Although it’s arguable that there’s more to life beyond food, there’s little disagreement that there is culture beyond cuisine. Heritage walks in India are often centred around exploring monuments, architecture or inevitably, food. We have listed out a few cultural walks that find fonts in shop signs, link plotlines of books to buildings, and explore street art in unexpected alleys.
The Bookworming Tour, Delhi and Mumbai
“I have a blast running this,” says Shriti K Tyagi, the founder of Beyond Bombay, a company that hosts heritage walks in India. One of the most-loved experiences by them is the Bookworming Tour, a book walk that blurs lines between fact and fiction. Those in Mumbai can attend one based on the book Shantaram, which explores Mumbai through Lin Baba’s eyes and follows his haunts, from India Guest House to Leopold CafÃ©. The other tour in Mumbai, takes a leaf out of Suketu Mehta’s book, Maximum City and is from the point of view of the character of Babbanji.
More recently introduced is the walk ‘Spiralling in CP’ that mirrors Sam Miller’s book Adventures in a Mega City. These walks are peppered with both literary references and historical facts, and are ideal for a book-lover.
Duration: 2.5-3 hours
Price: Rs 3500 per head (includes snacks) and INR 800-1000 per head as part of their group tour
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Typography Walk, Delhi
In a spin-off to the popular adage, there is a lot to Paharganj that meets the eye. Delhi-based typeface designer, Pooja Saxena underscores that through her typography walk, in which fonts, design and history are explored in this West Delhi suburbs’s main market.
On the walk, the group is encouraged to identify as many languages and scripts in the shop and building signs around them–surprisingly, there are at least a dozen, including Korean, Bengali, Hebrew, Tamil, among others right in this neighbourhood in Delhi. After that and a round of typography-related bingo, Pooja takes the group through hand-painted signs and fun stories (like why a the signboard to your dentist’s office is usually in blue or green). Lastly, over snacks, she has a small show-and-tell session with her favourite design books on typography and signs.
Street Art Walk
St+art India Foundation has painted the town colourful with its life-sized murals and art installations in India. With an aim to make the streets of India more interactive, this not-for-profit has transformed urban spaces into living museums.
They also host curated tours around the districts they have brought to life and give a detailed look behind each mural. The walks are usually conducted in Delhi’s Lodhi Art District, Mumbai’s Sassoon Docks and Hyderabad’s Maqtha Art District. The walks will resume post monsoon from October 2018.
Duration: 2 hours
Price: Approx Rs 600 per head
Midnight Calcutta Walks
Discover the ins and outs of Calcutta’s labyrinthine streets as the clock strikes twelve. Hosted by travel group, Let Us Go, the Midnight Heritage Walk is for those who’d choose a brush with history over bustle with daytime traffic.
You will walk past Eden Gardens, cross the Vidhan Sabha, stroll past St Andrews Church and Lal Bazaar, see Howrah Bridge in its night-time glory and more, not including many other buildings and sites of cultural value that come on the way.
They have tours for everyone and an only-women group as well. The walk is explored both on foot and by other transportation.
Duration: 5 hours (11.15pm-5am)
Price: Rs 1750 per head
Find out more here.
Walks by Sahapedia
Sahapedia Walks & Talks conduct offbeat walks in various cities, be it exploring the old Chinatown in Calcutta, doing a cultural trail through the blue city of Jodhpur, visiting the Centenary Museum in Hyderabad or exploring the wells and talaabs of Bikaner.
Duration: Depends on the experience
Price: Many of the walks conducted by them are free of cost
Find out more here.
Art Walks Mumbai
Heritage walks usually help us admire the art and architecture of a building, but what about what lies inside? Arts Walks Mumbai is an initiative that explores the galleries and museums of the city, with a focus on understanding more and pretending less. These are conducted by Alisha Sadikot of the Inheritage Project and Nishita Zachariah and cover a least four different art shows in a walk.
The duo has even begun similar art expeditions in locations outside of Mumbai, starting with Alibaug. Next up will be a visit to the Kochi Biennale. They will resume these walks post October this year.
Duration: 2.5 hours, a Saturday evening in a month
Price: Rs 600 per head
Find out more here.
Craft Walks in Kashmir
Kashmir elicits images of snow-capped mountains, greenery and the vast Dal Lake, but there’s more to see beyond that. When in Srinagar, step into a dose of culture with these craft walks conducted by Breakaway, a travel agency that provides unique experiences to travellers.
Through this walk, you will get to watch the making of papier mache in a local workshop, see the fine Pashmina being delicately woven, and visit kani weavers who weave the two-metre long Jamavaar shawl by hand. Along with these interesting experiences, there’s a Kashmiri lunch served in a local craftsman’s home, followed by a walk on Srinagar’s oldest bridge, the Zaina Kadal and ends at the local market. The group can be a minimum of two people and a maximum of six.