After experiencing metropolitan and touristy cities in India, I can't help but keep returning to my hometown Chandigarh. If you've heard about it, you've probably also heard that it's the first planned city of independent India and is green and beautiful! That is true for sure, but Chandigarh has more points of interest than that.
Here's a guide to experience Chandigarh like a local. If you've already covered the basics and would like to explore this beautiful place even further, take a look at these recommendations as well:
Take a walk by Sukhna Lake
No visit to Chandigarh is complete without visiting the Sukhna Lake. Le Corbusier's masterpiece for the city, it is a man-made lake that lies at the foothills of the Shivalik range.
Local's Tip: Don't enter the lake from the front side. On weekends it's really crowded and impossible to enjoy. Try going on a weekday late afternoon, drive up from behind the golf club and park near the Buddha Garden and walk up the stairs from there. Walk your way back to the front of the lake, where the food court and boat rides are.
Via Angad Pal Singh Kingra
Lose yourself at the Rock Garden
As a kid I used to love going to this place, it was like visiting a foreign land with odd looking people in it. The rock garden is the creation self-taught artist Nek Chand who built it illegally in a forest area around the 1950's. Although it's called a garden, it's quite literally made of rocks, make sure you're prepared for the heat!
Local's Tip: Go deep into the gardens past the sculptures and waterfalls to the pillars that have swings between them. If you're lucky enough to grab a free swing, don't let go of it till the child inside you has had all the fun it can. Try and swing as high as you possibly can. Don't try and jump off of it when you're high up in the air.
Explore the Government Museum and Art Gallery of Chandigarh
Amongst one of the many structures designed by French architect Le Corbusier, the Museum is a vast campus that houses four wings: The Art Gallery, Natural History Museum, Chandigarh Architecture Museum and National Gallery of Portraits. The Museums collection has a deep history rooted in the partition of India and Pakistan. The collections were originally a part of a museum in Lahore, and only forty percent of that made it into this country, housed in Chandigarh after shifting through Amritsar, Shimla, and Patiala.
Local's Tip: Get there around opening time and explore all four wings till the end of the day. Carry a sketchbook and get inspired by the variety of sculptures, head on over to the College of Art Canteen for lunch and enjoy college life for a bit.
Shop at Sector 17 city center
The heart of the city, where you will find whatever you're looking for. Better than a mall because of all the open space and fresh air, Sector 17 is every shopper's paradise.
Local's Tip: Buy some popcorn from any of the kiosks while you window shop. Try spotting the numerous sculptures and murals hidden around the sector and drink some Indian style coffee at the Indian Coffee House.
Picnic at the Rose Garden
The Zakir Hussain Rose Garden is full of hues of pink, red, yellow, white and many more with over 1600 species of roses. Bring a mat and a picnic basket to this sweet smelling garden and take in the wonderful colors and beauty it has to offer.
Local's Tip: Try not to go looking for overly hidden spots unless you are playing a game of "I spy couples making out." Do look for the black roses, they are rare and quite tough to spot.
Drive through the Gehri Route
Sung about in endless Punjabi songs, the gehri route is the inner roads of Sector 8 through 11. This is where every chandigarhian goes to grab fancy fast food and check out cars. If you ever have the chance to make friends with a local, make sure they drive you through this place. You'll love it or laugh at it, either way, you won't get bored.
Local's Tip: Monica's Bakery in Sector 8 and La Pinoz Pizza in Sector 9, two places you won't regret visiting!
Get Arty at Aura Art Stay
Situated on the outskirts of Chandigarh, this small haven is the perfect place to go to if you want to get away from the city. Whether for a weekend getaway or weeks of introspection, Aura Art Stay is an Art Hostel that has something to offer to the artist in everyone. Lots of greenery, two adorable labs and studio space to create endlessly, lose yourself and find yourself.
Local's Tip: Leave behind the "I'm not an artist" attitude and dive in. Bring treats for the cutest dogs ever!
Relish the food at Swagath
No one does Indian food like Swagath Restaurant in Sector 26. It's an Indian food restaurant in the front and a swanky cafe at the back, pick the ambiance you prefer, cause the food is great either way
Local's Tip: Have dinner at the restaurant in the front then head on over to the back for an after party!
Bargain at the Sector 22 Market
Hidden behind the main market, look for the Shastri market in Sector 22 for a hardcore street shopping experience. Take the time to really look for the good stuff hidden behind all the not so good stuff, and bargain away!
Local's Tip: Don't look too interested in what you want to bye, try lowering the price to at least 2/3rds of the original price and if the shopkeeper won't budge, drop it and walk away, they'll call you back in no time.
Cycle through it
With every street covered in trees, the city is best explored on a bicycle. Paths are made separately for this purpose through most of the city, there's no better way to take in the fresh air and explore the numerous parks of Chandigarh.
Local's Tip: Start with the lower number sectors first, they're quieter and easier to ride through, with the prettiest streets on that side.
That's a wrap on all the things that locals love to do in Chandigarh, to explore this beautiful city further, find great recommendations on shoutlo.com where you can keep up with what's new in the city and the best places to visit.