Over the years since the British first established their capital in Calcutta, the city has seen changes like no other. Still holding onto the rich cultural amalgamation that came with the British, the modern-day Kolkata is now a treasure chest of historical monuments, delectable cuisines and an army of the classic yellow taxis plying on the roads. One can only uncover the many underlying layers of the city based on their interest. Here’s how you can experience the very best of the City of Joy in 24 hours!
Century-old traditions and historical icons
Get your early morning start at 5 AM with fresh steaming meat buns and aromatic soup dumplings at the Teretti Bazaar. This bazaar is located on Sun Yat Sen street behind the Lal Bazar Police Headquarters and is the ultimate foodie’s paradise. The large ethnic Chinese nationals that settled here way back in the 1780s have played a key role in developing the Bengali palate for Chinese cuisine. You will be kept busy tasting all that is there on offer for hours!
Get a classic yellow taxi to Burrabazar – the city’s biggest wholesale market starts running since 7 AM. It has everything to offer from over 50,000 merchants from across the country. Explore the marketplace before heading over to the ancestral home of Rabindranath Tagore – the Jorasanko Thakur Bari. It has now been adapted into a museum opening for public viewing at 10:30 AM.
Take one of the many local buses plying the road from the museum to Jatindra Mohan Avenue to snack on a wide variety of North Indian food at the Mitra Cafe. A ten-minute walk from the cafe, make your way towards the Kumartuli area to see the masters at work sculpting beautiful earthen idols all year round.
Next stop is the Hatibagan market – one of the oldest (106 years old in 2018) traditional flea market in the city. Get all your shopping needs done here for the cheapest rates possible. As you exit the market hungry – slip into the iconic Bhojohori Manna nearby for a full course traditional Bengali meal for a late lunch, as the restaurant opens up after 12 PM only.
Take a taxi ride to your next stop after that hearty lunch. For a leisurely afternoon opt for the tour of the Dutta Ancestral Home – the birthplace of Vivekananda which opens up after 2 PM. Take a walk towards the Raja Rammohun Roy Memorial Museum next to explore more about Bengal’s revolutionary political history.
By 5 PM it’s time for some evening refreshments. One cannot be in Kolkata and miss out on the iconic Indian Coffee House for some good coffee, a great snack and a nostalgic aura of that perfect Bengali adda culture.
If you’re looking for the ultimate Kolkata experience, head over to the Park Street area after the sun sets to experience the nightlife at famous watering holes of the city like Roxy, Tantra, Shisha, the Monkey Bar, Nocturne and many more which are all within walkable distance from one another. Most pubs in Kolkata open up by 6 PM every day and are live till midnight with random DJs playing or special live music sessions. If partying is not your scene, you can browse the most extensive variety of old books at the old books market on College Street before gorging on some delicious food at the nearby Zeeshan or the Hindusthan Dhaba before calling it a day.
Travel back in time to the British Raj
All over Kolkata, you would find monuments and buildings influenced by an amalgamation of many prominent Indian cultures and the Victorian era. A heritage tour around the city’s most famed localities is the best way to revisit Calcutta.
Start the morning by the serene Princep Ghat for a stroll in the lush green setting. The Princep Ghat, built in 1843, has a beautiful Greek influence with White Gothic columns – located just below the towering Vidyasagar Setu. It’s a hot pick for early joggers and some much needed fresh air before starting a busy day in the city.
Grab a quick bite at the many street food stalls lining the Strand Road. Right across the road is Fort William – which once was a major stronghold for the British East India Company. Currently, under the Indian Army, it is an active military basecamp with no civilian entry. But one can visit the Water Gate landmark that will give you a panoramic view of both iconic bridges over the majestic Hoogly River.
The afternoon can be spent exploring the various shops of the overflowing New Market or what the British initially named as the Hogg’s Market back in 1874 when it opened. The market is spotted with hole-in-the-wall fast-food counters and restaurants of any cuisine imaginable – safe to say you won’t be hungry for long. One of the most iconic food items all across India – the Kathi roll – came out of Nizam’s Restaurant located in one of the many winding lanes of this market.
Now for the iconic landmark of British heritage in the city – the Victoria Memorial. A grand monument issued in the memory of Queen Victoria in 1901 – the grandeur of the Memorial took upto 20 years to complete. Surrounded by lush green parks, kick back and enjoy the afternoon sun or enter the gallery inside to view the 25 galleries on show.
In walking distance to the Memorial stands the largest Anglican church of Kolkata – the St. Paul’s Cathedral with its high ceilings and stained glasses. The Gothic style of this cathedral is one of a kind to be found in the city.
As the sun looms on the horizon, it’s time to visit the Park Street Cemetery near Mullick Bazar. The cemetery was established in 1767 has numerous Gothic tombs of many notable officers of the East India Company. Officially closed in 1790, the area is a heritage site protected by the Archeological Survey of India housing 1600 graves or tombs.
Watch the night come alive at Park Street after the sun sets that will remind you of London’s Regent Street during Christmas time. End the day with a lavish dinner at Peter Cat – the street’s one of the finest establishments since 1960.
The only thing that you can never put a time-stamp on is the authentic Bengali sweets. While walking on the road from any of the aforementioned places – you will find these shops by the side of the road in a blink-and-you-miss-it fashion. Enter any one of them to try out an assorted variety of these Bengali sweet-tooth satisfiers. Or, you can also go on a pilgrimage of the city’s most renowned sweet-makers of the last century – but that’s for another blog!
Start planning and book your flights and hotels now!