A heady blend of ancient and modern on almost every corner, friendly locals, and a wealth of historical monuments - there are lots of great reasons to plan your trip to Dhaka.
Dhaka's streets are filled with thousands of locals every day. It's one of the most populous cities in the world and locals extend a warm welcome to overseas visitors.
An essential stop on any visit to Dhaka, the 1,200-year-old temple is the center of Hindu religion in the region and known for its beautiful architecture.
Sadarghat is one of the largest river ports in the world and it's a constant stream of activity. Marvel at day-to-day life on the banks of the Buriganga River, or take one of the small boats to the center of the river to enjoy a few moments of peace and calm.
The spectacular 'pink palace' was the summer home of Sheikh Enayet Ullah during the Mughal period and a French trading house in the 18th century.
Enjoy trips to the UNESCO-listed Sundarbans National Park, the world's largest mangrove forest. Alternatively, take a paddle steamer to Bagerhat, a Muslim city dating from the 15th century.
Located just south of the city center, Dhakeshwari Temple is officially designated as Bangladesh's national Hindu center. Initially built way back in the 12th century, most of the current complex dates back to the era of the British East India Company. When you take a tour, you can get acquainted with Lord Shiva, who presides over the site, and take in one of the city's most serene spaces. It's a place that has endured for centuries as a Hindu island in a mainly Muslim country, and one that continues to thrive today.
Dhaka's most spectacular building isn't a religious structure. Instead, it's Lalbagh Masjid - a fort that was partially erected by the area's Mughal rulers in the late 17th century before being deemed unlucky and abandoned for centuries. Nowadays, the defensive motive has gone, and the fort is an oasis of beautifully tended gardens and restored architecture. If you can get to the site near daybreak or sunset, the rose red stone used to build the fort glimmers beautifully in the light. And don't miss the Diwan, with its impressive collection of Mughal paintings.
Double up when visiting Lalbagh Fort by adding this gorgeous mosque to your day of sight-seeing. Just 500 meters away from the fort, Khan Mohammad Mridha is also a 17th century creation. Characterized by broad stairways and domed platforms, the mosque is clad with sculptures and decorative details, and it's a delight to explore. It's also not a working mosque anymore, but it is protected by the Bangladeshi State, keeping this Islamic jewel in pristine condition.
Located a few kilometers southeast of the downtown area in Armanitola, the Star Mosque is definitely worth an excursion. This time around, the architecture dates from the 19th century, when bright white china tiles were all the rage. The mosque is famous for its star-shaped courtyard pool, as well as its stunning 'chinitikri' mosaics, which spread the star motif across the whole site. Very different from Khan Mohammad Mridha, the Star Mosque presents another, more ornate side of Dhaka, and it's definitely a visual treat.
Dhaka in the 19th century was both a royal capital and a center of the British Raj, so it's not that surprising to find a wealth of attractions from that period. Ahsan Manzil is among the most beautiful of these, and it's a true must-see. Built in the 1860s by the local Nawab, or prince, the palace is 125 meters long and made from vivid pink stone, creating an unforgettable vista as you approach. There are more sensory delights inside, including grandiose royal paintings and even the skull of the building's creator Abdul Ghani's favorite elephant.
Bangladesh has a tropical monsoon climate and from June to September it is wet, hot and humid. The best time to visit is from October to March when it is still dry but much cooler.
There are flights to Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport (DAC) from most continents. The airport is 13 miles from central Dhaka and travelers can reach the city easily by train from Airport Railway Station directly opposite the terminal, and you can also take a tuk-tuk into town for around tk400.
The Maitree Express from Kolkata is the country's only international rail service. The journey to Dhaka takes just under 11 hours.
The most commonly used route from India is via the Haridaspur/Benapole border crossing on the Kolkata to Dhaka highway. Travelers should be aware that visa and passport checks can take a considerable time.
Buses from Kolkata to Dhaka arrive at Gabtoli Bus Station. Take a taxi or auto-rickshaw from the station to the center of the city.
Dhaka is a thriving business destination so you'll find lots of luxury hotels like the Radisson Blu Dhaka Water Garden and the Westin Dhaka. Mid-range hotels include Rigs Inn.
Old Dhaka - the 17th-century old town is where you'll find Tara Masjid (Star Mosque), Lalbagh Fort, and the Ahsan Manzil.
Motijheel - this is the city's financial and commercial hub. Attractions include Pir Jongi Mazar and the Ramakrishna Mission.
Gulshan - an upscale residential neighborhood to the south of the city center, Gulshan boasts some of Dhaka's best restaurants.
Buses can be very crowded and, as signs are in Bengali, of little use to tourists. Cycle rickshaws are cheap and efficient, and a 15-minute ride costs tk30-50. Auto-rickshaws are the most useful option, and a trip to Gulshan from Old Dhaka costs tk150-250.
Metered taxis are difficult to hail on the street so it's best to book from your hotel. You'll be marked as a foreign tourist in the back of a taxi so auto-rickshaw is often a better choice if you don't want to attract beggars and street vendors.
Driving in Dhaka can be difficult for visitors as locals and traffic police tend to ignore the basic rules of the road. It's best to rent a car with a local driver. Prices start at tk2500 per day.
Visit the Banga Bazar on Gulistan Road for incredibly cheap clothing and accessories. Shop at the Bashundhara City mall for well-known brands, or look for jewelry made with local pink pearls in Gulshan.
Stock up on food and other essentials at local supermarkets like Agora Super Shop. Expect to pay tk105 for a dozen eggs.
Popular restaurants include Lake Terrace for steaks, Mainland China for Chinese, and bbq Bangladesh for Korean food. Prices range from tk200 for a simple lunch to tk1,000 for a three-course meal for two.