Quick Guide: Pune

From the seat of the ruling Peshwas and Bombay Presidency’s monsoon capital to a vibrant city that has retained its laid-back charm, Pune has transformed in many ways, yet remains the same. Its proximity to Mumbai, combined with great weather almost year-round and its young city vibe, makes Pune ideal for a quick getaway.

 

Need to Know

The best time to visit Pune is between October and February when the weather is pleasant; monsoon extends from June to September.

Getting around Pune is easy – there are autos and cab hailing apps. The former don’t always follow the meter, so agree on a rate beforehand.

Pune has long been a bastion of the Marathas, and their culinary influence is evident. Dalimbi usal,  thalipeeth, and  puri bhaji  are some of the staples on a typical spice-laden menu.

Did You Know?

Pune has been known by many names over the years. During the Rashtrakuta period, the city was named Punnaka or Punyapur, and during the rule of the Yadavas as Punya Vishaya. The word punya means holy, and according to some scholars, the city was considered so because it existed on the holy confluence of the rivers Mula and Mutha.

Others dispute this claim, saying the city is named for Punyeshwar Temple that was destroyed during the Mughal period. During the Maratha reign, it was called Kasbe Pune. When the British colonised the country, Pune was anglicised to Poona, and the city’s name was changed back to Pune in 1978.

 

Things to do

For Museum Lovers

Pune is home to a clutch of eclectic museums that are tied to the city’s history. Farid Shaikh’s Camera Museum (Tel: 093712 68290) is a product of his passion and tracks the evolution of the camera with over 2,000 models on display.

Raja Dinkar Kelkar Museum (Tel: 020 2447 4466) has an impressive display of artefacts and household objects of Indian daily life dating back to the 18th century.  

Joshi’s Museum of Miniature Railways (Tel: 020 2543 5478) is the only of its kind in the country.

On display at the Tribal Museum (Tel: 020 26362772) are weapons, utensils, clothes, and ornaments, used by tribes from the Sahyadri and Gondhawa regions.

For History Buffs

Shaniwar Wada, or Saturday residence, was born when Peshwa Bajirao Ballal Bhat laid the foundation for his future residence on a Saturday in 1730. Most of the structure was ravaged by a fire in 1828, but it is still worth a visit. Other wadas that stand as a reminder of Pune’s cultural legacy are Vishrambaug Wada, Nana Wada, and Sardar Mujumdar Wada.

Shaniwar Wada • Shutterstock.com

If you’re in the mood for adventure, plan a trek to Sinhagad Fort. Twenty-five kilometres outside of Pune, this fort was used as a military outpost during the reign of Chhatrapati Shivaji. The trek is a perennial favourite, so the crowds swell on weekends and holidays.

The Aga Khan Palace, a wonderful blend of Islamic and Italian architecture built by Aga Khan III in 1892, stands on a sprawling 19-acre plot in Yerwada. The palace was built to employ famine-struck villagers at the time and was later used as a jail for Mahatma and Kasturba Gandhi and others during the Quit India Movement. In 1969, Aga Khan IV donated the palace to the Government of India, and it is now also known as the Gandhi National Memorial.  

For Religious Travellers

Carved out of a single rock, Pataleshwar Cave Temple dates back to the 8th century and is believed to have been built in the Rashtrakuta period. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and sees throngs of devotees.

Jangali Maharaj Temple is another famous temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and a 19th century ascetic yogi who went by the name Jangali Maharaj.

The Dagduseth Halwai Ganpati Temple sees thousands of pilgrims each year from across the country who come to have their wishes granted by the generous deity.

What To Eat & Where

For a local food fix, head to Cafe Goodluck (Tel: 020 2567 6893), which has been serving kheema pav and bun maska with chai to generations of Puneris. Amruteshwar Bhawan (Tel: 098817 68871) is a small stall that opens at 4 a.m. and serves freshly made kaande pohe, sabudana wada, idli, and chai. Bedekar Missal in Narayan Peth is Pune’s favourite missal shop that serves tangy, spicy missal pav, batata wada, bhaji, and other Maharashtrian snacks.  For a more filling Maharashtrian meal head to Durvankur (Tel: 020 2447 4438) to gorge on its thali. Malaka Spice (Tel: 020 2615 6293), with an outdoor seating area and delicious South East Asian food, has been a favourite since its inception in 1997. Pune has several microbreweries that cater to craft beer lovers, including TJ’s Brew Works (Tel: 090211 12804), The 1st Brew House (Tel: 083789 57746), Independence  Brewing Company (Tel: 020 6644 8308), and Effingut Brewerkz that has outlets all over the city.

Kaande pohe • Shutterstock.com

What to Buy

The lane behind Mahatma Phule Mandai, known as Burud Ali, is home to bamboo craftsmen; stock up on bamboo baskets, mats, and more. Juna Bazaar runs every Wednesday and Sunday on a strip of Vir Santaji Ghorpade Road and is a treasure trove for antique coins. Kayani Bakery is the  place to get fresh Shrewsbury biscuits and mawa cake – they sell out within minutes. Get here as soon as they open (at 3.30 pm). Budhani Wafers, Laxminarayan Chivda, and the Chitale Bandhu’s bhakarwadi are other must-haves and make for great gifts for friends and family.

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