The Ultimate 3-Day Guide To Exploring Pondicherry Beyond The Beach

Blessed with a unique French-Indian cultural aesthetic, this charming city’s picturesque neighbourhoods are home to bohemian delights, planet-friendly retail therapies, spiritual vibes, and more.


Back in 1674, François Martin, the first governor of the French East India Company, transformed a small fishing village into a bustling port, and for the next couple of centuries, the colonial administrators fostered Puducherry as the “French Riviera of the East” in India. Today, this Union Territory’s capital city, Pondicherry, harbours a treasure trove of modern and nostalgic experiences that go far beyond its shoreline. Here’s a perfect three-day guide for you to enjoy the various pleasures of this quaint haven in southern India.


Meals and conversations abound at Bread & Chocolate.

Pondicherry is essentially divided into two quarters: the French Quarter (or White Town) and the Tamil Quarter (or Heritage Town), with a canal separating the two. There’s a high chance that an online search about the city will fetch several images of vibrant, pastel-hued buildings, certain to brighten anyone’s Instagram feed. Since most of these are located in the French Quarter, why not begin your explorations in this photogenic paradise?

Start with a hearty breakfast of flaky almond croissants, sourdough toasts with eggs, and a wide selection of breakfast bowls, shakes, and smoothies at Bread & Chocolate, one of the most talked-about rooftop cafés in Rue de la Marine, a main street here. Once satiated, head out to explore the rest of this lane, where every house exudes a romantic, old-world charm. Many of these structures are fashioned in the distinctive Franco-Tamil architectural style, with traditional Tamil features like a talvaram (street veranda) and tinnai (raised platform), along with French-style design elements such as tall columns and imposing doors. While most of these colonial-style villas boast vibrant yellow hues, with white and peach shades, there are some in more subdued tones of grey. Now’s the time to go all out and click ’gram-worthy shots!

A short walk from Bread & Chocolate will take you to the Our Lady of Angels Church, also known as Église Notre-Dame des Anges, on Dumas Street. Constructed in the 19th century, this mellow-pink-and- cream-coloured chapel houses a
rare oil painting of Our Lady of Assumption, gifted to Louis Guerre, the architect of this holy site, by Emperor Napoleon III. It’s also the only church in India to host Sunday Mass in three languages: French, English, and Tamil. A true testament to the area’s multiculturalism.

The rich and grand façade of the Immaculate Conception Cathedral.

Continue walking for a few more minutes to arrive at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral—a beautiful, 300-year-old, white-and-gold-hued structure, initially built in 1689. Step inside to marvel at its stunning interiors, aglow with brilliance as sunlight dances through colourful stained-glass windows during the day. Beauty truly is all around you here!

The pretty entrance of Coromandel Café.

It will probably be time for lunch once you’re done exploring the church. Housed in a pretty, rose-tinted villa, the Coromandel Café on Romain Rolland Street is the perfect spot for a delicious meal in serene environs. Grab a table in its cosy courtyard and be sure to try their Moroccan spiced prawns served with herbed zucchini and crispy rice cakes, as well as pork chops alongside melt-in-your-mouth baked potatoes.

Delicious fare at the charming restaurant.

Like any sleepy seaside enclave, Pondicherry will tempt you with an afternoon siesta, but if you’d like to explore more, head over to Marine Street to visit the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. This part of the White Town is quieter than the other lanes, and you’ll come across people either cycling or walking, since four-wheelers are not allowed on this street. Dedicated to the eponymous Indian yogi and philosopher, the ashram is a place for solace, peace, and tranquillity. You can choose to attend the collective meditation session (on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday from 7:25 to 7:50 PM; check the days and timings before you visit), or just take a walk around the samadhi, for a dose of prayer and introspection. After such a jam-packed first day, it’s time to unwind and relax. Treat yourself to a glass of wine and enjoy a gourmet dinner at Villa Shanti on Suffren Street, about five- minutes walk from the ashram, before returning to your accommodation for a well-deserved, restful sleep.


Aerial view of the magnificent Matrimandir amid lush landscaped gardens.

Let today be all about Auroville! This global experimental township is located about 11 kilometres from Pondicherry and can be reached by private taxi, local bus, or rented scooters. Often referred to as ‘The City of Dawn’ (derived from French words aurore meaning ‘dawn’ and ville meaning ‘city/village’), it was founded in 1968 by a Turkish-Egyptian lady named Mirra Alfassa, also known later as ‘The Mother’. Deeply inspired by the visions of Sri Aurobindo, she established Auroville as a safe place for humankind. Today, this township is home to about 50,000 inhabitants from different parts of the world.

One of the most visually stunning attractions here is the Matrimandir, a magnificent, golden-hued sphere, set amid lush, expansive gardens. Do consider a meditation session in its inner sanctum if time permits. Note: you will have to go through certain protocols before entering.

Lovely lanterns at one of the many décor shops in the city.

The township offers numerous other fun outings, as well. Rent an e-bike for the day from a Kinisi outlet and make your way to Auroville Bakery for a healthy brunch. Pick from their wide variety of baguettes, vegetable tarts, and salads, and wash it all down with fresh juice to hydrate for the day. Follow this up with a soothing sound healing session at Svaram: Centre for the Craft, Art & Science of Sound. Here, explore various musical instruments from around the world, and indulge in a therapeutic session with a sound healer playing diverse devices. It’s amazingly calming.

Handmade decorative wall hangings on sale in Pondicherry.

Since the town is a known hub for sustainably sourced products, some retail therapy is a must. Hop by La Boutique d’Auroville and Kalki boutique for incense sticks, tableware, jewellery, furnishings, aromatherapy items, and more. If you’re looking for sustainable clothes made from natural fabrics, then head to Upasana, a conscious clothing store, where your purchase will also contribute towards supporting the women empowerment initiatives led by Auroville. Few things compare to the sleep you get after a satisfying shopping stint!


While there are many attractions in Pondicherry beyond the beach, it’s safe to say the shore is always within easy reach. Enjoy thewaves of the Bay of Bengal by signing up for a day-long scuba diving excursion with the PADI- certified company, Temple Adventures. The trips start from Rock Beach and you will enjoy swimming alongside fish, while the instructors teach you the importance of preserving these delicate ecosystems for future generations. Post the dive, enjoy a fresh seafood lunch at Chez Artizan, where each dish is meticulously crafted using healthy, sustainable ingredients. Delish!

Once satiated, consider making a trip to the other side of the canal, to the Tamil Quarter. The vibe here is distinctly different, with narrow lanes and traditional wall-to-wall houses, most with open verandas for people to sit and chat, among themselves
or with passersby. Walk down to the lively Grand Bazaar, where you will find everything from fresh fish and vegetables to fruits and flowers.

You’ll probably be ready to wrap up the day by now. So, head back to the French Quarter, and proceed to Promenade Beach. Watch the sunset as you grab a cup of coffee from the nearby KBS Kofi Barr and enjoy a leisurely walk along the bay. And when it’s time to bid goodbye to the city, listen to your heart sing a tune of love, peace, and gratitude.

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