Explore Pune Like a Local

Explore Pune Like a Local

As I closed my books and wore my shoes to discover new places and distant lands, I realized no books or classroom lectures can give you the kind of education travelling does.

Pune with its history, museums, nearby hill forts that give a bird’s eye view of the surroundings, festivals, food, restaurants, nightlife, and large student population ~ is a city on the rise. A vibrant mix of the old and the new, capitalism and spiritualism, the city has been catapulted on the global map because of the famous Osho International Meditation Resort founded by the late guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh.

The local people or Puneris, as they are known, inspite of belonging to different religions, castes, and ethnicities, live in peace and harmony and it is this attitude that weaves the entire fabric of the city and makes it beckoning and enchanting to all. This charming city once known for being a little more than an army outpost, has witnessed a distinct change in recent times which Vikram and I discovered courtesy the wonderful team at the Conrad Pune who were hosting our stay in the city {more on this soon}.

Whether on a business trip or visiting at leisure, here are a few spots that should not be missed. Are you ready to explore Pune like a local? My recommendations are on food, culture and historical things to do.

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Arathi at out arrival at Conrad Pune

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Vohuman Café

Pune mornings are glorious ~ so kick start your day and breathe in the essence of the city with an early morning stroll that should leave you ravenously hungry. Then jot down those early memories of the city over a sweet hot chai with fried eggs and bun maska!

We start our early day at Vohuman Café {vohuman stands for ‘good thoughts’}, an iconic place and one of the oldest Irani joints in Pune for a lip smacking breakfast before we get on to traversing the city. A visit to one of these quaint Irani cafes is a must on every foodie’s list. And I can vouch for the egg-cellent and mouth watering fare that is served here. Find your place at one of their cramped tables with heavy marble countertops and bentwood chairs and order away!

I am told that as a true Puneri, this is a favourite breakfast joint not only to enjoy the morning delicacies ~ omelette and cheese toast {their secret: a humungous chunk of cheese goes into every omelette and a slab in every cheese toast}, or cream plate, a small saucer filled with buffalo cream ~ but also to soak in the old world charm and eclectic vibes of this cool city. Think about it; I was salivating at the memory of the menu at this modest café for weeks.

 

Now that breakfast is done, it’s time to head out and explore the city. Let me be your Pune travel guide for the day and together let us explore Pune like a local.

 

Shaniwar Wada

Pune is a historical city, and we start our sightseeing trip with Shaniwar Wada Palace ~ one of the most popular tourist destinations located in the heart of the city. This stately monument built in 1732 was the seat of the Peshwas of the Maratha Empire; the architectural excellence of the golden Peshwa era and the glorious past of the city are clearly etched here.

Also known as the love nest of Bajirao and Mastani, the walls are painted with scenes from the Ramayana and Mahabharata. The fortification walls have five gateways {the Dilli gate, the Mastani gate, the Khidki Darwaza, the Ganpati gate and the Narayan gate}, and nine bastions that enclose the entire structure. The Ganpati Rang Mahal, another prominent site that houses a giant statue of Lord Ganesha, was said to be the place for all religious functions of the Peshwas. A sixteen petal lotus-shaped fountain {Hazari Karanje} speaks about the artistic marvel of that era.

If you want to savour the true essence of Maratha culture, book yourselves a sound and light show in the evening with an integrating laser show which is the main attraction of the place. With all the effects of light, music, narration, and ambiance ~ you are bound to find it mesmerizing!

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Raja Dinkar Kelkar Museum

Next on our agenda is the Raja Dinkar Kelkar Museum. The museum houses the collection of Dr. Dinkar G. Kelkar {1896–1990}, and is dedicated to the memory of his only son, Raja who died at the age of seven. Located on Bajirao Road, it gives us a peek into the history of Pune.

This three-storey building with Rajasthani style architecture has over 20,000 rare exhibits and artefacts from different parts of the world dating back to the 14th century, out of which 2,500 are on display. All items on display are testimonies to the artistic brilliance and aesthetic qualities of the people of that period. The main attraction of the museum: a breathtaking replica of Mastani Mahal with its grandeur and artistic setting!

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Maratha Samrat

The Maratha Samrat, is another local favourite whose authentic Maharashtrian thalis offer eternal flavours.

What is easily detectable the moment you enter the place is that the staff is affable. Not only are their menu suggestions spot on, but the taste and quality of food makes this place a true oasis for food lovers. From their chicken fry thali to their kaala mutton thali, every single one of their dishes will leave you craving for more.

 

Aga Khan Palace

Pune’s history is fascinating, and post lunch we head out to explore Aga Khan Palace ~ a memorial to Mahatma Gandhi and his life.

The sprawling palace set in a wooded 6.5 hectare area across the Mula River in Yerwada, was built by Sultan Muhammed Shah, Aga Khan III in 1892 and is known for its historical significance and dazzling art-deco glory. The grand building with its well manicured lawns, Islamic architecture, Italian arches, and ornate interiors will leave visitors awestruck.

The standing monument which is said to have been built with an estimated budget of ₹ 1.2 million {US$18,000} and took five long years to complete, brings back memories of India’s freedom struggle. The palace houses a number of artefacts and black and white pictures and paintings from various epochs in the freedom movement ~ associated with Mahatma Gandhi and Kasturba Gandhi. For history lovers ~ a must see on their list.

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JJ Garden Vada Pav

An ardent shopper at heart, the tour of Pune city would have been incomplete without a shopping experience at MG Road. The rich textiles, exquisite handicrafts, and other items capture the nuances, sights, and sounds of a city where east meets west, and is a haven for all shopaholics. The Walking Plaza is the answer to avoid the chaotic traffic of the area. Roads remain closed to all vehicles, and it is a scene of fete with fun galore; foods stalls, unlimited shopping, and entertainment!

Oh, and a trip here is half-done without a visit to the legendary Garden Vada Pav stall at Butte Street in Camp. Started in 1972 by Kashinath Naiku and his mother Parvati, it is located just opposite JJ Garden. The vada pavs are tempting, filling, and served along with onion, chura, lemon, and green chutney! Looking to grab a light snack? This is the place.

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Kayani Bakery

Deepa Chandiramani, Marketing and Communications Manager and her colleague, tell me that Pune is a delicious smorgasbord of regional recipes {diverse and also mighty affordable} and a vibrant cultural scene. And the one flavour that has stood the test of time is that of Kayani Bakery ~ rolling out fresh bakes since 1955.

A Raj-era institution, this iconic bakery is popular for its Shrewsbury biscuits {egg-less and preservative free}, nankhatai, khaari, and the wafting aroma of freshly baked sponge cakes that disappear from the shelves in the blink of an eye. As customers walk out of the bakery, with a packet or two in hand, there is a sign of contentment.

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End note: From old traditions to heritage to culinary delights ~ Pune has a calming effect on your senses and your soul. With its ability to ignite curiosity, and charm everyone ~ Vikram and I embraced its remarkable diversity.

 

Pune Travel Guide

Thank you very much Team Conrad Pune for the fun and memorable tour!

 

While I enjoyed being a Pune travel guide to you ~ how would you rate your experience of exploring Pune like a local? Tell us in the comments below.

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* I love bringing together a bunch of conflicting items and weaving my own sense of one-ness to them. *

26 Comments

  • I love that your posts and pictures are so unmistakable ~ as I’m scrolling through my IG feed I instantly know… Yup, that’s Tanya!

  • Awesome article here about Pune. I’m so in love with all of your posts, Tanya! ❤️ Loving the colours and the vibe here… xx

  • Oh my gosh, your outfit is fantastic, Tanya! And these pictures are so lovely. It would seem that you had a wonderful holiday. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  • Your blog about my city is exceptionally helpful and interesting, Tanya. When you visit the next time, get in touch with us for a dinner treat (we will welcome you)!

  • Hi Tanya, thank you for composing this amazing post! For what it’s worth, this was my introduction to Pune. I now have an itinerary set out… thank you for all the guidance! Oh, and your pics are amazing!

  • I’m heading to Pune in a couple of weeks and this post has been so valuable in getting a realistic feel for what to expect. Thanks for sharing, Tanya. 🙂

    • We got to see so much of the city and the locals’ way of life ~ although you could also go temple hopping around, Gerrie. 🙂

  • I absolutely love your post and your blog overall, Tanya. I admire your courage to live life to your fullest potential and your mission to inspire others by sharing your passion with the world 🙂

  • I have yet to discover the wonders of Asia, but thanks to your absolutely amazing post and vivid pictures I felt like I was truly there… embracing the beauty of the architecture!

  • This is a really great guide. Thanks Tanya, for leaving such inspirational footsteps for me and countless others to follow… Love and light xx

  • Wow, absolutely amazing. I’ve never even considered visiting Pune before, but this post has totally altered my opinion! Definitely adding to my list of places I want to visit. Those beautiful buildings are just insane ~ all of your photos are! 🙂

  • Ahh, I’ve not really heard a lot about Pune – but it sounds absolutely amazing! I truly appreciate every one of your travel posts, Tanya!

    • I always try to keep my expectations low so I don’t end up disappointed, and it worked out well for Pune.

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