Escape to the oasis that is Lalbagh for a breath of fresh air whether you have only an hour to spare or an entire afternoon at your disposal. The 240 acre garden has something for every type of visitor and is a perfect setting for a relaxed family picnic.
One of our favourite things to do on a Sunday is to head to the oasis of south Bangalore, Lalbagh Botanical Garden. The sprawling garden spread over 240 acres has something for every type of visitor – the tourist, the book lover, the botany enthusiast, the rock-climber, the photographer, the bird-watcher, the history-buff, those looking to play a simple game of ball toss, or those focused on the picnic basket and the goodies inside!
As soon as you enter the garden area, you involuntarily relax and take a deep breath and leave your cares and worries outside with the traffic and dust. The children sense it too and love the atmosphere of 100 year old trees and filled with blossoms of every colour especially in the early summer months. Pinks, fuchsias, reds and yellow amidst the endless carpet and canopy of green. It’s good for the soul and our lungs as well! Many of the trees are actually not native to Bangalore or even India. Lalbagh was planned in the style of a Mughal Garden by Hyder Ali and executed by his son Tipu Sultan to also be a horticultural museum by importing plants from around the world. The British continued that tradition when they managed the garden and so it is even to this day.
We usually like to amble in around 11 am with a picnic basket filled with cold-cut sandwiches, some pre-mixed bhel ready to serve with sweet n’ sour and mint chutneys and fresh fruits. We like to walk around and take in some of the various sights on offer like the lawn flower clock, the rose garden or the lotus pond before getting to serious business of finding a good picnic spot. The grounds are well maintained by full-time gardeners who will guide you about which lawns are allowed to picnic on and which ones are off-limits. There are a few picnic tables spread around, but they are few and far between and you have to be lucky to find an empty one.
Spread out the dhurrie and the goodies and settle in for a few hours of alternately eating and running around chasing the kid, take a break to catch up on some reading and then throw the ball around some more. For the older and more explorative kids they can hike up to the top of Lalbagh hill which is made up of 3,000 million-year-old peninsular gneissic rocks. There is also one of the 4 cardinal Kempegowda towers at the top of the hill. There are non-grassy ground areas in the park that are suitable for tennis ball cricket with lightweight bats, frisbee or football. It may be a bit windy for badminton, but that doesn’t stop people from bringing their racquets.
Lalbagh is one of the most accessible spaces in the city for children to observe and become aware of the flora and fauna that abounds in the world. Introduce children to various kinds of plants and trees or help them start a collection of pressed dried flowers by picking up the fallen blooms. Early mornings and evenings are good times to have your ears filled with bird song. Trying to identify different birds in the park is a great activity for older kids – have them bring along a pair of binoculars to turn in to real life explorers and naturalists. After all they are going to be the next generation of wildlife photographers, environmental activists and eco resource management experts. Look for water birds like ducks and moorhens near the lotus pond. Quite a few migratory species are to be spotted in the winter including pelicans and heron. A wide range of assorted birds fill the trees from the large brahminy kites to the tiny asian koels. If you can’t identify a bird, just take a picture and bring it home to look up on the internet!
Before you leave, walk around the glass house which hosts the bi-annual flower show around Independence Day and Republic Day – which is also a treat for the kids, but can also be a bit too crowded for very tiny tots. Bicycles aren’t allowed in the park as a rule, but small tricycles or push cycles for toddlers probably won’t raise any objection. Don’t forget to stop by the Nurserymen’s Cooperative society near the Double Road Gate where you can pick up saplings or seeds for your balcony garden and bring a bit of the garden back home with you.
What I love most about Lalbagh is that it gives everyone a chance to spend time outdoors instead of inside malls and arcades and is suitable for a small family picnic of mom, dad & kid as well a gathering of extended family of 10-20 people with kids, grandparents, aunts & uncles. Don’t forget to bring your cameras as Lalbagh allows plenty of opportunity to take some memorable family photographs in natural light. Bangalore is blessed to have good outdoor weather for most of the year so make the most of it!
Tips for parents
- Park Timings are 6 am – 7 pm daily
- Entry between 6 am – 9 am is free and again between 6 pm – 7 pm to cater to walkers & joggers. At all other times entry fee for adults is Rs. 10 on regular days and Rs. 40/50 on flower show days. Entry for children is free all day on regular days and Rs. 10 on flower show days.
- Drinking water stations are available, but it is recommended to carry adequate water and fluids to keep hydrated especially on hot days. Push cart vendors selling ice-creams, soft drinks, popcorn and fried snacks are located near the main entrances.
- Public restrooms are available at many points around the grounds that appear to be well maintained.
- The main parking is located inside of the Double Road gate and Lalbagh Main gate. Some limited parking is also allowed outside the small side gate on Siddapura Road. Vehicles and bicycles are not allowed inside the garden roads, though baby strollers are fine. Cycle parking is available at all gates.
If you choose to skip bringing your own picnic you can do a traditional masala dosa and coffee breakfast at MTR (Mavalli Tiffin Rooms) before heading to Lalbagh, which is an institution with the early morning walkers as a post-walk coffee place. Another favourite authentic dosa and coffee place is Vidyarthi Bhavan in Gandhi Bazaar which is so popular on weekends that you should expect to wait 20-30 minutes before you get a spot to sit. Don’t be surprised if you have to share your table with fellow foodies.
Don’t want to waste time sitting around in restaurants? Then head to the old-world V.B.Bakery at Sajjan Rao Circle marking the beginning of the VV Puram eat street and pack your picnic basket with their timeless treats like bun-butter-jam, congress buns, veg puffs, sliced pound cake, rusk and pastries before you head to Lalbagh. After a fun afternoon at the park head back to the eat street for tummy filling and soul satisfying chats, snacks and thirst quenchers.
For more sit-down restaurant places Jayanagar 4th block is your nearest bet to find a host of dining options. Café Coffee Day and Ibaco ice-creams have outlets right across the street from Lalbagh West Gate which will also be the nearest Metro stop once the line to Bangalore South is operational.