I just returned from a 4 day trip I took to the City of Joy – Kolkata and I am not surprised that Kolkata is called the City of Joy. Rightly so because I cant help smiling ever since I returned back from Kolkata. And I returned with a new Years resolution that I will visit Kolkata atleast once a year.
When me and my sister decided to take a girls trip to Kolkata, everyone asked us Why Kolkata, its not a very clean city , there is nothing much to see and we don’t even have friends or relatives staying there then why visit. I am glad we paid no heed to the doubts they tried to raise in our heads and just went with the flow and landed in Kolkata this Christmas weekend. I found Kolkata to be a city which is absolutely safe for solo female travellers and female travellers travelling in groups. People in Kolkata are very warm, helpful and go out of their way if you ask for help or directions. You can walk freely without any fear on the roads even around 10pm and no one will say a word or harm you in any way. I was delighted to have chosen Kolkata for this visit and my only regret was why had I not visited earlier. This trip to Kolkata was an enriching experience coupled with the fact that I have become obsessed with Bangla sweets and I don’t have a sweet tooth. Bengali sweets, especially the ones flavoured with Nolen Gur (date palm Jaggery) which is available only in the winter are so unique in taste, they are unlike anything you would have ever eaten before. Kolkata is the perfect destination and a delight for those with a sweet tooth. You will go crazy eating sweets and will end up taking dozens of boxes home. Their food is so unique and delicious too, and I am saying so as a vegetarian who did not taste the shorshe illish (Mustard fish) or the doi maach (Fish in Yoghurt based Curry) and I did not even devour the Chingri Malai Curry (Prawns cooked in Coconut milk)
Kolkata has harsh sweaty summers so November to February makes it perfect to visit. The weather is very pleasant and the temperatures during the day range from 25-28 degree Celcius and evenings are about 15 degrees. Choose a hotel around the Salt lake city area closer to the airport since the traffic on weekdays in areas around central Calcutta can become crazy. Kolkata is conveniently connected by Trams, metro (which will soon open for Salt Lake city too) and getting an Uber or Ola is pretty convenient too.
We landed at Kolkata International Airport through a direct Go Air connection from New Delhi and landed around 9.45pm on 21 Dec. As soon as we headed out of the exit gates we were greeted by the Yellow cabs the celebrity of Kolkata, yet we choose to take an ola cab. One tip I would like to give all travellers is that even though the Yellow cabs seem pretty attractive and fancy, the App based cabs are definitely cheaper. And in Kolkata, I checked rates from both Ola and Uber cabs and realised Ola cabs are definitely cheaper. We did not shy away from posing with the Yellow cabs though. A selfie here and there. We did not find it difficult to locate ourselves an Ola and we landed at a well known hotel in Salt Lake city, which is not very far from the airport.
We started day one excited and after a disappointing hotel Buffet breakfast, with the saving grace only being Aaloor Dum and Luchi, we headed to find ourselves Ganguram Sweets as per what google told us was the nearest sweet shop around us. We walked to the location given on the map only to find that the place had been closed down 3 months ago. Disappointed we headed to find the second closest Sweet shop Banchharams in Salt Lake city. We are glad we did not find the Ganguram, because the sweets from Banchharam’s were just outstanding. We completely freaked out trying so many sweets like Kheer Kadam, Kheer Goja, Kaacha Gola, Kaacha Gola with Nolen Gur, Mishti Doi, but the highlight of the visit to Banchharam’s was the baked Rashogulla. It was beyond delicious, it was just lip smacking.
Post our sweet rendezvous with Banchharam Sweets, we headed to Princep Ghat to see the Fort William, the Vidhyasagar Setu and the mighty Legand of Kolkata – Howrah bridge. Princep Ghat is located on the banks of river Hoogly and from the Princep Ghat you can walk across the railway line up till the Babu Ghat and take the ferry to Howrah Bridge. The fort William overlooks the new bridge or what is called the Vidhyasagar Setu. The views of boats going to and fro the river Hoogly is quite the sight early morning. I recommend not to take an individual boat ride which will cost you about 350-450 bucks, it is better to walk to Babu Ghat and buy a ticket for 6 bucks per person and buy a ticket to Howrah station and enjoy views of the Howrah Bridge up close and personal. The ferry ride was such a delight and we also enjoyed a unique concoction of tea called Hajmola tea sold by a local hawker for 10 bucks. It was refreshing and delightful. Must try when ever you get a chance to try this in Kolkata.
Post the ferry ride we visited the Victoria Memorial located very close to the Babu ghat / Princep Ghat. The ticket costs 30 INR for Indian nationals and 500 INR for foreign nationals. The monument is simply breathtaking. Its being restorated and re-built and is definitely a must visit when in Kolkata. Post the full day sight seeing activity one is bound to feel hungry, so we headed to Vivekananda park to Maharaja Chat to satiate our chaat cravings. To our utter disappointment the famous Maharaja Chaat was closed and instead we visited Durga Pandit ka Puchka. We tried a portion each of puchka, Aaloo Dum chaat, Churmur Chaat and Doi Poori. Everything exceeded our expectations and Churmur Chaat is definitely a must have. Post the Chaat escapade we headed straight to Ballygunge to Balaram Mullick sweet shop and stuffed ourselves with some aaloor chop, soya chop, paneer chop, Nolen Gurer Rashogulla, baked doi, Rashomalai, Kheer Kadam, Cham Cham and some Kaacha Gola. Day 1 post this meal was done right.
Shopping at Gariahaat is quite a thrill for Shopoholics like us. We visited Gariahaat post the meal at Balaram Mullick and picked up some really low priced fabrics, woollens and jackets.
Day 2 started with breakfast at the legendary Balwant singh eating point. Located in Bhawanipore this eatery is very basic, yet the breakfast they serve is delicious. This place is open till 4am and opens for breakfast by 5am. We ordered ourselves a plate of Kachaudi and aaloo dum and Big kachaudi and Matar aaloo with special Chai and Doodh Cola. Doodh Cola is such a unique mix of half litre of Coca Cola and half litre of milk topped with ice. And let me tell you it is surprisingly good. Do visit Balwant singh’s eating house for breakfast on your Kolkata trip.
Post breakfast we headed towards Kidderpore tram station to take a tram ride towards esplanade station. The tram ride was such fun and the ticket only costs about 6 INR and the ride is worth every penny. Stop by at esplanade for shopping for bags and T shirts and start walking towards Park street. Park street is the centre of attraction of Kolkata and calls for a visit to Flurrys the tea shop that has been in Kolkata since the British era. Even though they have a number of outlets in the country today but this one was a favourite of the British and affluent Indians alike for enjoying some tea and cakes. Park street also has a number of Kathi roll places and you can stop by one of the places and try a roll for yourself. I also tried Kolkata Biryani at Don Giovanni’s which was quite average though. After a long tiring walk across the bustling park street which was lit up and decorated in Christmas fervour we headed for this mind-blowing Lunch at 6 Ballygunge place. After a 55 minute wait time we finally got a table and the food made up for the that hour we spent waiting for food. The delicious food was definitely worth the wait. We tried the vegetarian Buffet and ate Aaloo Dum, Luchi, Baigon Bhaja, Doker Dalna, Shorshe Ghobhi, Shorshe Bhindi, and some mind blowing desserts. The Sandesh and nolen Gurer Rashogulla was nothing short of heaven. What a delightful meal.
After the meal we headed to Floatel, India’s only floating hotel. Visit the hotel to enjoy a nice cup of tea watching the sun go down on its roof top on the banks of River Hoogly. It is a beautiful property and they even have accommodation, if one wants to stay. We ended the evening with a visit to Kaali Ghat temple. Beware of touts who try to lure you to pay a sum and take you for VIP darshan. Thankfully we did not pay any attention to them and it just took us 10-15 minutes to stand in queue for darshan.
Day 3- started with a visit to the sacred Dakshineshwar Kali temple. The Temple is located outside the city ahead of Dum Dum airport and ensure you go mentally prepared that the entire temple visit could range from 1.5-2 hours or even more and the temple closes by 12.30pm and reopens only by about 4pm. We went late so we missed going to the other temple Belur Math. The Dakshineshwar Kali temple is famed because Pandit Ramakrishna Parmahansa had got darshan of Goddess Kali here. Post the temple visit we visited Ganguram sweets and did not like what we ate. Their sweets were stale so we decided to take a cab to Park street to Balaram Mullick sweet shop. Our cab driver over heard us that the sweets at Ganguram were disapointing so he proposed if we were ok going to these 2 legendary sweet shops locatedon College Street. We went with the flow and asked him to take us to College street. These 2 Legendary sweet shops in Kolkata that no website online talks about when you google Must visit places to Eat in Kolkata. They are not quite there on the tourist map but if u are a local only then would you know they exist.
Our cab driver was so sweet and he said that as a dessert lover himself he said he said would feel bad if we left kolkata without tasting the real authentic bengali sweets, so he was sweet enough to personally take us to these 2 places - BHIM CHANDRA NAG SWEETS at Nirmal Chandra street and GIRISH CHANDRA DEY & NAKUR CHANDRA NANDY Sweets at Ramdulal Sarkar street . Loved the manohara, malai cham cham, cham cham and gur gola at Bhim Chandra Nag. What top Notch quality, fresh and pure in taste. Girish Chandra Dey and Nakur Chandra Nandy is the place that supplied sweets to Aishwarya Rai and Abhishek Bachhans wedding. Their nolen gur Sandesh, malai Roll, and Jol bhara is just out of this world. I am In dessert Coma. I can't thank our cabbie enough.
I went crazy shopping for Hard and liquid Nolen gur and Rashogulla and Kaacha Gola to take home. I strongly recommend you carry home Nolen gurer Rashogulla Tins from Balaram Mullick. This Gur / Jaggery is available only in Winter and is definitely something you want to carry home.
My last breakfast was at Mrs Magpie which is a cute café at Salt Lake city. They were serving a special Christmas Breakfast with a pot of Fresh Darjeeling tea and we recommend you visit this café too. They have a couple of outlets across Calcutta and their cakes, muffins, puffs and sandwiches are a knockout.
That’s a wrap of my Kolkata trip and I am already waiting to plan my second Kolkata trip. I fell in love with this city and I am sure if you are a foodie and a traveller (not a tourist) you will love this city too.
© Follow Sam on Instagram - Search for sgkatoch
© Follow Sam on Twitter - Search for @GanjuShambavi
© Follow Sam on Zomato - www.zomato.com/shambavi
© What Sam says about________ ?