. On an average day, the market receives 50,000 tonnes of flower ranging from marigolds and roses to the local favourite, jasmine.
Lalbagh Botanical Gardens | 5:30 PM
An oasis of quiet in the bustle of the metropolis, Lalbagh is home to India’s largest collection of tropical plants and the massive peninsular gneiss. A number of bird species like the Purple Moor Hen, Brahminy Kite, Parakeets, etc. can be spotted in the park. Three must-dos: Strike up conversations with locals who come for their evening jog about their relationship with this garden in a city that is being undergoing rapid urbanization; hike to the top of the top of the Lalbagh Rock and visualize the layout of the garden that was originally conceived on lines of the Persian concept of char-bagh by Hyder Ali; in the evening when the glasshouse is lit up, celebrate the moment with a photo-op. (INR 20/$0.3; free between 6-9 am & 5:30-7 pm)
Mangalore Pearl, Frazer Town | 8 PM
Hands-down our best meal in Bangalore! Seafood is the speciality of this restaurant that has sketches depicting traditional Mangalorean life, including one that shows someone preparing fish, painted on its walls. The chicken liver fry, chicken sukkah and crab masala we ordered were all done to perfection and we loved the extra spiciness. As you wait for your food to arrive, sip a sol kadi. Mains are priced between INR 100-330/$1.68-5. Now that 12 of the 36 hrs in Bangalore have passed, we will let you choose your activity for the night!
Gandhi Bazaar | 7:30 AM
Start your way with some chaos and a lot of freshness in Gandhi Bazaar’s flower section before sniffing your way to the produce section. Gandhi Bazaar is a hotchpotch of colours and aromas, and one of the best places to document the local life and strike up conversations with strangers who have experienced this market regularly over decades. This is one of Bangalore’s oldest markets and has shops like Shambhu Commercials who are known for their cold-pressed oils and Subamma Stores whose nipattu and chikki draw loyalists in for generations.
Vidyarthi Bhavan | 8:30 AM
The half that has a thing for built heritage also has a thing for dosa. Thus, we arrived at Vidyarthi Bhavan! Order a ghee-laced masala dosa (INR 43/$0.66) and sink into ecstasy! This Bangalore institution has been serving these crisp half-moon beauties stuffed with a spice potato filling and served in a pool of lip-smacking coconut chutney since 1943. Do not miss this!
Cubbon Park | 10:00 AM
Bangalore’s top pick for morning walkers is home to about 68 genera and 96 species of flora besides hosting a handful of historical buildings. It was originally conceived as a separator between the native pettah and the cantonment. Some of the buildings within Cubbon Park are:
Attara Kacheri literally translates to “eighteen offices or courts” and currently houses the High Court of Bangalore. Painted a bright Pompeiian Red, this two-storeyed building is a stunning example of Greco-Roman architecture. It is also the oldest public building in Bangalore.
Seshadri Iyer Memorial Hall houses the State Central Library and is painted in the same Pompeiian Red as the Attara Kacheri. It was named after the longest-serving Dewan of Mysore state. Tuscan and Corinthian pillars grace the entrance. The second-storey windows ensure that the interiors are flooded with natural light. The library has a good collection and has a Braille selection.
State Archaeological Museum was completed in 1877 and is one of the oldest museums in India. Besides housing an interesting collection of artefacts including old jewellery, sculpture, coins, and inscriptions from various parts of India, it also houses the Halmidi script, the oldest known Kannada inscription dated 450-500 BC. It is flanked by the Visveraya Industrial and Technological Museum and the Venkatappa Art Gallery.
Across the street from the Attara Kacheri is the Vidhana Soudha that houses the Government Secretariat of Karnataka and House of the State Legislature. Constructed of granite, the revivalist-style stunning building exhibits a fusion of Chola, Hoysala, Dravidian and Rajasthani styles of architecture.
Nagarjuna, Residency Road | 1:00 PM
Nagarjuna is one of the best places in Bangalore for Andhra Cuisine. Food is served in traditional style on a banana leaf. We recommend their unlimited Andhra meal thali (INR 185/$2.83).
Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath | 2:30 PM
With 18 galleries exhibiting contemporary art by Indian and international artists, and a thought-provoking selection of tribal art from across Asia and Mysore-style paintings, it is a must-visit for all art lovers.
National Gallery of Modern Art | 4:30 PM
The heritage building, once owned by the royal family of Mysore, and a newer contemporary space that house the NGMA showcase paintings, sculptures, graphic prints and examples of early photography in India. In the old wings, works by artists who flourished in pre-Independence India are on display. The Bengal School of Art and works by Raja Ravi Verma are particular attractions here. Walk over to the new wing and you are greeted with works by artists like Sudhir Patwardhan and other contemporary post-independence artists. NGMA also organizes gallery walks, talks, workshops, and movie screenings. (INR 20/$0.3)
Depending on your interest, you can pick from this list to fill the rest of your time in Bangalore:
Atta Galatta Bookstore
Located in Koramangala, Atta Galatta is a unique bookstore: it holds a selection of over 10,000 books in regional languages such as Kannada, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Hindi as well as to English books penned by Indian authors. It hosts exciting (free!) events throughout the year. Keep an eye on their calendar for upcoming events.
INTACH Parichay Walks
Lead by scholars and experts who know the city through and through, the Parichay walks are the best way to immerse yourself in the cultural, architectural, social and historical inheritance of Bangalore. They are cheap, unlike most walking tours, but there is no set schedule which can be inconvenient. Usually, they organize at least one walk a month and the easiest way to know the dates is from their Facebook page.
Ranga Shankara prides itself on promoting theatre in all languages and renting out space at very low rates. They host at least a play a day (except on Mondays) and we highly recommend a visit.
If you have the cash to spare or are a booze aficionado, definitely check out Bangalore’s bustling microbrewery and craft beer scene. We suggest avoiding the weekends when the IT crowd descends in droves and it is impossible to have a conversation without making it a yelling match. On our list is The Big Brewsky (we loved the ambience and the pale German ale), Toit, The Biere Club and Arbor Brewing Company.
Note: Bangalore’s traffic is a disaster and that is not just because the city has mushroomed with delightful abandon but also because Bangalore’s incoming tide of millennials has a certain distaste for the public transit. I could blame them for being the force behind the streets being choked with white Ola and Uber cabs but I cannot because in a city full of immigrants and expats, more than half the buses do not have their destination and routes spelt out in English alongside the local Kannada. Each time we rode a local bus, we had to holler at the conductor for the route, an exercise which while standing on an imaginary sidewalk, was dangerous. Bangalore has no dedicated bus lanes and that further slows them down but despite how inconvenient it is, we urge you to use public transit. Maybe authorities will take notice and provide better signage and dedicated bus stops or not. Maybe the traffic will turn less of a chokehold or not. But every time you ride public transit instead of a private vehicle, you are doing the environment a little favour.
Bangalore continues to be on our list of cities to return to and we are always on the lookout for great recommendations. Jump in and help us add to our list!