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Our list of the best things to do in Dhaka will go a long way to making your visit to Bangladesh’s vibrant and energetic capital city a memorable one.
Whether you’re a history buff, a bargain hunter, or enjoy the great outdoors, there’s something in Dhaka for everyone. However long you stay, these experiences should take top priority on your travel itinerary.
So together, under the expert guidance of a local writer, let us discover some of the things, landmarks, and experiences that make Dhaka an incredible place to visit.
Best Things to Do in Dhaka
1 – Visit Old Dhaka
The best place to begin a tour of the city is to start from the heart of Dhaka – Old Dhaka. The area is filled with beautiful, ancient architecture that is absolutely Insta-worthy!
Ahsan Manzil is the residence and seat of former Nawabs from the late 1800s. The place is now a museum that holds centuries-old artifacts from that era.
You can also visit the Lalbagh Fort, an unfinished fort from the Mughal era, which sits on the bank of the Buriganga River. The area contains the fort, the residence of the governor called Diwan-i-Aam, and the tomb of Bibi Pari.
The Christian cemetery located in Wari is also frequented by tourists, largely due to its incredible architecture. Shankhari Bazar, one of the oldest areas of Old Dhaka, is inhabited by Hindu artisans, who are masters of creating bangles and other items from conch shells. The narrow and colorful serpentine lanes are filled with wonders and tell stories from eras and empires gone by.
2 – Visit the Star Mosque (Tara Masjid) and Armenian Church
Regardless of your religious beliefs, you should definitely visit both the Star Mosque and Armenian Church, located in Armanitola, Old Dhaka.
Built during the Mughal period, the Star Mosque remains one of the most magnificent mosques in the country. The design is dominated by exclusive blue stars made of mosaic, hence its name.
The Armenian Church is another beauty to behold. This two-storied church stands as proof of the existence of the Armenian society in the country in the 1700s and 1800s.
Mother Teresa visited Bangladesh in 1996 and stayed in the church, thus massively increasing its popularity, with people visiting from all over the world. The church is seven hundred and fifty feet tall and boasts great architectural significance in Dhaka.
3 – Try Street Food at Chawkbazar
Chawkbazar has traditionally been the epicenter of all delicious street food in Dhaka, dating back to the origin of the city. It becomes a street food market during Ramadan, and millions of Bangladeshis buy Iftaar (food to break the fast in the evening) from this market during the holy month.
But don’t be daunted if you are not visiting Dhaka during months other than Ramadan, as Chawkbazar prepares and sells scrumptious street food all year round.
The area was once a business hub due to its convenient location on the bank of the Buriganga River, but as Dhaka grew and sprawled towards the north, so did the city center.
As a result, today, Chawkbazar is no longer a chaotic business center, but it still has a significant number of shops that sell goods for reasonable prices.
You can find a wide variety of deep-fried snacks, lunch meals, desserts, traditional drinks, tea, and much more being sold in various restaurants and from vendors lining the streets.
4 – Take a Boat Ride from Sadarghat
Sadarghat is the port of the river Buriganga. This area holds historical significance, as Dhaka – or Old Dhaka, more specifically – was very much the city’s focal point of business and trade, and Sadarghat is where all the ships and boats docked for unloading goods and raw materials during the Mughal era.
Today, hundreds of people arrive in Dhaka and leave from the same port, while tourists can take rides across the river on small boats or paddle boats. The boatmen are highly skilled and will treat you to some breathtaking views of Dhaka as you glide through the waters.
5 – Take a rickshaw ride through the University of Dhaka
Spanning across 600 acres of land, the University of Dhaka has one of the biggest university campuses in Bangladesh. It is also the oldest university in the country, home to hundreds of students, graduates, and research faculties.
The campus is situated at the heart of Dhaka city. A few main streets pass through it, making it ideal to pass and marvel at via a rickshaw ride. The streets are quiet and lined with trees, while the faculties have separate buildings accessed via independent entrance gates. Multiple student halls – for both males and females – also fall within this campus, and some of them are open to visitors.
When visiting, don’t forget to stop by Madhur Canteen, located near the Institute of Business Administration. This old canteen is famous for its tea, lunch, and snack items. Many students through the ages have spent their evenings relaxing or revising in this area, and the walls contain many stories of those golden days.
6 – Visit the Curzon Hall
The Faculty of Science of the University of Dhaka stands apart from all other faculties, courtesy of its breathtaking architecture. Named after Lord Curzon, the Curzon Hall was built in 1904, and despite many periodic refurbishes, has managed to retain its wonder and beauty to this day.
Upon entering the faculty, the first thing you see is the bright red facade of the buildings. The theme is maintained throughout the faculty, which houses at least six different departments. The architecture fuses both Mughal and European influence, creating a truly unique place to explore and marvel.
There is also a botanical garden within the premises you can visit. Due to both its architectural and natural beauty, Curzon Hall is very much the Instagrammable spot for younger generations of Bangladeshis. When you visit, you can lay out on the green grass, take shade under the trees, and chat and eat with your friends until the sun goes down.
7 – Dine at Dhaka’s most popular eateries and restaurants
When it comes to food in Dhaka, there are so many options. While exploring and find new vendors and restaurants is all part of the experience, there are a few stand-out options you should definitely try when visiting.
To start, if you haven’t tried biryani in Dhaka, then you simply haven’t been to Dhaka! Nanna and Fakruddin are two of the oldest and most beloved biryani brands, that sell some of the city’s tastiest biryani to this day.
Their recipes date back to the Mughal era and have been preserved through generations. You can try biryani at thousands of restaurants throughout Bangladesh, but few, if any, will come close to Nanna and Fakruddin.
Beauty Boarding was the residence of a zamindar (landlord) in 1947. After he left, a local took on the lease and turned it into a restaurant that became a popular meeting place for authors, poets, and politicians, and renowned for its art collections. Beauty Boarding’s doors are still open today and more than worth a visit for a spot of lunch or dinner.
Also be sure to dine at Beauty Lassi and Faluda, a completely different type of restaurant, specializing in drinks and sweetmeats. You simply cannot leave Old Dhaka without having a chilled glass of Lassi, or a cup of Faluda, from this place.
Finally, dining at Hotel Al-Razzak has more or less become a rite of passage when it comes to cuisine in Dhaka city. It becomes incredibly crowded during Ramadan, and locals wake as early as four in the morning to have Suhoor (meal before starting the fast) there with friends and family. The hotel has its own menu and unique recipes and is a place you simply have to eat at.
8 – Have tea at TSC (Teacher-Student Center, University of Dhaka)
TSC, or the Teacher-Student Center of the University of Dhaka, was built in 1961 as the Division of Public Affairs. The architecture has striking similarities with modern Greek architecture.
The center is built around a courtyard, which today is a ground popular with university students, looking to relax, study, and hang out. The center also has a grand canteen where students can have tea and light afternoon snacks.
There are many street food shops and vendors around the center, that feed lines of people every day. The center also hosts shows, dramas, seminars, and many more events throughout the year.
If you are lucky and time it right, you may even get to enjoy a movie night in the courtyard. But simply sitting in the courtyard with a hot herbal tea in its own right is an afternoon well spent.
9 – Visit Shaheed Minar
The Shaheed Minar, or the Martyr Monument, was built to honor the language martyrs, who lost their lives in 1952 during the Bengali Language Movement. The place has gone through several renovations through the years, yet today stands proud amid the hustle and bustle of Dhaka.
Shaheed Minar remains open all year round. The place gets crowded on the morning of International Mother Language Day (February 21), as people of all walks and ages visit the monument with flowers to pay their homage.
Most of the time, however, you can visit without too much hassle. The are itself is used for film shoots, meetings, and television programs – often related to the Liberation War.
10 – Shop at New Market
Located in Azimpur, bordering New Dhaka, New Market is one of the oldest markets in the city. The market boasts some truly interesting architecture, and its unique triangular shape is fascinating when viewed from above, covering an impressive 35 acres of Dhaka.
While tourists and younger Bangladeshis are drawn to the glitz of newly built malls in more affluent areas like Gulshan and Bashundhara, the older generation of the city still flock in their droves to New Market, as they have done for decades.
If you know how to barter, you will love this market. Everything from basic home utensils to beautiful decor can be found here. The bustle, colors, sounds, and energy of the market are all part of its undeniable charm.
Many travelers come here to buy leather goods and luggage, as those items are much cheaper in the market than anywhere in the city. You can find A-grade and B-grade replicas of many well-known brands, for only a fraction of the actual place, making New Market a haven for those who love to find a bargain (or several)!
11 – Take a walk in Ramna Park
Ramna Park is another landmark that dates back to the Mughal era. It is located in the Ramna area of Dhaka city, and the park is defined by its lush greenery and a beautiful lake.
Wide walkways crisscross through the park and are flanked by benches on both sides, making the park ideal perfect for thought-reflecting strolls. People of all ages commonly walk here at sunrise.
The 68.5 acres of land is home to many species of trees, plants, and herbs. The lake covers 8.76 acres, and you can take boats out onto the water throughout the day for an affordable price.
Ramna Park is also home to the famous banyan tree. Various cultural programs are held under this tree, including Pohela Boishakh, the first day of the Bengali New Year.
12 – Take a bike ride at Hatirjheel
The Hatirjheel area has been present for as long as one can remember, but the recreational center around the lake you will see today is a prime example of the development happening in Dhaka.
When New Dhaka started expanding, Hatirjheel was an area comprised of small clusters of slums and a whole lot of waste.
The government took initiative. They created a loop, fixed the streets, painted the aisles, added greenery, built small watchtowers and an amphitheater, and courtesy of this investment, we have the beautiful and modern Hatirjheel of today.
You can take a bike ride through the three bridges, stop at junctions, and simply enjoy the breeze rolling over the tranquil waters. Small restaurants and food courts can be found throughout Hatirjheel, serving a wide range of snacks, lunches, and mains.
At night, the area is illuminated with different colored lights and displays, while energetic music can be heard through the streets. Boat rides, that run from late afternoon to midnight, are a great way to marvel at the lights and the shows.
13 – Visit the National Parliament House
The National Parliament House, located in Sher-e-Bangla-Nagar, is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Bangladesh. The main grounds of the parliament house may be restricted to the general public, yet thousands of tourists to it every year to simply marvel at and photograph its magnificent architecture and jaw-dropping beauty.
The National Parliament House was designed by renowned architect Louis Kahn, and the design carefully incorporates the culture and heritage of the country.
Within the grounds, the Jatiyo Sangsad Complex, Chadrima Uddyan, and Crescent Lake are open for everyone to visit. These places are ideal for leisurely walks, relaxing, and plenty of photography.
14 – Visit Bangabandhu Novo Theater
Bangabandhu Novo Theater is located in Bijoy Sarani. Built upon 5.46 acres of land, the planetarium has been a beloved source of entertainment for children and teenagers since 2004.
The intriguing architecture of the theater never fails to catch your eye. It boasts a grand dome roof, reminiscent of the earth, and its greyish-blue hue has the allure of a vast, bright sky.
Three shows run throughout the day – a show featuring the space through VR, a show putting a spotlight on the Grand Canyon, and a final show about the legendary lecture of March 7, conducted by Sheikh Muzibur Rahman, the father of the nation.
15 – Visit the National Museum and Bangladesh Air Force Museum
The National Museum is located in Shahbag, and the Bangladesh Air Force Museum in Tejgaon. Both museums are open throughout the year, all welcome to all visitors.
The National Museum contains historic items collected through centuries of Bangladeshi history. Old guns, knives, historic maps, statues of national animals, coins and banknotes, relics from the 1900’s – everything you need to see the country’s fascinating history through the ages is neatly laid out in 22 distinct rooms.
In a similar vein, the Bangladesh Air Force Museum contains names, relics, and mnemonics of the many wars fought by the Bangladesh Air Force. Both the museums are ideal for a morning or afternoon of learning all about Bangladeshi culture and history.
Best Things to Do in Dhaka Summary
Dhaka is a city that continues to fuse its ancient history with modern development, running them in parallel to create a place of awe, intrigue, and fascination.
Dhaka is the ideal place in which to base any trip to Bangladesh. There is so much to see and do in the city, while many excursions and transport to see other beautiful places in Bangladesh run from Dhaka.
Immerse in the history. Soak up the culture. And try plenty of the rich and delicious Bangladeshi food. Dhaka has adventure, culture, and beauty in spades, and is a great place to experience Bangladesh.
Looking to book a trip to Dhaka?
Use these resources to help you book your trip to Dhaka:
- Skyscanner to find great deals on flights
- Booking.com or Agoda to find a comfortable hotel
- Safety Wing for travel medical insurance
- GetYourGuide for tours and activities
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- Bangladeshi Food: Most Popular Dishes to Try in Bangladesh
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Contributor: Mehnaz Tabassum is a content writer who lives in Dhaka. She is very passionate about sharing more about Bangladeshi culture, travel, and cuisine through her writing.
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