The allure of India’s IT hub stretches beyond its tech offices and business parks. Bengaluru (also called Bangalore) stands apart for its buzzing rooftop bars, al fresco dining, shopping, arts and pleasant weather year-round — rare in other Indian cities.
In the city for business and find yourself with a free day? Here’s how to make the most of those 24 hours.
Early risers, get your hands on a hot cup of traditional South Indian filter coffee known as kaapi for a caffeine kick like no other. Catch a glimpse of old Bengaluru culture at neighborhood darshinis — fuss-free local eateries — where locals gather for kaapi and conversation.
Wake up with a cuppa at an old-school institution like Vidyarthi Bhavan in leafy Basavanagudi and then wind your way down to the 18th-century Lalbagh Botanical Gardens. Modeled on the Mughal gardens, the city’s green lung is a pocket of calm, with manicured lawns, lotus ponds and exotic flowering species from around the world.
A breakfast of champions awaits at nearby Mavalli Tiffin Rooms, serving hearty, affordable meals since the 1920s. MTR’s limited-but-fulfilling menu features South Indian staples: light-as-air idlis (steamed rice cakes), masala dosas (potato stuffed lentil-and-rice-batter crepes) and crispy vadas (deep-fried lentil donuts), accompanied by hot sambar (spicy lentil soup) and coconut chutney. All for under five dollars.
Once you’re sufficiently fueled, check out the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) — a colonial mansion that is a storehouse of Indian sculptures, miniatures and paintings dating back to the 18th century. Art enthusiasts, keep an eye out for works by Indian greats, including Amrita Sher-Gil and Raja Ravi Varma.
South Indian food gets a fun, contemporary twist at The Permit Room, a vibrant lunch spot on a busy corner of Richmond Town. Grab a table with a view, and load up your plate with raw mango and asparagus-filled rice paper rolls, pulled-pork dosas and lamb paté samosas.
Fill your bags with Indian-inspired, contemporary housewares and fashion finds from Bengaluru’s boutiques.
Handcrafted leather is fashioned into luxe bags, trunks and notebooks at Nappa Dori. Nicobar stocks flowy maxi-dresses and structured shirts in all-natural fabrics, but it’s their Japanese-inspired tableware that steals the show.
The pop-colored, Indian-kitsch mugs and magnets at Chumbak make great souvenirs, while Cauvery Handicrafts Emporium is known for traditional sandalwood crafts.
Caffeine fiends, head to Third Wave Coffee Roasters in leafy Koramangala for freshly roasted, single-origin coffee sourced from estates in Chikmagalur, a South Indian plantation town.
At the preppy new roastery-café, choose your bean and your brewing style: French press, chemex, pour over or a cold brew, and share tables with young entrepreneurs working on their latest start-up idea.
Bengaluru pioneers India’s fledgling craft beer scene. More than 20 brewpubs across the city dispense freshly brewed lagers, ales and IPAs on tap, often imbued with seasonal flavors. Try the mango ale at The Biere Club‘s breezy rooftop.
The hip crowd flocks to Toit in Indiranagar for the Tintin Toit — a fruity Belgian Ale — and the seasonal, sweet, lime wheat beer. Michigan import, Arbor Brewing Company, does a great IPA, but get the sampler to taste a bit of everything.
Don’t be fooled by the pretty food at Toast and Tonic. The Naga Chilli Chicken Wings pack a punch. Chef Manu Chandra’s Manhattan-inspired Bengaluru offering takes typically Indian ingredients, such as the fiery Naga chilli and foxtail millet, and puts a global spin on them, creating dishes like the Vegetable Kibbeh and Pan Seared Seabass.
Bengaluru boasts a vibrant performing arts scene with frequent live gigs and, more recently, stand-up comedy shows. Wind up your night at the trendy neighborhood of Indiranagar, a hub of bars and performance spaces.
Catch a live gig at The Humming Tree, which hosts both local and international acts, or just get an after-dinner drink at the fairy-light-strung rooftop. BFlat has rock, blues and indie music gigs multiple times a week, while Take5 has events every night, including comedy Mondays.