Are you planning to add Chandigarh on your India bucket list? Wondering what are the top things to do in Chandigarh? Look no further! I’m going to present a detailed itinerary so that you don’t miss these amazing things to do in Chandigarh.
Truly an underrated city in terms of tourism, Chandigarh should be on your India bucket list, why? Because Chandigarh is the only Indian city to find a place in the New York Times’s places to go in 2018! Don’t wait till the city becomes the hot-spot for the travel industry!
Chandigarh is a unique city in India as it is the single city which is the capital of two states – Punjab & Haryana. Chandigarh is an exceptional city built in a completely planned way, fewer red lights, and more roundabouts to take care of smooth traffic flow. It is shaping up for a small metro city with more IT companies coming and malls & international brands lining up. Considering being one of the major city in Punjab & Haryana, the youth from nearby towns and villages usually visit Chandigarh for study, jobs or simply partying in pubs. It’s a shame that Chandigarh is not much highlighted as a place to explore and not just party destination. When I announced to my family that I’m heading to Chandigarh to explore than blatantly asked me what’s there to explore & not in a good way!! That made me more enthusiastic to travel to Chandigarh and rather write about it. So even if you assume that there are no places to visit in Chandigarh, hang on with me!
Chandigarh travels may seem underwhelming as compared to other major tourists places in India. So I’m going to present you with the best things to see in Chandigarh. A typical laid-back culture, with typical family outing spots, brands to love to shop from and unique eateries – Chandigarh has it all. I was in Chandigarh for approx 30 hours and I can assure it is actually less to explore this small yet beautiful town.
Top 10 things to do in Chandigarh
Explore Rock Garden like a tourist
A name as unique as a Rock Garden, it is surely an intriguing garden which will appeal to your traveller buds. Built initially secretly by Nek Chand in 1957, the Rock Garden is a Sculpture Garden which truly conceptualized the utilization of home & industrial waste. On an average 5000 people daily visit the Rock Garden, and the number significantly increases on weekends. I recommend reaching the Rock Garden as early as possible to explore and acknowledge the art in tranquillity. This is my top recommendation for the things to do in Chandigarh which even frequent travellers to the city ignored.
The exceptional Rock garden which started as an illegal garden is now truly the best thing to do in Chandigarh. Spread over 40 acres, the Rock garden will probably need a day to explore completely. Rock Garden flaunts a form of art never highlighted to this extent in India before this initiative.
Rock Garden is split into three phases with each phases displaying different types of sculptures. Phase One targets a variety of distorted rocks and discarded objects which are put to display in a captivating demeanour.
Phase two is in completely in contrast to the phase one and looks more like a mini-kingdom in itself. Phase two showcases a huge man-made waterfall, canals and an open theatre.
The waterfall at the Rock Garden is usually the spotlight with the tourists considering a photogenic one. The canal at phase two looks straight out of some historic era which can be easily targeted for a movie shooting – yup that beautiful!
There are options to go on the other side of the waterfall which will give away a perception of lost historic kingdom and palace lookalike.
Phase three is the one which was built very late and is slightly disconnected from the main rock garden. There’s an option to skip Phase 3 and exit from the garden but I highly recommend visiting the Phase 3 of Rock Garden. Phase 3 will give you a feel of Indian culture with sculptures built completely of waste and from Indian historic era.
I couldn’t cover the entire phase 3 as I had to catch a bus back to Delhi. But I strongly recommend going there early to skip crowds and to click better pictures! The entry fee for the Rock Garden is at a flat price of 30₹ for adults (Indians/Non-Indians) and 10INR for children. The Rock Garden opens at 9h00 in the morning and 18h00 in winters and 19h30 in summers.
Walk to Open Hand Monument and Capitol Complex
A landmark associated with Chandigarh City is the Open Hand Monument. Designed by Le Corbusier – A Swiss-French architect – in the Capitol Complex is a government premise holding the Legislative assembly, Secretariat, High Court apart from Open Hand Monument. The Open Hand Monument has caught the trend and is today’s one of the top things to do in Chandigarh.
The hand monument was gestated as a symbol of openness and a place for the people of Chandigarh to discuss their issues or concerns here. Not more than 55 years old, the Open Hand monument is now a prime attraction from Chandigarh. The famous Open Hand Monument also rotates as per the winds which can be a unique thing to experience.
The entry to open Hand Monument is free for all, but cars only drop to the main entry. The Open Hand Monument is pleasantly in the centre amid all greenery which will give you ample photographic opportunities. Even on a weekend the Hand Monument barely had any tourists giving me a way to try different camera angles and capture amazing clicks for myself!
Spend the Evening at Sukhna Lake
As Chandigarh was the dream city of India’s first Prime Minister – J.Nehru, the first ever planned city post Independence – the things to see in Chandigarh are mostly manmade. Another major and a renowned tourist spot from Chandigarh inviting thousands of tourists from nearby towns is Sukhna Lake for the tourists. Easily one of the peaceful and best things to do in Chandigarh, Sukhna Lake shouldn’t be missed while visiting the capital. Visiting the lake in the evening and enjoying the breeze will be a lovely experience.
The Sukhna Lake in the foothills of nearby Himachal Pradesh is more of a container storing the rainwater and the water running down from the nearby Himalayas. Same architect – Le Corbusier – designed the 3 km spread Sukhna Lake and is not more than 1 km away from Rock Garden. As opposed to Chilika Lake in Odisha, the Sukhna Lake is cleaner and much more organized with a lot of eateries around. Sukhna Lake offers boating starting as early as 9h30 till 18h00 with entry ticket at 25₹ per person.
There are a number of eateries at the entry of Sukhna Lake and even some local vendors sell bhelpuri (a salty snack) at a low 10INR. Sitting on the stairs next to the lake bed on a chilly evening with bhelpuri in hand will be a serene experience. Post relaxation at the lake, we came back to the nearby food market to enjoy another Indian snack Tikki with tea to beat the chilly weather. Although tea was my far below my expectations and I will not recommend having it there.
If you’re a photography lover and sunsets and sunrises are your favourite clichés, don’t forget to head to Sukhna lake early mornings and late evenings! There’s no entry fee for sitting by the lake bed so you can capture lake photographs without spending a penny.
Shopping in Chandigarh
Chandigarh is famous in the nearby towns of entire Punjab and Haryana for being a shopping hub giving credit to its sector 17 market. A market built-in a planned way just like the city, the sector 17 market premises will present you with not only amazing renowned brands but also an amazing café. There’s also a flee market in sector 17 for those who want to shop cheap. Till some years ago sector 17 was the only famous market for people in and around Chandigarh. But once the city came up with Elante Mall, the entire shopping front of Chandigarh was changed forever. With international brands targeting Chandigarh as well, Elante mall is one of the top things to do in Chandigarh. Although I’m not a mall preacher, we actually went there to beat the chilly winds and ended up having an amazing dinner, more on that below.
Drive through the planned city
Chandigarh is one the most planned cities in India, with fewer traffic signals and more roundabouts and the traffic rules followed more than in any other city. It actually feels nice to drive around such a city. You’ll not see any high-rise in Chandigarh but all low-lying architecture planned in an impressive manner. If you’re an architecture lover, don’t forget to click those beautiful houses from the city. Chandigarh is loved by the youth for a city well planned & easy to drive in, which is why it’s in my list of amazing things to do in Chandigarh. So, hire a cab or take your car or bike and drive around!
Bike-tour in Chandigarh
Unlike other major cities in Delhi, Chandigarh promotes bike tours. “Chandigarh by Cycle” offers 3-hour tour of the city revolving around the open hand monument, Sukhna Lake and the museums. If you love to bike, don’t forget to enrol yourself on the tour to visit all the sightseeing places in Chandigarh India. The awesome tour costs 1200INR for 3 hours with proper safety equipment and well-spoken tour guides.
Relish local food
I am a fan of street food and Chandigarh being influenced from Punjab have a lot of amazing food delicacies to offer. We tried the local chole kulche just half a km before the Sukhna Lake, and undoubtedly they had a unique flavour which I never had in Delhi. I’m a firm believer in supporting local vendors than the big brands. But if you have a weak stomach, I recommend don’t try street food.
Suggested Read – Must Have European Delicacies.
Visit the City Museum and Government Museum and Art Gallery
Established in the late 1960s the Government Museum showcases the art from Indian subcontinent which includes various sculptures, paintings, and much more contemporary Indian art. Although due to lack of time, I couldn’t visit both the museum, I highly recommend keeping at least 2 days for Chandigarh to visit the art galleries from the planned city.
Walk in the Zakir Hussein Rose Garden
Named after Zakir Hussein – India’s third President – the Rose Garden is another prime attraction from Chandigarh India. The garden is spread in over 30 acres and has a variety of rose species and was initially started as Botanical Garden. Spot for roses in the garden as there are only a few in bloom. The Rose Garden attracts many of tourists so go as early as you can.
Explore the International Dolls Museum
Internationally acclaimed, the Dolls Museum in Chandigarh is one of the best museums in India. The dolls being displayed in the Dolls Museum have been collected from as much as 250 countries. A place for true art lovers, Dolls Museum should be a prime attraction and must-see in Chandigarh India. The tiny dolls or puppets will cheer up your mood and will revive your childhood memories.
Related Read – Top things to do in Amritsar, Punjab!
Best Places to stay in Chandigarh
Although I stayed in Mohali which is a suburb of Chandigarh, I highly recommend staying near the sector 17 market. The sector 17 is well-connected to the bus depot, the railway station and the markets, eateries and all the other best places to visit in Chandigarh nearby.
Some of my recommendations as the best places to stay in Chandigarh and cover all the sightseeing places nearby –
Taj Chandigarh – The hotel is in right in the sector 17 and already a brand name, Taj Chandigarh is my first choice for a hotel in the heart of the city. Not to mention they have facilities like room service, pool, and fitness centre, wi-fi, friendly staff shuttle, and in-house bar and lounge also available. Recommended for couples or families as the best place to stay in Chandigarh!
James Hotel – Fancy a hotel with a view of the famous rose garden? James hotel is the best place to stay in Chandigarh when you like to stay in the city centre. If you’re driving to Chandigarh from Delhi, then James Hotel provides free parking and offer bar and pool facilities as well. They also provide shuttles from airports to the guests flying into Chandigarh.
Hotel City Heart Premium – Located in the heart of the city Hotel City Heart Premium is my another pick for the best place to stay in Chandigarh. A budget hotel with facilities ranging from free wifi, parking and room service, the hotel will be ideal for people looking to stay in the city.
JW Marriott Hotel Chandigarh – Another luxurious hotel from Chandigarh city, JW Marriot is another best place to stay in Chandigarh. Located close to sector 17, the 5-star hotel will be a perfect hotel for families with a family room available. I am a fan of luxury, so the outdoor pool and a superb fitness centre is something I look forward to.
The Lalit Chandigarh – The Lalit Chandigarh will take you on the calm side of Chandigarh city with all the facilities of a 5-star hotel. The Lalit Chandigarh will be the best place to stay in Chandigarh for those who are willing to spend a relaxing getaway in the city with no stress about staying close to the city centre.
Best places to eat in Chandigarh
Chandigarh being the party capital of Punjab, it is undoubtedly a foodie’s paradise and there are a variety of places to eat in Chandigarh. During my short 1.5 days stay in Chandigarh I have tried a variety of restaurants possible.
Chaayos for Snacks
Being a tea person and love our Indian desi chai. After already tried Chayyos in Delhi I love their decor and authentic chai. Desi signature chai and palak patta crispies from Chayyos are my all time favourites. If you’re in Elate Mall around Industrial area, don’t forget to stop by my favourite tea outlet from Chandigarh.
The Crown Patisserie for lunch
My last day in Chandigarh and after almost 4 hours of exploring the rock garden, we chose “The Crown Patisserie Cafe” based on word of mouth. I can proudly convey that I chose the café and it surely one of the best places to eat in Chandigarh in sector 17 market. It’s no secret that I love restaurants with bright decor and friendly staff. The Crown Patisserie got into me with the bright coloured walls and sitting space, the super friendly staff and manager. It is thus my top recommendation for the best place to eat in Chandigarh. A detailed review to follow soon.
Pyramid for dinner
For dinner, we chose Pyramid in the Elante Mall over other famous ones like Nando’s, Pyramids of Grill and Chilis. We went in when they lured us to live music and plainly asked to try it once and allowed to leave if we didn’t like it. But we didn’t!!
The live music successfully enticed us and we enjoyed our meals there. Although a non-alcoholic person, their offer of 2 Rio beers at 100INR excited us so we jumped right at it. Live music with cheap flavoured beer, delicious food, and amazing service got their name on the list of the best places to eat in Chandigarh.
How to reach Chandigarh
Chandigarh is another upcoming city in Northern India and thus is well-connected through Buses, trains, and flights. Hardly 250 km from Delhi and depending on the chosen medium, the time will vary from 2 hours to 5 hours. Choosing how to travel in India can be a tricky part, but Chandigarh is easily reachable so here are my tips –
If going via road, you may either hire a cab from Delhi which will take not more than 5.5 hours. If opting buses, I would vouch for the Volvo & rather Mercedes Benz deluxe buses from Haryana Roadways. Volvo is the most convenient buses available in chair car (with recliner), or sleeper ones. There are other Volvos from Punjab Roadways, but I would choose the comfortable Mercedes Benz buses and timely service. Merc buses don’t take more than 4.5 hours till Chandigarh and this time I mistakenly chose Volvo from Punjab Roadways taking 6hours.
If you like Indian trains, I will suggest the premium Shatabdi trains – completely AC with Chair car and First Class options. Shatabdi are the fastest trains till Chandigarh taking no more than 4 hours. Don’t opt for other trains, they have a reputation for getting late which can ruin your plans. If you’d like to book online, try using IRCTC for the same, it’s an effective way these days.
Chandigarh also has an International airport well-connected through domestic & international airlines. If going via Delhi, the normal airtime will not be more than 50 mins. It will be helpful if you plan to visit Chandigarh in a day. Chandigarh airport is located in outskirts and will take you to the city in no more than 15-20 mins with hotels nearby.
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