Young at heart

The cultural capital of Maharashtra is now a city of college students and IT professionals, so expect good food and a good time

A statue of Shivaji, Pune, January 1, 2001

Pune: land of the Peshwas © UniversalImagesGroup

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The second largest city in Maharashtra, Pune is also its cultural capital, and like all of Marathi land, this city breathes cricket too. It would be unwise to stroll along a park or in a gully without being mindful of the surroundings, for you never know when a ball might drop on your head.

Pune is only three hours away from Mumbai, but the two cities are quite different in certain respects. While Mumbai lives and breathes by the sea, and sweats like a man in a boiler, Pune has found its space not too far from the hills. While Mumbai is synonymous with Bollywood, Pune is the centre of the Marathi film industry. But in the last 20 years, Pune has also developed a reputation for being an educational hotbed, with thousands of students coming every year to study in the city's many colleges, and an IT hub.

While Mumbai has given India a standout cricket superstar every decade, Pune's resume is not as strong, though who can forget the boundary Hrishikesh Kanitkar hit off Saqlain Mushtaq in Dhaka, January 1998, to give India one of its greatest victories over Pakistan.

Weather

Though Pune is pleasant for most of the year, April and May can get very hot, like everywhere else in India. Day-time temperatures could be over 35°C, though evenings will be more pleasant.

Getting around

Pune is well-connected to all major cities of the country, and its airport, Lohegaon, is approximately ten kilometres from the city centre. It is an international airport, but currently the only international flights from there are to Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Frankfurt. So if you are flying in from any other country, the best option is to land in Mumbai and take a cab to Pune. There are frequent trains from Pune to Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai, Bangalore, Jammu, Kanpur, Jamshedpur and Varanasi. If you want to go to the nearby hill station of Lonavala, there are local trains, buses or cabs you can take.

Pune has a good public transport system, but though rickshaws and buses ply the city, app-based cabs like Ola and Uber are fast becoming the most popular way to get around. Maharashtra State Transport buses ply between Mumbai and Pune all day (from 5.30am up until midnight) and regular rates for buses are Rs 231 (non-AC) and Rs 446 (AC).

Although Gahunje, where the newer cricket stadium is located, is just 29 kilometres from the city centre, on match days it is advisable to head there at least three hours in advance to avoid traffic jams. Follow the route that takes you to the Pune-Mumbai expressway. Turn left near Kiwale junction just before the flyover starts. From there, four-wheelers need to follow the service road while two-wheelers will have to reach the stadium via Mamurdi village. The parking lot is at least a 15-minute walk from the main stadium.

Where to stay

High-end The Crowne Plaza Pune City Centre (from Rs 4,446, 28kms from the stadium) is a classy hotel of international standards. It's very close to the railway station, in the Hinjewadi area, a thriving business district in the city. Courtyard Pune (from Rs 5,700), is also in the Hinjewadi district and is known for its excellent service and business facilities. Other luxury hotels in Pune are the Marriott Suites ( from Rs 9,025), the Westin Pune (from Rs 9,000) and
The Mumbai-Pune Expressway near Lonavala, Pune, July 24, 2007

The Mumbai-Pune expressway © UniversalImagesGroup

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Mid-level The Royal Orchid Golden Suites in Koregaon Park (from Rs 3,600) has a great swimming pool. Closer to the stadium, in Hinjewadi, are Lemon Tree Hotel (from Rs 3,149), which has good buffet meals, and the Holiday Inn (from Rs 3,249), a business hotel. If you do not mind staying a little far from the stadium, two options, about 30kms away, are the Hyatt Pune (Rs 4,800) on Nagar Road and the Sun-N-Sand (from Rs 4,365) in Bund Garden Road. The latter's Kabab Hut restaurant is highly recommended.

Budget Noorya Hometel (from Rs 2,100, 13kms), in Chinchwad, is a relatively new hotel with smart interiors. Ginger (from Rs 2,199) is 15kms away. Other good budget hotels in Pune are Sadanand Regency (from Rs 2,700), Hotel Parichay (from Rs 2,000) and the basic Park Central Comfort-e-Suites in Koregaon Park (from Rs 2,500).

Where to eat

You can't leave Pune without trying the snacks vada pav or misal pav. For budget food eateries, head to Ferguson College Road, which is full of snack shops serving delicious food. Koregaon Park probably has the best collection of restaurants and nightlife though Baner, close to the stadium, is catching up fast.

High-end Flambos on Bund Garden road serves Italian, Mexican and French cuisine, but what stands out is their Brazilian food. They also have a brewery and serve arguably the best wheat beer in town. Seasonal Tastes, Westin's restaurant, has the most lavish buffet in the city. Farzi Café's Pune outpost in Kalyani Nagar does Indian fusion in style while Malaka Spice remains one of the city's best restaurants for pan-Asian cuisine. Savya Rasa serves up the best of South India, from Chettinad kuzhi paniyaram to Malabar biryani.

Mid-level If you want to try traditional Maharashtrian vegetarian food, head to Janseva Bhojanalay, famous for its thalis. Vohuman, an Iranian restaurant next to Jehangir hospital, serves yummy omelettes. The iconic German Bakery serves up continental café food and delectable cheesecakes. For north Indian food, go to Delhi Kitchen or Satguru Punjabi Rasoi.

Budget Goodluck Cafe is one of the oldest and most loved restaurants in Pune. It serves Iranian and Punjabi dishes, but has become more famous for its tea and buttered bread (maska pav). Any time you visit, you'll see college students chattering away inside. South Indian food lovers, try out Iddos , which serves several different types of idlis, vadas and dosas. Other good budget restaurants in Pune are Top in Town, Wadeshwar and Vaishali.

Where to party

High-end From top-billed DJs to quirky world jazz acts, everyone makes a pitstop at the BlueFrog in Yerwada. Stone Water Grill, in Koregaon Park, serves European cuisine, has a very well-stocked bar with over 70 varieties of wines, and a small dance floor. Mi-a-Mi, in Pune Marriot Hotel and Convention Centre, is a popular club with good food, great ambience and a sizeable dance floor.

Mid-level Try the "Barman's Pitcher" at 1000 Oaks. Enjoy the view of the city from Penthouze Nightlife in Onyx Tower. Other recommended places in the Koregaon Park are Swig, Hard Rock Cafe and High Spirits.

Budget There are a number of pubs and lounges in Pune that won't clean you out on a night out. The best among these are Toons - The Cafe Down Under on MG Road, Shailaja on JM Road, Bamboo House in Shivaji Nagar and April Rain in Aundh.

Students at the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune, September 8, 2006

Students at the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune © India Today Group/Getty Images

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Must-dos

Go on a history tour of the city, starting your day at Aga Khan Palace - a pretty building with big lawns, Italian arches and salons - where the British imprisoned Mahatma Gandhi and his wife Kasturba (who died in this palace) during the Quit India Movement. Later, Prince Aga Khan donated it to the government to erect a memorial for Mahatma and Kasturba Gandhi, and today it has several rare black and white photographs of the freedom movement.

Visit the eighth-century Pataleshwar Caves in the middle of the city. In the evening, attend a Sound and Lights Show at Shaniwar Wada, that was originally built for the Peshwas (successors of Shivaji) in 1736 and was burnt down in 1828. However, the imposing walls, the pinths still stand tall, as do the palace doors with their fierce spikes. Today, it is one of Pune's main cultural symbols.

Trek in Bhimashankar wildlife sanctuary. The park is home to leopards, sambar, barking deer, wild boars, Malabar giant squirrels and hyenas. Bird lovers can try to spot the black eagle, the Malabar whistling thrush, the green pigeon and the Malabar grey hornbill.

Pick up Shrewsbury biscuits and sponge cake at Kayani Bakery.

The Raja Dinkar Kelkar Museum hosts a quirky collection of oddball Indian artefacts, including musical instruments, lamps, miniature paintings and even kitchen utensils