Often described as the lungs of Kolkata (Calcutta), the Maidan (Esplanade) is the city’s largest urban green space and home to numerous cricket and soccer fields, playgrounds, the flowery Eden Gardens and several memorials and monuments. The park is as important to Kolkata as Central Park is to New York City, and residents head to the Maidan for entertainment and leisure on the weekends.
After Fort William was constructed in 1758, the jungle that used to occupy the Maidan was cleared out to give the fort’s cannons a clear line of fire. Besides being used as a parade ground for the British military stationed at Fort William, the park has also played an important role in the establishment of several team sports in the city. The biggest three soccer teams in Kolkata maintain a presence at the Maidan, and the now popular sport of cricket was introduced to India with a two-day match in the park in 1804.
While park maintenance leaves something to be desired, a morning visit makes for some of the best people watching around, giving visitors a peek into the day-to-day lives of Bengali residents. Set aside a few hours to wander the park grounds, watch some cricket and stroll through the Eden Gardens. When you’ve thoroughly explored the park, pay a visit to the nearby St Paul’s Cathedral to gaze at its stained-glass window and Italian-style frescos.