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Drink and be merry

And in between, enjoy walking around the city with the best weather in the country

A performance of the Ramayana on wheelchairs by physically challenged artists, Bangalore, May 28, 2010

Bangalore has a vibrant arts and theatre culture © AFP

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Among Indian cities Bangalore has a unique distinction. It is the only one to have become a part of American slang: "Bangalored" being a back-handed compliment to the city's hugely successful outsourcing industry. It is a peculiarly urban triumph for this erstwhile retirement haven, which over the course of a couple of decades has taken the lead in redefining the country's economy.

The city today is synonymous with information-technology giants such as Infosys and Wipro, not to mention countless other software-driven large, medium and small companies. The buzz is quite at variance with the city's intrinsic laidback nature, brought on in part by unarguably the best weather of any major city in the country.

It's quite possible to look on Bangalore as a small town that has suddenly blown up to several times its size. From traffic to basic facilities, almost every part of the city's urban infrastructure feels the strain. For a taste of the real city, look beneath the mess of the Metro work, currently tearing up the arterial roads, into the green expanse of Cubbon Park, or the little bookshops that boast some of the best collections of cult graphic novels, which will be hard to find elsewhere in the country.

The city also possesses a vibrant arts scene, with many new-age industry czars generously supporting theatre and art. But perhaps one of its best faces is put forward at the Chinnaswamy Stadium, a small ground that retains a sense of intimacy in contrast to the magnificence of an Eden Gardens. No matter what the game is, or who's playing, Bangalore always rises to the occasion.

Weather

While north India heats like a cauldron in summer, Bangalore, which probably has the best climate of all the metropolitan Indian cities, is still tolerable. Temperatures usually hover between 30°C and 35°C during the day and evenings are pleasant.

Getting around

The common man's mode of conveyance is either the bus or the auto-rickshaw. However, buses are not advised if you aren't familiar with the local language. Auto-rickshaws are tricky: drivers are known to fleece their passengers - if they agree to go where they're asked to at all. The best bet, therefore, are radio cabs if you have to travel some distance. Try Easy Cabs, Meru Cabs, or ask your hotel to recommend a local service. In Bangalore's cool weather, walking is also a real option if the distances are not too great.

Where to stay

Since the Chinnaswamy Stadium is located bang in the heart of the city, there are plenty of options for accommodation.

High-end Less than 2km down the road from the stadium is The Oberoi Bangalore (from Rs 10,000), a five-star hotel with all the trappings and 2.8 acres of gardens. Round the corner from it is The Park (from Rs 8600), a boutique hotel with cosy rooms and excellent service. The newest five-star hotel in town is the ITC Gardenia (from Rs 13,000), an architectural marvel with superb restaurants.

Mid-level A short walk from the stadium, the Chancery (from Rs 5000 for early birds) is well-equipped and offers good value for money. Also a stone's throw away is Museum Inn (from Rs 3000), with comfortable rooms and earnest service. Budget Hotel Empire (from Rs 1530) on Infantry Road and Church Street has all the basic facilities and the bonus of an excellent location. Woodlands Hotel (from Rs 1600) on Richmond Circle is another well-connected option, as is Hotel Nandhini (from Rs 2100) on St Mark's Road.

Where to eat

Bangalore offers all kinds of cuisines, from western to oriental and from authentic South Indian to excellent North Indian.

High-end Frequently voted the best standalone restaurant in the city, Olive Beach serves excellent Mediterranean food. Karavalli, set in a faux Mangalorean house in the Gateway Hotel, draws from the culinary gems of the four southern states to present a menu that makes it hard to make up your mind. If you miss north Indian food, head to Samarkand for a smorgasbord of kebabs and curries.

Mid-level South Indies, as the name suggests, does south Indian food, all vegetarian. Be prepared to be surprised. Coconut Grove (Tel 91 80 25596149) specialises in Kerala cuisine: try the wafer-thin appams with a fish or mutton stew. Koshy's is a city institution: the air-conditioned half on the right serves food that's a throwback to the era of the British Raj.

Budget The non-airconditioned section of Koshy's is the heart of the restaurant, serving very decent snacks and meals, coffee and beer. Empire on Church Street, is a favorite for chicken dosas. Café Pascucci (Tel 91 80 40912134) is a convenient stop for sandwiches, burgers and coffees.

Where to party

Unfortunately for a city that thrives on its young workforce, Bangalore has an absurdly early deadline of 11pm: all public places must shut shop by that time. Plus there are restrictions on dancing - all of which dampens the city's party spirit. If you aren't invited to a private party, consider these options.

High-end City Bar, at the UB City Mall (Tel 91 80 42773636) has great drinks and a cool atmosphere. I-bar at the Park Hotel hosts theme nights that are very popular with the city's happening set.

Mid-level The 13th Floor cocktail lounge (Tel 91 80 41783333), as the name suggests, lets its magnificent view set the tone for a night of partying. Windsor Pub (Tel 91 80 22258847) has a great vibe, and super food but serves only beer.

Budget Pecos (Tel 91 80 25586047), a long-time favourite with beer-drinkers, plays classic rock. Plan B (Tel 91 9739902745) has a friendly atmosphere and lots of choice in short eats.

The glass house at the Lalbagh Botanical Garden, Bangalore

The glass house at the Lalbagh Botanical Gardens © Dinesh Shukla

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Must-Dos

Walk around Lalbagh, a 240-acre garden dating back to the 18th century. Its successive mentors have left their personal imprint on the garden, importing trees and plants from all over the world. If you're a keen botanist, sign up for a Sunday morning walk with Bangalore Walks.

Eat at MTR, a Bangalore institution. There are usually queues here at lunch and dinner, so arrive early. Or head here for breakfast after a walk around Lalbagh.

Visit Tipu Sultan's summer palace, a grand two-storied structure constructed entirely of teakwood, in Chamrajpet, in the heart of the city. Combining elements of Hindu and Muslim architecture, it's worth the visit, if only for the atmosphere.

Catch a play at Rangashankara, if you happen to be a theatre enthusiast. The auditorium was built with public donations, and is today at the cutting edge of performances in town. For a schedule of plays, visit click here.

Have a South Indian thali. Choose from the coconut-heavy Kerala thalis, or a local Karnataka meal.

Drive to Mysore, 140km away, for a day or two. Very different in character from Bangalore, Mysore still retains the charm of the princely state it used to be. A must-visit here is the Mysore Palace, especially at sundown, when it is lit up by 97,000 light bulbs.

All information is accurate to the best of our knowledge at the time of publication, but please make sure and confirm it independently as required. All prices mentioned are in Indian rupees. Hotel prices are for double rooms. Prices are indicative and subject to change

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