Mysore or Mysuru, is one of the best locations in India for a weekend break – it’s got palaces, temples, churches, gardens, culture, and a fascinating history. Plus, the city itself is not as intense as many Indian cities can be.
- Mysore opened its airport in 2017, a cute tiny little airport where you have to walk from the runway to the gate. Flights operate from some locations. Check kayak.com but bear in mind that Mysore airport is about 10 km outside the city centre, and taxis aren’t easily available.
- The easiest and cheapest way to get there is on the Shatabdi Express train from Bengaluru – a quick and comfortable 2 hour journey. You could also drive from Bengaluru for about 3.5 hours.
Before you go:
- The key attraction in Mysore is the palace, which lights up for 45 minutes every Sunday and public holiday. Personally, watching the lights go on was the best part of my visit – try not to miss out!
- Both Ola and Uber operate in the city so use them to quickly get around. Auto drivers will 100% fleece you, so look up how far your destination is before hopping in one (pay not more than about 20 rupees per kilometre).
- The language spoken is Kannada, but people understand Hindi and English too.
- Be wary of tourist guides, beggars, street vendors.
Assuming this would be a Saturday, best to do the outskirts on this day so you can catch the palace lights on a Sunday. I recommend you pack a lunch from your hotel in Mysore – some sandwiches/cake/snacks that you can eat on the way. You will need to hire a car for the day – link.
8:00am – Somnathpura
Get your butt out of bed early and be ready to leave at 8am, for the 45 minute drive to the East of Mysore, to the town of Somnathpura. Here sits the stunning Chennakesava Temple, a 700 year old unique star shaped temple.
- Indian entry – Rs. 5
- Foreigner entry – Rs. 100
- Timings – 9am to 5.30pm
Every inch of this temple is carved in bands detailing human and animal figures. This 3-shrine structure is carved in soapstone, and enclosed within a pillared corridor. We paid Rs. 300 for a tour guide who told us bits and pieces of the temple’s history, pointed out important statues in the niches, and took us inside the temple itself (surprisingly simple compared to the elaborate exterior). Some of the holy statues in the sanctum sanctorums have been lost to time or thieves. You have to take your shoes off outside so carry a pair of socks if it’s a hot day.
No matter how many temples you see in India, the carvings never fail to impress. These friezes are no exception! You will spend about an hour or two here. Then get back in your car and head the other way to Srirangapatnam to visit Tipu Sultan’s erstwhile home. The drive will take you about an hour.
12 noon: lunch en-route
We stopped off on the way by a riverside to indulge in our packed lunch.
Essentially a river island surrounded by the Kaveri, Srirangapatna was ruled by several emperors, the last one being Tipu Sultan who was ultimately defeated by the British (who then proceeded to ransack his palace and steal all his valuable possessions to be shipped off to the UK. They are now scattered across museums in England, most of it at the V&A.
Spend your day visiting the Srirangapatna Fort (now in ruins), the stone standing on the spot Tipu collapsed to death, his burial spot, the temple and mosque inside the fort complex, Colonel Bailey’s dungeon where captive prisoners were chained to the walls in the never-ending tussle between Tipu and the British (freaky!).
Be sure to visit Tipu Sultan’s summer palace! Read more about it here.
4pm: Brindavan Gardens
Once upon a time they would let you go all the way up to the dam and look out into the water body, but they have stopped allowing that in recent years for security concerns. This lovely garden sits next to the Krishna Raja Sagar Dam built across the mighty Kaveri river. Towards the end of the slightly uphill climb is the Royal Orchid hotel, where you can pop in for a drink if you wish!
7pm: Dinner at Oyster Bay
Without a doubt, this is one of the nicest restaurants I’ve ever eaten at. It’s open, breezy, spacious, and serves every kind of cuisine under the sun. Between four of us, we had sizzlers, pastas, rice, and then moved on to soft neer dosas with a couple of curries. Of course, with loads of chilled beer. Highly recommended! Unfortunately I did not take great pictures, so here’s a link instead.
9am: Sand Sculpture Museum
Now this one might sound boring, but it is quite impressive. The artist has sculpted scenes from mythology, human and animal figures in haute-relief. It is a semi-permanent shelter of sorts and you get to walk around to see incredible detailing on sand sculptures of lions, mermaids, famous buildings, and even Santa Clause. We spent about 45 minutes admiring the art.
10am: Seashell Museum
A stone’s throw from the sand sculpture museum is the fairly new Mysore Seashell Museum. I have personally never been, but reviews of the craft and sculptures are glowing. Pop in to see it, and tell us what you think of it!
12 noon: St. Philomena’s Church
When I sent a picture of this to my mum-in-law she said “oh it looks like the Cologne Cathedral in Germany!” It is in fact, a catholic church built in the Neo Gothic style, inspired by the Cologne Cathedral. An impressive structure, it also has two statues in front of it – St. Philomena, and St. Joseph. You can walk into the church and even through the eerie catacombs below. Really lovely to just sit outside and take in all the architecture.
Enjoy a leisurely lunch at the Southern Star hotel, where we stayed twice (much less nicer the second time around, we’re not sure why!). Their restaurant looks out into their green lawn – a pleasant view to enjoy your buffet lunch with.
3pm: Jaganmohan Palace and Art Gallery
Built by the Wodeyar kings, this served as the royal quarters for a while, before the family moved into the grand palace close by. Today, it serves as a gallery that is the equivalent of what my mum-in-law calls “pots, rocks and bones museum.” It’s quite worth a visit, but don’t go in expecting a V&A! My personal favourite bits were the original Ravi Verma paintings.
Don’t leave without seeing the famous ‘Glow of Hope’ painting, by SL Haldankar – a beautiful watercolour that artists in India absolutely love.
4pm: The Mysore Palace
The earlier you can get yourself in, the better. My suggestion to go at 4pm is if it is a Sunday, so you can catch the lights. If you have time, you could even do the palace in the morning and come back on Sunday evening for the lighting.
When my mum visited Buckingham Palace, her (patriotic) reaction was “but Mysore Palace is nicer.” Rather ironically, the Mysore Palace was designed by….an Englishman (bah) Henry Irwin, known for his unique Indo-Saracenic architectural style, scattered throughout India.
The palace was packed to the brim when we went, so we basically got pushed through by the crowds of people. You can get an audio-tour to understand everything you see better. You get to walk through some of the stately rooms, the durbars, as well as the open courtyards. Make sure you are standing outside the palace (but within the campus) with your eyes firmly fixed on the building at 6.45 to see every inch of it suddenly come to life. You will hear a collective “oooooohh!”
TBH, we loved Oyster Bay so much, we went back on the second night for dinner. Do that if you liked it enough (which you will), or otherwise head to one of the nicer hotels for dinner (Fortune/Radisson/Sandesh The Prince)
If You Have More Time
Visit the Mysore Zoo if you have an extra day. Other options include doing a walking tour with Royal Mysore Walks, visit the Railway and Natural History Museums, or the Namdroling Monastery (about 2 hours outside of Mysore.)