Kolkata, India's second biggest city, is a perpetually ongoing festival of human existence, concurrently luxurious and squalid, refined and frantic, pointedly futuristic, while beautifully in decay. A vibrant 350-year-old metropolis located on India's Eastern Coast, the capital of West Bengal thrives on contradictions and imposing spectacles; nothing is commonplace in this city. Famously known as the City of Joy, Kolkata is, in every sense, the artistic, cultural and intellectual capital of the country. Kolkata's streets are vivid, hectic, chaotic, and yet, brimming with life and creativity. Driven by the indomitable spirit of the self-made middle class, the city has created a beautiful juxtaposition of the old colonial-era charm with the nascent upcoming hipster culture that thrives amongst the city's millennial residents.
Starting from admiring the flourishing art scene in the city to going on rewarding gastronomical explorations to wandering amidst the countless bazaars to sitting by the banks of the Hooghly and enjoying a peaceful sunset, Kolkata is soaked in layers and layers of heritage and culture, and peeling off each layer to look beneath the hood is a very rewarding, once-in-a-lifetime experience. As the famous quote goes, "If you want a city with a soul, come to Calcutta".
Formerly the capital of the British empire before the government was shifted to Delhi, Kolkata has a distinct tinge of its royal past lingering in every nook and cranny of the city. If you want to soak in some of the city's regal past, take a walk along the streets of North Kolkata, which houses some of the oldest mansions in the city, swathed with vines and a persistent sense of aristocratic pride. Kolkata is home to Rabindranath Tagore's ancestral house, which has now been converted into a museum and houses a staggering collection of family portraits and paintings. There are plenty of ghats all over the city where you can sit and enjoy a sunset while sipping on tea, one of the most noted of these being the Prinsep Ghat, which offers stunning views of the Vidyasagar Setu in the backdrop. Close by is Millennium Park, which is a beautified waterfront park from where you can avail boat rides and cruises.
Kolkata has a very lively nightlife, and the entire stretch along Park Street houses innumerable bars and pubs where you can party the night away. Kolkata's street food is famous all across the country, and the city is lined with eateries and food stalls at every corner, where you can savour local Bengali food, or try out local snacks such as Jhalmuri, or Ghugni Chaat.
As soon as my train entered the Howrah junction, the cool morning breeze from the Ganges briskly welcomed me to city of joy, Kolkata. From the yellow taxis to the Hooghly Bridge to the roadside food stalls & sweet shops to the big malls and finally to the corporate haven of Salt Lake, Kolkata is the perfect destination if you are a foodie and love British architecture and religious sites. Victoria Memorial, Indian Museum, Belur Math and Dakshineshwar Kali Mandir are some places you cannot afford to miss. The north and south divisions of the city depict totally different lives. While the north is all about big corporate office and business sectors, the south still preserves the rich, colonial aura.
BITM as it is popularly known as, is somewhat similar to Science City, Kolkata, except that it is much smaller and cheaper. We had purchased a package ticket that covered a 3d show, chemical reactions show and coal mine show. The chemical reactions show was fun, and despite not being a science student, I did not face any difficulty in understanding as everything was vividly explained. The mock coal mine is one of a kind and was the best part of the day for me. One should never miss it if they are visiting this place. Apart from these, we explored the various other galleries also. There is a cafeteria but there are not many options, only Bengali thaalis, so we opted for lunch outside.
I visited Indian Museum last winter with friends. We reached at around 12pm and also had to leave early, so we could not explore all of the galleries to my disappointment. So I would advise everyone to keep a full day if they are planning to visit this place. Some of the galleries were closed for renovation. The gallery housing the Egyptian mummy was my favourite among all the galleries that we visited. Apart from exploring the galleries, one can also sit in the lawn admiring the beautiful white building, or opt for a meal at the nearby restaurants in Park Street.
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.
If you're a history buff, you will be pleased to know that Kolkata is home to the country's oldest and largest museum, the Indian Museum. You can spend an entire day browsing through the plethora of galleries in the museum that display fossils, antiques, armours and even Mughal-era paintings. Other buildings of historic significance include the Shaheed Minar, and the Victoria Memorial, which is a mesmerizing building made entirely of white marble, commemorating the memory of Queen Victoria.
If you're a photography enthusiast, Kolkata has just the place for you. Kumartuli, in the northern half of the city, is a neighbourhood where hundreds of clay idols of gods and goddesses are created by artists, and you can walk around the multitude of lanes and bylanes which house rows and rows of clay idols, each in a different stage of completion.
The history of Kolkata is intimately related with its invention during the British rule dating back 300 years ago. Earlier known as Calcutta, it originated as a capital of British India in 1960 when East India Company dominated the country. Struggling to develop during Britain’s power war, most of its essential developments took place in the 17th and 18th century. Later in the 19th century, Kolkata become one of the central point of India’s freedom struggle and after the capital shifted to New Delhi in 1911, it became a bustling port and the new cultural capital of India.
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Flinging yourself through the bus window, you can see how variedly the city is divided into definitive areas, each of them with a significance of their own. The old world charm of the city is diversified into North Kolkata, South Kolkata, Old Kolkata, Central area, Chinatown and Suburbs (Howrah, Nadia, Hoogly etc.) which brings together the flavour of northeast into the city. The North part is the oldest part of Kolkata dotted by narrow little lanes and historic architecture.
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.
Read about Festivals of Kolkata
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 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 an instance of Tibetan food, with Momos and Thuppa being quite 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.
Click here to read the list of 20 places to enjoy the Street Food in Kolkata
If u are a foodie...I would recommend you to try the English breakfast at flurry's on park Street. You can also take a look around and see places like Victoria memorial