How to spend 48 hours in Kolkata

Howrah Bridge is a cantilever bridge built on the river Hooghly connecting the city of Kolkata with the Howrah district.

Kolkata. The name conjures up many images. Rabindranath Tagore, Satyajit Ray, Howrah Bridge, Santiniketan and rosogollas. Yes, it has always been one of the many places I have been wanting to visit. By sheer good luck, I got the opportunity too. But I only had two days to spare and decided to make the most of it. Here’s what I could accomplish in 48 hours in the capital of West Bengal:

I begin my ‘explore Kolkata’ project by hiring a taxi to the Kalighat Kali Temple as the city is believed to owe the origin of its name to Kalighat. This 200-year-old temple is regarded as one of the 51 shakti peethas of India. It is truly an experience of sorts for me as I see people of all ages and sects offering prayers at the temple. The sandstone idol of Goddess Kali, with its three eyes, four hands and a long tongue, is very different from the Kali images I have seen in my part of the country, South India. The best part of the temple is the Adi Ganga, a tributary of Hooghly river, flowing nearby. It is easy to just lose oneself in the beauty and sanctity of the place, I realise.

Temple timings: 5 am to 2 pm; 5 pm to 10.30 pm. 

• Next on my itinerary is St Paul’s Cathedral. This cathedral was built in 1847 to cater to the growing population of the European community in the 1800s, during the reign of the British. A history buff, I cannot help but recall this fact. I gape at its Indo-Gothic architectural design, as also the display of plastic art forms in its interiors. It also houses a library. A must-visit for architecture lovers.

Timings: 9 am to 12 noon 

(Mon-Sat); 7.30 am to 6 pm (Sun)

• Next on my list is Victoria Memorial, another symbol of the British Raj. This magnificent marble edifice in white gleamed in the light of the sun. Stately, majestic, grand… and many more adjectives pop up in my mind. Built between 1906 and 1921, in dedication to the memory of Queen Victoria, it is now a museum with 25 galleries, including the royal gallery, national leaders’ gallery, sculpture gallery and so on. It also has a collection of rare books. The lush green lawns outside tempt me to spend more time here. But I decide to move on. Remember, I’m in this city only for 48 hours. 

Timings: 10 am to 5 pm (gallery). It’s closed on Mondays and national holidays; 5.30 am to 6.30 pm (garden).

Entry: Rs 20 (gallery); Rs 10 (garden). 

• It’s past lunchtime now. I head to Flurys. Started in 1927 by Swiss couple Joseph and Frieda Flury, this elegant tea room and pastry shop was ‘the’ place for the British for their lazy Sunday breakfast. To this day, people queue up here for their fix of cakes and patties. I join the queue. Plumcake and chicken patty here are legendary, I’ve been told. I add rum balls to my order. They do taste heavenly. I feel satiated. But, I miss my coffee.

Timings: 7.30 am to 11 pm. 

• My love for history drags me to the Indian museum. Believed to be the largest and the oldest in India, this museum is a treasure trove of ancient sculptures, antiques, armours, skeletons, fossils and Mughal paintings. I greedily run from one section to another, not wanting to miss anything. Alas, the closing time is drawing near. I force myself to step outside.

Timings: 10 am to 5 pm; closed on Mondays.

Entry fee: Rs 20

 • Not wanting to spend the evening in the hotel, I head to New Market. Kolkata handloom, footwear, crockery, jewellery — the variety on offer is mind-boggling. I buy to my heart’s content, also try the famed Kolkata puchkas, before calling it a day.

Timings: 10 am to 10 pm; closed on Sundays.

What to buy: Kolkata handlooms

Tip: Carry cash as most shops do not accept cards. 

Howrah Bridge. At last! This iconic symbol of Kolkata recently celebrated its 75th anniversary. This grand old bridge across River Hooghly, dating back to February 1943, is a busy bridge carrying thousands of vehicles and pedestrians daily. Walking on it, I get to see the early morning pace of the city. It’s a must-visit.

Crossing over the bridge, I reached the famed Belur Math, headquarters of Ramakrishna Math and Mission, founded by Swami Vivekananda. The architecture of the Math, located in a sprawling 40-acre campus, leaves me mesmerised with its fusion of Hindu, Christian and Islamic motifs as a symbol of unity of all religions. The serenity of the place leaves me overawed.

Timings: 6 am to 9 pm. 

• It has always been my dream to visit Kumartuli, the potter’s town. This over-300-year-old settlement is where the beautiful idols of gods and goddesses are handcrafted in clay. I land there and find myself marvelling at the enthusiasm with which the artisans are engaged in their craft. As I make my way through the maze of lanes and alleyways, I see various idols in different stages of creation. It sure is an art lover’s paradise.

Best time to visit: June to January. 

• I’m tired of walking in the sun. So, I hire a taxi to Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Indian Botanic Garden. The cool breeze in the lush green garden is instantly soothing. Founded in 1786 by Colonel Robert Kyd, an army officer of the British East India Company, this 273-acre garden houses rare plants. Varieties of flowering plants and orchids found here are a nature lover’s dream come true. The big banyan tree here, believed to be the largest in India, reminded me of the big banyan tree back home in Bengaluru.

Timings: 5 am to 5 pm (Oct-Feb); 8 am to 4.30 pm (Mar-Sep); closed on Mondays.

Entry fee: Rs 10. 

• My last stop for the day is Jorasanko Thakur Bari, Rabindranath Tagore’s ancestral home that now houses a museum dedicated to the life and works of the Nobel laureate. Coming to Kolkata and not doing anything Tagore is almost a sacrilege. This house, dating back to 1784, offers me a glimpse of the illustrious Tagore family. I feel blessed.

Timings: 10.30 am to 5 pm; closed on Mondays. 

• It’s almost dinnertime and I am in the mood for some authentic Bengali cuisine. I head to Oh! Calcutta. An elegant fine-dining place, this restaurant is everything a first-timer to Kolkata wishes for. I savoured the famous Calcutta mutton biriyani that came with potatoes. It was finger-licking good. So was the fish dish called bhetki maacher paturi, steamed in banana leaves.  I signed off my sumptuous meal with a dessert platter that included rosogolla, mishti doi and sandesh. A perfect ending to my perfect 48 hours in Kolkata!

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How to spend 48 hours in Kolkata

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