Kolkata, or Calcutta as it is still known to many, is a city with a soul. A visit to Kolkata will leave you feeling like a ride through Dr. Who’s Tardis – a machine that takes you through time and space. There are parts of this teeming metropolis that still seem stuck in Colonial India – the imposing mansions, the old world charm, the old British and Bengali buildings such as the Writers’ Building and Marble Palace, and warm people forever ready to share the day’s news over a cup of tea. And just then, the swanky IT hub, New Town, sprawling office spaces, racy flyovers, and the constant construction of new apartment complexes and malls jar you out of your reverie.
If you have a weekend to spend in Kolkata and would like to soak in the sights and sounds of the city that was once the capital of the country, here’s a handy guide –
Breakfast at Flury’s – 8.30 am
Flury’s is not ‘just another European Cafe’. Flury’s on Kolkata’s main thoroughfare, Park Street, is an institution. This famous tearoom and bakery was set up in 1927 and an experience of the city is incomplete without indulging in a hearty Continental breakfast here.
Head straight to the imposing and stately St. Paul’s Cathedral. The seat of the Diocese of Calcutta, this cathedral was opened to public in 1847 and is a Gothic revival structure. The pristine white cathedral with stained glass windows is well maintained and is a beauty to behold. You may want to light a candle here.
he corner from St. Paul’s is the iconic Victoria Memorial. Even as you walk down, the white marble mansion built in Indo-Saracenic Revival style, reminds you of the Victorian Era – the memorial was built in 1921 and dedicated to the memory of Queen Victoria. The museum in the memorial, its intricate carvings, large manicured gardens and pebbled pathways are by themselves lessons in history.
Birla Planetarium – 12.30 pm
Right across the street is the Birla Planetarium of Kolkata, easily identifiable by its Buddhist Stupa style architecture and massive circular dome. This is the largest planetarium in the Asian continent and the second largest in the entire world. The shows on astronomy held here are very educational and informative and if you reach here a few minutes before 12.30 pm you should be right on time to catch the Hindi show.
New Market (Street food and shopping) – 1.30 pm
It’s almost time for lunch and despite plenty of options nearby you may want to take a break from traditional restaurant lunches. Kolkata is the capital of street food in India. Head straight to New Market which retains its name despite being one of the oldest shopping areas in the city. Grab a bite at the famous ‘Shakes & Sandwich’ street shop in New Market, indulge in some delicious kathi rolls, or buy a bowl of chowmein from the food trucks at the market. Whatever you do, do not miss ending lunch with a wonderful pastry from Nahoum’s. The city’s oldest and best-known confectionery shop was set up in 1902 and retains its popularity.
New Market is also a shopper’s idea of heaven. From traditional Bengali kantha, taant, and jamdani sarees to great quality footwear, bags and purses to junk jewellery, household items to clothing – you are likely to find everything here. Remember to bargain and haggle with the street vendors, like the locals do.