If you are a first timer to Kolkata from out of India and a kind of traveler who prefers offbeat more than the beaten track then these places are for you. From the Kumortuli to the Cofee house, Kolkata’s offbeat attraction will leave you coming back for more. You can know and visit the famous places off Kolkata but you’ll never know about these place except you ask a local who knows Kolkata very well! And if you wants to know more about the ‘city of joy’, you have to visit these places. Now, get, set and go!
Lal Dighi (Red Pond)
A large enough water body, spanning across 25 acres of land, Lal Dighi is a lesser-known wonder of Kolkata that can have a charming effect on you. The water body or tank is of historical significance because the surrounding area was also the place where the Battle of Lal Dighi was fought between Siraj-ud-Daulah and the British East India Company in 1756. The pond is said to have acquired the name during the festival of Holi, when the tank becomes red or crimson in color. Due to years of negligence the pond has lost its former charm and attracts very less crowd these days.
Museum of Bengal Modern Art
The Museum is one of its kinds in India. It showcases the evolution of Bengal Art from colonial times. It includes traditional art forms, group movements and works from pioneering stalwarts to new breeds of artists. Several paintings are on display from members of the Tagore family including Rabindranath Tagore himself. Representative figures of the Bengal School to Kalighat and Battala paintings are part of the permanent display including big names of the contemporary arts scene; Jogen Chowdhury, Shakti Burman, Paresh Maity and Shuvaprasanna the visionary founder of the museum. The Museum currently has in its possession more than 500 artworks.
Kolkata is the only city in South Asia with trams. If you are looking for the peaceful, comfortable, cheapest, luxurious, healthy drive around Kolkata, there’s no better option than Calcutta Tramways. It is 143 years old heritage of Kolkata. So go for a tram ride around the city and explore the heritage track.
The Mother House is the erstwhile residence of the most renowned and inspirational female figures in Indian History—Mother Teresa. If you are searching for something more meaningful, more awe inspiring, do not forget to visit this landmark. The house was built by Mother Teresa in 1950 with the motive of selfless service to humankind and also to uplift humanity and take it towards salvation. She lived and worked in this home from 1953 till 1997 when she breathed her last.
The simplicity of the area renders a heartwarming feeling to all those who visit this place. The site of the tomb is extremely simple and humble, yet exudes a benign vibration that fills the heart with utmost gratitude. Adjacent to the building is a small museum named Mother Teresa’s Life Spirit and Message. The museum houses her belongings such as her sandals, a dinner bowl used by her, a crucifix and a few other objects. With a crown-of-thorns above her modest bed, the mother’s room is preserved in all its simplicity.
Chinese Weekly Market and Breakfast
Though the atmosphere is not quite friendly you should experience with what was continuing since last 250 years. I am sure in glory days this market must be thriving with activity as mentioned in some magazines and some very old news papers.
The Chinese breakfast wont disappoint you. You can try fish ball, Chinese bread roll, chicken momos or you can go for the Pig intestines. According to the locals, pig intestines is a delicious food.
National Library of India
Spread over 30 acres of land, it is India’s largest library by volume. Boasting of an extensive collection of books, (more than two million)—the library is worth visiting, for book lovers, it is a unique experience. A treasure trove of knowledge, the architecture of the building exudes ultimate colonial grandeur. The building flaunts an impressive structure with tall pillars and arches. The green-coloured doors and windows against the white building is an attraction in itself. Roman beams, Corinthian pillars, off-white ceilings—all command appreciation. Dining tables, fire places and a London-made grandfather clock used by the British viceroys continue to be well preserved by the library authorities. The entire area is surrounded by thick foliage that adds to its beauty. You can undertake a walk around the campus and also capture it in your lenses.
Cofee House of College Street
Situated at 15 Bankim Chatterjee St, Cofee House has been for a long time a regular hang out for students (and ex-students) of the Presidency College, University of Calcutta, and other institutions in College Street.
Notable citizens, including Rabindranath Tagore and Subhas Chandra Bose, were frequent visitors to the place.
The place now has totally new look but without changing the aura of the place. Now it has several paintings. Apart from genuine filter South Indian Coffee, they also serve lunch and dinner or just plain snacks. You can sit over there with a cup of coffee for entire afternoon, nobody really minds.
Park Street Cemetery
The cemetery is famed for being one of the non-church cemeteries in the world and also for being the largest Christian burial ground outside America and Europe in the 19th century. The cemetery was opened in 1767 and was in use till 1790. Later it was declared a heritage site and is currently protected by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
It houses the graves of some distinguished European figures who played a key role in India, that include Sir William Jones (founder of Asiatic Society), Henry Louis Vivian Derozio (revolutionist, poet, teacher and founder of the Young Bengal Movement), C.F. Andrews (Church of EnglandPriest, educator and social reformer), and son of Charles Dickens.
Admire the numerous tombs at the burial ground that are a rich mix of Gothic and Indo-Saracenic style. Mostly made of sandstone, the tombs are square, circular or rectangular in size. They reflect an utmost European style ranging from Grecian urns to Romanesque copulas, cairns, obelisks and pyramids. Some are even influenced by Hindu structural design. Architecturally impressive, all the structures are reminiscent of the grandeur of the colonial times. Spread over eight acres of land surrounded by high brick walls and an assortment of foliage—the South Park Street Cemetery offers a quaint ambience.
Boat ride over Ganges
You can have a boat ride over Ganges. A must-see in Kolkata is to take a local boat around 4,30pm and see the sunset over the Ganges. These boats called “Noukas” can be rented from the many Ghats lining the river …. expect to pay as much as you can negotiate.
College Street Book Market
College street in Kolkata is the largest second-hand book market in the world and the largest book market in India. It is famous for its small and big book stores which gives it the nickname, ‘Boi-para’, Colony of books. Many bigwigs of the Bengali publication industry are situated here. The street is also dotted with countless very small book kiosks which sell new and old books. One can buy rare books at throw-away prices and extensive bargaining take place.
An article in the journal Smithsonian described College street as, “a half-mile of bookshops and bookstalls spilling over onto the pavement, carrying first editions, pamphlets, paperbacks in every Indian language, with more than a fair smattering of books in and out of print from France, Germany, Russia and England.”
Rabindra Sarobar Lake
Originally known as Dhakuria Lake, in May 1958, CIT renamed the lake as Rabindra Sarovar, as a tribute to the great Bengali writer and Nobel Laureate, Rabindranath Tagore.
This is one of the lungs of Kolkata city, and a visit to the lake is highly refreshing. If you are visiting Kolkata with your love, then Rabindra Sarobar can be a good place for making love. Unlike foreign, Kolkata’s culture would not allow you to be openly closed to your partner, so it would a good place for you after night fall. Well, just be aware of the guards at night!
Kumortuli Idol maker
Most of the idols of Durga puja have been created by idol makers, locally referred to as ‘kumors’. In what is a famous locality of Kolkata, the lanes of Kumortuli comes to life in the months preceding the Durga Puja, in August and September. If you want to experience a completely different Kolkata and want to interact with real artisans, take a walk in the narrow alleys of Kumortuli.
The history of Kumortuli dates back to the 17th century when potters from Krishnanagar came to Kolkata, a prosperous town on the banks of Hooghly in search of a better livelihood, to make a living by making clay items for household purposes.
Admire the artisans as they put the final touches on the clay idols of Goddess Durga and her four children, Saraswati, Laksmi, Ganesh and Kartik, even as they work tireless, oblivious to the impact of their creations on people around them. Strike a conversation with the idol makers and getan insight into their daily lives, their way of working.
If you are going for a true essence of Kolkata, you should visit north Kolkata. It is a one day tour to the entire north Kolkata. North Kolkata is the older area of Kolkata, a fascinating district dominated by narrow little lanes and hundreds of century-old buildings.
The Northern part of Kolkata houses the old buildings belonging to the Zamindars (Landlords), other rich Bengalis who used to trade with the British. It preserves the cultural heritage of Kolkata. The building structures give an impression of the royal folk who occupied them. The area is generally crowded and has some interesting markets including the famous Posta, Burrabazar whole sale markets.
You can visit Bauddha Dharmankur Sabha, Datta Ancestral Home – Birthplace of Vivekananda, Kolkata Police Museum, Mahabodhi Society of India, Mahajati Sadan, Marble Palace, Parashnath Jain Temple, Rabindra Bharati Museum, Raja Rammohan Roy Memorial Museum, Vidyasagar Smriti Mandir.
You can do some shopping in Kolkata’s wholesale market, Burrabazar or Hatibagan market. The more you bargain the more cheap will be the price for dresses or jewelery.
Now coming to some food to your trip, you can go to Allen kitchen, which is famous for its prawn cutlet, or you can visit Golbari, famous for its ‘kosha mangsho’ (spicy goat meat), or Mitra cafe, famous for its Brain chop, Rupa, famous for its Bengali lunch specially ‘shukto’ . Done with your lunch? Then go for some desert at Chittaranjan Mistanna Bhandar, that are famous for their Rosogolla, Rajbhog, Chomchom, Modhuporko etc.
Bengali Marriage Ceremony
You have to witness a Bengali marriage, which is one of its kind. Bengali marriage is an elaborate affair. It takes almost 4 days. The first day is ‘ayiburovat’, that means you are over with your bachelor life. The second morning, the marriage morning, it is ‘dadhimongol’, the bride and groom eats dadhi (yogurt) with ‘chira’ (stepple rice). Then the family members goes to ‘Jol soite’, means they invite Ganges to the marriage to give blessings to the couple. Then ‘gayeholud’, in which, turmeric paste is put onto the groom’s exposed part of the body and then the same paste sends to the bride. In the evening, the marriage contains ‘sampradan’, where the bride’s father gives his daughter to the groom’s hand, ‘Malabodol’, ‘Suvo-dristi’, ‘sidurdan’ etc. The night is for fun, and is called, ‘basor rat’. The next day is ‘kal-ratri’ where the newly married can’t see each others face. Then finally, next day is ‘Bouvat’, reception party given by the Groom’s family. And the night is called, ‘fulsojyar rat’. After 8 days the new couple goes to the bride’s house. They follow some rituals and with this ritual called, ‘astomongola’, the huge ceremony is over.
You have to try this one now. Kolkata is a, I guess street food specialist. If it comes to the taste of ‘fuchka’, ‘aloo kabli’, ‘papri chat’ etc, there is no other city that is better than Kolkata. You can try eggroll, chowmin, fish fry, aloo chop, singara from the foots. Every day most of the working people gathered in street foot stalls to have lunch, dinner. Though they are very spicy and oily but a one day leave from your diet will not affect you much.
Hidden between the narrow alleys of Tangra, lies Kolkata’s very own (and India’s only existing) Chinatown. The area is a landmark for the City of Joy. Though not frequented by too many tourists, the area has its own charm. If you want to experience a completely different aspect of the city and of course have some delectable Chinese delicacies—then remember to include Chinatown in your itinerary.
Chinatown has succeeded in preserving its very own customs and traditions for nearly two centuries. At the same time it has imbibed some existing Indian and Bengali customs too. Once home to several tanneries, today the area has developed a distinctive character of its own. While the tanneries have been shifted to another part of the city, Chinatown has continues to retain its oriental charm.