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West Bengal Travel Guide: List of Best Places to Visit in West Bengal

TRIP TO BENGAL

West Bengal, residing in the eastern region, has many things to charm you with if you decide to take your next trip there. Being spread over a large area, this state has all the shades of a bustling city residing in Kolkata as well as the serenity of mountains in Darjeeling, and the best part, when you get tired of being in a city or a mountain, visit the ocean in Digha. West Bengal has everything you would like to have or see, just ask for it, and it’s there. So many things and places to explore that without any further delay let me take you there through my ink.

PLACES YOU CAN’T AFFORD TO MISS-

KOLKATA – Top 7 Tourist Places to Visit in Kolkata

Kolkata, being the capital city of the state is one of the largest cities in India. Styled in colonial architecture, this city is about car honking and streets crowded with people. If you are in Kolkata, you have to visit the following places to get the authentic essence of Kolkata.

Howrah Bridge:

Over and above the Hoogly River, you have Howrah Bridge connecting you from central Kolkata to Howrah station. If you are one of those who love watching people moving here and there, you would love to stop by the bridge.

College Street:

The ‘Boi Para’ of Kolkata is the place highlighting the reading culture of Bengal. Here you can find a vast range of books in languages starting from Bengali to Dutch. You could find here the rare and first editions of literary works by Rabindranath Tagore, Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, Mahashweta Devi, and many more.

Dakshineswar Kali Temple:

Founded by Rani Rashmoni Dasi, this temple is immensely popular among the locals as well as tourists coming from different parts of India. It is situated on the bank of Hoogly River, which is also the eastern distributary of the sacred river Ganga. 

Belur Math:

Amidst the chaos of the city, visiting Belur Math could soothe your soul. It was founded by Swami Vivekananda, the chief disciple of Ramkrishna Paramhamsa. Unlike the other tourist spots of Kolkata, you will find Belur Math quiet and peaceful, which is the prominent attraction of the place.

Kumortuli:

I can just keep rambling about Kumortuli but it is inexplicable how beautiful the place is. If you have a love for handicrafts and sculptures, then you cannot miss Kumortuli, the potters’ alley. The exact location could be said Banamali Sarkar Street, where you can reach via taxi or you could just take a bus or a train. As soon as you step inside, you will find half-done idols of various sizes. The main season of idol making starts from June and ends around January as in between comes the biggest festival of Bengal, which is Durga Puja. Visiting Kumortuli would enlighten you about the people staying there in the narrow lanes and by-lanes, by setting up their own idol-making studio with no proper ventilation, and accepting the same profession generation after generation.

Bowbazar and Marble Palace:

The heart of Bengalis is Bowbazar, a place where once many wealthy and high-status families lived. An example could be the Marble Palace, a unique 19th-century neo-classical architecture, constructed by Raja Rajendra Mullick. It is completely built of marble and the palace has a rock garden, a lake, and a zoo.

Jorasanko:

If you wish to know where the love for literature among the people of Kolkata comes from, Jorasanko has the answers for you. It is the former home of Rabindranath Tagore, the first non-European to win a Nobel Prize in literature.

BANKURA: 7 Best Places to Visit in Bankura

Bankura is famous for its hills and temples, and is definitely a treat for people who love trekking and hiking. The place has its own historical significance and when it merges with the spirituality of the place, it makes Bankura a very simple yet unique destination for tourists to explore. Here is what you can do when in Bankura-

Jhilimili:

Also known as, ‘the Darjeeling of South Bengal’, Jhilimili is an absolute treat to the eyes. It covers a breathtakingly beautiful dense forest that has River Kangsabati flowing through it. The area around the riverbank could be considered for hosting picnics on a weekend. For city dwellers, Jhilimili is the perfect destination to experience a serene and peaceful climate.

Bishnupur:

Bishnupur is also known as the ‘land of terracotta temples’ and is immensely popular for its Baluchuri Sarees. For its rich culture of music, architecture, and handicrafts including pottery and weaving, the place has quite a name among the tourist community. The famous temples around the area include Rasmancha Temple, Jorbangla Temple, Shyamrai Temple, and many more.

Susunia Hill:

Susunia Hill is a well-known spot among rock climbers and trekkers. Being at an altitude of 1442 feet, the place is ridiculously rich in flora, majestic trees along with rare plant species that have high medicinal value. The trekking and camping activities mostly take place during the winters.

Joyrambati:

Located in the Bankura district, Joyrambati is a village, which is the birthplace of Sree Sarda Devi, who is worshipped as the Holy Mother by the followers of Ramkrishna Paramhansa. The current of the Damodar River and the clear air drapes the place with a divine atmosphere. People having an interest in mythology would love the stories scattered all around the village about Sree Sarda Devi.

Mukutmonipur:

Surrounded by beautiful hills and a dam at the center, Mukutmonipur is quite a known yet underrated tourist spot. The place does not have many sightseeing spots around, but it could be your go-to place to relax when bored and frustrated with leading a non-ending hectic life. The main attraction of the place is this absolutely beautiful lake created by the dam which you could keep gazing at for hours and not feel disinterested. You could go for a stroll around the dam or go boating on the lake water.

Rasmancha:

Built by King Veer Hambir, Rasmancha is the oldest brick temple that was used for housing idols of Lord Krishna from other temples during the Rash Festival. Shaped as a pyramidal tower, the temple is surrounded by hut-shaped turrets. 

Garh Darwaja:

Garh Darwaja is a terracotta gateway in Bankura. Also known as the Chhota Patthar Darwaja, it was built during the rule of Malla Kings. Garh Darwaja is an arched terracotta structure with its exteriors plain. A few blocks away there is another large gateway, known as the Bada Patthar Darwaja. It is no more a well-maintained structure but the enthusiasm in tourists to visit this place is still there. There are shops around the spot where tourists can shop the Bankura special terracotta pottery, jewellery, and Baluchuri Saris.

BIRBHUM – Best Places to Visit in Birbhum 

Yet another district in Bengal is Birbhum, which has a lot to offer to tourists. It is often called ‘the land of red soil’ and is noted for its topography. It has its cultural and religious heritage of which Santiniketan, established by Rabindranath Tagore is what people know Birbhum for. The most famous attractions of the place are-

Santiniketan-

Santiniketan is an immensely popular place to visit. The main attraction of the spot is the Visva Bharati University, which has spread its name all around the world. However, other than the University there is much to see and know about. Chatimtala is a well-known spot, as it is said that Kabi Guru Rabindranath’s father Shri Debendranath Tagore used to meditate under the Chatim tree which has now become a prayer spot for people living around. Other than that, there is a wildlife sanctuary and a historical place of almost 280 years called the Sarkar Rajbari to visit. In addition to that, if you happen to visit Santiniketan around the time of Christmas, you cannot miss the ‘Poush Mela’. It is one of the most important and colorful festivals in Birbhum. It started as a small affair by the Tagore family but has now attained international fame. You can expect to have a great time listening to the ‘Baul Music’ and having Bengal’s traditional dessert ‘Pithe-Puli’.

Tarapith-

Tarapith is one among the 51 mahasatipiths- places where the body parts of Goddess Sati fell to Earth, which is insanely believed to fulfill the wishes of pilgrims. A huge crowd gathers here every day just to get a glance of Maa Tara (Maa Kali). As soon as you enter the premises, you will feel a certain way, an aura that lets you know the presence of the supreme energy all around. However, while visiting there; be aware of touts and beggars.

DIGHA– Best 4 Tourist Places to Visit in Digha

Ocean lovers, here is something for you. Known as the ‘Brighton of the East’ Digha is a small destination known for its exquisite ocean scenery. It is claimed to be the world’s widest sea. It has casuarinas plantations along the coast, which is an absolute treat to our eyes. Other attractions around the place-

New Digha:

Being the new seaside town, it has attractive holiday points. The most interesting place to visit is the Science Centre. It undoubtedly heightens the beauty of the town. Established by the National Council of Science Museums, it is a well-known center as it presents fun ways to learn Science that automatically catch the eyes of the tourists.

Tajpur:

It is one of the hidden beaches in India. Situated in Purba Medinipur, Tajpur is a fresh destination, discovered in Bengal. The prime attraction of the spot is the dense blanket of tamarisk trees, lined around the beach. It is said that Seagulls too pay their visit there at the dawn.

Mandarmani:

It is a large, fast-developing seaside resort village. Connected by a highway to Kolkata, Mandarmani is a 13km long drive-in beach.

Udaipur:

Located on the West Bengal Orissa border, Udaipur is an absolute beauty to explore. Although it has not acquired popularity, it is believed that the spot has some solid USPs which could turn the spot into a popular tourist destination. Its vegetation and Casuarina atmosphere make the beach a beautiful experience to witness. 

DARJEELING – Top 4 Tourist Places to Visit in Darjeeling

Draped in vibrant green hills and the majestic Himalayas, Darjeeling is one of the magnificent hill resorts. The peak of Kanchenjunga, shining bright in the first dawn light, the red rhododendrons, forest of silver fur, hillsides covered, and green tea bushes, all of them contribute in making Darjeeling the Queen of Hill Stations. Nearby attractions are-

Tiger Hill:

Steeped at an altitude of 2590 meters and 13km away from the main town, Tiger Hill has acquired international fame for the majestic view of ‘Kanchenjunga’ at the dawn. Even the world’s highest peak, Mount Everest could be seen from this spot.

Ghoom:

Ghoom, the home of Ghoom Monastery, is a small hilly locality in Darjeeling. The Ghoom railway station, situated at an altitude of 2258 meters, is said to be the highest railway station in India.

Darjeeling Himalayan Railway:

Widely known as the toy train, it is one of the best hill railways and one of the main attractions in Darjeeling. UNESCO has announced DHR as a World Heritage Site and as per the Guinness Railway Book, the toy train journey is declared to be one of the most spectacular ones. Built in 1881, the train tracks are only 600 millimeters wide and take around 8 hours to reach.

Shanti Stupa:

Established by Nipponzan Myohoji, a Japanese Buddhist order, the Japanese Peace Pagoda is situated on the slope of Jalapahar Hill. It showcases four avatars of the Buddha. There is a Buddha temple and a beautiful stupa after the temple. It is one of the most serene experiences to witness in Darjeeling.

PLACES TO SATISFY YOUR TASTE BUDS-

Bengal is quite famous for its food and dessert, and Kolkata has the most diverse food stations among other distinguished ones. Here we will talk about the 10 best spots in Kolkata that you would not regret visiting, displaying the authentic culinary habits of Bengal.

  1. Oh! Calcutta is an amazing place to start with. It serves traditional Bengali cuisine and has a fine dining ambiance. Smoked boneless hilsa and smoked bhetki, marinated in chili-mustard paste are the highlights of the menu. Finish your meal with some traditional Bengali sweets like Mishti Doi, the Bengali sweetened yogurt, and the homemade date palm jaggery ice cream, which Oh! Calcutta’s boasts of its unforgettable taste.
  2. 6 Ballygaunge Place is again one of the top spots in Kolkata to explore the Bengali cuisine. It’s a 100-year-old bungalow turned into a restaurant, decorated with old Kolkata pictures. It is the perfect spot to have a multi-course Bengali meal. Menu favourites include Kosha Mangsho, the Bengali spicy mutton curry, and Daab Chingri, which are prawns marinated in mustard cooked in a hollowed-out coconut.
  3. Arsalan’s Restaurant, deviating from the traditional Bengali cuisine, serves authentic Mughlai. It’s a Persian-influenced food that was served in the Mughal times. People of Kolkata come to Arsalan, for its biryani, as it is believed to serve the best biryani in the town. The main highlights of the menu include Arsalan’s Chicken Chaap and the kebab options.
  4. Kolkata has the best street food selling all kinds of street snacks and dishes. It serves the traditional Phuchka (crispy spheres with tamarind water), Jhal muri (puffed rice seasoned with different toppings), and Shingara (samosas). However, other than the traditional street eats of Bengal, other regional and international cuisines can also be found. To experience this thriving street food scene of Kolkata, make your way through Deckers Lane, also known as the James Hickey Sarani, the BBD Bagh, or Abanindranath Tagore Sarani, also known as Camac Street.
  5. Established in 1902 by Nahoum Israel, Nahoum and Sons is an iconic bakery in Kolkata. Immigrated from Baghdad, around 3000 to 5000 Jewish took refuge in this city during the early 20th century, where they set up their own culture along with their traditional food. Now only a handful of Jewish people could be found here, yet their influence is something to talk about. Nahoum and Sons is one of the most loved bakeries among the other few Jewish bakeries, where the traditional Jewish baking is being carried forward. You can find here stacks of brownies, rum balls, biscuits, cakes, and bread, fresh from the oven.
  6. Nizam’s, the King of Kathi Roll, claims to be the inventor of Kathi rolls. It is one of the must-try places in Kolkata. Nizam’s Kathi Roll is fried paratha, stuffed with fried eggs, spicy meat, and onions served like a burrito. Celebrity chef- traveller Rick Stein has called Nizam’s Kathi roll, ‘the best street food’.
  7. Located on Park Street, Flurys is a tearoom, established during the times of the British Raj. You can find here a range of lavish luxurious cakes, rich puddings, pastries, and some of the best chocolates outside of Europe. Even after 90 years of its founding, Flurys is a perfect spot to go for an English cream tea or to relish an iced coffee on a hot summer day. You can go for a weekend brunch and devour the English breakfast served there.
  8. Craving some North-Indian food? Peshwari has it all for you. Part of a 5-star hotel, it is a chic, wood-beamed dining room, that serves authentic North-India food. It has a great ambiance and extremely hospitable staff, good music, and of course, amazing food. Just like its royal name, the experience of the spot is extremely royal. 
  9. Located in Dalhousie Square, Alfresco is a chic buffet restaurant, serving Anglo-Indian, Chinese, Nawabi, and Bengali cuisine. The internal decor is a treat to the eyes. You can find a charming ambiance and lip-smacking food served piping hot.
  10. Indian Coffee House is a great place to go for a cup of coffee. Located on College Street, opposite Presidency College, it is one of the famous coffee branches in Kolkata. Over decades, it has been a renowned meeting place (adda) for intellectuals and students. It plays a vital part in Kolkata’s cultural history. If you ever happen to be there, do not forget to try the famous fish fry on the menu.

Anwesha Dey

Author and Travel Blogger

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