If you have decided to hit up Kolkata for Durga Puja, then make sure you come with some time. The City of Joy has a plethora of experiences that will blow you away. Here's our guide to some of the best ones. Weave them into your daily pandal-hopping trails.
Meander Around The Maidan
Give yourself a gentle introduction to the city by exploring its beloved gem, the Maidan. A year-round destination for locals and visitors, the 3-km-long Maidan is a vast expanse of green where Kolkata residents take morning walks, have picnics and family outings, couples have dates, youngsters play cricket and football, and the Kolkata mounted police carry out exercises on their horses. To the south is Victoria Memorial and St Paul's Cathedral and to its west is the Hooghly riverbanks. From time to time, you will see a tram gently chugging along its borders. You can take joy ride on a horse-drawn carriage (called Victorias) which circle the park. If you walk around, you will see that the Maidan is dotted with several green bungalows. These are club houses belonging to sports clubs - some dating back to pre-Independence era. The big names of Kolkata football are here &mdash Mohun Bagan, East Bengal, and Mohammedan Sporting. As are various cricket clubs, the Kennel Club and Press Club.
An Open-Air Gallery Of Ray's Works
Hit up Bishop Lefroy Road, where Ray lived for 22 years. It is like an open-air gallery of the legendary filmmaker's works. Ray was a brilliant filmmaker who transformed the face of Indian cinema with his films. However, not many are familiar with Ray's work as a graphic designer and artist. He created the posters for many of his films, capturing the central ideas into one image. You will come across these on the web, but a better, more personal, way to discover these would be via a walk on the street where he lived. In 2016, the street underwent a makeover of sorts. The Ray house was declared a grade-1 heritage building by Kolkata's civic body. And the sodium vapour lights on the street were installed with Victorian-era street lightis on which you can see replicas of the posters of celebrated films designed by Ray himself. This stretch is now an open-air gallery of his work.
Get Up Close With Jewish Food At New Market
For a slice of old Kolkata and to stock up on one-of-a-kind kitchen provisions, head to the Gothic-style New Market which was built in 1874 for the British haut monde. It&rsquos a fascinating place full of shops selling virtually everything from delicate lace and silver to the best steak cuts and exotic vegetables. You must pick up a Jewish cheese samosa at the iconic 1902 bakery, Nahoum and Sons established by Iraqi-Jew Nahoum Israel who came to Kolkata from Baghdad. Other popular items here are the brownies and the freshly-baked biscuits. The garlic bread here is to die for And it would be criminal not to pair that with the amazing smoked Bandel cheese and Kalimpong cheddar from J. Johnsons store, just a two-minute walk from here. In adjoining Free School Street, you can buy Hungarian sausages from Kalman, a cold storage established by a Hungarian trapeze artist before World War II.
Pick Up An Antique At An Auction House
Russell Exchange is a treasure trove of period furniture, vintage record players, cut-glass decanters, brass paan boxes, antique lamps, and much much more. Take a dekko. It is located around the middle of iconic Russell Street, it rubs shoulders with decades-old Chinese dry cleaning joints, and pubs and eateries from the 1960s. You could easily miss the place. There are no large signages on the road, and several tree branches hide the store's facade.
Take A Ride On A Tram
Kolkata has is the oldest operating electric tram in Asia, running since 1902 and the only tram network operating in India. Trams have been rumbling through the streets of Kolkata for over 140 years now Horse-drawn trams were introduced in Kolkata in 1873 and electric locomotive trams begun running from 1882. Trams operate throughout the city on different routes. It is highly recommended that you hop on one that takes you to North Kolkata traversing the streets lined with gorgeous old houses and buildings. You can get up on one from the depot at Esplanade. Or take a tram that will go through the vast green stretch of the Maidan. You can check out routes here.