Welcome to Backpacker’s Boutique. Every Sunday, this spot will feature a new travel blogger. Some weeks it will be a really fun interview about packing, fashion, and fitness so you can snoop inside their bags & lives a little bit and other weeks it’ll be a detailed luxury guide to a city the featured blogger/expat knows very well. E-mail me if you’d like to be featured.
A Luxury Guide to Bangalore
Tell us a little about Bangalore and tell us why you’re an expert on luxury travel there.
I lived in Bangalore on-and-off for 8 years and spent as much time as possible exploring as many corners of the city as I could. As an NRI, I had a great opportunity to see the city through the eyes of an Indian as well as an American, so I brought an interesting perspective to my time there.
Bangalore is a mid-sized city
photo via nature.com
What makes Bangalore a perfect destination for travelers seeking a glamorous trip?
Bangalore is a great combination of traditional India with the modern world. There is something for everyone, from street side shopping to giant malls, from hole-in-the-wall restaurants to fancy dining options, from dive bars to glitzy nightclubs, and everything in-between. And unlike other large cities in India such as Bombay or Delhi, these fancier options in Bangalore are still relatively reasonably priced: a fancy dinner and a night out on the town can be had for $50 or less.
Bangalore often gets overlooked by travellers, as cities like Bombay and Delhi are more glamorous, Goa and Gokarna have the beaches, and nearby places like Hampi and Kerala have more tourist “hot spots”, but it is slowly coming into its own as a destination for travellers to India.
What boutique hotel would you recommend to your friends that are stopping through?
Casa Piccola Cottage offers a great, affordable stay right in the heart of Bangalore. Founded by an Indo-French couple approximately 35 years ago, Casa strives to offer outstanding service and accommodation in the bustling center of the city. It is walking distance to lots of shopping, eating, and drinking, which can be a great blessing given Bangalore’s traffic problems. I myself have not had the pleasure of staying here, but I have a number of friends who have, and they have all given it rave reviews.
The Escape Hotel and Spa is a newer boutique hotel in Indiranagar that is also receiving great reviews and press. In 2014 it received the Journeyers’ Choice award on TripAdvisor, and it appears to be one of the top up-and-coming places to stay in the city.
What about 5 Star, of them all, which is the best in your town?
The ITC Royal Gardenia is located close to the city center and is the first green luxury hotel in the city. It focuses on providing a luxurious stay for visitors while also using natural light and harvested rainwater to avoid a large environmental footprint.
The Oberoi is the other top choice in the city. Located right on MG Road in the heart of the city, it is walking distance to restaurants, clubs, and shopping, and offers the best luxury the city has to offer.
Are there any fun activities for the adventurous traveler?
If you enjoy the outdoors, there are a number of trekking options just outside the city. The most popular is probably a sunrise trek up Savandurga, and if you time it right, you will reach the summit just as the sun is making its appearance over the horizon.
Many of the adventure options are located about 30-100km from the city, but if you are hunting for adventure, they are well within reach. There is trekking, rock climbing, and even ATV rides that can all be done on a day trip. Thrillophilia recently put together their list of Top 10 Outdoor Activities near Bangalore – check it out to see what you want to do.
Where are the best hangouts during the day?
If you’re looking to people watch, there are few places better than Matteo on Church Street. It’s an upscale coffee shop right in the city center, and if you sit out on their patio during the day, you will see practically every Bangalorean pass by, from college students looking for a bite to eat to young couples on tentative first dates to families out shopping.
There are two great parks in the city, Lalbagh Botanical Gardens and Cubbon Park. Lalbagh offers beautiful gardens to wander through, and the greenhouse has beautiful flower shows on display during national holidays such as Republic Day in January and Independence Day in August. Cubbon Park is a little more laidback but offers a fantastic children’s playground if you are traveling with little ones – it’s a safe space to let your child run off some steam and have a little fun.
photo via socialventurepartners.org
If you want to see Bangalore’s intellectual crowd, head on over to Koshy’s on St Mark’s Road. The food is good, the pots of tea are endless, and the clientele pass the day discussing books, literature, and the arts. There are always some who are up for meeting new people, so feel free to find a group and join in!
Pecos is a personal favourite of mine and is, in my opinion, a great place to chill out, enjoy a beer, and listen to some great music. Pecos still plays their classic rock on cassette, so if you time it right and get there early enough in the day, they will play your requests from beginning to end. The beer is cheap, and the food is delicious [try the chili pork or the dosa with prawn curry!], and I have wiled away many a day in this esteemed establishment. They have a number of locations throughout the city, but my standard is the one on Rest House Road.
A new, up-and-coming café is Namma Adda [“Our Space” in Kannada, the local language], located in Chamarajpet just near the City Market. It is a café and discussion space that invites locals and travellers alike to gather during the day for tea and snacks and conversation. In the evenings and on weekends Namma Adda hosts workshops on issues such as gender stereotypes, promoting peace, and building monitoring and evaluation skills; it also screens films on social justice issues and encourages an open dialogue. It launched earlier this year and is already generating lots of positive vibes in the press and online, so be sure to stop by and check it out. I hear the brownies and cupcakes are fantastic!
If you have a big date night, what are the most delicious restaurants in Bangalore and what are their best dishes?
Phobidden Fruit on 12th Main Road in Indiranagar is popular for its Asian dishes. The caramelized pork is a fan favourite, and my personal choice is the Bun Bao soup – so spicy and delicious!
Another popular destination is News Café, located on 100 Feet Road in Indiranagar. I have it on good authority that theirs is one of the best steaks in town.
Rounding out the Indiranagar trio is Barbeque Nation on 100 Feet Road. Their most popular dish is the Tunisian BBQ Chicken, which I have heard is out of this world. But be prepared for a long wait – on weeknights it’s no less than 45 minutes, and it gets even longer on Friday and Saturday nights!
Let’s talk desserts- what place makes the best?
Café Max at Max Mueller Bhavan on CMH Road in Indiranagar is the go-to spot for cakes. My personal recommendation is the Apfelkuchen – apple pie with vanilla sauce.
Berry’d Alive – also on 12th Main Road in Indiranagar – is the other top spot for desserts. Their cheesecakes are pretty good, as are their sundae options.
Tell us all the hot shopping spots; who is carrying the trendy local designers?[I will be the first to admit that shopping is not my forte, but the I Heart Blr website is a fountain of information on just this]
Many of the trendy local designers are opening their own boutiques throughout the city to showcase their designs. Most of these boutiques are located in the center of the city, so if you wander down Lavelle Road or St Mark’s Road, you will run into them.
UB City is by far the fanciest and most upscale shopping locale in Bangalore. Located on Lavelle Road in the city center, this mall carries such names as Salvatore Ferragamo, Ermenegildo Zegna, and Louis Vuitton, among other international designers. And keep your eyes peeled – you might just spot a celebrity or two if you are spending your day there!
1 at MG Road is the latest shopping mall to open in the city. Located on MG Road near Trinity Circle, it offers a number of branded shops as well as a gourmet supermarket on the top floor specializing in imported goodness.
The Forum in Koramangala and Garuda Mall on Magrath Roadare the other top shopping malls in the city. Offering brands such as Levi’s, Tommy Hilfiger, and others, and boasting food courts and multiplex cinemas, both The Forum and Garuda Mall are hotspots for the young, college-going crowd.
What are a couple of the best salons and spas in Bangalore?
I actually never went to a salon or spa while I lived in Bangalore – I liked to get my hair cut by a barber! – but I have heard good things about both Bounce and The 5th Element. I have a number of friends who get their hair done at Bounce, and they have loved it. The 5th Element is a Thai spa that specializes in massages and facials.
Time for a great sunset view… where would you go?
If you have the time and ability to travel, Nandi Hills is the best spot for seeing the sunset. Located about 50km outside the city, you can drive up the hills on car or motorbike, and the views are spectacular.
If you can’t get outside the city, head to any of the rooftop restaurants or bars – there are new ones opening every month!
Now the sun’s gone down, fill us on the best places to go for some evening drinks or a great pre-gaming spot.
The Humming Tree in Indiranagar has become popular in the last two years as a watering hole and performance venue. Drinks are affordable, the location is great, and they offer a variety of performances, from concerts to poetry slams and everything in-between. If you head here on a Friday or Saturday night, you will run into Bangalore’s hip crowd.
Church Street Social on Church Street is fast becoming a popular spot for friends to meet and catch up over a drink. Located right in the center of the city, it affords a great location as well as ambience for one drink or many in a relaxed setting.
It’s not quite as fancy as the previous two, but Guzzlers on Rest House Road is still my favourite spot whenever I’m back in town. It has an old school British pub feel to it, they play all my favourite 80s rock songs, and best of all, the drinks are pretty cheap. If I am in Bangalore just for a short time, I’ll arrange a reunion of friends at Guzzlers and spend hours upon hours in there.
If you end the night at a fancy club, which one do you head towards?
If you are looking to dance the night away, head over to any of the clubs in the 5-star hotels. Because of the ban on dancing and the restricted hours in Bangalore, these are often the best places to find music playing into the early hours of the morning. All will charge a cover, and often they won’t allow single men to enter; only single women and couples will be allowed in.[Book a room | Book a flight]
Veena claims homes in Arkansas [go Hogs!], Memphis [BBQ and fried chicken, Elvis, and the Grizzlies], Bangalore [her home-away-from-home], and Bombay [the city of her childhood dreams] and is always dreaming up excuses to return to India. Currently she is looking for jobs with international nonprofits, reading and writing a lot, cheering on her favourite sports teams, plotting her next out-of-town adventure, and pretending to be a runner. All she wants out of life is to live in the hills of Coorg and enjoy endless amounts of masala chai. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram.
Feature image: flickr
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