Top 5 Places To Visit Near Kolkata This Summer
Beat the heat of summer by taking a weekend trip from Kolkata. The city is blessed with breathtaking destinations, all within a few hours’ radius. From Mughal palaces, colonial heritage to terracotta temples with exquisite carvings, these five places near Kolkata will leave you enthralled, writes Madhubanti Rakshit.
Founded by Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore, this quaint university town is the perfect getaway for those looking for some peace and quiet. The beautiful red soil verdant surroundings and tranquillity prevalent across the town serves as the ideal antidote for city stress.
Visit the sprawling Vishwabharati campus and museum where you can catch a glimpse into the life of the great poet and his unique style of teaching. Visit during the famous Poush Mela (December) or Basanta Utsav (Holi) to witness the campus bathed in a riot of colours and music. One of the best ways to explore the expansive campus is under the guidance of one of the students of the University. Learn about the daily life at campus and its unique teaching methods.
This place is also a delight for shoppers and foodies. The weekend haat (market) near the Khoai river banks features ethereal performances by the local tribal people and Bauls (wandering minstrels). You can also relish delicious Bengali dishes served in the old zamindari style on brass utensils at the local restaurants.
Also Read – Top 5 Places To Visit in Shantiniketan
One of the often-overlooked tourist places near Kolkata, Bishnupur is a treasure trove for heritage lovers. The exquisite terracotta temples of this region are one of the finest examples of burnt brick architecture in the country. The Jorebangla and Shyamrai temples are a must visit as is the Rashmancha temple. This fantastic brick temple was built around 1600 CE by King Veer Hambir to house the idols of Lord Krishna from other temples during the Rash festival.
Located about 132km from Kolkata, Bishnupur is well connected by trains and buses. The Malla dynasty art and architecture that flourished in the region in the 17th and early 18th century is a testament to the heights of artistic excellence achieved at that time.
One of the most intricate sarees of India, the Baluchari is also the creation of the weavers of Bishnupur. Each silk strand used for a saree is dyed separately and then woven in a loom. Stories from the Mahabharat and other stories are seamlessly incorporated into the borders and pallus. Witness the weavers at their looms, try your hands at weaving, or simply take home one of the exquisite sarees as a souvenir.
3. Murshidabad, Azimganj
Once the capital of the Nazabs of Bengal, Murshidabad today holds some of the finest examples of late Mughal and Nawabi architecture in Bengal. Located about 210km from Kolkata, it was the last capital of Independent Bengal before the arrival of the British and consequent shifting of the capital to Calcutta in 1773.
The Hazar Duari Palace (Palace of a Thousand Doors), Katra Masjid, Nizamat Imambara, Kathgola Palace, Kashim Bazar and historic battle field of Plassey make this one of the most interesting weekend destinations near Kolkata. It is well connected by both road and rail with Kolkata and there are also luxury cruises that sail upstream on the Hooghly river with off-shore excursions to Murshidabad and Azimganj.
The cuisine of Murshidabad reflects its Nawabi as well as Hindu zamindari heritage with an eclectic blend of Marwari and Nawabi dishes. There are also some fine specimens of terracotta temples around Murshidabad along with weavers’ villages for those looking to delve into the world of creative endeavours. Don’t forget to taste the unique Sahaerwali cuisine at one of the old zamindari houses now converted into a heritage homestay.
Tucked away a mere hour and a half drive away from Kolkata lies a treasure trove of Danish colonial heritage of Bengal. Located on the West Bank of the River Hooghly, Serampore was the stronghold of the Danish East India Company from 1755. The bustling town with its narrow lanes is dotted with relics from the colonial era and is a great option for getaway places near Kolkata.
Home to family graves of the famous trio of Cristian Missionaries Carey, Marshman and Ward, Serampore is replete with history and interesting anecdotes. Visit the simple yet tranquil Olave’s Church and take a short walk up to the recently renovated Denmark Tavern. This painstakingly reconstructed building houses a restaurant run by a renowned hotel chain and a café serving delightful snacks and beverages. Stop for a delicious Bengali lunch here.
Take a stroll along the river bank before heading off to a heritage home dating back over 150 years. The charming and effervescent man of the house will regale you with tales of his family’s colourful past as you enjoy a cup of tea and some delicious snacks at his home.
5. Chandannagar, Chinsura and Bandel
Bengal’s connection with Europe has endured the test of time as the wave of colonial settlements slowly moved away from the rest of the country. Relics and monuments from different colonial masters and their times remain scattered across the West Bank of the Hooghly waiting for visitors to come and take a peek.
The erstwhile colonies of the French, Dutch and the Portuguese still retain the touch of their makers and stand as witnesses of an era gone by. Not your run-of-the-mill tourist places near Kolkata, these quaint towns are perfect for lovers of heritage, history and architecture. Discover stories of love, ambition, power and trading intrigues as you explore them with a specialist.
Start your tour with the Portuguese colony of Bandel and continue towards the Dutch settlements of Chinsura before you end your journey by the Strand at Chandannagar. Sit down for a cup of tea or taste the local snacks as you enjoy the cool evening breeze.
So, when you find yourself bogged down by the daily grind of everyday life, pack your bags and escape to any of these places near Kolkata.
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Madhubanti is a history enthusiast with a passion to explore destinations and discover its true essence. She believes in uncovering the hidden stories that make a place and its people unique. For Madhubanti, the journey is as important as the destinations themselves and it is the intoxication of both that keeps her going. Books and music are the two constant companions on her journeys.