Beyond Pandal Hopping: 5 Things To Do In Kolkata During Durga Puja

In Kolkata for Durga Puja festivities? Whether you are into art, walks, food, or architecture, here's a guide to making your Kolkata trip truly memorable
Victoria Memorial, Kolkata
Victoria Memorial, KolkataUnsplash

Not many festivals around the globe can match the unique appeal of Durga Puja in Kolkata. And recognising its distinct character, UNESCO has inscribed Durga Puja in Kolkata on its Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The festival has been drawing many people across India and the world. If you have travelled down to witness the Durga Puja festivities, you must take time to explore Kolkata as well. The City Of Joy offers a smorgasbord of experiences that you will not find anywhere else. Here are a few to bookmark for your itinerary in Kolkata.

Encounters With An Egyptian Mummy

Take some time out to visit the Indian Museum in Kolkata. The Egyptian Gallery on the second floor has a 4,000-year-old mummy that had been sent on a ship to Kolkata in 1882. The Indian Museum is one of the earliest museums in the world. It owes its origin to the Asiatic Society of Bengal, where the collections first began to be acquired in 1814. Nathaniel Wallich, a Danish botanist, is credited with being the founder-curator of the museum. The museum was completed and opened for public display in 1875. Read more about the museum here.

The Indian Museum in Kolkata
The Indian Museum in KolkataBiswarup Ganguly/WikiCommons

A Ride On The River

A trip to the city would be incomplete without exploring the banks of the Hooghly. The riverbank has been beautified by the state government and is a major attraction for tourists. Hop on a ferry or a boat for a slow ride on the Hooghly. On the river stands two of the grandest bridges in India, Howrah Bridge and Vidyasagar Setu. You will pass barges, boats, and old warehouses while sailing towards the magnificent Howrah Bridge. Get some great shots as the sun goes down and both the bridges flank you on either side. The ancient ghats, old houses, and temples along the river will make you feel like you are in an old travelogue.

The Chinese New Year celebrations in Kolkata's Chinatown
The Chinese New Year celebrations in Kolkata's ChinatownIndrajit Das/WikiCommons

Explore India's Only Chinatown

Chinatown used to be in Tangra, in east Kolkata which at one time housed a large number of tanneries owned by people of Hakka Chinese origin. The tanneries have all shut down but several well-known Chinese restaurants still remain. It is from Tangra the Hakka Chinese cuisine so loved by Indians originated. You can taste the community’s food at the early morning breakfast across town in Tiretti Bazaar. The area once was home to around 20,000 Chinese Indian nationals.

Browse the Chinese grocery stores and pick up some dried plums, jasmine tea, dried fungus, and prawn wafers. Check out the Chinese clubs and temples such as Gee Hing and Toong On. The latter was built in 1924 and housed the famous Nanking restaurant where celebrities like Dilip Kumar, Meena Kumari, and Shammi Kapoor used to hang out. Visit the Sea Ip Church where the antique wooden staircase was shipped from China. Read more about it here.

Take A Tram Ride

Running since 1902, Kolkata has the oldest operating electric tram in Asia and the only tram network that is still operational in India. Horse-drawn trams were introduced in Kolkata in 1873 and electric locomotive trams began running from 1882. Hop on one from the Esplanade tram depot or the one at Ballygunge (which has a nice café as well). One of the most picturesque routes is the one that goes to Kidderpore via the green Maidan and Victoria Memorial.

Take a tram ride near the Maidan
Take a tram ride near the MaidanSandipan Paul/WikiCommons

Hang Out At The Coffee House

Forget Starbucks, the Indian Coffee House in College Street (a Kolkata legend) was around much before they came along. It’s located close to Presidency College and when you walk in, you will see a crowd of youngsters and several professors chilling over cups of coffee. This was once the hangout place for many of Bengal’s freedom fighters, revolutionaries, writers, and artists. Who knows, you may be sitting in the same spot as Rabindranath Tagore, Subhas Chandra Bose, or Satyajit Ray. Have a plate of the famous mutton kabiraji cutlet, or the awesome chicken sandwiches and fish fingers.

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