But have you been to Pune?
Once living in the shadows of its juggernaut big brother, Mumbai; Pune is now a major business and cultural capital with multi-nats like Tech Mahindra, Bank of Maharashtra and Bajaj Group, to name a few, calling the in-land city, home. Despite its development as a key business centre, Pune remains an Indian-culture stronghold for food, the Hindu faith and Indian classical music.
Make sure Pune is high up on your list of destinations to visit this India trip. Here are the best places to visit in Pune as a tourist.
This is without a doubt the best South Indian food in Pune, if not Maharashtra, and perhaps outside of South India! With a delicious assortment of Dosas, Idlis, Vadas and Uttapam, your South Indian cuisine cravings will be well nourished at Hotel Vaishali. Located on the busy Ferguson road, opposite Ferguson college, Vaishali is best visited in the morning for breakfast or brunch. While reservations are not required, expect a short wait for a vacant table. This place is really popular! The restaurant is open all day, with the menu changing in the evening for dinner/supper style meals.
Where is Hotel Vaishali?
1218/1 Shivajinagar, Fergusson College Road, Pune.
7 days a week, 7:00am – 11:00pm
2. Sinhagad Fort
For a little day trip outside the city centre, look no further than Sinhagad Fort, directly translated to ‘Lions Fort’. Adorned with history dating back 2000 years, when many freedom fighters battled along the Fort to capture and recapture it from the dominant Mughals. The most coveted of these freedom fighters was no doubt, Shivaji and Tanaji; the latter falling to his death in the last battle at the Fort, as he fought to secure it one last time for the Maratha people. Far from its bloody past, today Sinhagad is the ideal weekend getaway, with a selection of guided hiking tracks, family-friendly activities and food outlets.
Must-do at Sinhagad:
In the colder months, search for places on the Fort that sell steaming Kanda-Bhaji (battered onion rings), warm Pithla (spicy yellow curry) and Bhakri (unleavened bread). After indulging in a heavenly meal, walk it off as you begin your descent down the hill. In the warmer months, re-energise with some sweetened yogurt, served ice-cold in small clay pots.
How do I get there?
By Car – expect 90 minutes with traffic
By Bus – expect 60 minutes to the foothills of the Fort . Catch a bus from the main bus depot, called Swargate.
Other modes of transport include Bike, Taxi and Rickshaw (not advisable).
3. Tulsi Baug
Meet the markets of Pune. For the ultimate deal, stroll down to Tulsi Baug in the centre of city. The vicinity is historic, as it is religious for the people of Pune. Built in the 18th century, with many restaurants, refreshment centres and temples located along the strip, the landmark is the perfect way to experience the streets of Pune.
What can I buy at Tulsi Baug?
Whitegoods, clothing, cooking items, jewellery and other general household products.
Where do I enter Tulsi Baug?
Budhwar Peth, Pune. Or just Google it!
4. Dagadusheth Halwai Ganapati Temple
On almost every street corner in Pune city you will find temples and shrines devoted to a range of Hindu gods, but there is one God in particular that carries tremendous weight (no pun intended) for Punekars (people of Pune) – Lord Ganesha, the remover of obstacles and God of Wisdom. Every year the city hosts a nation-famous parade dedicated to Ganesh (aka Ganapati) during a 10-day auspicious period in the Hindu moon calendar. Of the many Ganesh monuments, none is more coveted than the Shreemanth Dagdusheth Halwai. Located in the heart of the city, Laxmi Road, the idol is showered in gold jewellery and is perceived to be very lucky, resulting in many locals, tourists and nationals visiting the opulent temple. The Dagdusheth Ganapati idol is the main event at the annual Ganesh Utsav Festival.
No footwear, dress appropriately (cover legs), expect a small wait to get in the temple. You will not have much time directly in front of the idol, so plan your wishes ahead!
5. Chitale Bandhu Sweets
Pune is known for being a melting pot of sumptuous Indian dishes from all over the country. But there’s one local brand that sits comfortably in the heart of locals; the delicious Mithai (sweets) of Chitale Bandhu. From Jalebi, Gulab Jamun, Pedha and their famous Amba Barfi, Chitale is your one stop to indulge in some of India’s finest sweets. They also provide a range of savoury snacks if you’re missing that sweet tooth. A must-see(taste) locally made culinary centre!
Where can I find Chitale Sweets?
777 Bajirao Road, Pune (near bank of Mahrashtra) OR 759, 54, Opp Gharware Chowk, Deccan Gymkhana, Pune
What’s popular at Chitale?
Amba Barfi, Bhakarvadi and Soft Jalebi.
6. Saras Baug
Continuing Punes’ obsession with the Tusked immortal, Saras Baug deviates from the usual temple formula. Situated in the centre of a large park, the elevated temple provides superb views of the park, lake and beyond. In addition to its religious significance, Saras Baug was a key meeting point for local warriors (known as Peshwas). It is believed that the Peshwas would traverse the lake and discuss tactics and strategies to overcome British and Nizam rule.
What makes the Saras Baug Ganapati special?
The idols’ trunk sits to the right. For many Marathi (people of Maharashtra) folk, this represents a prosperous Ganesh idol. One that will grant your wishes if you ask for them in Marathi.
7. Mahathma Phule Mandai (Mandai)
Farm to Fridge, this is Pune’s answer to a Farmers Market. With the prices of goods a little cheaper than malls and street-front outlet, this is where locals do their shopping for fruits and vegetables. The atmosphere during the weekend or holiday period is electric, with over 500 stalls on display. This is certainly an unique Pune experience. Don’t forget your negotiating hat!
Where is the Mandai Market?
Shukrawar Peth. The main entrance if off Chhatrapati Shivaji road.
Is there a Mandai Ganapati?
Yes. Being one of the oldest in Pune, it is a revered idol.
8. Shaniwar Wada Palace
Once the epicentre of the Peshwa (a class of Indian warriors) empire, Shaniwar Wada is a magnificent sight for historians and travellers a like. Althought most of the Fort was lost in a large scale fire in the 1800’s, some remarkable remnants of the great palace have been preserved for all to observe and explore today. Established in 1732, the Peshwas forfeited power over the fort to the British India Company in the early 18th century.
Where is Shaniwar Wada?
Quite close to Pune city centre, the Wada is located in Shaniwar Peth.
What is the best way of getting there?
If you are staying close to the city centre, I recommend going for a easy-paced walk to Shaniwar Wada. You’ll see some of the best sights and sounds (and meals!) that Pune has to offer. The weather in Pune is typically comfortable and suited to a nice stroll. Alternatively, a local rickshaw service will get you to the Wada in no time.