Chandigarh is the first planned city of India. It symbolizes the idea of an emergent, progressive and free India. It has a characteristic distinction of being a capital to two states i.e. Punjab and Haryana. The city was designed by French creator Charles Edouard Jeanneret, popularly known as LeCorbusier.
Chandigarh is the city where I live. I moved into the city when I was 16. Since then, I tried settling in other cities but somehow I was always drawn to this place. Try talking to the residents of Chandigarh. Most of them will tell you how difficult it is for them to cope up in other cities. Chandigarh is one of the cleanest and greenest cities in India. Approximately 35% of the city is under green cover. You will not see any high-rise buildings in Chandigarh. The city is systematically laid out in a divided grid of one kilometer squares with wide streets and large traffic roundabouts to control the flow of vehicles. Quite a few portions of the city have dedicated pathways for cyclists. Except in a busy market area, you’ll hardly view any hawker on a street or outside your house.
Over the years, the urban population and the number of vehicles have grown alarmingly in the city. As a result the real estate prices have shot through the roof. Despite all these problems, it continues to remain the best city to live in India.
While I was busy writing travel blogs on Goa, Kerala and Bhutan, it didn’t occur to me that I should write on my home city as well. It later dawned on me that Chandigarh is really popular with tourists. The hill stations of Himachal are just a ninety minute drive away from here. The “Chandigarh airport” is now allowing international flights in certain sectors. As a result, “The City Beautiful” it is fast becoming a major attraction among domestic and international tourists. These factors encouraged me to write a detailed blog for tourists visiting Chandigarh.
How to Reach Chandigarh
- By Road: Chandigarh is around 260 km away from New Delhi. Most of the stretch between Chandigarh and Delhi is covered under an eight lane highway with regular flyovers in between. Hence driving to Chandigarh is a breeze. There are regular bus services (including Volvo) between Delhi and Chandigarh. Taxi services too are used a lot and a one way fare will cost between Rs. 2500 to Rs. 3000.
- By Train: The railway station is connected to some major cities in India. There are four-five trains plying daily between Delhi and Chandigarh.
- By Air: The airport is around 12 km away from the town. Apart from domestic it now services international flights also. Major carriers like Indigo, Jet, SpiceJet and Air-India operate from here.
Things to do and Places to Visit in Chandigarh
Whether you’re travelling solo or touring with family and friends, you will never be short on activities. Chandigarh has a whole lot of things to offer. From taking a stroll at various parks to enjoying the structural wonders, indulging in seamless shopping to letting your hair down at the various pubs/ bars, you’re guaranteed to have a great time. So whenever you are visiting Chandigarh, make sure to have two three days time in hand to try the following things:
- Rock Garden:
This is a sculpture garden which was conceptualized and created by “Nek Chand”, a government official in 1957. Today it is spread over forty acres and it is completely built of industrial, home waste, discarded items and recycled materials. This place is located n Sector 1 near “Sukhna Lake”. It consists of inter-linked passageways, man-made waterfalls, sculptures that are made of scrap & wastes such as bangles, tiles, bottles, ceramic pots, electrical sockets, washroom sinks and so on. All these sculptures are spread out over walled paths. The imagination behind this amazing park is beyond many public “art” spaces. Every turn, passage leading to every nook and corner will showcase yet another level of creativity. You will be astonished to see the way the junk has been used to create these unique sculptures.
- Rose Garden and other Gardens in Chandigarh:
This is a blooming garden spread over a massive area of 30 acres. It is located in Sector 16. It showcases a wide variety of flowers making it quite popular with nature enthusiasts. Around 825 varieties of flowers are planted over here. The garden also has more than 32,500 varieties of trees and medicinal plants. February to March is the best time to visit Rose Garden. The garden becomes a visual delight when the flowers are in their full bloom. There are several well laid out paths to enjoy long walks. Sitting benches are provided at numerous points or you can simply sit on the grass. The place is romantic, relaxing and a great getaway to have some “me time”.
Chandigarh has a unique distinction of having a garden in almost every locality. As mentioned earlier, 35% of the city is under green cover. So apart from visiting Rose Garden there are some other gardens too that can be visited.
- Hibiscus Garden: Located in Sector 36, this eight acre expanse is home to around 40 varieties of Hibiscus shrubs. It is divided in a series of three gardens i.e. Hibiscus, Fragrance and Dahlia garden. It also has a wide variety of bamboo plants that provide color throughout the year.
- Bougainvillea Garden: Located in Sector 3, this garden is spread over 20 acres and has around 65 different varieties of Bougainvillea. This garden is also famous for the “War Memorial” located inside it. The memorial is dedicated to more than 8400 deceased soldiers since 1947, from the Army, Air Force and Navy. The garden is well maintained with walking tracks and shelter domes all throughout the landscape.
- Shanti Kunj: This garden is situated between Rose Garden and the Cricket Stadium in Sector 16. It provides a tranquil, noise free environment with a meandering stream running through the park. You will find different varieties of trees such as medicinal trees, flowering trees, vertically growing trees and shade providing trees.
- Japanese Garden: This place is located in Sector 31 near Tribune Chowk. Built recently and spread across 13 acres, it is the first ever garden in Chandigarh which is inspired from Japanese landscaping and architecture. The exhibits comprise of water bodies and waterfalls, pagoda towers, a Buddha idol, a meditation centre and golden bamboos. All the exhibits have self explanatory boards explaining their purpose. Japanese garden is one of the latest additions to the variety of gardens in Chandigarh.
- Terraced Garden: As the name suggests, this garden is situated over three different levels of terraces. It is located in Sector 33. The best time to visit this place is around November/ December when the Chrysanthemum Show is organized here. The garden also features a musical fountain in the evening.
- Sukhna Lake:
This is 3 km long manmade lake that was created in the year 1958. It lies in the foothills of Shivalik range. It is one of the most sought after places in Chandigarh as it offers a lot of recreational activities. Children find it particularly attractive because they get to enjoy swings, toy cars, electric rails etc. The lake offers some nice scenery and also has boating facilities for kids and adults. Tranquil and peaceful, the lake is ideal for family outings and picnics. Stay till late evening to catch the glimpse of the moon on the lake. The twinkling lights of the Shivalik Hills on a clear night add to the romance. There are food stalls at the lake as well as an indoor restaurant and a bar.
Chandigarh is definitely a shopper’s paradise. All my relatives who are living outside Chandigarh go on a shopping spree whenever they visit us. Chandigarh is known for is beautifully crafted artifacts and handicrafts. Be it a street shopper or a Brand conscious shopper, the city has everything to offer for both. Given below are a few locations which can be explored for shopping.
- Sector 17 Market:
This market is like “Connaught Place” of Delhi. It is situated in the heart of Chandigarh. It is a commercial center of Chandigarh with scores of showrooms offering one brand or the other. You can easily spend an entire day walking through these showrooms. The market is filled with restaurants, cafes and pubs. The visitors will enjoy the large open spaces dotted with seating benches, fountains and tree shades.
- Shastri Market, Sector 22:
This place is also known as the “Rehri Market” of Chandigarh. It is located in a maze of small shops in which you can easily get lost as a first timer. The place offers high street fashion at flea market prices. This market is very popular with the locals who love to bargain. At very decent rates you can get duplicate brands of shoes, bags, sunglasses, clothes, kids wear, home furnishings, luggage wear, souvenirs and so on. This place is always crowded and there are no trial rooms. So have your measurements in place before you go out to shop here. The market is open on all days except Monday.
- Palika Bazaar, Sector 19:
Similar to “Rehri Market”, this is yet another flea market offering bargain basement rates. This market too remains crowded throughout the day and is quite popular with locals who come here to shop for trendy clothes, footwear and other stuff.
- Elante Mall:
The sprawling mall is spread over an area of 20 acres and is the second largest shopping mall in North India. It has a three tier multi level parking at the basement. This place boasts of having all major international brands under one roof. There are several elevators and escalators including disabled friendly ramps. The mall is well lit, spacious and comfortable to navigate. There is an eight screen multiplex to watch movies. Apart from having a huge food court, there are a lot bars and restaurants to dine at. This place is well worth a visit whenever you are at Chandigarh.
- Restaurants and Nightlife:
Chandigarh city is a haven for foodies. Every sector in Chandigarh is dotted with restaurants and fast food outlets. In fact, while all other businesses are struggling here, the food business continues to thrive and grow. Over the last few years, the nightlife of Chandigarh has grown by leaps and bounds. The city is teeming with fine-dine restaurants, beer bars and night clubs. So whether you’re in a mood for a casual evening drink, a crazy night of partying or something in between; all options are available. So keep reading.
Some of the best fine-dine restaurants that I have visited in Chandigarh are Swagath at Sector 26, Mainland China at Sector 26, Kylin at Elante, Whistling Duck at Sector 26, Virgin Courtyard at Sector 7 and Dastaan at Sector 7. Swagath is famous for its “non-veg South Indian food” and Mughlai cuisine. Mainland China and Kylin are the best places to try Chinese, Japanese and other Asian delicacies. The other three restaurants are very popular with their fusion food.
Wanna get drunk??? Welcome to my city. Apart from Goa, Chandigarh may be the only place where you can get quality liquor at cheap prices. Being a union territory, the liquor is not taxed so much as other states. You will find a whole lot of breweries in all the popular sectors of Chandigarh such as Brewmaster, The Brew Estate, The Beer Café, Kingdom of Beer and so on. Other bars that are also doing well are Pashtun in Sector 35, Nabobs in Sector 9, The Back Room in Sector 34 and Pyramid at Elante Mall. If you want to let your hair down in a discotheque then head towards Score, the oldest night club of Chandigarh at Sector 8. The other nightclub worth visiting is the Kitty Sue at Lalit hotel in IT Park Chandigarh.
Satva Pub in Places to Visit in Chandigarh
Video Credit: Vijay Jammers
However, personally I love to spend my evening at pubs which offer live music. Chandigarh is fortunately blessed with talented youngsters who follow their passion of music. They have formed their own small bands and primarily play sufi, soft-rock, latest Punjabi tracks and popular English melodies of 70s/80s era. My two personal favorite pubs are Satva in Sector 26 and Peddlers in Sector 35. For a first timer, spending an evening in any of these pubs will be a life altering experience. Both these pubs are trendsetters in Chandigarh and now lots of other pubs have also mushroomed offering the same thing.
- Heritage Walk Tour:
It is a good idea to explore the different landmarks in Chandigarh through “Heritage Walk tours”. The most popular of these tours are the ones that are organized at Capitol Complex. The said tour covers all the architectural wonders of Le Corbusier such as the Punjab and Haryana High Court and the Secretariat and Legislative Assembly. You will also get to see other monuments like “The Open Hand (Chandigarh’s Emblem), Martyrs’ memorial and Geometric Hill. Then there is the “Tower of Shadows” in which you get to see the traces the path of the sun creates through shadows. This tour can be booked easily at any of the “Tourist Information Office” in Chandigarh.
Things to do and Places to visit near Chandigarh
Chandigarh’s strategic location gives it a unique advantage of being connected to Himachal, Uttaranchal, Punjab and Haryana through road. As such, it is very easy to reach popular tourist spots in other states within one to six hours. There is no dearth of tourist locales near Chandigarh. However, I have handpicked only a couple of places as they are not more than an hour’s drive away from Chandigarh. They are ideal picnic spots for a short one day trip.
- Yadavindra Gardens, Pinjore:
Around 23 kilometers away from Chandigarh, this beautiful garden was built in the 17th century. It was later named as ‘Yadavindra Gardens’ in the memory of Maharaja Yadavindra Singh of Patiala. The garden is spread out over an expanse of 100 acres. It is enclosed all around by turreted high walls. It is laid out over seven long terraces with water fountains and water bodies in between running through the entire length. The main entrance located at the highest terrace level offers a stunning view of the entire garden. Between each terrace, there is a pavilion showcasing the Mughal architecture. The last terrace bears a whole of fruit trees and looks like a small forest. During evenings the entire garden is lit up and looks very mesmerizing. This place is a superb picnic spot and very popular with locals.
- Chhatbir Zoo, Zirakhpur
This place is located about 20 km away from Chandigarh in Zirakhpur. It is the largest zoo of Northern India spanning an area of over 500 acres. It is home to more than 100 species of 1200 birds and animals. The zoo is huge and will take more than four hours walk to cover it in entirety. You have the option of hopping on and off the electrical car for an extra fee. This will allow you to view the zoo at your own relaxed pace without getting tired. The zoo is designed in such a way that there are a lot of open enclosures for the animals to move around. It is open from Tuesday to Sunday and closed on Monday. You will get to see a variety of animals such as tigers, panthers, lions, leopards, Himalayan bears, sloth bears, deer, zebra, wild buffaloes, hyenas, hippos and an amazing variety of birds. There is a reptile park too. At various points in the zoo, there are refreshment counters, rest rooms and shaded benches to relax. This place is definitely a must visit.
Chandigarh has a fairly good public transportation network. It has air-conditioned buses plying on all popular routes. Large number of auto-rickshaws and cycle rickshaws are also available. However, the easiest way to commute in Chandigarh is through air-conditioned radio cabs like “Uber” and “Ola”. The prices are fixed, reasonable and at times cheaper than auto-rickshaws. Despite having my own car, I use these cabs as I find them more economical. Tourists can also try the Double Decker Hop on Hop Off bus to explore Chandigarh. It covers all the popular tourist destinations in a circular route. It’s a good alternative to “Heritage Walking Tours”. You can book a full or half day trip at CITCO office in ISBT, Sector 17 Chandigarh.
There is no dearth of hotels and guest houses in Chandigarh. Budget, Mid-range or Luxury, the city has provision for all types of stay. The neighboring cities of Zirakhpur, Panchkula and Mohali too have many hotels. So booking a stay in Chandigarh even at the last minute is never a problem. To get the reviews and rates of the hotels, you can go through the following link: https://www.tripadvisor.in/Hotels-g297596-Chandigarh-Hotels.html
So guys, whenever you make plans to travel to Himachal, make sure to stop in Chandigarh and stay for at least two-three days to explore the best of the city at a leisurely pace.