Every Pune visitor should dedicate at least one full morning to exploring the city’s historic district. Start by cruising past Shaniwar Wada, a commanding 18th-century fort that served as the seat of the region’s peshwa rulers; sadly, since the upkeep of historic buildings has not been a local-government priority, the fort doesn’t merit more than a drive-by. From here, head to the Dagduseth Ganpati temple, dedicated to the Hindu god Ganesha—you’ll find shrines to Ganesha all over the city, but this gilded tribute is the most spectacular, and the most popular with devotees. (If you’re pressed for time, avoid it on Tuesdays, the temple’s busiest day.) Pick up a basket of coconuts, sweets, and flowers as an offering for 50 rupees, then head inside to have it blessed and pay your respects. Next, go window-shopping along bustling Lakshmi Road, stopping to haggle for colorful Kolhapuri sandals or prewrapped saris and to snack on savory bakarwadi (a kind of savory Swiss roll) at nearby Chitale Bandhu Mithaiwale. For an up-close encounter with Pune’s classic architecture, visit Vishrambaug Wada, an early-19th-century peshwa manse in the throes of restoration. Thought its present-day contents aren’t much to look at—abandoned couches, stray water coolers—the intricate original woodwork and beautiful arched windows remain. Then make your way to the Raja Dinkar Kelkar Museum, a haphazard, overwhelming, yet utterly fascinating collection of artifacts from all across India: 18th-century Rajasthani statues, vintage lemon squeezers, peacock-shaped sitars, Gujarati sari borders. Highlight: a re-creation of Mastani Mahal, the abode of peshwa ruler Bajirao’s second wife (their love story was immortalized in the 2015 Bollywood epic Bajirao Mastani). Finally, women should pay a visit to Peshwai Creations, a required stop on every Pune bride’s trousseau-shopping itinerary. Even if you’re not in the market for a signature Maharashtrian nine-yard sari, you can still play dress-up. Photos are technically not allowed, but that seldom stops eager customers from taking (discreet) selfies.
The historic district of Pune is about 20 minutes from the Conrad, and while it’s possible to walk around once you’re there, you may want to keep the driver with you to help you navigate—streets and sidewalks are very crowded and many signboards are in Marathi only.
DAGDUSETH GANPATI: 250 Ganpati Bhavan, Budhvar Peth; +91-20-2447-9222; dagdushethganpati.com
RAJA DINKAR KELKAR MUSEUM: 1377-78 Natu Baug, near Bajirao Rd.,Shukrawar Peth; + 91-20-2448-2101; rajakelkarmuseum.com
VISHRAMBAUG WADA: RB Kumthekar Rd., Perugate, Sadashiv Peth
PESHWAI CREATIONS: 717 Lakshmi Chandra Complex, Kumthekar Rd., Sadashiv Peth