Bengaluru (Bangalore is no longer the name, as of 2014) was a quiet town meant for Britain’s troops and civil servants to recuperate and retire. Legend says its name comes from “Bendha Kaalu,” which means boiled beans in the Kannada, the local language. A king was lost in a forest, and stumbled across an old woman who only had boiled beans to offer him.
The people are still warm and friendly; Bengaluru has changed drastically otherwise. Now it’s home to hundreds of IT firms and some call it the Silicon Valley of India. It balances surging development and traffic with well-preserved green spaces and colonial-era architecture.
A great way to experience the city is on foot. The best time for this walk is before 8a.m. in the morning; or dusk, when the natural lighting is at its best.
Start at the heart - the upscale Vittal Mallya Road. The street is home to the city’s most luxurious shops, homes and restaurants. It’s also close to Cubbon Park, which has more than 300 acres of sprawling greenery, along with fountains, statues, trees, and even an aquarium. Some call it the city’s oxygen tank. It was named after Sir Mark Cubbon, a former Commissioner.
Stroll down the canopied pathway from Vittal Mallya Road and you’ll be in in front of the State Central Library, an impressive red Gothic structure. Here you can embark on a number of well-laid out routes.
Turning left in front of the library will find you facing a grand, tree lined avenue.Turning right will help you circumvent the park, passing the statue of Jaya Chamarajendra Wadiyar, the last ruling monarch of the princely state of Mysore.
Turning left at this statue will take you down a vehicle-free road, past the Dog Park, a mini-lake and through the heart of the park. The pathway comes out in front of the Aquarium with a statue of Queen Victoria on your left.
Look diagonally to your right here, and you will be presented with the imposing colonial structure of St Mark’s Cathedral, built in 1812 and modelled after St Paul’s Cathedral in London. Stop here for a while to admire the architecture.
Cross over back to the statue and follow the pathway. You will find yourself walking parallel to busy Queen’s Road, but safely tucked within the park. Prepare for a long walk here as you pass the Chinnaswamy Stadium, a national cricket arena and home to the city’s Indian Premier League team, the Royal Challengers Bangalore. Take a moment to look around, and you will notice how the city brings its industry and ecology together with just a pathway in between. It’s a sight you’ll be hard-pressed to find in most other Indian cities, but there’s plenty of it here.
Proceed down that path and take its natural turn to the left. Follow it as it swerves gently, leading you to the General Post Office building.
Cross the road at this junction and look out for a tiny little eatery known as the India Coffee House, housed within the Coffee Board building. This hole-in-the-wall café is one of the city’s best-kept secrets, serving up some of the most authentic south Indian cuisine in town. It opened more than 50 years ago, and some call it the best in the region. Be sure to order a filter coffee, the typical style of brewing freshly ground coffee in the south. If you want food, a good choice is the masala dosa, a crisp pancake filled with spicy potatoes.
After this delicious pitstop, turn right on to the broad promenade that serves as the backbone of the city’s administration. A few yards ahead is the Karnataka High Court, an imposing two-storied Greco-Roman red building with Ionic porticoes.
A little ahead is the Dravidian style Vidha Soudha, the seat of the State’s Legislative Assembly, and home to over 22 state departments.
At the T-junction ahead, take a left turn and you’ll pass the side of the High Court as you step back into Cubbon Park.
If you have time, wander back through the park’s pathways and admire the plants. If you are here during Bengaluru’s brief spring between January and early March, you may even be treated to the colourful sight of Cubbon Park’s Jacaranda trees proudly in bloom.
The City at Night
For unique nightlife, head to Indiranagar. Once an entirely residential suburb, Indiranagar is now the hub of Bengaluru’s restaurants, pubs and performance spaces.
Head over to 100 Feet Road, its main artery, and then branch out as the evening proceeds. Weekends are the most eventful here, with a bar or a restaurant every hundred metres bursting with music and energy. An ode to the city’s love for music and alcohol, not necessarily in that order and preferably together, Indiranagar is home to some of Bengaluru’s best performance spaces:
B Flat Bar & Kitchen brings stand-up comedians, plus jazz and blues performers to its quaint little setting, which comes with a delicious menu of Indian and Chinese dishes.
A little further up is Hummingtree, another stage-centric bar that focuses mainly on indie musicians and electronic acts. It’s also close to two microbreweries, Loft 38 and Toit.
For food, try the seafood at Mathsya Darshini or the North Indian food at The Kebab Room.
Get a taxi. Tuk tuk and rickshaw derivers are pretty opportunistic, and it can be hard not to get ripped off. Buses can be crowded and hard to figure out, so stick with a taxi or an Uber. It’s best to book with an agency ahead of time. If you’re travelling from the airport, go to the government-approved taxis waiting outside, not the pre-paid booths inside.
Don’t drink the tap water. Order mineral water at restaurants. Carry your own bottled water for walks, and if you buy some, make sure it’s sealed. Fresh coconut water is safe and delicious.
Plan ahead if you want to stay out late. Pubs, clubs, restaurants take last orders at 10:30p.m. and shut by 11p.m. (1a.m. on Friday and Saturdays).
Haggle for everything. This tip applies to most other Indian cities as well. You can probably get 30 percent off the listed price, even if there’s a label. If you’re nervous, watch and learn from the locals.
Bring cash. Credit and debit cards are becoming more common, but it’s nothing like the U.S., for example, so bring cash with you