How to spend your 24 hours in Chandigarh

The rock garden is a fascinating place to see how waste can be beautifully put to use.
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Laid out in self-contained sectors, Chandigarh is aptly known as ‘The City Beautiful’. It spans out from the Capitol Complex, which houses the main government buildings and the impressive Open Hand sculpture designed by the Swiss-French architect, Le Corbusier, as a symbol of the city’s aspirations. The heart of the city is Sector 17, marked by a piazza, where a musical fountain has become the hub for people to gather. The sprawling Rock Garden, created with waste materials, is not to be missed; and the Sukhna Lake attracts locals and tourists alike. Even as many Indian cities look skywards to cater to the pressures of growing populations, Chandigarh continues to be charmingly low-rise.

Top Sights

Rock Garden (Sector 1) – This enchanting garden is a revelation of how discarded junk can be turned into artefacts of stunning beauty. Here you will encounter the fantasy of Nek Chand, a local transport official, who fashioned sculptures from debris left over from the villages that were destroyed to build the city of Chandigarh.

Chandigarh Architecture Museum (Sector 10) – Using photos, letters, models, newspaper reports and architectural drawings, this museum tells the story of Chandigarh’s planning and development, including the abandoned first plan for Chandigarh by Albert Mayer and Matthew Nowicki. It is one of the main buildings within Chandigarh’s museum complex.

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Image courtesy: ©Lonely Planet/Pallavi Pasricha

Sukhna Lake (Sector 1)- The artificial lake is a landmark and was a part of Le Corbusier’s urban master plan to provide leisure spots across the city for its residents. The lake, popular for rest and recreation, is dotted with ornamental gardens, a children’s fairground, places to eat and drink and pedal boats to hire for leisure rides on the still waters of the lake. It offers photo ops at sunrise and sunset. There’s also a walking track along the periphery of the lake for residents to go on walks or jogs in the morning and evening.

Le Corbusier Centre (Sector 19-B)- Visit this place to understand Le Corbusier’s architectural vision for Chandigarh and the hurdles he encountered in implementing it. The displays include documents and photos, along with letters revealing the politics behind the Chandigarh project, including one from Jawaharlal Nehru to the then Punjab Chief Minister recommending Le Corbusier for the project.

Eating

Cafe Nomad (Inner Market, Sector 7-C)- Tucked away in the less crowded part of the market, Cafe Nomad is your go-to place for a quiet, refined experience. The wooden flooring, crystal chandeliers, warm lighting and soothing music are as inviting as their selection of mezzes, kebabs, stir-fries and homemade ice creams.

Swagath (Madhya Marg, Sector 26)- This popular multi-cuisine restaurant has carved a niche for itself in the city. Specialising in quality Mangalorean, Chettinad and Malabari cuisine, it serves up a mean Mughlai and Chinese menu too. Call ahead on weekends or you may find yourself waiting endlessly.

Pal Dhaba (Sector 28 D)- It has been around since 1970 and their butter chicken is still the most famous dish. If you are a vegetarian, go for the channa masala, shahi paneer and dal fry. The dishes are creamy, buttery and go perfectly with a naan or tandoori roti. Non-vegetarians can try the mutton gravy and keema kaleji.

Drinking

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Lava Bar- Considering it is housed inside the plush Taj hotel, this small bar is relatively laid-back, with a cosy atmosphere and live bands or a DJ playing most nights. Despite the steep prices, it’s a good place for a drink, especially the champagne cocktails. (Address: Taj Chandigarh, Sector 17-A)

Kitty Su- Kitty Su has climbed the popularity charts and become a favourite nightclub in the city. It has two sections, great music and an extensive menu. If you like cocktails, you’ve reached the right place. (Address: The Lalit Chandigarh, Rajiv Gandhi IT Park, Near DLF Commercial Complex)

Hops n Grains- This massive microbrewery offers premium, light, wheat and dark beer. Spread over three floors, it has good bar nibbles and happy hours as well. (Address: Sector 9, Panchkula)

Shopping

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1469 (Sector 17-D)- Named after the birth year of Guru Nanak (the founder of the Sikh faith), this funky independent clothing store sells fabulously colourful scarves, shawls and traditional Punjabi garments, as well as modern T-shirts with an irreverent Punjabi twist. It also stocks some lovely jewellery, including the steel kara bracelets worn by Sikhs.

Sector 22 Market (10 am-10 pm)- This bustling street market sells a mind-boggling array of household goods, Punjabi juttis and clothing, and is sprinkled with pop-up street-food stalls selling yummy local treats.

Sector 17- This sector is the heart of Chandigarh’s commercial activity, with numerous pedestrian concourses lined with shops, branded stores, cafes and restaurants. A huge musical fountain with laser and water shows every few minutes is the main attraction of the central piazza that is buzzing with shoppers, vendors, office-goers and street artists.