Kolkata formerly known as Calcutta is recognized for its mesmerizing history and culture. The city is forever buzzing with people on the streets, honking from everywhere and lots of chaos that doesn’t make you want to get out unless you want to enjoy Kolkata the way it is. The city’s poverty levels are visible from the start of your journey, as you will encounter young children or even women knocking on your window asking for money. Kolkata’s architecture from the historic to the modern facet is something to look out for. The city is said to be India’s capital in terms of intellectuality and culture. However, it has a lot more to offer other than its culture, including its scrumptious food that is something you simply shouldn’t miss. Travellers can be sure to never get lonely in this Indian city, as people in Kolkata are forever friendly and open to help others. Kolkata will give you a sense of home as it is said to be one of the friendliest cities in comparison to other metropolitan cities.
The City of Joy was the former capital of British India and its architecture still represents the colonial era with vintage buildings in one of the busiest parts of the city, which are interestingly juxtaposed to the poor districts or even modern suburbs with shopping areas. You will have so many things to see and experience during your visit to Kolkata and here we are to help you make sure you know about all the must see places or even more to feel the history of Kolkata at its best. Travelling to a new place is always a feeling of excitement and confusion, and out travel tips will help you explore Kolkata like one of its citizens.
Local Travelling Tips
1. To commute around the city in your own comfort zone take the cities local yellow and blue Ambassador taxis and ALWAYS go on meter.
2. If you want to go more public, one of the most common means of transportation to use is the local buses, where you have to be extra cautious of your belongings, as they are usually jam packed with people.
3. Hand driven rickshaws are the local rides that are used to travelling short distances and it is an experience one must try.
4. Tram rides are a must to do in the city just to experience the mode of transportation of Kolkata that has been there for several years.
Now that we have you travel ready, let’s show you the numerous places to experience the history and culture of Kolkata.
1. Victoria Memorial
Victoria Memorial is a must see in Kolkata, as this large marble building is in one of the most popular parts of the city. This monument was built during 1906-1921 in memory of Queen Victoria. It is a museum and a tourist destination under the Ministry of Culture. It lies on the Maidan by the Hooghly River boasting a breathtaking view. Outside the memorial you can take a horse drawn carriage ride around the area exploring all the splendor of the building.
2. Kalighat Temple
This Hindu temple in West Bengal, India, is dedicated to the Goddess Kali (Goddess of Empowerment). Actually the city’s former name is said to have been derived from the name of the temple. Currently the temple lies on the bank of a small canal called the Adi Ganga, which is connected to the Hooghly. The temple priests allow locals as well as tourists to participate in their day-to-day religious ceremonies and be apart of an unforgettable spiritual experience.
3. Belur Math
This is the Ramakrishna Math and Mission headquarters founded by Swami Vivekananda. This institution in Kolkata is situated in the west bank of the Hooghly River and is especially significant for its architecture that blends Hindu, Christian and Islamic beliefs symbolizing the unity of all the three religions. Belur Math is said to be the heart of the Ramakrishna Movement.
4. Kumortuli Idol Makers
Kumortuli occupies a large part of north Kolkata acting as the potters’ quarter of the city, rightly considered as one of the seven wonders of Kolkata. The sculptures to goddesses are not only meant to be used for local festivity purposes, but they are also exported as souvenirs. At Kumortuli you have the chance to see the clay process of huge sculptures of various goddesses, which a unique experience.
5. Jorasanko Thakur Bari
Tagore House is the ancestral home of the famous poet and first non-European Noble Prize winner for Literature, Rabindranath Tagore, he was born in this house and spent most of his childhood there. Tagore House is now a historic museum of Kolkata housing the poet’s works.
6. Indian Museum
Consisting of six sections that are divided into thirty-five galleries of culture and scientific artifacts (Art, Archaeology, Anthropology, Geology, Zoology and Economic Botany), the Indian Museum is the largest and oldest museum in India housing collections of rare antiques, fossils, skeletons, mummies and Mughal paintings. So if you are a traveller that enjoys spending time in museums, you must visit the Indian Museum in Kolkata!
7. BBD Bagh
The name is derived from the three Indian Independence activist Benoy-Badal-Dinesh, who shot the Inspector General N.S. Simpson in the balconies of the secretariat building of the State Government of West Bengal known as the Writer’s Building. BBD Bagh used to be called Dalhousie Square. This area allows you to admire the old buildings that were built during the British era.
8. Raj Bhavan
Raj Bhavan is the residence of the Governor of West Bengal, built in 1803. It got its current name after the independence in 1947. The building is unique in its architecture flawlessly blending Neoclassical motifs with the Baroque style. Equally stunning is the interior composed of large halls and about 60 rooms.
9. Armenian Church of Nazareth
This Armenian Apostolic Church, known as the “Mother Church of Indian Armenian”, is one of the oldest churches in Kolkata, built in 1724 after the first Armenian Church was destroyed in a fire. Even though there are three other Armenian churches in Kolkata, this one stands out with its unique marble interior and the white building. With the Armenian society rapidly growing in Kolkata, the church holds Sunday Service, in which the students of The Armenian College and Philanthropic Academy also participate.
10. Howrah Bridge
The sixth longest bridge in the world is actually Kolkata’s Howrah Bridge over the Hooghly River. It is one of the well-known symbols of the city, looking especially beautiful at nights, when it gets illuminated with lights. Other than being the sixth longest bridge it is known to be world’s busiest cantilever bridge.
11. St. Paul’s Cathedral of Kolkata
This Anglican Cathedral is located in the heart of the city being one of the most famous and beautiful churches of Kolkata. It is known for its Midnight Christmas Mass held on 24th of December.
13. Marble Palace in Kolkata
This touristic attraction is one of the city’s best-preserved and sophisticated nineteenth-century mansions, famous for its marble floors and walls. The house belongs to the family of a rich Bengali merchant and they still live there.
14. Dakshineswar Kali Temple
Situated a little on the outskirts of Kolkata, this Hindu temple is always crowded with people, who try to experience a spiritual moment that they will never forget. Other than that, it’s a picturesque building you’ll definitely like to take lots of photos of!
15. Kolkata’s College Street
If you are a bookworm or simply love the smell of old books, Kolkata’s College Street is the best place you should visit. This 1.5-kilometer long street situated is always crowded with young students and intellects looking for books or simply sharing ideas in Kolkata’s famous Indian Coffee House. The coffee house is the favorite place of young students and tourists, who simply go there to enjoy chai!
16. Kolkata’s Park Street
Kolkata’s Park Street is one of the most happening parts of this city that is forever crowded with people. The street is filled with dozens of eateries, pubs and nigh clubs that will keep you dancing till dawn. The nightlife of Kolkata begins right here on Park Street. One of the best place to grab a pint and enjoy the lip-smacking beef steak is the Oly Pub and then you can also enjoy a night out at Roxy, later heading to Tantra, one of the oldest night clubs in the city. If you aren’t into nightlife, live music is available in abundance at Someplace Else and this is just the place for you! If your stomach is growling, Park Street is the spot for you to grab the city’s best sizzlers at Mocambo and Peter Cat. You simply cannot miss this part of Kolkata!
17. Kolkata’s Sudder Street
If you are a backpacker and do not have hotel bookings ready and are looking for cheap hotels during your stay in Kolkata, you just found the right place. Kolkata’s Sudder Street is full of foreigners from all around the world and there you also have access to cheap street shopping along with delicious street food at its finest and at best rates. Sudder Street is always an adventure as you meet so many different kinds of individuals there from locals to globetrotters. To enjoy cheap beer you can always visit Fairlawn Hotel!
18. Kolkata’s New Market
The New Market is another must visit in Kolkata, an epic shopping center in the city. No, it is not a shopping mall filled with famous fashion brands but it is a shopping destination that no one will forget for a lifetime. You can get almost anything in this market from household products to street junk jewelry at the best prices. If you are a bargaining queen, you might just get the price you like. New Market in Kolkata offers real silver jewelry, ethnic Indian clothing, Kashmir shawls and antiquities as well as yummy street food, something you simply can’t miss. This market will get you to come back for more just to enjoy the chaos and buzz around you! However, do take care of your belongings, as the market is really crowded and you never know when something gets lost.
19. Gariahat Road
Gariahat Road in south Kolkata is yet another amazing street shopping destination, which is one of the city’s oldest shopping areas. It is always buzzing with vendors selling clothes, shoes and many more things or customers bargaining to get the best deals or even smell the delicious street food that will make your mouth water!
20. Forum Courtyard, Kolkata
Forum began a journey that continued to grow in Kolkata. It was the first shopping mall that allowed consumers to shop from the best international brands such as Nike, Addidas, Tommy Hilfiger, Mango, Guess, MAC Cosmetics and many more. In 2003 not only did it bring a sense of fashion to Kolkata, but also changed the mindset as well as buying patterns of shopaholics.
21. South City Mall, Kolkata
One of the biggest shopping arcades in the city is situated in the southern part on Prince Anwar Shah Road. You get to choose from a wide range of national as well as international brands under one roof.
22. City Centre 1 & 2, Kolkata
If you are looking for a shopping cum hangout zone in Kolkata, you have found the exact spot. City Centre has two outlet stores – one in New Town and Salt Lake. You can also try some chai with samosa from Tea Junction as you chat with your friends, loved one or family!
23. Quest Mall, Kolkata
Quest Mall was the city’s first step of welcoming the long awaited Luxury Fashion Market. If you are looking for luxury brands, Quest Mall is where you can find the products of internationally renowned fashion designers. The mall has also become a place for some to simply enjoy the new chain of restaurants or pubs located on the last floor. Even if you aren’t planning to shop drastically, simply enter to enjoy a moment in this mall.
Kolkata is a city that has a lot to offer and putting it all down on one list seems close to impossible. If you aren’t too keen on sightseeing, don’t be disappointed because you could simply stroll through the streets of Kolkata to experience the city or even enjoy the local cuisine and flavors. The city welcomes its locals as well as tourist with open arms and allows you to experience a cherished cultural yet modern experience. To ensure safety, take care of your belongings and always follow your instinct, travelling wisely. Always hydrate yourself with some refreshing coconut water, bargain your way and leave the city to come back for more! Happy travelling, travel bugs!