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Places to visit in historic Dhaka, Bangladesh

By Ankan Ghosh D

Updated March 9, 2022 Updated March 9, 2022

The capital of Bangladesh holds a deep historical connection that roots back to the very first millennium. Since then, Dhaka has become a prime location for culture and history as the city is scattered with landmarks that tell the story of its past. If you’re studying in Bangladesh and looking to explore in between classes, Dhaka’s historical gems are a great place to start. 

As an engineering student at the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, let me take you on a tour. 

Lalbagh Fort 

Pictured in the article header, Lalbagh Fort dates back to the 17th century and is steeped in Mughal history, the empire that once comprised a major part of Asia, including present Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, and  Bangladesh. Around 1678 the Mughal prince, later the Mughal emperor, started the construction of this magnificent piece of architecture. It’s one of the most popular destinations for tourists in the city as you can enjoy roaming the grounds and relax under the open sky, away from the hustle and bustle of this megacity. 

Ahsan Manzil or The Pink Palace 

Better known as The Pink Palace, the royal residence of the Nawabs of Dhaka was bought from the French traders around 1830 and named after Nawab’s son, Ahsanullah. Interesting fact – Ahsanullah was the pioneer of one of the most renowned universities in Bangladesh and my place of study, Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology. 

This giant palace with attractive wooden stairs, royal octagonal dome, lavish dining hall, and drawing room snatch the viewers’ minds back to the vintage era. People from all over the world visit this grand architectural monument built on the bank of the Buriganga River. 

Both Lalbagh Fort and Ahsan Manzil are in the old part of Dhaka, where you can enjoy traditional foods like Kacchi Biryani and lassi. Even some of the local restaurants here are more than a hundred years old. 

Curzon Hall 

Curzon Hall in Dhaka

The Curzon Hall is a colossal building built during the British era and one of the few historical places that are still in use. It’s now home to the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Dhaka, the largest research university of Bangladesh. The building has also played witness to the historical transition of several movements that laid the path for the independence of Bangladesh. It’s an interesting integration of the British period and present-day university life. 

A short walk from Curzon Hall is the Shaheed Minar monument, commemorating the souls who sacrificed themselves for the Bengali Language Movement back in 1952. 

Sonargaon 

A historic building in Panam Nagar, Sonargaon

If you’ve got a whole day to play with, you can go back almost 700 years to when the city was part of Delhi Sultanate. Sonargaon is believed to be connected to early urban civilization in Bengal. As well as exploring the grounds, Sonargaon has a museum and mansions you can walk around to see the traditional crafts, cuisine, and handwoven muslin from the era. It’s all just 37km or a 2-hour trip from central Dhaka and you can catch a bus.   

The famous saree Jamdani of this region is world-famous and brought Dhaka the title of World Craft City, awarded by the World Crafts Council. You can still buy the traditional goods for souvenirs but be careful, you have to bargain a lot and not everybody sells genuine items.  

National Parliament House 

National Parliament House of Bangladesh

If you visit Dhaka, you can’t miss National Parliament House. Designed by the renowned architect Louis Kahn, it’s a real treat for the eyes. More than a building, it’s surrounded by lakes and geometric structures and is one of the largest legislative complexes in the world. You do need permission to go inside, but there’s plenty to see outside too.  

Churches, mosques, and temples 

Dhaka is home to a host of historical mosques, churches, monasteries and temples. Within a short walk from Lalbagh Fort, Ahsan Manzil and Curzon Hall, you can visit the Armenian Church (est. 1781), Dhakeshwari Temple (est. 12th century CE) and Star Mosque (est. early 19th century). 

 

More recently, Dhaka has become known globally for its traffic jams and the resulting pollution, but this megacity is still brimming with historical places as a sign of its antiquity, often surrounded by large green spaces to give you a break from city life. So if you’re planning to explore Dhaka while you’re in Bangladesh, you will not be disappointed. 

This article was originally published in March 2022 .

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