Pondicherry has an inevitable influence of French culture on it. The first French inhabitants settled into the quaint town of Pondicherry centuries ago, in the 1600s. Since then, the Union Territory has had an unbreakable bond with the French. Its influence is visible in the architecture, cuisine, and lanes of the French Riviera of the East. The city has a distinctly European feel as the streets are lined with colonial-style pastel buildings and wild bougainvillaea, which gives the city a quaint charm.
If you plan to visit this peaceful and vibrant town, here are places you should visit to trace the French-colonial heritage of Pondicherry.
Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Apart from the first look into the colonial architecture you would get when you first step onto the streets of Pondicherry, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is the next place where French architecture will come alive. It is one of the 21 Gothic-style basilicas found in India. The French established the church in 1908, and it became a basilica in 2011. The building is adorned with stained glass panels and houses life-size glass paintings of the 28 saints of the Church, along with other depictions of the life of Jesus.
Immaculate Conception Cathedral
Top sightseeing in Pondicherry includes one of Pondicherry’s oldest and most famous churches – the Immaculate Conception Cathedral. It is a 300-year-old church that was built in 1791. The church survived the British invasion and was constructed in the Portuguese style, which is one of the main reasons for its popularity. The serene ambience and the impressive architecture receive visitors throughout the year. It is also known as ‘Eglise de Notre Dame de la Conception Immaculee Church’ or ‘Samba Kovil’.
French War Memorial
It is a historical attraction that commemorates the soldiers of French India who died during World War I. The memorial was built in 1937 and was inaugurated by Governor Crocicchia. Every year on Bastille Day, the 14th of July, the French War Memorial lights up. It is visited by those who want to pay homage to the brave soldiers. The monument’s architectural magnificence, coupled with its historical significance, honours the sacrifices of the unsung war heroes.
One of the best ways to experience the past is by visiting the museum. The same applies to Pondicherry Museum, also known as Pondy Museum in the local language. The museum showcases various artefacts from the Arikamedu heritage site, depicting the city’s prominence as a trade port from the 1st Century BC to the 2nd Century AD. The museum also displays bronze statues and stone sculptures that showcase the life and times of the Pallava and Chola dynasties alongside remnants of French colonial rule in the city.
The White Town
Pondicherry was divided into two main areas – the French Quarters, also known as the White Town, an area that the whites or the French mostly occupied, and the ‘Black Town’ or the areas with Tamil or Indian residents. Today, the area is dotted with heritage hotels, restaurants, cafés, and art galleries. The streets are lined with yellow-coloured houses and lush trees, and most of them have French names. Top sightseeing in Pondicherry, including the Old Court Complex, Joan of Arc Park, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, and Pondicherry Museum, are all located here. You can also indulge in mouth-watering French cuisine here.
Pondicherry’s cuisine is a unique blend of Tamil and French influences, with French dishes like bouillabaisse, croissants, and crème brûlée becoming a part of the regular diet and South Indian meals such as masala dosa, sambar, or idli enjoying equal prominence. The French influence is strong with multiple French restaurants, bakeries, cafés, and traditional French restaurants. At the same time, Tamil food has been refined with less spice.
Where to Stay in Pondicherry
OYO hotels offer numerous family hotels in Pondicherry ranging from budget stays like OYO Rooms and Spot On to luxurious premium stays such as Collection O and Townhouse. You can choose from a wide variety of accommodations according to your budget and convenience. While budget stays come with all the basic amenities you would need for a relaxing stay, premium family hotels in Pondicherry are located at famous locations with top amenities like complimentary breakfast, spacious rooms, swimming pools, bars, and more.
A visit to the French colonies of Pondicherry is a must. Explore the quaint town on foot, and marvel at the gorgeous buildings, blooming flowers, stunning architecture, delicious food, relaxing beaches, and the love for all things French. When you return to your OYO hotel, we will ensure your stays are comfortable and relaxing.
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