Labeled as the 'City of Joy', the 'Cultural capital of India', Kolkata (formerly known as Calcutta) is a city with character and remnants of British Raj visible in its Victorian style architecture, trams and the nomenclature of the place.
Kolkata is famous for its people, their culture, food, music, literature and the movies. It is one of the most densely populated cities in India along the banks of river Ganga with a heritage as dense. Kolkata is famous for its colonial edifices and modern amusement houses. The Victoria memorial is where Queen Victoria spent some years of her life. Today, a major metropolitan, the city also houses the oldest museum of India- the Indian Museum containing the only 'Mummy' in India amongst other valuable artifacts. Some other interesting places are the Eden Garden, Bellur Math Temple, Aurobindo Ashram, Birla Planetarium, Nicco Park, Marble Palace and Howrah Bridge. The famous Durga Puja in October draws many people to the city. Kolkata is also famous for one of India's oldest brothels called the Sonagachi. If you happen to walk in, you will find many a photographers and videographers trying to catch the colours of the lively place. Nightlife in the city is centered around the restaurants, pubs and discotheques where the young crowd of the city gather.
Sufi Sutra International Sufi Music Festival
6th - 8th February
Beautiful and majestic. One of the cheapest cities to live in the world. Well connected to the rest of India. Home to a charming culture. Ideal for cultural travelers.
Crowded during the festive seasons. Not ideal in monsoons.
Ideal for both history and cultural aficionados.
Kolkata has been known to start the culture of eating out among Indians. With that to its credit and being a glittering and colourful city, Kolkata offers one more choices than they can ask for. However, the town is best known for local Bengali cuisine that one must indulge in, while here. Most of the Bengali cuisine food revolves around rice and fish, and you will find many version and delicacies of these. Try the Macher Jhol and the Phuchka, your very own 'golgappa' or 'panipuri'.
Also the Bengali sweets, popular all across is something you just cannot miss. Find them here in there most authentic and delicious form. Do try Rashogulla, Chamcham, Rasmalai, Shondesh, Cream Chup and other Bengali sweets.
Apart from Bengali cuisine, one can also enjoy fine English cuisine, continental, North Indian cuisine, South Indian cuisine, Mexican and Italian cuisine at various restaurants spread across the city. You will also find instance of Tibetan food, with Momos and Thuppa being quiet popular and widespread in the city.
Kolkata is also the place where Indian-Chinese cuisine started. Indian Chinese cuisine is basically Indian style preparation of Chinese dishes, typically having a lot of spices and imparted with very strong flavour. Hence, you can enjoy this blend in its very own hometown.
Kolkata offers various kinds of accomodations ranging from 7 star hotels, to semi-luxury hotels, to resorts, budget hotels, cheap-homestays, serviced apartments, and extre cheap lodgings. You can also stay in the Aashrams and Dharamshalas in Kolkata complete with provisions for food.
Kolkata is well connected by metros, local trains, taxis and cabs. Although trams are the archetypal colonial remains, they now remain limited to certain sections of the city only. You can also take a horse-carriage ride or tonga ride around some parts of the city.
Day 1 - Reach Kolkata by morning, and after some rest, go for a tour of the majestic Victoria Memorial. Not very far away from the Memorial is the ancient St. Paul's Cathedral, with Gothic architecture of the pre-1857 era. Not very far from the Memorial is the famous Maidan, which also houses the Market Area, another tourist hotspot of Kolkata. If you're a solid bargainer, you are bound to strike gold here. Don't forget to savor the exquisite Bengali sweets and snacks at KC Das Store, only 600 m. away from the New Market.
Day 2 - Start your day with the blessings of Goddess Kali in Kolkata. Whether from Kalighat Temple or the Dakshineswar Mandir. From there, you can visit the holy Belur Math, which also has glimpses of the famous Ramakrishna Mission. In the evening, go for the ferry service between Kolkata and Howrah, where you can witness the beauty of Howrah bridge from the Hooghly river, which glows beautifully in the night. Day 3 - Check out the National Library, which houses over 2 lakh books as per the records, perfect for absolute bookworms. Netaji Bhavan, which was the same home from where Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose escaped the house arrest, is not very far from National Library, a mere 13 min. ride via Belvedere Road. Northwards, after a ride of 23 minutes from the National Library, you will come to the famous University of Calcutta and the College Street, the popular ' adda' for debates and discussions, made extremely famous by the stories of Byomkesh Bakshi. By the time you'll leave Kolkata, you'll take with yourself a nice bag of memories.
Kolkata is not called the 'City of Joy' for nothing. Once the administrative capital of India until 1912, the current capital of West Bengal is unofficially India's cultural capital. The beautiful confluence of both the native and the western culture can be found here, be it in the majestic charm of Fort William and Victoria Memorial, or the aura of places like Dakshineswar Kali Mandir and Kalighat Mandir. Kolkata is equally famous for its cuisines. From the spicy fish curry to the mouth-watering Sandesh and rosogollas, Kolkata is a literal paradise for the foodies residing in India. Snacks like Kathi roll and puchkas (Bengali version of the famous golgappas) are not far behind. However, this is not the end. The obsession for sports, primarily the cricket and soccer, and literature in this city is world famous. No wonder why sleuths like Feluda and Byomkesh Bakshi have their origins in Kolkata, apart from the crowd puller matches at Salt Lake Stadium and Eden Gardens. Kolkata is also popular for its underground metro, the first of its kind in India, and a must-visit if you're in Kolkata. For those, who visit the city at the time of Durga Puja, the cultural heaven just descends here at this time. To sum up, nowhere will the essence of the culture in India seem as magical as in Kolkata.
Like every big city, thefts are a quintessential part of life in Kolkata. So make sure that you take care of your belongings carefully. However, if you realize something being taken away, raise an alarm. People are quite ready to be of help. Besides this, Kolkata being mostly humid will demand for light casual cotton clothings that you can also buy from the city.
By Kriti Saxena
If I have 8 hours in Kolkata - 8AM to 4PM - then which places can/should I visit?