By Priyanka Singh –
Pune is a city of young people, often referred to as the ‘Oxford of the East,’ it welcomes the youth with an open heart. But don’t get tricked by Pune’s youthful vigour! Soon you would realise behind this mirage lies the ancient roots of Poona, the city that birthed the Maratha Empire and played a crucial role during India’s freedom struggle. Pune’s landscape that blends tradition with modernity. All of these make Pune the cultural capital of Maharashtra.
If you are visiting Pune, make sure to visit the below-listed places to catch a glimpse of what the city is all about.
Shaniwar Wada Palace
Any visit to Pune is incomplete without going to the Shaniwar Wada (Saturday Residence) palace. Built in the 18th century, this palace is popularly known as the ‘Seat of the Maratha Empire’, honouring Peshwa Bajirao Balaji.
A more superstitious story says that the monument is haunted since the history of Peshwa Bajirao’s life is written in blood, treachery, betrayal and unfortunate deaths of Peshwa family members that happened within the four walls of this palace. Another ghost story says that on a full moon night, you can still hear from the river bank young Peshwa Narayan’s crying, “Kaka! Maala vaacha!” (Uncle! Save me!). It is no surprise then that most tourists prefer to visit Shaniwar Wada during the daytime!
Specialising in the European cuisines and desserts, this quaint place located near Deccan Gymkhana is a foodie’s delight. From outside, Le Plaisir will give you an illusion of a huge, spacious restaurant but as you enter inside, you will be surprised by how small yet beautiful the space is. Do make a reservation to avoid the crazy waiting list! With warm, courteous and attentive staff, Le Plaisir always makes you feel comfortable throughout your dining experience.
What I would recommend:
- Non-Vegetarians: Harissa Chicken Muffin, Meat Loader Muffin,
- Vegetarians: Napolitana, Roasted Ratatouille Veggies – Cheddar, Cous Cous with Assorted Veggies & Hummus
- Desserts: Hazelnut/Blueberry cheesecake, Express Panna Cotta, Banana Chocolate Crepe
A good meal is all it takes to provide you with energy to further explore the city of Pune.
Saint Mary’s Church
The oldest church in the city, famously known as ‘The Mother Church of the Deccan,’ St. Mary’s Church provides a safe haven for thousands of Christians. Built by the East India Company, it is one of the many colonial structures that have managed to survive in Pune.
One can find various memorials dedicated to sages who wrote and warriors who bled for the religious cause. This church was part of the Church of England until 1970 when it became a part of the Church of North India.
St. Mary’s church offers fellowships for youth, women and senior citizens with regular Sunday masses If you’re visiting Pune at Christmas time, make sure to visit St. Mary’s to witness more than a thousand people attending the midnight mass together. Choirs from across the country perform at St. Mary’s on Christmas eve.
Agha Khan Palace
This palace was built in 1892 because of a charitable enterprise by Sultan Muhammed Shah Aga Khan III. It is a place of national importance for India as it served as a prison for Mahatma Gandhi and his wife Kasturba Gandhi during India’s Independence struggle. The palace archives pictures of Mahatma Gandhi’s life, and it is currently the headquarter of the Gandhi National Memorial Society.
You can purchase khaki, and other hand loomed textiles available in the shop. On Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday, death anniversary and Kasturba Gandhi’s death anniversary, special functions are organised in the palace — something that you want to plan carefully while visiting Pune! Otherwise, you can also attend morning prayer session held at Mahatma’s Samadhi (which houses Mahatma Gandhi’s ashes) all year round.
Located in Koregaon Park, this is a must-visit location in Pune. Away from the hustle-bustle of the city life, Osho Garden is a sanctuary of peace and tranquility.Perfect place to go on for long walks or to meditate. Designed in Japanese style, this garden also hosts regular visitors who are Osho’s disciples. If you happen to meet them, learn more about the Osho and his buddhist philosophy.
Shreemant Dagdusheth Halwai Sarvajanik Ganpati
This is Pune’s iconic temple devoted to a Hindu deity named Ganesha.It is made out of gold and silver artwork. Since it is a holy site for the Hindus, this temple is mostly crowded. Choose a timing where you can attend ‘aarti’ which is prayer to the God at the morning and evening hours. Make sure to visit the place in full clothes to avoid extra attention.
Photo Credit: @ashutoshphotography
In a 2.5 hour drive from Pune, you can find yourself in the ancient mountain range that straddles the Konkana and the Malabar coast. It is a great place for hiking or taking long walks or even just relaxing. The mighty Western Ghats are the nature lover’s paradise. Make sure you take out time to visit the waterfalls after the monsoon (September-October). Try few of the dhabas (small restaurants) on the highway.
Effingut Brewerkz has successfully earned the title as the best beer pubs in Pune. Spread in three different areas — Koregaon Park, Baner, and Kharadi — you can pick a location closest to you. This brewery crafts their own beer and also offers different brews from around the world. Another selling point of the handcrafted beers, ciders, and meads is that they are all fresh with no preservatives, chemicals or additives. What a deal! Effingut definitely never fails to impress and lives up to the hype.
- Appetizers: Gunpowder Onion Rings, Potato Corn,
- Alcoholic Drinks: Stein Mango Chilly Cider, Apple Cider, Pit Marzen Lager
- Non-Beer Drinkers: Peach Beer
- Non-Alcoholic: Paradise Island
Sheesha Jazz Cafe
‘If you’re looking for an unusual place to eat out, this is the place for you’, claims Sheesha’s website and it is one of the few places in Pune that actually lives up to its hype. With live jazz music, candlelit dinner and Iranian cuisine, this place is a journey into time itself.
- Non-vegetarians- Chello Kebab Koobideh, Chicken Lasagne, Zereshk Polo
- Vegetarians – Sabzi Polo
It is one of the few authentic places that excel in Asian cuisines ranging from Malaysian, Thai, Vietnamese to Japanese and Korean. This place offers a beautiful ambience, slow beat music and spacious outdoor for a lovely dinner date.
Three Aunties & Three Grandmothers, Taiwanese Chicken Stir-fry, Malay Grilled Chicken, Thai Raw Papaya Salad, Peranakan Spiced Chicken, Lamb Chops, Top Hats, Lotus Stem Tango
Pune has a lot of options for you to stay depending on your budget! For budget travellers, The Orchid will be a great place especially with its strategic location near the Pune-Bangalore Highway. If you have more cash to spare for your stay, I would highly recommend Aamby Valley City near Ambavane that provides fantastic service.
With the myriads of attractions and places to satisfy your hunger, Pune is not just any other city. It has become a way of life for those enamored with its charms.