I have a confession to make: nothing stresses me out more than having family come and visit. I want them to have a great time and, even more importantly, to fall in love with Bangalore and its people the same way I did. I want them to experience the crazy traffic, the insane noise levels, amazing food and the wealth of culture, but I also don’t want to freak them out. This is the ultimate guide for what to do when your family comes to town and I think it is the perfect mix of hectic, adventurous, zen and modern.
BREAKFAST LIKE A LOCAL
There is no better way to get to know a culture than through its food. In South India, breakfast is king. Take your family out for some proper dosa or idlies, shared over a hot cup of chai and dipped into a variety of sambars. Eat them with your hands for a proper introduction to South India. Firm favorites are MTR and Woody’s. Don’t worry; you won’t give them Delhi belly on their first day at any of the dosa places. For more adventurous families, dip into any side street of any market and you will find where the workers eat. If you are planning a day around KR Market, Lakshmi Natraja Refreshments is THE place to go. They just might serve the best breakfast in town.
EXPLORE THE PETE
Bangalorian pete or street markets have long been centers of everyday life. Do you need a bangle? There is a pete for it. Do you need cotton by the kilo? There is a pete for it. You are not a Bangalorian until you got lost in one of the markets and you definitely want your family to experience it as well! My favorite is the KR Market. Go early (like, really early) to catch all the movements and scents as this flower market comes alive. A word of advice: do not touch the flowers unless you are ready to buy the whole basket. Definitely bring bags with you and buy some local produce sold in front of it!
VINE TIP: upstairs in KR Market you can find cast iron woks of all sizes. I got the perfect three people sized wok for 400 rupees- be prepared to haggle.
BANGALORE PALACE AND TIPU SULTAN’S SUMMER PALACE
While around KR Market area, stop by at Bangalore Palace and Tipu Sultan’s Summer Palace. The Summer Palace is actually a lot more beautiful architecturally than Bangalore Palace, but both have great historical significance. If you are planning a day trip to Mysore, it is nice to see the summer seat of power as well. You don’t need more than an hour and a half for both, so this is a great pre-lunch activity.
This area is super crowded, so do yourself a favor and leave your car at home: autos are the way to go. Plus, visitors love autos!
Okay, you have been adventurous enough. Now it’s time to rub elbows with the beautiful people of Indiranagar for lunch in one of many upscale and yummy restaurants. Ladies who lunch are out in full force come lunchtime around 12th main so dress accordingly. I usually take my parents to Burma Burma, a vegetarian-only delight with some of the best dishes Bangalore has to offer. Burmese cuisine is not very well known around the world so it is a great way to try something new. It is a super popular place, which makes it great for people watching and for getting a sense of what Bangalorians in this part of time are like. Come early because tables fill up fast.
TIME FOR ART
National Gallery of Modern Art is a hidden gem. Every time I went I got an almost private viewing. The grounds of the Gallery are gorgeous, and the collection is well curated and maintained. It houses works from pre-colonial time, during the Raj period and contemporary art. Check their website for exhibition openings because they can affect how much of the Gallery is open, but also because they are lovely affairs.
GET OUT OF THE CITY
A city is a city is a city, but what makes Bangalore truly special is what is around it. Get out and explore the surrounding villages! I highly recommend doing a biking tour of Nandi Hills with Unventured. It is child-friendly as well and you will really see a lot- from a silk production factory, old ways of making pottery, to just enjoying the scenery.
Mysore is a popular out of town destination as well, for a reason. Mysore palace is a wonder, the city is beautiful, and the food is amazing. In front of Mysore palace you will see elephant rides being offered- do not take them. Ethical and responsible tourism is key. Do, however, explore the palace grounds before venturing into the city. Mysore is famous for its yoga, so give it a go in one of the many studios. Finish off your day out with a gorgeous thali at the Lalitha Mahal Palace hotel.
PUBS! ROOFTOPS! DRINKS!
Bangalore has the best weather and the best rooftop bars EVER. In fact, Bangalore has the highest number of pubs per capita in Asia. Start early in the afternoon to take advantage of thousands of happy hours and hop from a rooftop to rooftop. Just bear in mind traffic is a pain and stick to one area- if you are doing Koramangala, do only Koramangala. Some of my favorite rooftops are around 100 Feet Road and include Toit (an institution), Been There Done That, and 1131.
MOMMY AND ME TIME
Is your mom in town and you want to treat her to some pampering? Shreyas yoga retreat is heaven. On. Earth. It’s only about an hour away from the city center and it is ridiculously beautiful. You can do a three-night package or just go for a night, get massages, use the pool, do yoga in their outdoor shala and chill. I took my mom who has never done yoga before and she had the time of her life! The staff is lovely and they really make sure you take your relaxation seriously.
Commercial Street all day, every day. Drop them off at the beginning and tell them you’ll be back in a few hours. Start them off with buying silks at Mysore Silks, bargaining for carpets and pashminas in one of the many Kashmiri shops (my favorite one is just opposite Soch at the beginning of Commercial Street), onto buying bangles as gifts for everyone back home and finishing off with homeware and modern kurtas at Fab India. Meet them at Woody’s for dosa, thali or sweets before checking out the spoils of war.
Bangalore is not Mumbai, maybe we don’t get as many tourists and maybe we don’t have so many historic buildings, but we do have so much to show off. Make sure your family sees the city in all its glory and from all the different angles and they will for sure understand why we love it as much as we do!
Photo by WONG SZE FEI