Bihar’s busy capital sprawls out over the south bank of the polluted Ganges, just east of the river’s confluence with three major tributaries. There’s nothing for the traveller along the river itself, and Patna only has a handful of worthwhile sights. Otherwise, it’s a chaotic eyesore that would be an odd place to voluntarily spend any considerable length of time. For what it's worth, though, Patna is home to the region's best eats, so tuck in generously before moving on to more interesting destinations such as Bodhgaya or Rajgir.
Patna was once a powerful city. Early in the 5th century BC, Ajatasatru shifted the capital of his Magadha kingdom from Rajgir to Pataliputra (Patna), fulfilling Buddha’s prophecy that a great city would arise here. Emperors Chandragupta Maurya and Ashoka also called Pataliputra home, and it remained one of India’s most important cities for almost 1000 years.
The old and newer parts of Patna stretch along the southern bank of the Ganges for about 15km. The main train station, airport and hotels are in the western half, known as Bankipur, while most of the historic sites are in the teeming older Chowk area to the east. The 5.7km-long Mahatma Gandhi Setu, the longest single river bridge in the world, connects Patna with Hajipur.