10 Offbeat things to try in Kolkata
Once the capital city of India, Kolkata brings an overload of emotions to every visitor. The malls and celebrations are the essences to the city of joy. But beyond the popular culture of the Science city and Victoria Memorial, lies the undiscovered rawness of the city. This guide to 10 unique things to try in Kolkata will help you to experience the beauty of the city to its fullest.
1. Take a Boat Ride at Babu Ghat
Sunset at Babu Ghat
Built during the British Raj, the Babu Ghat gives a magnificent view of the river Ganga. The professional masseurs near the ghat have been providing relaxation to the visitors for 200 years. There are numerous wooden boat rides and ferry stations near Babu Ghat. Unlike the popular Princep Ghat, the bonus here is that there is no line for the boat ride. If you’re taking a boat ride, you can ask the rower to take you near the Howrah Bridge. The view of the sunset from here is truly majestic.
Ticket price: Rs. 400-600
2. Capture the Beauty of Craftsmanship at Kumortuli
Idol Designing at Kumortuli
Durga Puja is the heartthrob of Kolkata. But even if you visit the city at some other time of the year, you can experience the emotions of Bengal’s biggest festival. The potter’s colony, known as Kumortuli, is the epitome of unrefined art. The craftsmen here cast an enchantment on clay and hay to shape beautiful idols throughout the year. The potters settled around 300 years ago, and to date bless the city with their ancestral profession. An annual art festival called Rang Matir Panchali takes place in April, featuring installations, idol-making displays, paintings, photographs, wall graffiti, and street art.
3. Take a Tram Ride
Tram Ride in Kolkata
Established in 1873, the Calcutta Tramways Company (CTC) is Asia’s oldest tram network. It’s also the only operating tram network in India. CTC has been an integral part of India’s history for decades. It has also been featured in numerous movies. This cheap and underrated experience can be quite enriching. If you want more to the ride, you can opt for the Kolkata Heritage Tram Tour which starts and ends at the Esplanade Tram Depot. The tour includes local food (snacks), and Kolkata Heritage Tram Tour Momento. It covers various heritage places of historical significance in Kolkata, like Mother Teresa’s House, Shaheed Minar, and South Park Street Cemetery. Riding a tram in Kolkata is truly a surreal experience. It bears a charm that bounds every visitor to shoot.
Timings: 6.30 A.M. to 9.30 P.M.
Duration: 6 hours
4. Get Spooked at South Park Street Cemetery
Tombs at South Park Street Cemetery
Over 250 years old, this abandoned cemetery is listed as one of the haunted places in India. It houses over 1900 graves, mostly of children and young adults who died of tropical diseases. It’s the first non-church Christian cemetery and houses the graves of many notable people like the second son of Charles Dickens and William Jones. After a few decades since it was established, the graveyard was closed as it was flooding with dead bodies. According to some, everyone in the Dennison family died within a week of each other with unknown causes. It is said that the tomb bleeds and oozes blood in monsoons, thus getting the nickname of the ‘bleeding tomb’. Though there is no physical evidence of this place being possessed by ghosts, people have fainted and felt dizzy in many instances. Apart from the spook it offers, one can visit this place for its architectural variety. From Roman tombs to pineapple cores, every tomb is designed uniquely. Visitors can take a guide at the entrance for free.
Timings: 10 A.M. to 5 P.M.
Ticket price: Rs. 20 for Indians and Rs. 50 for foreigners
5. Pay a visit to the Black Hole of Kolkata
Monument Plaque at the Black Hole
If you’re into dark tourism, you wouldn’t want to miss out on the Black Hole of Kolkata. Fort William, which was originally controlled by the British, was taken over by the Nawab of Bengal. The prisoners of war were locked up in the dark and dingy dungeons of the fort, where many died of exhaustion and suffocation. Later, a memorial was made in the St. John’s Church graveyard to pay respect to the deceased. You can visit the remains of the Old Fort William and take a walk to the new building.
6. Go for a food walk
Sweets in Kolkata
Bengalis have always been known for their food, thus, local food makes is an integral part of traveling in Kolkata. A proper food walk in Kolkata will satiate all your taste buds from sweet to spicy. Start with a breakfast at the Chinatown of Tiretti Bazar. A cacophony of colors, this place offers a variety of delicious sea-foods. After that, head to Park Street to get a taste of the spicy street foods of Kolkata. Do try out the specialties of Bengal- Rasgullas and Misti Doi. If you’re visiting the city in winter, do try out the unique range of sweets called “pithas”. Have biriyani near Indian Museum at just Rs.50. Finally, you can take a yellow taxi ride to the prince ghat and enjoy masala chai while watching a beautiful sunset over the Ganga.
7. Visit the 250-year-old Great Banyan Tree
The Great Banyan Tree
Located in Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Indian Botanic Garden, the Great Banyan Tree has been mentioned in books dating around the 19th century. Though its main trunk had decayed and was removed in 1925, there are several remaining branches canopying around the garden. This miraculous tree still survives and manages to grow. It occupies a huge area of 19,000 square meters and reaches as high as 26 meters.
8. Shop for Books at College Street
Inside the Indian Coffee House
If you’re a bibliophile, College Street will be a treat for the bookworm in you. Take a stroll through the market to geek out at a huge variety of books from educational to fictional, new to used, all at a very affordable price. This market in North Kolkata dedicated entirely to books has every book you can think of. There are first editions of several rare books available at quite reasonable prices. Do remember to try a cup of coffee at the Indian Coffee House, which has managed to host scholars for decades, right from the pre-independence era. Experience the story of time at a café, which is nothing like Starbucks.
9. Stay at Calcutta Bungalow
A Room in Calcutta Bungalow
Located in the part of Kolkata once known as the Black Town, Calcutta Bungalow is a restored townhouse built in the 1920s. It still has the old-world charm and is a perfect place to experience the beauty of Bengali culture. It’s the representation of the golden era of Calcutta’s architecture updated with modern amenities and services. You can get an authentic continental breakfast in a joint dining room and a great neighborhood to explore, with rooftop breakfast to open courtyards. This place has great reviews for couples.
Room price: Rs. 5000-7500 per night
10. Witness Our Fascinating Past at the Indian Museum
The Building of Indian Museum
Last but not the least, if you’re a science or history geek, you would want to visit the Indian Museum, the largest multipurpose museum in the world. From antiques and armors to Egyptian mummies and fossils, this museum can be the learning experience of a lifetime. It has 35 galleries with categories ranging from Art to Geology. Its splendid collection takes every visitor back in time.
Timings: Tuesday to Sunday,
March to November: 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
December to February: 10:00 AM - 4:30 PM
Ticket price: Rs. 10 for Indians and Rs. 150 for foreigners
Kolkata is a city that has more to offer than the famous monuments. It’s a story of unspoken words. If you get a chance to visit the city, this guide to get the rawness of Kolkatan culture will surely be a great help for your itinerary.