A diverse number of walking routes and guided tours can be availed in Kolkata, which is a great way to see the colonial architecture of the beautiful city woven with an old world charm.
Kolkata, the capital of the eastern Indian state of West Bengal, has a rich and vibrant history and culture that comes alive in bits and pieces in locales within the city. Whether the historical monuments in the centre of the city or sites of religious importance, there are surprises awaiting a traveller. Colonial architecture in the area around Dalhousie remains a highlight, with many grand structures still in use even today.
Walking tours, very often associated with the European capitals where movements such as the Free Walking Tour has emerged, are exciting ways to discover and also rediscover the hidden gems of a city. Taking a solo tour or a guided walking tour of Kolkata is a way of exploring the city that is gaining even more popularity with the emergence and strengthening of tour operators who offer their services and with information widely available on the internet. Kolkata, at one time known as Calcutta, was once the capital of British India, and to ditch the cliché of the Victoria Memorial or the New Market, one can head to Dalhousie, a busy administrative district which houses some of the finest examples of British architecture.
The area around BBD Bagh, formerly called Dalhousie Square, and now fondly called Dalhousie is the ideal place to have a look at the architectural specimens from colonial times. A bus from major bus stops around the city can be taken to reach here after which the exploration can begin on foot. Getting down at Dalhousie square introduces a visitor to Lal Dighi, a water tank that also serves as a promenade. Beside this is the iconic Writer’s Building, which was originally an office building for the clerks of the East India Company, but until very recently was in use as the Secretariat of West Bengal. Near the building, in view is a grand white neoclassical structure with a high dome, now the General Post Office but built in the 1860s on the site of a British fort. One can then proceed to the St John’s Church, which holds the grave of Job Charnock, who has been regarded as the founder of British Calcutta. The next few buildings of interest down the road include the Town Hall. Upcoming sights such as the Raj Bhavan are guaranteed to inspire awe, a monument called the Government House in the pre-independence era. It was put in place by Lord Wellesley, who was known for his love for palace-like structures. The building is still in use, as the current residence of the Governor of West Bengal. To have a classic Bengali snack (or sweet) one can stop by at the KC Das store close by and continue to the Bow Barracks area which is an interesting area originally made for soldiers during World War I. Post-independence and to this day, the Anglo-Indian community, whose origins are overseas but reside in India since a few generations, stay in this area.
Plenty of choices
For those in need of guidance and prefer a local to accompany them through the walk, a number of organisations and operators are available. Apart from the colonial walk, there are a number of places in Kolkata that beckon a deeper exploration, with areas such as China Town and the different markets in the city. Kolkata Magic, with its walks such as Calcutta Heritage Walks and Bengal Renaissance Walk offers a guided trip through the history of the city. Calcutta Photo Tours, a travel company that is ideal for those who love being behind the camera runs walking tours every day. They offer itineraries such as European Calcutta and Culture Kaleidoscope to showcase the dynamic heritage and culture of the city.
Calcutta Walks, a special interest tour operator, is another such organisation that offers themed walks. Roaming around the streets of a city is perhaps among the best ways to soak in the feel and vibe of an otherwise bustling metropolis. With options to be guided through the city too, the walk in the City of Joy is bound to be an enriching one too.