My university degree is in Urban Studies and Sociology, which means I spent my time analyzing cultures, problems in inner cities, urban planning concepts, and the various leaders of thought therein. One of those was Le Corbusier, a Swiss-French architect and the brain behind the layout of Chandigarh, also known as “The City Beautiful”. He created a grid-system for streets and relied on almost Marx-ist style principles of community policing in his construction of the inward-facing buildings within the city blocks, or what are called “sectors” on the map.
Naturally, I was excited to see it in person before heading north to Shimla. I flew in on Sunday evening and had only one day before leaving. I slept in a super budget hotel for Rs. 1800 per night, and this was easily the shittiest hotel I’ve slept in…ever. The cold water came not out of the tap but from the hose below the sink, there were no windows, and the air conditioner smelled like a damp dog.
After a sleepless night, I got out of bed at 7am and left the hotel as soon as possible. I got an Uber cab to the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf on the ground floor of Hotel Aroma (Sector 22, this is a great hotel) and spent two hours toggling between mindless clickbait and Trip Advisor to see about sites in the city. I think I was probably a little delirious from not sleeping the night before.
The cool thing about Uber is that once you’re in the cab, if you like the driver, you can hire him for the day. The particular driver I had, Harry, charged me Rs. 1800 for 8 hours of driving (his number is +91 99 88 929420 if you need a driver!) I highly suggest going this route instead of hiring a guide in the city since most of the tourist sites are self-explanatory and all you really need is someone to take you to and from.
My big takeaways from my trip here:
Here’s what I would suggest for a day-long itinerary based on my experience. You can split it into two if you want to really savor each site.
Capitol Complex – this is the iconic building by Le Corbusier. I wasn’t able to see it because I didn’t get there in time. Apparently, they have special timings for visitors and you need to register at the office with your passport before going to see it…so, check with them before going.
Rock Garden – you won’t want to miss this. It only costs Rs. 20 for entry and will provide you (and your family, if you have one of those) with at least a full hour of entertainment. It’s a labyrinth of Gaudi-style art made from found objects with a few big water features and a giant set of swings toward the end.
Le Corbusier Center - this is a museum dedicated to Le Corbusier, mastermind of the City Beautiful. It is closed on Mondays so I wasn’t able to see it. They had an interesting art gallery that was open however, and on their regular days there are several exhibits that highlight Corbusier’s achievements.
Pal Dhaba, Sector 28D – there is some great northern Indian food here and I highly suggest that you stop for lunch or dinner. It’s popular with celebrities and tourists, and is hygienic. I ordered the Boneless Mutton Rogan Josh and Chicken Masala. The mutton was falling off the bone and the gravy was perfect.
Sukhna Lake – go here in the evening for a stroll before dinner as the sun sets. The lake is beautiful and they’ve done an impeccable job at keeping it clean and maintained.
Garg Chaat, Sector 35 – this is a super yummy Punjabi chaat stand in a cute market market. I had the dahi chaat – in American-speak, this is an awesome snack that plays with textures and flavors. There are savory, crunchy wafers and little spongy cakes that are doused with yogurt and tamarind sauce. It’s a sour, sweet, salty, crunchy, creamy combination that can’t be beat.
Elante Mall – go here. Great brands, big mall, the latest fashions. It’s a fun way to spend a few hours.
Topiary Garden – this is a small, tidy park, but if you’re feeling cramped on time, don’t bother yourself with it. The topiaries are in poor shape and it’s underwhelming especially when compared to the Rose Garden and Lake Sukhna.
Rose Garden – September is NOT the season for roses. Though I can see that it must be beautiful during the season, most of the plants were not in their prime state. I’d suggest trying to be there in February or March. While the roses were still alive, they weren’t in full bloom, and it was 36C out so I found it hard to enjoy.