Bangalore does not really come up as a tourist destination in India. There are tons weekend getaways from Bangalore – lots of lists of beautiful places to drive or fly to to escape the city, like Mysore and Bandipur, or Goa and Kerala – but the city itself doesn’t really get the tourism-related credit it deserves. Voted one of the most liveable cities in India (and one of the fastest growing in Asia), it is a really great Indian lifestyle city – in the sense that there’s great places to eat and hang out, lots and lots of green spaces to retreat to (it’s called the Garden City, after all), cool remote-working spaces in office blocks and coffee shops. Not only home to 7% of India’s expats, but also a city where lots of people move to from other Indian cities for better job opportunities. Of course, it is also widely popular for being India’s Silicone Valley.
I had 3+ weeks to be a tourist in Bangalore while Joel met up with his co-remote-workers at Shopify’s Indian office, and I loved exploring Bangalore! (Can I also just emphasise, I loved exploring Bangalore as a solo female traveler). I loved being a tourist here, not least because of all the things mentioned above, but also because I was so pleasantly surprised by how tourist-friendly this city is.
So…if you ever have a stopover in Bangalore of some kind, be sure to get out and explore a bit!
Bangalore Palace was my first pleasant surprise – I was brought here sort of accidentally, because my driver misunderstood me wanting to go to a different palace, but I am so glad he did! Bangalore Palace is a 19th-century 35-room mansion built in the Tudor style, richly finished with deep dark wooden cravings along broad staircases, relief ceiling paintings, strange taxidermy from royal hunts and one of the oldest wooden lifts in the world.
It was bought by the British and built for the Maharajah, in order to have some sort of suitable accommodation when he would be in Bangalore. Today it is filled with lots and lots and lots of framed little royal family portraits, political delegations, and royal hunting outings; a vase made from the trunk of an elephant splitting at the seams; and antique furniture belongings to the Wadiyars.
It is a decadent old house, slowly crumbling around the corners, and filled with distant memories and nostalgic snapshots of a previous empire, filling with light and warm air in every courtyard.
GOOD TO KNOW
Bangalore Palace is open every day from 10am – 5pm
It has one of the more expensive tourist entry fees and will cost you around 480inr, plus 300inr of you want to take pictures with your cell phone, and 700inr for a proper camera.
This includes the audio guide, for which you’ll need an ID as a deposit.
Tipu Sultan’s Summer Palace
What first looks just like a simple one-story building, opens up as you approach it into a two-story palace entirely constructed out of teak, with rows and rows of columns. This is where the famous Islamic ruler of Mysore retreated during summers and sometimes held his courts. It’s not every bit as grandiose as it sounds, but its fading ornate floral murals in red and gold allows you a glimpse into its previous splendour.
GOOD TO KNOW
There are guides hanging around the palace, ready to offer their services. An older gentleman approached me with the price of 100inr for a tour. I looked at the temple, which seemed a blank wooden slate to me, and agreed. Getting a guide will certainly make your visit more interesting, IF THEIR ENGLISH IS GOOD ENOUGH. I understood maybe every 9th or 10th word, and just nodded out of politeness.
Open everyday from 8.30am – 5.30pm
Tourist entry fee is 200inr
Just around the corner from the Summer Palace is a 16th-century fort built by the founder of Bangalore and later expanded on by the man himself, Tipu Sultan. It is located right by a busy market and a hospital, but all of these sounds are drowned out almost as soon as you slip through the small metal gate, muffled by the fortressed Delhi Gate casting its cool shade onto the garden. Actually, this isn’t the fort per se, but only what is left of it. It use to expand to include the Summer Palace and the area that the hospital now occupied, but most of it has been demolished.
GOOD TO KNOW
Some sites have posted a 100inr entry fee for the fort, but I just walked in. There was one guard hanging around and nobody stopped me. So it’s free, maybe?
Lalbagh Botanical Garden
There are a lot of green spaces in the city, but Lalbagh is a pretty special place I would definitely recommend going. It’s a sprawling botanical garden housing India’s largest collection of tropical plants, trees that are multiple centuries old, and a huge rock-formation mound – The Lalbagh Rock – that dates back 3000 million years. The gardens are all landscaped around a big 19th-century glass house inspired by London’s Crystal Palace, and sectioned off into smaller, easily navigable sections. It’s a great place to go for a few hours to wind down and escape the crazy hustle of Bangalore.
GOOD TO KNOW
The gardens are open from 6am – 9pm, and entry fee is 20inr unless you go between 6am and 9am, or 6pm and 7pm when it’s FREE.
There are little carts that will drive you around the park for which you can by a ticket at the gate, but this is really not necessary. The park is not that big; it’s a relaxing stroll rather than tireless walk to get from one section to the next.
You’re in India, so, as a tourist, you have to go see the beautiful temples scattered around Bangalore. One of the most famous is the Big Bull Temple right in the middle of the city. Th is a good one to visit, because it is right above another temple – the Shree Dodda Ganapathi Temple – which has a huge icon of Ganesh, the elephant god.
GOOD TO KNOW
All the temples will open really early – like 5am – and close again around noon, staying closed for the afternoon until they open again in the evening, around 6 or 7pm.
You CANNOT take your shoes into the temples, whether they are on your feet or in your bag. You have to leave them outside with the shoe guards, which you will need to tip with what you feel fit.
You MUST cover your shoulders and your legs, either by wearing loose pants or a long skirt or dress, which is preferable.
You DO NOT have to cover your hair.
It is best to bring a gift – some fruit or flowers – and a coin or two to gift to the monks. Though, it is a very peaceful environment and Indians will understand that it may be your first time in a temple, so there’s really no expectation. Just head in, copy some of the actions if you’re comfortable, or don’t. Really – I was the only tourist and nobody looked at me twice.
You can also make a stop at one of Bangalore’s many museums. If you’re from Europe or North America, or another of the world’s ‘developed’ regions, do not go expecting the Louvre or the Getty or the National Museum of your home country. Any museum person anywhere – even in these lucky places – will tell you that museums are perennially underfunded. This is of course true in India. The collections on display are small, and the exhibitions need some love, but there are some real gems to find within these museums. It might be wise to also remember that, because of colonialism, many of India’s most valuable pieces (like the Tipu Sultan Tiger, of which a replica is at the Summer Palace) were taken beyond her borders and are now held in places like the British Museum and the V&A in London.
If you like historical art I would recommend visiting the ruby-red neoclassical Government Museum on Kasturba Road. A ticket to this museum will also gain you entry to the Venkatappa Art Gallery, which displays works by the famous Indian artist of the same name.
The National Gallery of Modern Art has some amazing Indian art works on display (even through its missing a lot of labels).
GOOD TO KNOW
Like most places in the world, the museums in Bangalore are mostly closed on Mondays but open every other day of the week.
Entry fee to the Government Museum and the Venkatappa Art Gallery is only 20inr.
The National Gallery of Modern Art is a more expensive trip with tourist tickets at 500inr.
Bannerghatta National Park
This is a must-visit if you find yourself in Bangalore, especially if you haven’t yet been to any of India’s other nature reserves or national park. Located just over an hour’s drive out of the city, the National Park is 65,000+ acres of lush and hilly forests and includes a safari park, a zoo, a wild animal rescue centre, a butterfly enclosure and an aquarium.
A safari ticket will get you a seat on a 40-seater bus, which will drive you over 6 kms through the safari park. The safari park is fenced in sections so you have all the deer, elephants, tigers, bears, and lions in their respective enclosures. These sections are small enough so that you are pretty much guaranteed to see the animals, but large enough so that you are not guaranteed to see all of them. For example, we only saw one baby Asian black bear, even though there were multiple adults elsewhere in the enclosure somewhere out of view, behind thick foresty shrubs and boulders. The Bannerghatta safari is just a great opportunity to see these endangered animals in their natural habitat.
The zoo, located right next to safari camp, is also worth a visit and it’s actually not nearly as sad as you might imagine it to be. It helps that it’s located not in a city, but on the edge of a massive forest, and that the zoo (and safari) is affiliated with the rescue centre which takes in and cares for orphaned, refused, malnourished and mistreated animals. The enclosures, like the safari, are also enormous. I was especially impressed with the snake pits. Usually, in most zoos I’ve ever visited, the snakes are kept behind glass in small, temperature-controlled areas. At Bannerghatta, because all the snakes at the zoo are native to the area, they are housed outside in large, spacious pits. It is also just fun to watch all the wild monkeys run around and stare at the zoo animals like they’re on their day out.
GOOD TO KNOW
I would highly recommend doing the earliest safari of the day (around 10am), when the animals are still active and when there’s no line at the ticket counter. Otherwise you run the risk of not seeing that napping tiger somewhere in the bushes.
The park is closed on Tuesdays, but open otherwise from 9am – 5pm everyday.
The first safari is at 10am, and you can buy tickets for this from 9am. Get there as early as possible, so that you have the chance to sit up front with the driver and guide, who may even take photos for you.
Tourist tickets are 400inr. You can also buy tickets online to save some time.