Dhaka is the capital and largest city of Bangladesh. It is the largest city by population in the historical region of Bengal and a major city in South Asia, along with another Bengali megacity, Kolkata. Dhaka emerged as a cosmopolitan city during the Mughal Empire. It is a hub for trade and culture, with a long history as a Bengali capital.
It has been called the City of Mosques and the Venice of the East, due to its Islamic architecture and a riverfront facing the Buriganga (Old Ganges). It is also known as the Rickshaw Capital of the World, as there are over 500,000 cycle rickshaws running on its roads.
Although described as a concrete jungle, Dhaka has venerable green spaces, including many gardens and parks. Today, Dhaka is South Asia’s second most populous capital after New Delhi and an important financial center alongside Mumbai and Karachi.
Dhaka Travel Guide
Dhaka is located in the Bengal Delta region, one of the world’s most dynamic natural hydrological system in the world, where two mighty rivers churn the landscape during annual monsoon rains and floods, producing one of the most fertile regions in the world.
Read: 60 Things to Know Before Traveling to Bangladesh
Things To Do In Dhaka
Modern Dhaka is a thriving, colorful and congested metropolis. Being one of the most densely populated places on the planet, Dhaka can be one of the most frenetic cities in the world. Its streets and rivers are filled with colorful chaos.
The city plays host to the highest number of rickshaws in the world. Dhaka is also the center of Bangladesh’s textile industry, the country’s principal foreign exchange earner. Experiencing the city for the first time may seem overwhelming.
National Martyrs Memorial
Mausoleum of the three British Bengal premiers in Suhrawardy Udyan
National Capital Complex
The parliament district, home to the National Parliament House and the official residence of the Prime Minister. It is one of the largest legislative complexes in the world and has a huge area with gardens and lakes. The complex is one of the celebrated works of the American architect Louis I Kahn, who combined regional modernism with the ancient architectural heritage and riverine geography of Bangladesh.
Bangladesh National Museum
Home to a good collection ancient art from the Hindu-Buddhist period of pre-Islamic Bengal.
A 17th-century unfinished Mughal fort in Old Dhaka, with a museum, pavilion, mosque and the tomb of Pari Bibi.
Ahsan Manzil Palace
The former official residence of the Dhaka Nawab Family and site of many important political and social events during the British Raj, including the first All India Muslim League conference and many balls hosted in honor of the Viceroy of India.
Dhaka University Area
The historic university campus was an epicenter of Bangladesh’s struggle for self-determination. The University of Dhaka was established by the British government in 1921 and was once called the Oxford of the East. It has several notable colonial buildings, including the Curzon Hall, named after Lord Curzon, the Viceroy of India (1899-1905).
The Hall is a masterpiece of European-Mughal architecture that evolved after the first Partition of Bengal in 1905. The Burdwan House is home to the Bangla Academy. The campus also hosts the Central Shaheed Minar, the national monument dedicated to the Bengali Language Movement; as well as the tomb of the National Poet Kazi Nazrul Islam.
A major historic park in Ramna which hosts several sites; including the Shahbaz Khan Mosque, built by a rich merchant in 1679; the tombs of the three Prime Ministers of Bengal; and the Independence Memorial, where the Surrender of Pakistan took place on 16 December 1971 to Bangladesh-India Allied Forces, marking the end of the Bangladesh Liberation War.
Bangabandhu Memorial Museum
The residence of Bangladesh’s founding father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (popularly known as Bangabandhu or Friend of Bengal), who was assassinated in this house along with most of his family on 15 August 1975. Now a museum, Mujib’s house showcases the life of Bangladesh’s first president.
National Martyrs Memorial
The national war memorial is located on the outskirts of Dhaka in Savar. It is a modernist monument with gardens and lakes where the national flower water lily often blooms. The memorial grounds offer a peaceful getaway from the frenetic chaos of Dhaka.
Armenian Church of Holy Resurrection
Located in the former Armenian quarter of Dhaka, the Armenian Church was built in 1781. The church compound is a heritage of Dhaka’s once cosmopolitan merchant class. It has a cemetery with European sculptures and art.
Dhakeswari National Temple
A 12th-century Hindu temple dedicated to the Goddess Shiva. Located in Old Dhaka and is the seat of Bangladesh’s Hindu priesthood.
Built in 1642, the Husaini Dalan is the seat of the Imam of Dhaka’s Shia community
Bara and Choto Katras
The Katras were the caravansaries of the city under the Mughal rule. The most prominent was the palatial Bara Katra (Great Caravansary) and the smaller Choto Katra (Young Caravansary). Built-in 1643 and 1663 respectively, they hosted merchants and travelers for centuries. Today, only a small portion of the original structures remain standing and are large dilapidated.
Khan Mohammad Mridha Mosque
A well-preserved historic mosque on Lalbagh Road. It lies on a raised platform with a stairway on the east, an arched gateway, and a central doorway. Persian inscriptions on its arch and Mihrab speak of its construction in 1705.
An ornate early 19th-century mosque in the Armenian quarter decorated with blue star-motifs.
Binat Bibi Mosque
Binat Bibi Mosque is the oldest surviving mosque in Dhaka, dating back to the Sultanate of Bengal. It was built in 1454 by Bakht Binat in the reign of Sultan Nasiruddin Mahmud Shah. It is located beside the Hayat Bepari Bridge in the Narinda area.
Kartalab Khan Mosque
Situated in the Begum Bazar area of Old Dhaka. It was built by Murshid Quli Khan, the last Mughal governor and first Nawab of Bengal.
One of the largest mosques in Old Dhaka. It was originally built by the Mughal governor Shaista Khan in 1676.
Gurdwara Nanak Shahi
Built in 1830, it is the largest Sikh temple in Bangladesh and commemorates the visit of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, to Bengal in the 14th century.
Buddhist Monastery Located on Atish Dipankar Road in Badda, it is Dhaka’s largest Buddhist monastery.
One of the largest parks in Dhaka, seen as the city’s equivalent to Kolkata’s Maidan and New York City’s Central Park. This huge sprawling area was the site of Mughal gardens and tombs before becoming a public park and race course during British rule. The wider Ramna area also includes the Supreme Court of Bangladesh and the Dhaka Club.
Established in 1909 by a Hindu zamindar, the Baldha Garden in Wari, Old Dhaka has a collection of 672 species of plants and is one of the oldest botanical gardens in the country.
A regional modernist transport system in central Dhaka with numerous bridges, flyovers, and viaducts over a huge natural lake.
The city’s zoo has several Bengal tigers.
A state of the art planetarium named after Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is located near the Parliament in Dhaka/Central.
There are a number of amusement parks in and around Dhaka City.
- Shahbag Shishu Park
- Shyamoli Shishu Mela
- Fantasy Kingdom
- Nandan Park
Dhaka has an enormous variety of food catering to all budgets. Old Dhaka is overflowing with cheap Bangladeshi food where a meal can cost under $2 USD.
In the upscale areas such as Gulshan and Banani are Chinese, Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, Greek, and Mexican restaurants, and franchises such as Pizza Hut and KFC. Reservations are usually not required in most restaurants. A lot of the Buffet-style restaurants are also present in this area and have fixed price menu.
Note: Be careful when buying food from street vendors as health and hygiene standards are not always top notch. Unlike Bangkok—street food in Dhaka is only for locals. Foreigners should stick to larger, organized (and unfortunately a little expensive) food outlets.
Local sweets (called mishti) like rasogollah and Golab jam/pantuya/ledikeni are excellent, these are bite-sized soft milk curd balls dipped (drenched) in syrup, and come in white and red varieties.
Shops throughout the town (and especially near Gulshan) sell imported condiments from Dubai, Europe, Malaysia, and the USA at a premium. Imported chocolate is especially expensive and usually not in the best condition as it gets melted and re-solidified daily in the tropical heat.
Traditional Dhakaiya is a spicy dish available in every corner of old Dhaka.
Bakorkhani or Bakharkhani is a traditional bakery item available in every corner of old town.
The weather is subtropical – hot and very humid during the summer monsoon season (April–September) and drier and cooler in the winter (October–March). Visitors from colder countries might want to visit in the winter when temperatures are around 20°C and humidity is low.
Most rainfall occurs between May and October. Increasing air and water pollution emanating from traffic congestion and industrial waste are serious problems affecting the city.
Dense fog is usually seen between November and January and can disrupt flights and ferry transport.
If you happen to arrive at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport at night, it is best to remain there until morning. While the chances of anything bad happening upon exit are somewhat low, incidents such as kidnappings by taxi drivers are known to have happened to tourists who have tried to leave the airport in the small hours of the morning.
Otherwise, Dhaka isn’t terribly unsafe, but as in any huge city you should keep aware of your surroundings and try not to walk around at night. People are friendly and ready to help. The chance of fraud is low.
The greatest danger probably comes from speeding buses and rickshaws. Keep alert when walking along the highways and city roads.
Being the capital, it’s the area most affected by local strikes, and you should do your best to keep a low profile during times of political unrest. Avoid any sort of large gatherings, even positive ones, as there’s a good chance you’ll become the center of attention and you probably don’t want that from a group of raucous chanters.
Pollution, like most other cities in the subcontinent, is high. It’s not uncommon to see people with face masks on. At the very least, you should carry a handkerchief with you to cover your mouth and nose during rickshaw rides or particularly humid days.
December 8, 2017 11:01 am
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