Three Hours in Kolkata

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Cross that bridge A Kolkata icon, the Howrah Bridge is used by tens of thousands of vehicles daily

Kolkata, the intellectual and cultural capital of India, doesn't put on a dazzling show. Instead, it quietly grows on you with the richness of its architecture, the vibrancy of its arts and the vivaciousness of its people. Here's how to make the most of a morning or afternoon in this former colonial capital.

One hour: Begin at the Victoria Memorial museum, a grandly beautiful reminder of India's British legacy. Its portraits and statues can occupy you for hours if you let them — but for now, take a stroll through the gorgeous gardens, then make the 20-minute walk to the South Park Street Cemetery, where the headstones of famous characters offer a quicker crash course in local history.

Two hours: Hail a taxi and head to the College Street branch of the Indian Coffee House, tel: (91-33) 2241 4869, once a meeting place for freedom fighters, poets and artists, and still a favorite of the intelligentsia. Grab a quick beverage, take in the heady atmosphere, then catch an auto-rickshaw for the 10-minute ride to the Marble Palace. Erected by a Bengali merchant in 1835, the extravagant building is home to artworks from several European countries.

Three hours: Hungry? End your tour at the famous Park Street, where you have several dining choices. Peter Cat, tel: (91-33) 2229 8841, offers North Indian dishes — if you can get a table. If not, there are plenty of other restaurants to pick from on the city's premier eat street. Walk off your meal along the splendid, if crowded, Howrah Bridge and visit the flower market below.

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