I'm going to visit Bangalore next month for a couple of days. Is May a good time to go? I'm worried it might be too hot. Also, I don't want to end up with a hectic itinerary, so can you suggest a few important sites, and the best shopping spots for souvenirs and books?
The capital of the southern Indian state of Karnataka, Bangalore sits at 900 metres above sea level and enjoys a cool climate all year round, so any time is a good time to go. May heralds the beginning of summer but average temperatures during this time stay between 25 and 32°Celsius, pleasant compared with other southern cities, such as Chennai. Traffic can be a nightmare, however, so stick to a few important sites if you don't want to spend hours on the road.
Bangalore is India's "Garden City", with well-maintained green spaces and thick canopies of trees shading the main roads and residential districts. Stop by the historic Cubbon Park in the city centre for a walk through its 120 hectares of greenery. Originally constructed in 1870, it boasts nearly 6,000 plants and trees, and is also home to the state library.
For a quick lesson in southern Indian history, stop by the imposing Bangalore Palace, which was built by Prince Chamaraja Wodeyar in 1887 (open from 10am to 6pm; entrance is 100 rupees [Dh8]). Spread over 4,200 sq m, the Tudor-style palace has a large courtyard, and its high-ceilinged rooms are filled with elaborate wood carvings, detailed reliefs, murals, stained-glass windows, and even an enormous mounted elephant head (Durbar Hall, first floor). The spacious palace grounds frequently host music concerts and other public events (Metallica performed here in October last year; the first week of May brings a wellness exhibition).
Another important monument is Tipu Sultan's Summer Palace, located near KR Market. Built in 1791, the two-storey teak building is carefully preserved and has a decent collection of objects from the Hyder-Tipu era (open daily from 8.30am to 5.30pm; entrance is 100 rupees [Dh8]).
There's colonial history to be found at St Patrick's Church (open daily) on Residency Road. Dating from 1844, it is one of the oldest in the city, having been originally built for Irish soldiers stationed in the city during the time.
The best place to shop is Brigade Road, the city's main commercial street. Here you'll find Cauvery Arts Emporium (00 91 80 4112 2105), a sensibly priced souvenirs shop that stocks delicate silk scarves, handwoven cotton saris, sandalwood figurines, and rosewood furniture inlaid with mother-of-pearl.
The best bookshops in this area include Blossom Bookhouse (Church Street; www.blossombookshouse.com), which offers three floors of new and second-hand books, and The Bookworm (00 91 80 4112 6755), popular for its knowledgeable and extremely helpful staff. If you feel like a break, there are innumerable cafes offering local staples such as poha (puffed rice) and freshly brewed chicory coffee (50 rupees, Dh4).
For a slice of local life, head to Malleswaram, a neighbourhood in the north of the city famous for its traditional Tamil flavour and Hindu temples. Its market stays busy from dawn to dusk, its stalls piled high with seasonal produce, fresh flowers and household goods.
If you have the time, head about 10km west to the famous Iskcon complex (the International Society for Krishna Consciousness; www.iskconbangalore.org), which promotes Vedic culture and spiritual learning (entry is free). Even if you're not interested in sitting through a lecture, Iskcon is worth a visit for a wander around the main temple, a glittering confection of marble, granite and glass.
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