4 Best Cities to Visit in India

India is a great place of art and historic collaboration and that is reflected in some of the top cities. This is the nation, where some of the world's ancient-most religious monuments are situated and alongside there are many top class historic artistic representations of different dynasties. The Ancient time historical impressions, when races from other parts of the world have not even started creating history, are there in the subcontinent.

Even when the world has started writing their own history, the country surrounded by three water bodies, continued writing her ornamental historic episodes with arts and architectures. Modern great cities of India can even be compared to that with the top cities of the world, but the cities that have their origin encrypted since the ancient times are simply unparalleled.

Here is the short brief about such great cities, which evolved at a different timeframe of Indian history and are still resplendent with their awesome attributes.

1. Agra

Not very far from Mathura this city is, but she remained unexplored till the Mughals empowered the city with Agra Fort and the immensely splendid Taj Mahal. The astounding monument although is the diamond ring to the city, but other jewels are not less here. The best fact is that, very close to this city that is penetrated by Yamuna River, there lies Fatehpur Sikri, another great work of Mughals.

Mixing it all, Agra is something, missing which you will miss everything about Modern India.

2. Kolkata

There are some of the symbolic features in Kolkata regarding the late 19th-century revolution across India, where Bengal led the nation with her ornaments in the movements related to literature, religion, science and of course humanity.

Founded in 1898, did you know the Calcutta Football League is the oldest football tournament in the country, and the second oldest in the world?

In terms of seating, Salt Lake Stadium is the second largest football stadium in the world with a staggering capacity of 120,000.

Academy of Fine Arts is a cultural spot in the heart of the city, where various types of cultural and artists portray their work with flair. A must-visit for all the art lovers. Academy of Fine Arts screens cinema, displays dramas, local and international painters, poets and more. A show not to miss as it is one of the unique places to visit in Kolkata.

Kolkata is a shopping hub. With various industries having its feet planted on the streets and various markets, the options are limitless. New Market is a bazaar which is equivalent to Crawford Market in Mumbai and Karol Bagh in Delhi. Every bit of all the tiny products produced in the world is available in these markets. The quality of the product depends on the shop and the goodwill the name has in the market.

Being a local market and not an industry, this market favours the businessman’s name or surname over the business name. Gariahat is another delight to shop at with clothes available for as cheap as a hundred bucks.

The Kolkata Metro is India’s first underground Metro railway. Kolkata Metro is an excellent ride to save your time, to avoid traffic jams and it's a comfortable and safe journey also.

Kolkata is the only city in the country which has a tram service. The tram services give an air of nostalgia. If you have time and want to feel the original essence of Calcutta, then tram ride is a must. However, the speed is slow compared to other forms of transportation in the city. Board a Tram, and enjoy the quintessentially old-school ride- dripping with the medieval charm of Kolkata.

Kolkata still runs on hand-driven rickshaw where a muscular man, pulls the rickshaw with maximum 2 passengers. The rickshaw is useful only for short distances. This experience can be tried when in Kolkata.

Kolkata is a book lover’s paradise. In fact, College Street is widely referred to as the second largest second-hand book market in the world where, if you search properly, you’ll be able to find the first edition of even the rarest of the rare books! Regarding College Street, there’s a saying that if you didn’t find a book in College Street, that book probably never existed!

It is the place to find any book in this world, with hundreds of book shops. The lane is heaven for book lovers and readers and is one of the best places to visit in Kolkata for youngsters. The dealers don't just sell new books, but also purchase old ones and resell them, making each and every piece of paper a treasure.

Kolkata, has an undying love for food. People move out in the evening with their loved ones to have street food like phuchka, jhalmuri, sweet dishes etc. People visiting here crave for trying the street food of Kolkata. Every street food stall in Kolkata serves delicate and spicy varieties of lip-smacking snacks.

Kolkata is a place where things to eat has its own place in the people's heart as well as streets with numerous restaurants with private rooms. Kolkata is famous for traditional Bengali food which majorly consists of fish and rice. This cuisine can be found in many places across the city. Well, fish and rasgulla are the one of the favorite food of the people.

But it isn't necessary that everyone likes eating fish, some are interested in Kosher Mangso too. Also the Ilish maach is just awesome. One of the most interesting fact in Bengali Vegetarian food is that majority of them are made without onions and garlic. Aloo dom is a spicy curry of potatoes and is a perfect combination with korai shutir kochuri.

Luchi and aloo chorchori with lightly spiced potatoes is a Sunday affair. Potol Dolma is stuffed pointed gourd stuffed with chhena, nuts, potatoes and spices, in a gravy made in ghee. Cholar dal prepared with Bengal gram and coconut is a perfect combination in any get together and is also served with Luchi or Kachuri or Radhaballavi.

Alu posto is a potato curry with poppy seeds. Bengalis love affair with poppy seeds is versatile. Rice with Alu Posto is perfect for a warm, humid summer day to keep the body cool. Jhinge posto is a ridge gourd curry with poppy seeds. Phulkopir dalna is cauliflower curry with potatoes and is a Bengali favourite item for cool winter months. It is served with roti, rice, Pulao etc.

Dhokar Dalna is prepared with steamed Bengal gram, and are chunky pieces in rich gravy. Peper dalna is a light papaya gravy with chunky pieces eaten with rice, roti, paratha etc. Pepe ghonto is a dry, grated, green papaya curry with little grains of rice. It's an everyday item fit for breakfast, lunch, dinner.

Chanar kofta is cottage cheese balls in rich gravy and is a must have with pulao. Echorer torkari is a raw Jackfruit curry. Echorer Dalna or raw jackfruit curry is also a top favourite, sumptuous dish. Radha ballavi is specially served in parties and occasions with Aloo dom.

The key taste profile of Bengali food is a complex yet delicate mix of bitter, sweet, and pungent. The dish that represents this profile in its entirety is - shukto. Traditionally, shukto is the starter to an elaborate Bengali meal, to cleanse the palate. It's little bitter due to bitter gourd. It also has other vegetables like drumsticks, brinjal, raw banana, potatoes and other seasonal vegetables and cooked in very little oil and spices.

Kanchkolar kofta is prepared with raw banana for cooking is a different variety than that for eating. Its a dumpling made with spices, boiled raw banana and potatoes. It's a rich gravy eaten traditionally with rice. It's also served in feasts.

Mochar ghonto is prepared with banana flowers and are made into dry curry with very little oil and spices. Labra is morning breakfast sabzi with ruti in many households and tastes divine with Khichuri. Sona muger Khichuri with moong dal is eaten with ghee and fries like brinjal and potatoes and is an item reserved for a rainy day.

Kumro chechki is made with ripe pumpkin and very little oil and spices. It's a common item to be eaten with rice, paratha, roti. Sim Paturi is prepared with broad beans wrapped in banana leaf with spices and mustard oil. It's pan fried in gas oven. Bandhakopir torkari is cabbage curry with peas with a hint of spice.

Pui Shak is added in a light curry with Malabar Spinach made with dal dumplings and vegetables. Kolmi shak or water spinach is a vegetable that grows in watery areas in Eastern States and North Eastern States of India. A Kolmi shak stir fry is a summer dish cooked with little oil, a clove of garlic and dry chilli. Bottle gourd leaves strew or lau shak curry is an everyday food in summer very little prepared with oil and spices.

Lau pata bata is very tasty and very few people know exactly how to make it. Thankuni pata bata or Indian Penny wort or Thankuni is an invasive species of herb found densely in Eastern and North Eastern States of India. It's eaten as a paste and has little minty flavour. People love Data Chorchori or drumsticks curry with mustard paste along with some other vegetables like potatoes, tomato, pumpkin etc.

Ash groud curry better known as chalkumror torkari is an everyday curry best to eat with rice or roti. Bengali tomato chutney is made with reasonable amount of dates and raisins. The list is endless.

Now comes Biryani. Though Hyderabadi Biryani maybe tasty and popular, but the Kolkata Biryani is pure love. The essence is the aloo present in the biryani and they also offer gravy along with the biryani.

The beauty of the city is the variety of street foods available at a pocket friendly price and satisfies your taste buds. From veg to Non veg, from familiar gully to high streets you will find a plethora of street foods.

Some of the other popular things to eat in Kolkata amongst bongs are Rolls at Kusum Rolls, biryani at Arsalan, phuchka (Bengali name for panipuri), club kachori and kullad wali chai (tea served in a clay cup) that can be found at various locations. Dim toast and baapuji cake is one of the most preferred breakfast of the people.

Phuchka is a fried dough ball stuffed with a filling of mashed potatoes mixed with spices and then filled with tamarind chutney, pickled water, pudina and lime. It is one of the most popular street food in Kolkata. In many other cities of India, it is called as 'pani-puri' or 'golgappa'.

Commonly known as golgappa in other states, Kolkata has its own uniqueness. Here it is not gol gappa, it is Phuchka. With smashed aloo masala inside the crunchy maida ball and tok-jol (lemon and tamarind water) it is irresistible to have one. You atleast need a dozen to stop.

You can find most of the office-goers, college students and locals having chop and muri. Chop (deep fried veggies with besan) which is available as beguni, aloor chop, vegetable chop, dimer devil are like heavenly combination with puffed rice (muri).

How can one miss sweets when you are in Kolkata? Every gully has a sweet shop and everyone has to offer unique and tastiest sweets. Rosogulla is another sweet dish that is being loved and consumed highly by most of the Bengalis. It is made with solidified milk preparation that easily melts in your mouth.

Also not only rasgulla but pantua and sondesh are also awesome. The variety of sweets and their prices are also lower than most of the states. Along with Rosogolla, Kolkata also homes the sweetest delicacy named Sandesh. The best Sandesh is available at Girish Chandra and Nakur Chandra sweet shops, being one of the oldest Halwais in Kolkata, they have mastered the art of Sandesh and other Bengali sweets.

During winters, a specialty marks the board, Gurer Sandesh which has liquid jaggery as its core. Jilipi or jalebi is a common sweet. But Muger Jilipi is another heaven. Usually, jilipi or jalebi is crispy, cracking under bite. Muger jilipi is soft, but not as soft chhana or cheese of any kind, firm but not like any other sweet you may have in mind. It is granular in texture, oozing the syrup, golden to light orange in color, and heavenly in bliss.

Do not miss out on the Calcutta Meetha Pan, a mouth freshener that has its roots dug deep in the soil of Kolkata. As it’s a local specialty, it can be found at every corner.

Luchi and Cholar Dal: Cholar Dal is Bengali breakfast dish. Bengal gram lentils cooked in coconut and spices that is served with hot and fluffy luchi.

Churmur: Churmur is one of the most popular roadside street food in Kolkata and can be easily found in almost every roadside Phuchkawala cart. Churmur is basically the broken down version of Phuchka and is crunchy, tangy, sweet and savory, all at the same time. The ingredients include boiled potatoes, crushed phuchka, some spices, tamarind, chana, chillies and besan pakoda. It is generally served in a shalpata plate.

Jhalmuri and Tea: Jhalmuri is a street snack in Bengal region of the Indian subcontinent, made of puffed rice and an assortment of spices, vegetables, chanachur and bhujia. Often had with tea for breakfast. Jhalmuri is a most popular roadside street food in Kolkata made from puffed rice, a combination of spices, crunchy mixtures, peanuts, chopped tomatoes, onions, lemon and oil are used to create Jhalmuri. Jhal in Hindi means spicy. Jhalmuri is served in a wide-mouthed envelope made from newspaper.

Telebhaja: Telebhaja is a crispy bengali snacks made of onion rings, potato, pumpkin, tomato, chillis, brinjal, capsicum and literally any other vegetable by deep frying in oil made of besan batter.

Ghugni: Ghugni Chaat is a widely popular street side food in Kolkata. Ghugni chaat is prepared using white peas, yellow peas along with other essential ingredients like onion, mint, tamarind and coriander by hand tossing them on a hot pan. It is very similar to Ragda, a popular street food of Mumbai and this will surely interest Mumbaikars. Singara: Shingara is widely known as Samosa, all over India. It is a triangular shaped fried snack prepared by adding different spices to mashed potato which is used as a stuffing. It is best eaten with green chutney. Kathi Roll: Kathi Rolls are signature style wraps of Kolkata that are a top favourite among most Kolkatans and is a must-try for experiencing the street foods of the City of Joy. Kathi Rolls are flattened parathas (Indian breads) that are used as wraps for the stuffing of vegetarian or non-vegetarian rolls.

The non-veg Kathi rolls come in many variants including egg rolls, chicken rolls and mutton rolls and can be found at most hawker stalls of the streets of Kolkata. You can find any type of roll from the simple egg roll to chicken roll. The cheapest is usually the vegetable roll and the most expensive is double egg, double chicken roll. The spices are customisable, free of charge of course.

Chicken Cutlet: In indian cuisine, a cutlet specifically refers to mashed vegetables (potato, carrot, beans) or cooked meat (mutton, chicken or fish) stuffing that is fried with a batter/covering. The meat itself is cooked with spices - onion, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, coriander (cilantro), green chillies, lemon and salt. Chicken and mutton cutlets are very popular snacks in the city of Kolkata.

Dim-er-Devil: The dish is a pure bliss. In Bengal, it's named as Dim-er-Devil. A proper tummy filler or starter you can say as its huge. The main attraction is that you will get this preparation made of poultry egg mainly in the city but they used to make it with Duck's egg.

Mughlai Paratha: The famous paratha made in Mughlai style, a deep-fried stuffed paratha that can be filled with potatoes, egg and minced meat. It is quite popular in West Bengal especially Kolkata.

Kochuri: The delicious street food that is highly consumed by the people of Kolkata in the early morning. Kachori Sabji is essentially deep fried bread that is served along with potato sabji. Along with kachori sabji, one can add jalebi or tea, as per their taste.

Momo: Momos are the lifeline of the himalayan regions of India. They range from simple steamed veg momos to the Afghani Tandoori ones. Whichever you choose, each one will be able to delight you to the maximum. Chicken momo is usually the most in demand, but who can forget the soup? Filled with veggies and wrapped in a thin sheet of dough, momos are quick-bite snacks that are steamed in an oven. Momos are served with chutneys and some eateries serve them with vegetable soup.

Nariyal ke laddu refers to Narkoler Naru. Simple and delicious, this dish is a winter season must have for Bengali households.

Taler Bora or Palm Fruit fritter is another legendary Bengali sweet. Made with pulp of ripe Palm, Coconut, Jaggery, Wheat Flour, Rice Flour and Kalonji, this heavenly deep fried sweet dish is relished by young and old alike.

Shor Bhaja is so uncommon, that even in Bengali community it is not that well known. This mouth melting sweet is made by collecting and layering the Malai or fat from top of hot milk, then pressing, shaping and dipping in flavoured syrup.

Pati Shapta looks suspiciously like a Dosa, but tastes nothing like it. Another winter season speciality, the entire family looks forward to the ceremonious making of this Rice Batter roll with Coconut and Jaggery filling.

The best time to visit Kolkata is during the festive season. Kolkata is considered as the cultural capital of the country, where major festivals are celebrated with intense devotion and heartfulness. Major festivals celebrated are Durga Puja and Christmas in Kolkata. Durga Puja in Kolkata is the most vividly celebrated festival in Kolkata, the streets are filled with people, lights are always shining bright and the eateries are open throughout the night.

The countdown begins 100 days prior to the festival and Pujo Shopping is a must for locals. Kumartuli is the abode of clay effigees. It is the traditional potter's quarter in North Kolkata, renowned for their sculpting skills. This place thus can be termed as the earthly abode of earthy lords. The essence and feel of this place is blissfully cherubic. If you have time, explore the untidy alleys of Kumartuli - an experience you can not have in any other city.

Mahasashti, Mahasaptami, Mahaasthami and Mahanavmi are most awaited days for people. The best thing to do during Durga Puja is to go pandal hopping to experience various themes and fascinating decors.

Also Saraswati Puja is a Bengali Valentines Day. One can see the community members dressed in traditional dresses.

Among the best places to visit in kolkata during Christmas, midnight mass at the St. Peter's Church is a must-go. A week-long carnival is set up on the roadside at Par Street.

One of the most unusual places on the list, yet the perfect location to sip on a cup of tea. This tea-spot is located inside a crossword on Park Street. The electric feeling of sipping on different flavours of tea while sitting in the middle of a room full of books is the happiest place in the world.

After the Frankfurt Book Fair and the London Book Fair, Kolkata Book fair is recognized as the world’s largest conglomeration of books! Besides, it’s one of a kind and Asia’s largest book fair—it is also the most-attended book fair in the world! It is also the world's largest non trade Book fair! It's usually around the month of January and goes on for a week to 10 days!

Take a ride from Victoria Memorial towards Vidyasagar Setu. Get astonished by this architectural marvel- while you drive over the river.

3. Patiala

Patiala is known as the city of forts and gardens. With its intricate and beautiful works of art, the bright colors of the gardens and the beauty of its temples and the royal residence of Qila Mubarak make the city of Punjab very interesting to visit. Qila Mubarak, located in the heart of the city, was the resident of the Patiala royal family before the former Moti Bagh palace.

Baradari gardens are an unmissable attraction for its colorful range of flowers and the royal house, the cricket stadium and an ice rink. Sheesh Mahal is a work of art, famous for its mirror works and the nearby lake enhances its beauty. The Gurdwara Dukh Nivaran Sahib and the Gurdwara Moti Bagh Sahib are important religious destinations dedicated to the Sikh Guru Teg Bahadur.

Lachman Jhoola connects the Sheesh Mahal with the Banasar Ghar and is a beautiful suspension bridge built on a small artificial lake. It is a replica of the famous Lakshman Jhoola in Rishikesh. The tree-lined parks in front of the villa feature exquisite marble statues, including a 1903 sculpture of Queen Victoria.

4. Chandigarh

Chandigarh is an exception in India. It may seem like a small and visionary Brasilia, with its modern architecture of the 1950s. The city is divided into identical sectors, crossed by large avenues. In the north, the sector 1 concentrates the Capitol and all its official and administrative buildings. It is worth going up to the terrace of the Secretariat, the headquarters of the governments of the two states, to admire the fantastic views.

On the one hand, the modern city to the south has the first foothills of the Himalayas. Take a tour of the administrative district and visit its large 220-hectare artificial Sukhna Lake, very close to the High Court. In the sector 10, discover 5,000 years of history of North India in the Museum of Evolution of Life.

Let yourself be drunk by the immense Rose Garden, in the sector 16, where more than a thousand varieties are cultivated (ideal between December and February). To do some shopping, nothing better than the spacious commercial center of the sector 17, in front of the bus station.

Mind it that the above mentioned top cities of India are only the top most – there are lots more to be explored about India, exploring which can cost a full life.
Kalyan Panja