Travelling from Bangalore to Mysore itself is a beautiful thing to do. You must bear the city traffic for a while. Later you will be rewarded with the long stretch of coconut trees and paddy fields as you get closer to Mysore. The usual hoardings in Bangalore sell Apartments. In comparison, the hoardings near Mysore change to silk, heritage hotels and jewels. After having this journey probably 20 times, here is our list of the best things to do in Mysore.
The Royal Mysore Palace.
Out of seven palaces of Mysore, only one is referred to as “THE” Mysore palace for all right reasons. This vast 38000 SFT Palace was built in 1912 by an English architect combining Hindu, Mughals, Rajput, and partly Gothic styles, making it unique. The original Palace in the same place was a wooden one and got burned in a fire accident. So it took 15 years to build what you see now. Once the King’s rule ended, the Palace was handed over to the Karnataka government.
A part of the palace complex remained with the royal family as their private residence. So the entire Palace isn’t open to the visitors. There are many halls, museums containing antiques, a room that houses Golden Howdah. So you can easily spend 3 hours observing minute details in the vast Palace. Hiring an audio guide is better than taking a personal guide for your first time. Usually, they rush over and try to finish your tour within 45 minutes.
Some of my personal favourite spaces in Mysore Palace are –
The Bronze tigers
You see a pair of larger than life Bronze statues of Tigers in the palace arena. Unless someone tells you it is bronze, it is easy to assume it is a stone. The fierce face of roaring tigers with their open mouth and the visible sharp tooth is scarily beautiful. The detailing on the body the way the muscles are stretched are super realistic.
The Paintings of Wadiyar Kings and Queens – It is fascinating to see kings and queens wearing similar attire to our daily wear, still bringing richness and Royalty to it. The fleets in the queen’s sarees are more than what we regularly wear – maybe because of 9 Yard instead of 6 Yard? Their jewellery is something you should stand and stare at for a while – You find the source of a famous brand’s wristwatch collection on these queens’ hands.
The doors – There are silver doors and also ivory embedded doors – The intricate carving makes you wonder how many tuskers they must have killed to get that much fine ivory.
The best part is the last Darbar hall – Painted colourful fluted columns holding cyan coloured arches and a highly decorated ceiling with the right amount of Gold bling is hypnotical when you stand and look at the rows of it together from a distance.
Mysore Silk Factory for the finest fabric
Mysore silk factory premise – What you see in this picture is a showroom and office rooms
The fabric I am fondest of is – Pure original Mysore silk sarees. Simple, royally elegant sarees are made with 100% pure silk weaved perfectly are adorned with 24 Carat real gold threads imported from Surat in Gujarat. The sarees are most famous it’s traditional motifs, heritage designs, durability, softness and ease of draping. Mysore Royal kings and queens use the same silk materials during palace functions and important occasions as it is the symbol of royalty.
Photography is strictly prohibited inside the factory. The only place where I was allowed to click was the dyeing area.
The batch dyeing of almost finished Mysore Silk sarees – The worth of items in the above picture is approximately 2.5Lakh INR
The making of Mysore silk is so complex that it is the opposite of its simplistic design. So seeing it in a factory makes you realise why these simple silk sarees are expensive. Every process of silk Saree making happens here under one roof except for growing mulberry leaves and breeding silkworms. The warping, double warping, weaving
Multiple colours in Mysore Silk sarees, but most sarees are either monochrome solid.
Then comes double coloured and lastly triple coloured. The cost depends on the number of layers in the Zari border. So if the Saree has checkered patterns all over the body with wider borders, the amount of gold in your saree is more, and hence it is more expensive. Beware of shops selling fake Mysore silk sarees – They are all over the city. Check KSIC Website to know the location of real KSIC Mysore silk stores.
Left – My Sister in Law, Mom and me in KSIC Mysore silk. Solid double colour cost 20k Rs. Right – Mom in KSIC Mysore silk – Cost in 2020 1.5lakh Rs
The price of a Mysore silk saree depends on the gold rate too. As the gold rate decreases, saree price decreases too. As of 2022, the starting price is 13000Rs for a monochrome thin gold zari border.
Visit the Sandalwood factory for the most aromatic experience.
The world’s best Sandalwood products come from the Southern states of India- Mainly Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. If you are a fan of fragrance, you know what Sandalwood is. Its oil has a warm, woody odour & hence commonly used as a fragrance in incense, cosmetics, perfumes, and soaps. The dense character makes it good for carving. So carved statues with ecstatic fragrance from Karnataka is world-famous. In 1792, Tipu Sultan, the then ruler of Mysore, declared it a royal tree, and since then, it has been protected by government bodies.
The factory is in such a “sad-looking” building that it is hard to understand that the world’s best aroma awaits you inside this structure.
The factory was set by Krishna Raja Wodiyar IV and India’s greatest engineer Visvesvaraya (the then Diwan of Mysore) in 1916. The goal was to use the excess Sandalwood stock left in Mysore after World War 1 without getting exported. After Sir Visvesvaraya produced the most fragrant soap in the next two years using those second-hand machines, the soaps became super famous among the public because of their affordability. Because of tree smuggling and carelessness by the government, the factory is on the run at a snail’s pace. The premium soap cost you 800Rs for a 150gm bar, and the regular 150g (still good)one cost you 70Rs.
Wander in the streets is the best thing to do in Mysore.
The best way to experience the city is to wander in “Non-Touristy” streets. What makes Mysore streets perfect for aimless wandering is the roads are wider with pedestrian pathways shaded by massive trees mostly. The side lanes of the city centre will always have one historically important building. 100-200 yeard old buildings give you a glimpse of British+Wadiyar time.
Saiyaji Rao road is the most happening street at any time of the day. But don’t miss the morning walk in Saiyaji Rao Road to see the flower market opening. Plus, near KR Circle, the Chikka Gadiyara square is an excellent plaza for people watching any time of the day. I loved wandering in the following streets :
At around 7 am, it is common to see “Pre-wedding Photoshoot” of couples in those empty streets
Irwin Road – Near Mysore Medical College, Ashoka Road near Big clock Tower. The other areas you can consider for morning jogging are Kukkaralli and Karanji Lake.
Visit the St. Philomena’s Cathedral that reminds you of France or Germany
When you travel on Good Shepherd Convent road, you will notice a colossal tall building by the roadside in a vast open campus. The 52m highly ornated tower and the stone wall remind the European impact on ancient Mysore. The way the city grew around this 1840s church is surprising. The historical style contrasts the immediate context of the concrete buildings. But the mighty church built by Wadiyars stands splendidly. The restoration work is done neatly, except for the stained glass. The stained glass is painted with an ugly colour, and it no more reflects the light. Besides that crypt to the aisle, everything is maintained well and a beautiful quiet place.
Witness the most magnificent festival of Karnataka.
The annual festival of Dasara is the most happening event in Mysore. Malla Yuddha to Cyclathon, famous Indian singer’s concert to classical music, food fair to handicraft exhibition happen throughout nine days. The Palace is decored with exterior lighting every day. The 9th day is the grandest celebration. This is when the Golden Howdah on the elephant carries Goddess Chamundeshwari and goes on the procession. Colourful tableaux, dance groups, music bands, decorated elephants, horses and camels form a part of the procession starting from the Mysore Palace. The procession begins at the Mysore Palace and proceeds down Albert Road to reach Sayyaji Rao Road. From here, the parade moves through the Bamboo Bazaar and Highway Circle before reaching the final point of the Bannimantap Grounds.
See one of the finest paintings of the world at Jagan Mohan Palace.
Jagan Mohan is smaller than the Royal Palace in size. It was built as a temporary residence of the royal family when the main wooden Palace was built in 1897 and is owned by the royal family. It houses the finest collection of famous Medieval paintings. I am hardly a museum lover, but these paintings created by India’s greatest painters of all time, Ravi Varma, S.L. Haldankar and others, captivate any visitors. The art gallery has more than 2000 priceless paintings. Some are under restoration, while the rest adorn the walls. Photography is prohibited for all the right reasons, except at a few spots.
I had always seen Ravi Varma’s paintings, but this is the only place where I saw his portrait.
My favourite remains “Glow of Hope” by Haldankar. Haldankar bought a saree for his wife on that day somewhere in 1945-46. His daughter took the saree instead, draped it and came out of the room with a lamp in her hand. That lamp glow on his beautiful daughter’s face inspired the painter. He made her pose with the lamp for three hours, created this masterpiece. Later this piece won first prize in the Dasara exhibition, and the Mysore Royals bought it. Many Indians know of these paintings. Sadly most attribute them to Raja Ravi Varma.
The lady on the left is Gita (100 years old) and her portrait was done by her father on the right when she was 12 – Glow of Hope
Ravi Varma’s paintings are no less. Famous ones exhibited in this gallery are – Goddess Lakshmi in pink saree standing on a lotus ( A print of this is most common in Hindu household’s Puja rooms), Damayanthi with Hamsa(Swan), Dattatreya with his dogs, Woman with a fruit.
My personal favourite remains “Galaxy of Musicians” – India is the most diverse country, and this painting is an example. PC: Art Work Only
Ladies of different communities wearing their community dress hold various musical instruments. A British lady in gown and hat, Malabar lady in white saree, Muslim lady with Hijab, Marathi lady with big Nose pin – I must have keenly observed this painting at least for 15 minutes, checking out every minute detail. Keep 1.5 to 2 hours to appreciate all the greatest works in detail.
Go Cafe hopping.
With more than 100 UG colleges in the city and thousands of foreign travellers visiting, Mysore has slowly developed a cafe culture. I remember eating at 100-year-old small restaurants like Bombay Indra Bhavan. Old historical mansions are getting converted into cosy cafes that play live music at night. Pakodas to Quesadilla, Filter Kaapi to Macchiato, these cafes are a great place to end your day, especially on a rainy day. Post-Covid, many cafes have suffered loss, and some even shut temporarily/forever, like Malgudi Cafe. A few cafes I tried and loved are –
Roy’s cafe: Blue and white theme cafe on the upper floor serves tasty food, and it looks like a hub of work from home guys. Don’t forget to check their witty signages. Owned by a Mysorean, one signage says, “ನಮಗ್ಯಾರ್ ಬೀಳ್ತಾರೆ ಮಗಾ” – Who will fall for us dude.
Cafe Cornucopia: This cafe is vast and filled with landscapes in the heart of a major residential area. Food is average, but the ambience is best for a snooze out day.
SAPA Sourdough & Pastry – This is what my student Niharika loves most. Thinking of Sourdough bread in a historic town like Mysore itself surprises you.
Eat a lot of local food in Mysore.
I find Mysore food not unique from Bangalore food. But it is tasty. The Famous Karnataka sweet dish “Mysore Pak” took place in this city. Pak is not related to Pakistan; it means recipe. The Besan+Jaggery+Ghee based sweet bar is perhaps the most famous among Karanataka households. Throughout the state, we make it on special occasions. Founders of Guru Sweets near Chikka Gadiyaara are the inventors of this South India’s famous dish.
From street food to Royal dining, you can have different authentic food experiences in Mysore. Some of our (and our cousin’s) favourite food joints are-
- Gayathri Tiffin Room (GTR)- For Crispy Dosa
- Vinayaka Mylari near Nazarbad Main Rd since 1983 – for soft dosa with unique coconut chutney.
- Amruth Gobi Centre in Kuvempu Nagar & Usmaan dry Gobi in Devaraja Mohalla – for cauliflower Manchurian made with Chinese cooking and seasoning techniques to suit Indian tastes.
- Mezzaluna Indian & Continental Restaurant in Vani Vilas Mohalla – for Indian and continental cuisines.
- Pataka Mannars ub Vontikoppal – Kachori and other North Indian snacks
- Hanumanthu Pulav since 1930 – Chicken and Mutton Pulav along with side dishes.
- RRR – Ashrith’s favourite joint for Chicken Roast.
Listen to the music of sellers calling at Local Market.
The market building was constructed in the 1900s by Krishnaraja Wadiyar 4th when it was an open vegetable market. The market has four different entries with a designated place for every item. Flower market, vegetable markets, artificial jewellery shops – Except ready to eat food, you find anything and everything here at a low price. The best time to visit the market is in the early morning when trucks unload items or early evening when flowers get delivered. The most flower comes from Gundlupet, Chamrajanagar and Ooty. An hour spent here will be super fun, and you will learn the art of bargaining at least a little. A conversation with the vendor is always fun, especially when you ask for a price. Owned by a German lady Dina Weber living in Mysore, this cafe’s ambience is as nice as their bread.
Me- How much does this one garland cost?
Him- 600 Rs, Prices are rising as Dasara is nearing. You buy it now and keep it in the fridge for Ayuda Pooja.
Me- I don’t want to buy; I live in Bangalore.
Him- Take it. I will give it for 450 Rs. Keep it in your hotel fridge or AC Car.
Me- How much do you charge for the same Garland on Ayuda Pooja.
Him – As Much as I want!
Him – Yes, that is our day. I may even sell the same thing for 800 or 1000 or 1500!
Watch locals feeding Pigeons in front of the Palace.
Between Chamaraja Wadiyar statue and Kote Anjaneya Swami temple opposite near Northern entrance of Mysore palace, a group called “Helping Hands Youth Organisation” feeds thousands of pigeons every morning. As a Jain community, they are always against animal cruelty. One of the main Jain principles revolves around taking good care of animals. So many local Jains living in Mysore who have migrated to the city from Rajasthan centuries ago donate money to the organisation. Seeing a flock of pigeons flying and eating stomach full can almost take an hour of your morning jogging.
Watch the sunset at Chamundi hills.
I am sure you must have seen the picture of travellers standing in front of a giant demon statue with a big moustache and a sword in hand. The demon is Mahisha, who Goddess Chamundi killed after nine long days of the war. So we consider it sacrilegious to visit Chamundi temple after being in Mysore. The views and hike to the hilltop are as interesting as the mythological story where goddess Parvathi developed multiple hands to hold weapons to kill Mahisha.
A colossal Nandi statue, beautiful temple and aerial view of Mysore are what makes the hill beautiful. When you drive after sunset, you may get lucky to spot a cheetah too! Makes sure to stop at viewpoints and be prepared to see Police on patrol often.
You can either drive/ take a city bus to the hilltop. The hilltop is no less than a small town with many food carts and shops. Another exciting way when you aren’t lazy is to climb up 1000 steps. Mind that you need to get to the starting point by vehicle to park your vehicle. Due to security reasons, sometimes the local authorities may close the trails, so check before you start the hike.
Go Cycling in the countryside.
I love Mysore, but I love Mysore countryside more. Surrounded by fertile lands because of the Kaveri river, the endless green pastures are the calmest thing. Paddy and Sugarcane fields on either side of a narrow road are often filled with goats and cows more than vehicles. If it is a vehicle, it will be a tractor with a load of chopped sugarcane.
The river channel water mud wall houses with half-round clay tiles on the roof are all a good combo for cycling breathing the freshest air. If you leave Mysore early in the morning, pack a light lunch. You can easily sit under a tree and munch, followed by a nap until the sun calms down.
Wear Mysore Mallige
It is common to see Indian ladies wearing jasmine flowers on their hair. Mysore is associated with sandalwood and Jasmine flowers, aka Mallige. Mysore mallige is famous for its unique fragrance, stronger than the rest of the jasmine breeds. The round-shaped buds are perhaps the most beautiful, especially when you string them in a group using a thread. Traditionally we wear it on our pony or plaits. But I have seen few foreigners decorating their hats with it. Trust me, it looks super classy, and the fragrance makes you feel awesome.
Make day trips.
I love Mysore for its chilled out ” No Rush” vibe. Every time I hear other travellers loving Mysore, I say “Me Too”. The city is beautiful in and out because you can make day trips at least to 15 different places and plenty of weekend trips. I can list it forever in Sri Ranga Patna, Mudukutore, Talkaad, Channapatna, Malai Mahadeshwara hill. So read our post “Day trips from Mysore” to know more.
Which is your favourite thing to do in Mysore? Let us know in the comment section below.