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Hood Guide: Where To Eat, What To See & Where To Shop In College Street

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Ten-Second Takeaway

Iconic eateries and universities to secondhand books, here’s a guide to spending a day at College Street.

Have Some Cabin Food And Sherbets

This area has quite a few cabin food joints with a gastronomic pedigree. One such place is Dilkhusa Cabin. Over the years, it has seen many city stalwarts wolf down the chicken kabiraji cutlets and dimer devils (devilled eggs). Another famous eatery in the area is Putiram – an iconic sweet shop, or mishtir dokan. People from all over Kolkata come here for  the a breakfast of luchi with cholar daal or alur dom, the Bengali shingara, mishti doi and of course, the sweets. 

After having all that, you must pay a visit to Paramount, the (nearly) hundred years old sherbet and syrup joint known for its thirst-quenchers, including strange but lip-smacking combinations like cocoa and daab malai.

Have A Freewheeling Adda At The Indian Coffee House

You must have heard of the quintessential Bengali pastime – the adda? Well, think of this place as the HQ of the Kolkata adda. Though this too is a food joint, it is far too iconic not to be given a separate mention. This place is the grand daddy of Starbucks and Barista. It was founded in 1876 and was once the hub of intellectual debate, and a favourite hangout spot for many freedom fighters, revolutionaries and influential people since pre-Independence. So metaphorically speaking, you will be rubbing shoulders with personalities like Rabindranath Tagore, Subhas Chandra Bose, Satyajit Ray, and Manna Dey.

The humongous high-ceilinged hall has been the breeding ground of several political and cultural movements. Many literary magazines were born during adda sessions that went on forever. The Bangladesh Muktijudhyo and even the Naxalite Movement in the early 1970s had its roots in the Coffee House.

The USP of this place still continues to be the students and intellectuals who keep the adda very much alive over their infusion (black coffee), singaras and sandwiches {priced INR 12 onwards}. Also try the deep fried mutton kabiraji, the awesome sandwiches, and the Fish Finger.

Read more about it here.

Pick Up Books At Dirt Cheap Prices

When you enter College Street, look out for the alley next to the Calcutta Medical College which is filled with roadside vendors who have some pretty incredible books for sale. From German photography magazines dating back to the 1980s, to some very rare editions of classics and modern philosophers, these stalls are always a pleasant surprise for anyone looking to stumble upon writings about different cultures, art and fiction that is very difficult to find anywhere. The fact that these come so cheap is also a big bonus.

It is also a favourite spot for students who want to buy secondhand text books or test papers at cheaper rates.

Stroll Through Legendary Education Hubs

This is like the Cambridge-Oxford of Kolkata. College Street houses (and gets its moniker from) some of Kolkata’s most prestigious and renowned academic institutions like University Of Calcutta, Calcutta Medical College, Presidency College, Sanskrit College, Hare School and Hindu School.

Check Out An Old Art Studio

Photography and art enthusiasts, drop by at Boi-Chitra – a spectacular art studio, museum and bookstore built in memory of Kolkata’s first professional photographer, Charu Guha. Walk to the top floor of the Coffee House through the uncharted corridor until you reach the very end. On your left you’ll find a space decorated with old photographs and a huge window overlooking Presidency University. You’ll have arrived at Boi-Chitra, a bookstore, meeting space, art studio and museum. The space served as his own studio once where he would click photos of a variety of subjects from sports teams, newly-weds, and university graduates to historical figures like Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and President Rajendra Prasad.

Check out the vintage photos and items, or the books collection. Boi-Chitra houses Kolkata’s first artificial photography lights used by Guha himself, which he brought on his way back from Germany. The sheer size of the bulbs left us stunned – they were almost as big as a table lamp itself! Also check out the rooms adjacent to the studio which served as dressing rooms for men and women who came to get their pictures clicked. The bookstore near the entrance is a treasure trove of rare finds, especially in the vernacular language {they even have hard-to-find books on photography}.

Read more here.