Kolkata, or Calcutta as it is still known to many, is a city with a soul. A visit to Kolkata will leave you feeling like a ride through Dr. Who’s Tardis – a machine that takes you through time and space. There are parts of this teeming metropolis that still seem stuck in Colonial India – the imposing mansions, the old world charm, the old British and Bengali buildings such as the Writers’ Building and Marble Palace, and warm people forever ready to share the day’s news over a cup of tea. And just then, the swanky IT hub, New Town, sprawling office spaces, racy flyovers, and the constant construction of new apartment complexes and malls jar you out of your reverie.
If you have a weekend to spend in Kolkata and would like to soak in the sights and sounds of the city that was once the capital of the country, here’s a handy guide –
Breakfast at Flury’s – 8.30 am
Flury’s is not ‘just another European Cafe’. Flury’s on Kolkata’s main thoroughfare, Park Street, is an institution. This famous tearoom and bakery was set up in 1927 and an experience of the city is incomplete without indulging in a hearty Continental breakfast here.
St. Paul’s Cathedral – 10.00 am
Head straight to the imposing and stately St. Paul’s Cathedral. The seat of the Diocese of Calcutta, this cathedral was opened to public in 1847 and is a Gothic revival structure. The pristine white cathedral with stained glass windows is well maintained and is a beauty to behold. You may want to light a candle here.
Victoria Memorial – 11.00 am
Just around the corner from St. Paul’s is the iconic Victoria Memorial. Even as you walk down, the white marble mansion built in Indo-Saracenic Revival style, reminds you of the Victorian Era – the memorial was built in 1921 and dedicated to the memory of Queen Victoria. The museum in the memorial, its intricate carvings, large manicured gardens and pebbled pathways are by themselves lessons in history.
Birla Planetarium – 12.30 pm
Right across the street is the Birla Planetarium of Kolkata, easily identifiable by its Buddhist Stupa style architecture and massive circular dome. This is the largest planetarium in the Asian continent and the second largest in the entire world. The shows on astronomy held here are very educational and informative and if you reach here a few minutes before 12.30 pm you should be right on time to catch the Hindi show.
New Market (Street food and shopping) – 1.30 pm
It’s almost time for lunch and despite plenty of options nearby you may want to take a break from traditional restaurant lunches. Kolkata is the capital of street food in India. Head straight to New Market which retains its name despite being one of the oldest shopping areas in the city. Grab a bite at the famous ‘Shakes & Sandwich’ street shop in New Market, indulge in some delicious kathi rolls, or buy a bowl of chowmein from the food trucks at the market. Whatever you do, do not miss ending lunch with a wonderful pastry from Nahoum’s. The city’s oldest and best-known confectionery shop was set up in 1902 and retains its popularity.
New Market is also a shopper’s idea of heaven. From traditional Bengali kantha, taant, and jamdani sarees to great quality footwear, bags and purses to junk jewellery, household items to clothing – you are likely to find everything here. Remember to bargain and haggle with the street vendors, like the locals do.
Indian Museum – 3 pm
Head straight to the Indian Museum – the largest and oldest museum in India. While you may not be able to cover the entire museum and all its exhibits, do not miss out on the display of the Egyptian mummy here. The the Palaeo-anthropology gallery is quite interesting too.
Boating at Outram Ghat – 5.30 pm
From the museum, head out to Outram Ghat on the banks of the River Hoogly. Hire a boatman to take you on a magical ride right up to Howrah Bridge and back. There is no sight more magical in Kolkata than this towering bridge during sunset.
Dinner and Nightlife in Park Street – 8 pm onwards
Now off to sample some of the vibrant nightlife that Calcutta has to offer. Park Street is full of restaurants with live music, bars and pubs and discotheques with lively crowds club hopping over the weekend.
Dakshineshwar Temple – 6 am
Start the day early and head to the famous Dakshineswar Temple near Kolkata. The temple stands on the eastern banks of River Hoogly, it was built by Rani Rashmoni in 1855. The temple’s main idol Goddess Bhavatarini (Kali) was worshipped by the mystic seer Ramakrishna himself.
Belur Math – 7.30 am
From Dakshineshwar proceed to Belur Math, the headquarters of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission, founded by Swami Vivekananda. The temple welcomes people from all religions and has a beautiful garden. Carry a packed breakfast and have a picnic on the banks of the Hoogly.
Nicco Park – 10.30 am
The Nicco Park is an exciting entertainment park with a number of rides for children. Enjoy the water rides with family.
Chinatown (Lunch) – 1.30 pm
Have lunch at one of the authentic Chinese eateries of Chinatown. The Chinese population here started to migrate in as early as 1820 and is one of the largest Chinese settlements in India.
Science City – 2.30 pm
Right opposite Chinatown is Kolkata’s famous Science City. Inaugurated in 1997, the Science City showcases the best of science and technology and is a wonderful educational experience for all age groups.
Tram Ride – 5 pm
Do not end your trip to Kolkata without an experience of a tram ride. Kolkata is the only city in India, and one of the few in the world to retain tram services. Board a tram from the Park Circus and take a long ride through the city.
For those willing to spend a longer period of time in Kolkata, the city has much more to offer. Do visit the newly opened New Town Eco Park, the Birla Mandir, Marble Palace, Shaheed Minar, Birla Industrial & Technological Museum, Alipore Zoological Gardens, Kalighat Temple, Aquatica, Ravindra Sarovar lake, and Nakhoda Masjid.
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