Things to Do in Pondicherry

From French Press to Filter Coffee; from adventure to spirituality and from serene beaches to cute buildings, Pondicherry has it all. Puducherry, formerly and popularly known as Pondicherry, gained its significance as “The French Riviera of the East” because of being under prolonged period of French rule. In fact, Pondicherry, one of the Union Territories of India, became a part of India on 16th of August, 1962. I had taken a quick trip to Pondicherry with my friends and it has been extremely memorable. Here’s a list of things to do in Pondicherry and what we did.

Roam around White Town

I was living Vincent van Gogh’s statement, ‘Yellow is capable of charming God’ as I roamed around White Town, the French Colony of Pondicherry. Walking by the streets of White Town with bright yellow coloured houses with arch doors and with pink bougainvillea beside them feels amazing. The lanes are dotted with chic cafes and pretty boutique hotels and Airbnbs. Tourists often take photo walks. French (European) architecture and Tamil art are married into beautiful houses here. Evening lights convert these lanes into fairyland. We stayed at a cute Airbnb in Suffren Street and enjoyed our cosy stay with cool décor, friendly dogs and lots of plants. The place is extremely safe as we, like many others, roamed around the streets of White Town past midnight. Awesome cafes, hotels, churches and the awesome Promenade Beach make White Town provide the best options for things to do in Pondicherry.

Take a Walk on the Promenade

Pondicherry is a beach town on the coast of Bay of Bengal. The most popular beach of Pondicherry is Promenade Beach or Rock Beach even though the city has many beaches, including a ‘Blue-Flag’ beach. The Rock Beach is beautiful with a sea view long stretch no-vehicle zone, the Promenade. Morning walk and evening walk on the Promenade are two simple yet absolutely must things to do in Pondicherry. There are lots of street food to enjoy and also the famous sea front Le-Café, one of the oldest cafes of Pondicherry. We enjoyed a sumptuous dinner at the roof top, open air restaurant of the iconic Promenade Hotel. There is a war museum, a statue of Mahatma Gandhi and numerous seats for one to sit and stare at the gorgeous sea.

Explore Other Beaches

As the name suggests, Serenity Beach is serene, less crowded and peaceful. Watching the sunset from this beach was a very pleasant experience. We sat for long at the tip of the stone bridges. Exploring the beaches are some of the best things to do in Pondicherry. Due to lack of time we could make it to the Promenade and Serenity Beach only but one can definitely visit the Paradise Beach, the Blue Flag Beach at Veerapathinum, called the Eden Beach and the Auroville Beach. Paradise Beach is on Paradise Island and can be reached by ferry. There are some adventurous and free spirited activities which one can book, like scuba diving and yacht ride.

Meditate at Aurobindo Ashram

Visiting the Aurobindo Ashram tops the chart of things to do in Pondicherry. The ashram is a silence zone where no talking and no phone is allowed and definitely photography is prohibited inside. Take time, sit quietly, if not meditate near the ‘Samadhi’ and absorb the blissful energy of the place. The ‘Samadhi’ is a flower-covered white marble shrine holding the physical remains of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother (Mirra Alfassa) in two separate chambers. It is situated at the centre of the courtyard of the main building of the Ashram. Sri Aurobindo (1872–1950), one of the foremost leaders of the Indian freedom movement was a nationalist, poet and philosopher who turned into a yogi. He retired from politics and withdrew to Pondicherry in 1910 to pursue spirituality and Yoga. The foundation of the ashram with the help of the Mother happened on 24th November, 1926. The ashram has numerous departments. We visited the library/ book store and bought some books and souvenirs. Don’t miss their store, ‘Auroshikha’ which prepare world class fragrances. We got dhoops, agarbattis, sprays and coconut oil from ‘Auroshikha’.

Visit Auroville

Lots of tourists just stick to Pondicherry but one of the best things to do in Pondicherry is visit Auroville. In fact this time we took a day trip to Auroville and I want to stay there when I visit next. Auroville is an experimental Universal township where people from all countries, irrespective of their nationalism and religion can live in peace and harmony. The goal is to achieve human unity. People from all over the world stay here and are doing some amazing work and experiments. Auroville is full of creative boutiques and amazing cafes serving tasty and healthy food. The heart of Auroville is the ‘Matri Mandir’, a golden globe like structure at the centre of vast landscape of green fields and water channels. The spiritual seekers must take prior appointment (at least a week in advance) to visit the inner chamber of the ‘Matri Mandir.’ It is accessible in the morning for meditation except on Tuesdays and Sundays. The ‘Matri Mandir’ Viewing Point is open to all. This place acts like a balm on our tired souls. The Visitor Centre has photographs and articles and video screens explaining about Auroville. Some part of Auroville lies in the Union Territory of Pondicherry and some in the state of Tamil Nadu. It was founded in 1968 by the Mother, based on Sri Aurobindo’s thoughts and ideas.

Visit the Churches in Pondicherry

Pondicherry has 6 churches out of which the 3 most significant ones are Our Lady of Angels Church in White Town, The Sacred Heart Basilica and Immaculate Conception Cathedral. The churches have reminiscence of French and Gothic architecture and decor- towers, domes, arched doors, wood and gold and tall windows with portraits with etched coloured glasses look gorgeous.

Indulge in Gastronomic Activities

Café hopping, indulging in fine dining, exploring sea food and gorging at the bakeries are some most enjoyable things to do in Pondicherry. There are loads of eateries in this sea town providing tasty and great food; from the street side stalls to luxurious fine dining. One can’t of course miss out the bakeries. From my wonderful episodes of gourmet meals, I recommend ‘Bay of Buddha’ at the Promenade Hotel, ‘Villa Shanti’ and ‘Coromandel Café’. For the best bakery experience one must visit ‘Baker’s Street’ at M.G.Road and ‘Bread and Chocolate’ at Auroville. White Town is the hub of cool cafes, like the ‘Café Des Art’, with magical and artistic ambiance and great food. I had already mentioned earlier, of ‘Le Café’ on Rock Beach.

Reaching Pondi

Pondicherry is 150kms from Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu and it takes around 3.5 hours by car. There is good bus services too. In our list of things to do in Pondicherry, we had also added the plan of having a sumptuous Tamil authentic thali and ‘Mysore Pak’, a special sweet dish, for lunch en route. We had our thali at ‘Manoj Bhavan’ which is a chain. ‘Saravana Bhavan’ is also a great chain to explore Tamil food. The varied types and flavours of spots and activities to see and do at Pondicherry make this cool town a great destination for a short and sweet long-weekend trip.


Dipannita Bhattacherya

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