Thursday, April 3, 2014

Uncovering Calcutta: Calcutta in 3 days

While A is the expert when it comes to planning itineraries, I too am getting the hang of making them. A couple of weeks back A friend visited Calcutta and we got a chance to plan a three day Calcutta itinerary and try our hand at being tour guides.

 Day 1 Breakfast at Blue Sky Cafe, Sudder Street New market Area

I have loads of memories associated with this place. A couple of blind dates and my first breakfast date with A has been spent here. They serve good quality continental fare and so are frequented by foreigners living nearby as well as tourists. I love their nutella pancakes and Shepard's pie and Irish coffee and so I tell everyone to go there!

11. am. Indian Museum

Now that your stomach is happy, visit the oldest museum in Asia. They say you need an entire day to enjoy it in thoroughly. You don't have the full day but you do have few hours and you don't want to miss fossils, coins, stones, Gandhara art, meteors and wait for it--A 4,000-year-old mummy! 

2 pm Lunch at Nizam's

Calcutta is also famous for it's rolls, so at  lunch time why don't you try the roll at Nizam's; one of Calcutta's oldest Mughlai joints. ( Founded way back in 1932) Try their Kati roll- (kati kabab rolled up in a paratha) you won't be disappointed. Their other dishes like biryani and mughlai are as mouth watering and will leave you asking for more.



3.30 New Market, Lindsey Street

New Market , Technically, it referred to an enclosed market but now the entire Lindsay Street shopping area is often known as New Market.  New Market, has survived two  fires and regular flooding, remains at the core of the shopping experience in the city.Thousands of people visit it on a daily basis. 

Famous landmarks and attractions in and around the market include
  • Nahum's and sons- renowned confectioners established in 1902, frequented by the Anglo Indian community in Calcutta
  • Shri ram Market, an underground market
  • New Empire 
  • Roxy Cinema
  • Hotel Oberoi Grand ( one of the oldest  5 star properties in Calcutta.) . 

Timing: 10. 0 a.m. until 8 p.m. Monday to Friday. 10. am to 2. pm on Saturdays.

4.30. Tram ride 

Go to the Esplanade Tram depot and a take a leisurely tram ride from Esplanade to Kalighat. You will almost see most of the city in this one hour long tram ride. The tram will take you through brigade grounds, khidirpore, Rabindra Sarober and finally Kalighat.  

5.30 Kalighat and Kalighat Temple


Kalighat/Rashbehari Avenue crossing is the busiest area in South Kolkata. It leads to rashbehari avenue, Jawaharlal Nehru and Southern Avenue. One of the most important landmarks is the famous Kali temple, one of the 51 Shakti Peeths. The name Calcutta is said to have been derived from the word Kalighat. The image of Kali in this temple is unique. It does not follow the pattern of other Kali images in Bengal. Three huge eyes, long protruding tongue made of gold and four hands, which all are made of gold too.

I am not religious and would never personally suggest visiting temples but since it's also a historic sight, I have included it in my itinerary. Even if you don't bother to go inside (it will take ages) you can look at it from outside and click pictures of the crowd. 

6.30 Street shopping in Gariahat

The sun has set by now and Calcutta looks different. Hopefully ( depending on when you come) it's a bit cooler. Calcutta is famous for street shopping and great bargains and Gariahat is the most popular market for Bengalis residing in the south ( Non- Bengalis usually go to ac market ) You will get all kinds of things- from trinkets to shoes, from bags to kurtis, from crockery to posters. And everything at a nominal price, provided you bargain right! Gariahat is also a place you can buy souvenirs to take back. Many hawkers have  beautiful terracotta items that will remind you of your time spent in Calcutta.

8 pm Dinner at Bhojohori Manna, Dover lane Gariahat

You're in Calcutta and you need to taste Bengali cuisine. The place place to go would be Bhojohori Manna. They have exquisite variety in both veg and non veg fare. You can try cholar dal, mochar ghonto, bhetki and ilish. And if you come in Winter's do try their Nolen gurer Ice cream (lip smacking!)



Day 2  Breakfast at Balwant Singh's at Elgin Road.

Start your day early and head towards the 75 year old dhaba right beside Elgin road Gurudwara. It
opens as early as 7 am and stays opens right till midnight. Famous for their club kachori and doodh cola (no other place will offer you this drink but it's pretty popular in Punju households. ) and tea, this eatery is nearly never empty. I recammned this dhaba for breakfast not just because no one else is open but because though simple and unassuming the food is really tasty and filling. And if you're a tea lover you will love it there. Generations have been fans of this place- my grand dad, my dad and uncles and now A and me.

9. 30 am Victoria Memorial opposite Maidan grounds/Brigade parade grounds

After breakfast it's time to see one of Calcutta's most famous monuments ( the other being Howrah bridge) Everyone knows what it looks like and it is on everyone's must watch list.Build in the memory of Queen Victoria in 1901, the construction was delayed and it was opened to the public in 1921. The museum has 25 galleries, it also houses a collection of rare antique books such as the illustrated works of  Shakespeare, the Arabian Nights and the Rubaiyat by Omar Khayyam.

The gardens cover around 64 acres and is beautiful, with flowered trees all over. I have always been most interested in the angel of victory, an enormous bronze angel on top of the monument which was originally designed to revolve as the weather changed. No one seems to know when it stopped revolving but I always wish that it still did.

11.30 am. Nehru Children's museum at Jawaharlal Nehru Road

After spending atleast 2 hours at the Memorial premises I would recommend that you head off to the nearby Nehru Children's Museum. I know it sounds silly, why would you go to a children's museum? I would give you two reasons- the dolls gallery and the depiction of the grand epics Mahabharat and Ramayan. On the 1st and 2nd floor the musuem has a gallery of dolls from all over the world, many of which are donated by people. on the 2nd and 3rd floor, mythology lovers will be excited to see the Mahabharat and Ramayan depicted through miniature dolls in glass sets. 

Timings: 11 am-7 pm, Tuesday-Sunday 

1.00 pm. Street food at Lord Sinha Road

My college Shri Shikshayatan is located on this road and I had a blast! So many options for food! You can try puchka, tikki, chilla, jhal muri, marwari samosa, dosa, cold drinks. Apart from street food options you have proper restaraunts lined up in a row- Go to Ridhi Sidhi for pure veg fare, Mayaram for the pau bhaji and Tidbits for Calcutta style Vada pau.

2.30  Rabindra Sarober Lakes (previously known as Dhakuria lake.)

Now that you're stuffed with food you would love to take a little break. Calcutta has quite a few serene places to visit and one of them is the Lakes in South Kolkata. Rabindra Sarober is the largest

lake in Calcutta and covers 73 acres is used for rowing and other activities. It's surrounded by sideways and is a popular spot for morning walkers and joggers. You can enter the lake area either from Dhakuria/Golpark, or from Southern Avenue or Lake Gardens. Spend an hour or more.  Enjoy the quiet scenery, breeze, and shades of the trees.

Landmarks  and attractions near the lake include

  • Calcutta's only Japanese Buddhist Temple.
  • a mosque on one of the lake's islands This island is connected to the southern shore by a cable-stayed wooden (now iron) suspension bridge, which was built in 1926 and renovated in 1962. The fish sanctuary under this bridge is an additional attraction.
  • A number of rowing and swimming clubs are situated within the Rabindra Sarovar complex; including Bengal rowing club and Calcutta Rowing club.

4.30 Birla Temple, Ballygunj 

The construction of the temple began in 1970 and  it took 26 years to complete the entire structure! Known for it's architecture as well it's well adorned Krishna idols, the temple attracts devotees from
all over the world.

Timings: 5.30 am- 11. am and 4.30 pm-9 pm.

5.30  Birla Planetorium  and St Paul's Cathedral

The M.P Birla Planetorium known simply as Birla Planetarium, is loosely styled on the Budhist Stupa. It's the 2nd largest planetarium in Asia and definitely worth a visit. Shows are conducted daily but even if you can't manage to catch a show, the planet houses galleries showcasing paintings and celestial models.

Watch the Sun set on the dome of St Paul's Cathedral, located right beside the  Planetarium. Built in Gothic Revival style with stained glass windows and two frescoes in Florentine Renaissance style, the cathedral is the seat of the Dioceses in Calcutta. During Christmas the cathedral is lit up and also showcases a nativity scene. It's a truly beautiful sight in the evening. 

Landmarks and attractions nearby include
  • Nandan the famous film and cultural centre, the hub for intellectual addas and lectures and home to Kolkata International Film Festival
  • The Bishop's House
  • Rabindra Sadan, government theatre right beside Nandan
  • Academy of Fine Arts, one of he oldest fine arts societies in India

 7 pm Coffee/ Dinner at Wise Owl Cafe, Purna Das Road


Now this place is a personal favourite and since A and I are patrons I am pretty biased. I started going there coz I was bored of all the CCDs. The food is good and the prices are reasonable. You will love the decor, owls all over. I think they have around 52 of them. Service can get a teeny bit ( or more) slow but that's what I love about the place. You don't have to be in a hurry to leave.  Ideal to end a long day. 

Coming up next: Day 3 of Uncovering Calcutta: Calcutta in 3 days.

This post is in 2 parts. Find Day1 and Day 2 here and Day 3 here

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