City Walks: The storied neighbourhoods of North Kolkata

The first of our City Walks series, this is a stroll that takes you back in time, giving you glimpses into the making of this major Indian metropolis. You will see how it developed, influenced by the essence of diverse cultures, British colonialism and India’s fight for Independence. You’ll also see vignettes of daily life and the extraordinary creativity that is at the heart of Kolkata. 

We asked Chelsea Mc Gill, co-founder of Immersive Trails, to take us on a city walk that blended heritage and history, local culture, and people, and she curated one that captured all these aspects of Kolkata best.

Kolkata, city walks, heritage walks, india travel
Kolkata’s iconic structures. Illustration: Shutterstock/isaxar.

We started along the river Hooghly which gleamed like an expanse of sheet glass under the morning sun. Chelsea explained the trade carried out in this area thanks to the depth of the river close to shore which allowed boats to come in easily and ferry goods to and fro, and how this resulted in its development.

Suggested read: Kolkata’s Tiretta Bazaar aka ‘Old Chinatown’ is now on the WMF 2022 watch list!

This beautiful building in red brick was the birthplace and residence of poet and nobel laureate rabindranath tagore. This historical landmark in north kolkata is known as ‘jorasanko thakurbari’.
This beautiful building in red brick was the birthplace and residence of poet and Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore. This historical landmark in North Kolkata is known as ‘Jorasanko Thakurbari’. Image: Shutterstock/Roop_Dey.

The city walk took us into the atmospheric bylanes of Kumartuli, where goddesses at various stages in the making peek out at every step. And then on to Chitpur Road and Bagh Bazaar, where she regaled us with stories of so many historic happenings that we almost felt the past come alive and blend into the present.    

A yellow taxi and century-old architecture in kolkata.
A yellow taxi and century-old architecture in Kolkata. Image: Shutterstock/rahul09.
A traditional hand-pulled rickshaw.
A traditional hand-pulled rickshaw. Sketch: Shutterstock/isaxar.

From College Street to Chinatown, from Dalhousie Square to Lake Market, from the ruins of ancient temples to 100-year-old Art Deco, the sights and sounds of Kolkata’s oldest lanes engulfed us throughout our city walk. The typical big yellow taxis trundled past, only slightly faster than the hand-pulled rickshaws and trams that are a unique feature of Kolkata.

The ideal way to discover hidden facets of a city is on foot. With trails full of hidden treasures like these, we know that we will be returning to Kolkata for many more explorations.

Good to know

Best time to plan a Kolkata city walk: October to March | Immersive Trails: +918777478529

Time seems to have stood still in some of these kolkata streets.
Time seems to have stood still in some of these Kolkata streets. Sketch: Shutterstock/tnonra81.

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