Kolkata is India’s third-largest city and a daily festival of human existence. Noisy and chaotic yet slow-paced and calm, the city is a living, breathing cornucopia of emotions. It is a charming city, full of history, culture, and legacy. But it is also a city best explored through immersion rather than quick touristy pit-stops. Millions visit the city every year, but only some decide to immerse themselves into its artistic, cultural and intellectual throes, to fully take in its essence. And so, we bring you some truly remarkable offbeat things to do in Kolkata, which will not only enthrall you but also make you part of the city itself!
1. Take In The Grandeur Of Shobhabazar Rajbari
The Shobhabazar Rajbari is one of the oldest royal houses of the Kolkata aristocracy. Located in North Kolkata, the ‘rajbari’ is the palace of the Shobhabazar royal family, founded by Maharaja Nabakrishna Deb. One of the most focal aspects of this palace is the grand celebration of Durga Puja that is organized by the royal family every year. This tradition began in 1757 and continues to this day with great fervor and devotion. Take a day to visit this heritage site that is teeming with stories from yore and more!
2. Try The Best Cakes In Town At Nahoum’s
Bengalis are extremely fond of sweets. And while Kolkata is home to classic Bengali sweet treats, it is also home to immigrant communities who have brought with them their diverse cultures and flavours. Nahoum’s is one of Kolkata’s iconic bakeries, founded by Nahoum Israel Mordecai, a Baghdadi Jew in the year 1902. Israel initially began his bakery business around a door-to-door model and was met with huge success by customers who loved his desserts. This success allowed him to open the eponymous Nahoum & Sons, in New Market in 1916. This bakery has stood the test of time, and to date its desserts and baked treats are to die for. Visit Nahoum’s and most definitely try their fruit cakes, rum balls, tarts, macaroons, and crème cakes.
3. Stroll Through Kolkata’s Very Own Floating Market
How about shopping for vegetables on a boat? Inspired by the floating markets of Bangkok, Kolkata has a floating market of its own. The Patuli Floating Market has around 114 boats to house 280 shops selling vegetables, meat, fish and groceries. Wooden walkways supported by wooden beams have been built for shoppers and shopkeepers to approach the boats. The market is located in Baishnabghata Patuli Township near EM Bypass.
4. Seek Solace At The Nipponzan Myohoji (Japanese) Buddhist Temple
The Nipponzan Myohoji Temple in Kolkata is the perfect place to seek some peace amidst the city’s chaotic and busy life. The monastery can be traced back to the late 1930s, and hosts followers of Nipponzan Myohoji, a pacifist Japanese religious movement that believes the Lotus Sutra paves the way for enlightenment. The monastery is white in colour, with the building having Buddha statues in it, and a pillar with two lions flanking it. Almost hidden in plain sight, this temple is the perfect spot for some introspection and quiet contemplation.
5. Sample The Street Food At Tiretti Bazar
Sun Yat-Sen Street, popularly known as Tiretti Bazar is where most of Kolkata’s Chinese community reside. While the size of the Chinese population has significantly reduced, the locality still retains its authenticity. Every morning between 5-8 AM, the locality reclaims its past identity through its open-air market, most famous for its Chinese delicacies. From delicious and piping hot soups to momos, rice cakes, Shui Mai dumplings and more, this is food to die for. Authentic to the tee, these treats are fresh, hot and perfect for every foodie. What’s more, locals at Tiretti Bazar also sell homemade delicacies such as chili and soy sauces, prawn wafers and roast pork sausages. Visit Tiretti Bazar to explore the best of Kolkata’s Chinese heritage.
6. Attend Sunday Service At Armenian Holy Church Of The Nazareth
Known as Mother Church of the Indian Armenians, the Armenian Church of the Holy Nazareth is one of the city’s oldest churches, located in Barabazar. The church that stands today is a reconstruction of the old Armenian Church originally built in 1688, which was destroyed by fire. The church is incredibly beautiful, with exquisite interiors and a gallery graced with stunning frescoes and paintings. The Sunday service at the church is beautiful, to say the least, so do make a stop here in your Kolkata travels.
7. Discover Myriad Design Influences At South Park Street Cemetery
Opened in 1767, the South Park Street Cemetery is an eight-acre necropolis enclosed by a high brick wall to protect tombs, mausoleums, and cenotaphs. With nearly 1900 graves at the cemetery, the premises today represent a melting point of design influences ranging from European Gothic to Indo-Saracenic, all mixed up in a maze of urns, cairns, and obelisks. Possibly one of the earliest cemeteries not connected to a church, this spot is ideal for visitors who are not scared easily, who appreciate artsy design styles, and those who enjoy an element of history in their boneyards!
8. Fancy A Visit To The House Of Dolls
‘Putul Bari’ or the ‘House of Dolls’ is a magnificent Roman-style building near Shobhabazar jetty; originally constructed as a storage warehouse to accommodate items of import or export such as rice, silk & spices. The building is huge and ornamented with many dolls of antique designs that inspire awe & terror in equal measure. The popular lore around this place was that the ‘babus’ or wealthy owners who inhabited the place in earlier decades had sexually exploited & even murdered young women here. It is believed that the spirits of those women are still haunting the place looking for justice. However, locals say they haven’t witnessed any supernatural phenomenon in the house, making it hard to establish accuracy. Either way, the building stands as a spooky symbol of the past, making for an interesting visit.