Chandigarh is a magnificent, modern city that’s known for its phenomenal architecture and design. It was one of the first planned cities in post-independent India and was designed by a Swiss-French architect, Le Corbusier. In fact, the city is so loved that it is the capital of two states – Punjab and Haryana.
Why You Should Visit Chandigarh
There are a number of beautiful places to visit in India, but what makes Chandigarh so special? In 2015, BBC published an article where Chandigarh was named the most perfect city in the world in terms of architecture and culture. And it shows with its beautiful administrative buildings, themed gardens, and greenery all around. It was also ranked as the happiest city in the country by a survey done by LG Electronics in 2015. The city has one the highest per capita incomes in India, so it is no wonder that it is more expensive than other cities. You can save up on your money though by staying near the Chandigarh airport. Book a budget accommodation near Chandigarh airport and using public transport to get around. It’s also a wise choice to stay close to the Chandigarh Airport as it is relatively close to popular attractions in the city and easier to catch flights. Whether you’re visiting the city with your friends or family or even solo, you’ll find a certain pride in visiting this beautiful city.
However, with so many places to see, covering all of Chandigarh in two or three days can get tricky. It’s wise to plan your trip in advance to get the most of the city. Hopefully, this two-day itinerary will help you get an idea of how to get the most out of the city.
Day 1: Discover The City’s History
Even though Chandigarh is a relatively young city, it has a rich history. The best way to get to know this modern metropolis is to visit these places below. I would suggest you start early and have a hearty breakfast because there’s plenty to cover in very little time.
What started off as an illegal home project by Nek Chand, has now turned into one of Chandigarh’s proudest tourist attractions. The Rock Garden is 40 acres of pure artistic pleasure. It encourages recycling and environmental sustainability with its many sculptures made from bottles, scrap metal, tiles, electrical waste, industrial waste and more. The open-air galleries have brought in over 12 million visitors since it opened in 1976 and will easily take you about two to three hours to explore. Try and get here early to beat the scorching sun.
Spread over 100 acres, the Capitol Complex is definitely worth a visit. This massive estate was designed by Le Corbusier and boasts of gorgeous structures, including the Open Hand Sculpture, the Palace of Assembly, the High Court, Geometric Hill and the Tower of Shadows. The complex got the attention of the UN and was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2016. It will take up at least two hours of your time to explore. Since this is the government hub of the city, you will need special permissions to visit certain parts of the complex. Just make sure you ask your guide or the security guards at the gates which areas are out of bounds.
Government Museum and Art Gallery
After you fill yourself up with a good lunch, you can visit the Government Museum and Art Gallery. Again designed by Le Corbusier, the complex boasts of four sections, i.e. an art gallery, the Chandigarh Architecture Museum, the Natural History Museum, and the National Gallery of Portraits. The modern museum houses a vast collection of Gandharan sculptures (Statues of Lord Buddha), Rajasthani Miniature Paintings, collections of coins, contemporary Indian art, books and so much more. There is also an auditorium here, where lectures, film screenings and cultural events are sometimes hosted. A small fee of INR 10 is taken on entering.
After visiting these areas you can head over to Sector 17, which is an excellent place to shop till you drop. There are a number of boutiques and branded stores in the area. You’re sure to find everything from clothes to electronic goods here. There are also a number of eateries in this area. A few places where you can grab a hearty meal or a snack are the Black Lotus, Hot Millions, Cafe JCs, Rustic Door, Blue Ice, Dera, Kabab’s Villa, Sweet Sensations, I Don’t Know Cafe, Faraabi Cafe, BigWich, Lyon’s, Kitty Su, and Playground. After this make sure you get a good night’s rest because there’s plenty visit the next day.
Day 2: The Natural Splendor of Chandigarh
After a good night’s sleep, have a good breakfast and get ready to explore the rest of the city. Today, the focus lies on Chandigarh’s religion and nature.
Manasa Devi Temple
Located at the foot of the Shivalik Range, the Manasa Devi Temple is an incredible structure built in honour of the Goddess Mansa Devi. This temple breaks the norm of regular Shivalik temples with its beautiful Mughal-inspired style complete with minarets and domes. The temple also boasts of a number of beautiful paintings depicting Goddess Mansa Devi, Lord Shiva, Lord Krishna, the Nakshatras and scenes from the Ramayana. You’ll need about an hour to explore this beautiful temple.
This 17th Century garden is a landscaped masterpiece that was used by Emperor Aurangzeb as a summer retreat. The garden has seven broad terraces and two palaces on its highest level called the Shish Mahal and the Hawa Mahal. You can take a look at the outdoor museum set up by the Haryana State Directorate of Archaeology and Museums. The garden also has a tiny heritage train that children will certainly enjoy. These gardens are also popular for hosting festivals like the Pinjore Baisakhi Festival, Pinjore Mango Festival, and the Heritage Festival.
If you love shopping, you’ll certainly love Shastri Market at Sector 22. This is a great place to pick up all sorts of ethnic wear on a budget. You’ll find plenty of North Indian ethnic wear, western clothes, bangles, and party wear at a fair bargain. You can visit one of the small restaurants in the area for an authentic Punjabi meal.
The Cactus Garden might be one of the most bizarre yet beautiful places to visit in Chandigarh with its wild collection of cacti and plant species. This is the largest garden of its kind in Asia and also houses different kinds of roses, orchids and bonsai trees. You can also pick up a cactus or two from here for your own garden.
The Sukhna Lake is a great place to end your long day of sightseeing. This large artificial lake at the foothills of the Shivalik Range was created by P.L. Verma and Le Corbusier. You can enjoy a leisurely boat ride at the lake or take a walk around it. There are a number of fun rides to enjoy here, a cafe and even a souvenir store if you want to pick up a few goodies. When you tire out a little, you can sit on the lake steps and watch the sunset. It should be the perfect end to a tiring day.
A few places where you can catch a bite to eat around the lake include the CITCO Lakeview Cafeteria, Vee Kay Restaurant, Le Stella, Nick Bakers, Q ‘n’ Grill, Pizza Foresta, and Vrinda.
Here you go, now that you know a few of the best places to visit in Chandigarh, you can chop and change the itinerary around to suit your schedule. You’re sure to enjoy the modernity and culture of Chandigarh.