On the Deccan Plateau in southern India is the cosmopolitan city of Bengaluru, formerly known as Bangalore. The city, whose roots date back to the age of the Vijayanagara Empire in 1537, is the capital of the state of Karnataka. Since its founding, it has blossomed into a megacity of over ten million, making it the third-most populous city in India after Mumbai and Delhi. Because of its size, history, and multicultural atmosphere, there are tons of things to see and do in Bengaluru for all types of travelers.
If you’re a foodie, you’re in luck; Bengaluru is home to some of the best restaurants and street food vendors I’ve ever had in southern India. History lovers will delight in the opportunity to dive deep into the origins of the city and its surrounding area. And those looking to experience a little bit of everything will never find a shortage of places to visit. These are the top 10 things to see and do in Bengaluru, India.
Have a Southern Indian Breakfast
When you visit a city in the southern part of India like Bengaluru, something you must do is experience an authentic southern Indian breakfast. Two of the best spots in the city to have one are Central Tiffin Room (more commonly known as CTR) and Vidyarthi Bhavan.
I was surprised to learn that people come from as far as 50 kilometers away to have breakfast at CTR, a legendary breakfast spot in the city. After tasting their food for myself, I understand why it’s one of the top things to see and do in Bengaluru. The place will likely be jam-packed when you visit, but wait patiently because the offerings here are worth it.
The main event at CTR are the dosas, which are buttery and crispy in some spots and spongy in others. It creates a wonderful mixture of textures whether you eat it plain with ghee or with aloo masala (a mashed potato dish with chilies, curry leaves, and shallots) like I did. Try it with their coconut chutney! It’s thinner than others I’ve had, but still packs a wonderful coconut flavor I couldn’t get enough of.
Another great option at CTR is their chow chow bath, which consists of two contrasting dishes: the spicy khara bath and the sweet kesari bath. The cloves and raisins of the kesari bath balance out the chilies of the khara bath perfectly.
This polenta-like dish is best eaten with CTR’s outstanding coconut chutney. Finish off your meal with an outstanding Karnataka filtered coffee. It’s rich and sweet, with a slight bitterness. If it’s too hot for you, pour it back and forth between your cup and the metal bowl that’s provided. It does the trick!
The other popular breakfast place you must visit is Vidyarthi Bhavan, a 75-year-old eatery where the waits are also long but worth it. Breakfast here is quite a spectacle. The waiters here carry towering stacks of plated dosas up their arms and somehow manage to weave between customers and not drop anything!
Despite the spices and peppers in their potato curry, it’s not spicy at all, so it’s perfect for those who like more mild food. Try it with the puri and if you want a spicier kick, dip it in the coconut chutney. Their vada, a crispy and savory doughnut, arrives soaking in sambar and is bursting with tomato flavor. Like the puri, it’s even better with the coconut chutney. The idli and chow chow bath are also fantastic.
But as with CTR, the dosa is the star of the show at Vidyarthi Bhavan. They are coated in delicious ghee, a type of clarified butter that is popular in Indian cuisine. Despite the amount of ghee, the dosa is crispy and flaky. Eat it with the potato filling it comes with and dip it into the sambar and coconut chutney for an added flavor explosion in your mouth! It’s one of the best dosas I’ve ever had!
End your meal at Vidyarthi Bhavan with a Karnataka filtered coffee. As you pour it back and forth to cool it off, it becomes frothy and extra delicious. It’s reminiscent of a cortadito, a type of Cuban coffee that’s popular in my hometown of Miami!
Visit Church Street
If you’re looking to do some shopping or people watching during your time in Bengaluru, Church Street is the place to do it. The 750-meter-long stretch is located between Brigade Road and St. Mark’s Road in the Central Business District. It leads straight to St. Mark’s Cathedral, which is how it got its name.
Church Street is a tourist hotspot and one of the city’s biggest revenue-producing areas. I recommend visiting the Entertainment Store for a major pop culture fix. At the time I visited, hype was growing steadily for the release of the first Avengers: Endgame trailer, so the store was filled with Marvel merchandise, including T-shirts, character figurines, and props like Thor’s hammer Mjolnir. There, you can also find T-shirts dedicated to musical bands like Nirvana.
After leaving the store, I also recommend making a stop at Indian Coffee House. While the air was thick with the heavenly aromas of masala and chai, I suggest going with a cool drink like a cold coffee. Bengaluru’s location in southern India means it’s sweltering most of the time and you’ll need a cold drink to help you beat the heat!
Street Food in Frazer Town
Frazer Town is an important historical and cultural area in Bengaluru. This residential and commercial suburb is in the northeastern part of town and is known for its harmonious atmosphere. Here, Hindus, Muslims, and Christians live together peacefully. It’s also one of the best places to find flavorful non-veg food in the city!
Stop by Shahi Kabab for their Sheek Sambo Rolls, which consists of six spicy beef kebabs and lots of onions rolled up in a roti. It’s hearty, tasty, and extremely inexpensive for the amount of food you get. Meanwhile, at Empire Restaurant, you can find a rich and creamy butter chicken, spicy grilled chicken, and some refreshing mosambi juice. I also recommend the chicken shawarma with vegetables and a creamy yogurt sauce in a slightly charred pita. The flavor combination is out of this world.
Don’t overlook the stall known as Taj Tea House; there, you can find an ultra-sweet and potent lemon chai, which reminded me of teas I’d had in Morocco and Jordan.
If you still have room in your belly, grab some Death by Chocolate at Corner House for dessert. This decadent sundae contains vanilla ice cream, chocolate cake, cream, honey, chocolate sauce, peanuts, and cherries. It is sweet and rich beyond belief and is the perfect way to cap off a night of meaty street foods. Just look out for the cherry pits!
Visit Cubbon Park
As I mentioned earlier, Bengaluru experiences extremely hot weather, so be prepared to sweat a lot as you explore. One of the best places to cool off and just chill out is Sri Chamarajendra Park, better known as Cubbon Park.
The park is located very close to the Airbnb I stayed at and contains lots of greenery. There are many tall trees, which keep much of the park in the shade. The shade makes the temperature in the park much cooler than the rest of the city.
You’ll find a cool military jet at the park’s entrance, and inside are vendors selling chaats, coconuts, ice cream, and other snacks. The park seemed pretty popular when I visited. There were lots of locals there, especially families enjoying a nice, relaxing Sunday. It’s a wonderful spot to relax, cool off, and enjoy a snack in-between your adventures!
Banana Leaf Southern Indian Thali at Nagarjuna Restaurant
One of my favorite things about traveling through India is the amount of diversity in the food. Nowhere is that more apparent in Bengaluru, and to taste some of that amazing diversity, head over to Nagarjuna Restaurant. This restaurant has been serving Andhra-style food since 1984 and eating there is easily one of the best things to see and do in Bengaluru.
My recommendation is to go with the southern Indian thali. It’s served on a large banana leaf and is meant to be mixed and eaten with your hands. Don’t be afraid to get messy! Ease your way in with some chicken Nagarjuna. It’s not spicy at first, but it will creep up on you as you eat!
Check out 35 Indian Street Food Dishes You Must Try in Delhi, India
Try mixing a bit of peppery spice called gun powder into your ghee rice. Mix it thoroughly with your fingertips and enjoy! Other highlights of the meal there include the dal with spinach and the palya, a refreshing vegetable dish that contains carrots and chickpeas.
Also try your ghee rice and gun powder with their peanut chutney, which is so flavorful it’s almost like peanut butter, and their light and soupy sambar. You can also try your rice with curd, and don’t forget to try everything with the thin and crispy papadum as well. Order the rice pudding-like payasam for dessert. Trust me, it’s fantastic.
Eat Street Food on VV Puram Food Street
Another hotspot for street food in Bengaluru is VV Puram Food Street, which is located in the Basavanagudi locality. This food street is lined with at least twenty stalls selling a variety of extreme and exceptional foods. This place is a foodie paradise!
I suggest starting off with the thatte idli, a dense rice and lentil cake that is easily two or three times the size of a regular idli. It’s soft and fluffy, with a very mild and almost bland flavor. Combine it with the coconut and tomato chutneys it’s served with and you’ve got a proper flavor explosion that will make your taste buds dance!
Along VV Puram Food Street, you’ll also find my all-time favorite Indian food, pani puri. The variation here is called floating pani puri, and consists of the slightly spicy and loaded puris floating in a plate of jaljeera water. Crunching into these little delights is like heaven in your mouth!
Other treats you must try include fried cauliflower with a tomato-based sauce, the crispy potato twisters, the spicy roasted chili corn, and the doughy and saccharine sweet roti. The nitrogen biscuits, which are doused in liquid nitrogen and make you look like you’re breathing smoke, are also a fun treat. But the main spectacle here is the fire paan.
Fire paan is a flaming version of the palate cleanser and stimulant called paan. The regular version consists of an areca nut, seeds, dried fruit, and other ingredients that are rolled up in a betel leaf, which you then chew for its benefits. But with fire pan, the mixture is lit on fire and shoved straight into your mouth by the vendor! It may sound scary, but it’s actually more exhilarating than anything.
The fire paan has a minty and smoky flavor and is easily one of the top things to see and do in Bengaluru. It’s a wild experience you will remember for the rest of your life!
Visit Bangalore Fort
History enthusiasts visiting Bengaluru should take the time to explore Bangalore Fort, a former mud fort that is now made of granite and dates back to 1537. The mud fort was built by Kempe Gowda I during the Vijayanagara Empire.
In 1761, Hyder Ali, the sultan and ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore, replaced it with the current stone fort, which played a role in the Third Mysore War. Today, the fort’s Delhi gate and two bastions still remain, and a marble plaque commemorates the spot where the British breached the fort’s wall.
Inside the massive, foot-thick gates is a temple and a little statue of Nandi, a gate-guardian deity usually depicted as a bull. There are also lots of beautiful carvings of different animals around a tiny doorway.
Throughout the fort are massive walls built with giant blocks of stone. Inside, you can also find a beautiful garden. Unlike many other Indian forts, Bangalore Fort is free to visit, so make sure to pay it a visit! It’s easily one of the most amazing things to see and do in Bengaluru.
Eat Spicy Non-Veg Food at Shivaji Military Hotel
Traveling foodies looking for some of Bengaluru’s finest non-veg food should make the trip to Shivaji Military Hotel. Like many other popular restaurants in Bengaluru, it will likely be packed when you arrive, so be prepared to wait.
Unlike some other restaurants, you and your party can wait inside and take a table as soon as a patron finishes their meal. It can be a bit hectic, but as is commonly the case in Bengaluru, the food is more than worth it.
At Shivaji Military Hotel, everyone eats their meal off banana leaves, which you rinse with water before you place your food on it. As is customary in southern India, the meal is meant to be eaten with your hands, so wash them well before you start!
It’s hard to go wrong with anything on Shivaji Military Hotel’s menu, but I highly recommend the flavorful mutton biryani and the buttery and tender liver, which comes in a minty and earthy gravy. Even if you think you don’t like liver, you have to try this one. It is exceptional. The mutton dry’s texture is every bit as divine as its flavor, and the fiery spices in the chicken fry will open up your sinuses!
Another dish with a real kick to it is the chili chicken, which along with the other meats, pairs extremely well with the ghee rice. If your mouth gets too hot, try the milky cucumber salad. It helps calm down the heat on your tongue and in your throat!
Visit Tipu Sultan’s Summer Palace
While sightseeing at Bangalore Fort, be sure to stop by an incredible site within the old fort area, Tipu Sultan’s Summer Palace. The palace was built in 1791 and is a beautiful example of Indo-Islamic architecture.
It was the summer residence of Tipu Sultan, a Mysorean ruler who died during the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War. The palace is built entirely of teak and boasts many stunning pillars, arches, and balconies.
Inside the palace is a huge terrace with balconies and walkways branching off of it, as well as multiple rooms below and a garden outside. The palace is gorgeous, but be forewarned: the entry fee for foreigners is 300 rupees, while locals only pay 25 rupees.
A note for photographers: when you visit Tipu Sultan’s Summer Palace, bring a lens that can capture in low light so you get the best results.
Visit KR Market
When you visit Bengaluru, one of the things you must do is visit KR Market. This colorful local market puts out fresh flowers, fruits, and vegetables early in the morning and is particularly active during the festive season. A lot of the flowers at this particular market come from the outskirts of Bengaluru.
Visiting local flower markets in India gives a lot of insight into elements of local life. Many people in Bengaluru use flowers for worship and significant events like weddings. For example, there is a custom where white, red, and green garlands of flowers are put around one another during marriages. Here, you can watch local women make these garlands.
As I watched one woman craft her garland, I estimated that it must take her about an hour to complete just one. It’s painstaking work, but the end result is gorgeous. It’s always a beautifully human experience to watch locals do the work they’re so proud of. Because of the people and their amazing craftmanship, visiting any flower market in the city is one of the top things to see and do in Bengaluru.
Whether you go to Bengaluru looking to explore historical sites, try unique street food, or eat traditional southern Indian cuisine in some of the city’s best restaurants, you won’t be disappointed by what you find. Everything offered there is at the highest of high standards and the people are quite friendly as well. Book your trip to Bengaluru today to see for yourself!
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