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Kolkata formerly Calcutta, which was the capital of British India is now the capital of West Bengal and the second-largest city in India (after Mumbai). It is home to India’s major ports. Better known as the cultural capital of India, Kolkata has given rise to generations of poets, writers, film producers and Nobel Prize winners. This huge city can be considered as the hub of sightseeing, restaurant, nightlife and accommodation listings. Kolkata is the dominant urban centre of eastern India and is the heart of many commerce, transport and manufacture businesses.
Although traces of the name “Kolkata” or “Kalikata” can be found in the history books from the time of Mughal Emperor Akbar but it is through Job Charnock in the year 1690 that the city Kolkata gained its prominence. Jon Charnock took the lease of this city along the banks of river Hooghly (part of the Ganges) and established Kolkata as one of the trading posts of the East India Company. Soon after in 1772, Kolkata or Calcutta became the capital of British India. Calcutta flourished as the capital of British India during the nineteenth century. The first modern Indian university was founded here is 1857, namely Calcutta University. Being the centre of Indian arts and literature Calcutta became the first place to give impetus to the national movement for independence.
- Kolkata is the capital district in the Indian state of West Bengal, headquartered in Kolkata. In terms of area, it is the smallest amongst all the districts of West Bengal but has the highest density of population. Kolkata has the second-highest literacy rate (86.3%) in the state.
- The Southern fringes of Kolkata include Behala, Jadavpur, Garia and Narendrapur. There are numerous educational institutes, shopping malls in this area and is also a relatively newer part of the city where expansions are going on. The development of routes, eateries, malls of all kinds makes it appealing to visit.
- South Kolkata is the high-class, posh part of the city. It covers Gariahat, Dhakuria, Ballygunge, Bhawanipur, Alipore, New Alipore, Rash Behari, Kalighat and Tollygunge. There are various posh malls, high posh residential complexes, fancy restaurants and much more.
- The colonial district is where all the heritage buildings of the colonial era are located and served as the prime business district till the ’90s until Salt Lake/New Town sprung up around the late ’90s. It still holds the old charm with century-old buildings, ancient trams, human pulled rickshaws, street food vendors and plethora of shops.
- Maidan serves as a home to many sports clubs, gardens, parks and many other attractions. Some of the famous attractions include Victoria Memoria, Princep Ghat, Birla Planetarium, St. Paul’s Cathedral and other places that are worth visiting. There’s also a famous area named Park Street which is a major attraction in hosting numerous upmarket lounges, restaurants, bars, discs, shops and colonial buildings.
- North Kolkata is the older area of the city. A district dominated by narrow little lanes and hundreds of century-old buildings. It includes Shyam Bazaar, Shobha Bazaar, the famous College Street area and many others. There are some places that were worth knowing namely the Indian Coffee House, Calcutta University, Kolkata Medical College and Hospital, Presidency University and other numerous heritage theatres that are located here.
- The Northern fringes of Kolkata include Kashipur, Dumdum, Belghoria, Khardah etc. where there are numerous factories like jute, paper, cotton and other chemicals. Attractions like Dakshineswar Kali Temple and the twin bridges Vivekananda Setu and Nivedita Setu are located in this area.
- East Kolkata is one such area that has been rapidly developing, especially the IT sector and home to many malls. It covers Salt Lake City, New Town, Lake Town and the E.M. Bypass. Some of the attractions like Eco Park, Mother’s Wax Museum are all located in New Town.
- Howrah and the urban part of Hooghly all have individual identity alongside they are the part of Kolkata Metropolis. Likewise, Howrah city is a twin city of Kolkata city. Places like Nabanna, Santragachi, Belur, Bally, Serampore, Bhadeswar, Chinsurah, Hooghly etc. come under Kolkata Metropolitan Area.
Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport is situated at Dumdum, which is about 17 kilometres away from the Kolkata. As it is an international airport, it has good connectivity both within states and abroad.
With an efficient network of railways and with Howrah having the largest railway complex in India, travelling to Kolkata continues to be seamless. It is well linked to cities across the country. Superfast trains such as Rajdhani Express and Shatabdi Express connect Kolkata from Delhi and nearby places.
There are bus services that can be used to visit Kolkata as it is connected well with most of the Indian cities by road. Kolkata has a broad network of government and private buses. The main bus terminus is the Esplanade Terminus.
When to visit
The best time to visit Kolkata is between November to mid-March. It is also peak tourist season as the city is overwhelmingly busy and the streets are even more crowded than usual during the major festival of Durga Puja over 5 days during September/October. It is advisable to book rooms and travel tickets in advance. The weather can become really cold at this season hence its recommended to pack winter apparels and wear when needed.
Kolkata population is about 14.8 million (1.48 crores) in 2020 and ranked third-most populous metropolitan city in India. Since 19th century, Kolkata was serving the capital of India and this capital has long been a paradise for the migrants and the people who are in search of work.
The official language of Kolkata is Bengali. Other languages like Hindi and English are also spoken by the minority of the population.
The pollution index here in Kolkata is poor and can cause discomfort to the ones who haven’t experienced the continuous traffic and rush. With the absence of steady winds, it will be hard to disperse the pollution. With the experts reminding of the causes, it requires efforts from both state government and people in general to take steps in reducing the pollution.
The driest month in Kolkata is December and the month of July is when precipitation falls. The warmest month is in May and the coldest month is in January with temperatures as low as 19°C. It is best to visit Kolkata between October to December.
Fairs & Festivals
Kolkata – The city of joy is labelled for a reason. The arrangements when it comes to fairs and festivals are unlike any other state. All the festivals are celebrated in such a joyous manner that tourists are bound to be awestruck. One of the most popular festivals celebrated here in Durga Puja. With the size of Pandals that are built across the city can be a whole lot overwhelming. From the lighting, the size and artistic approach is truly admirable. Various other festivals are also celebrated in such a fun and frolic manner. The fairs that are entertainment-based, culturally-based are also executed in such a grand way that they prove that the city is truly a joy.
Transportation/Stay to prefer
The bright yellow taxis is something striking and extremely noticeable at Kolkata. The nostalgia of the ambassadors touring around really exciting. They’re easily available, relatively cheap and can take you to all kinds of locations needed.
Kolkata was the first underground rail in India. It connects the north and south of the city, from Dumdum to Garia. It will also to become first underwater metro in India which will connect Howrah & Kolkata under a tunnel in Ganges (River) and it is supposed to begin service by 2022.
It is the oldest surviving electric tram network of Asia. It is still one of the means of travelling between places within the city. They move slow but are environment-friendly and the nostalgic rustic factor of tram makes it appealing for both local and global tourists.
- The city has an extensive bus network with various types of coaches be it air-conditioned, non-air-conditioned etc. There are various bus stations with various routes catering to various passengers providing service in various types of buses.
- Chowringhee Road is one busy area with various markets and attractions nearby. Both luxurious and affordable hotels are present at that area. Attractions such as Victoria Memorial, St. Paul Cathedral showcase the legacy of the colonial era and extensive parks alongside those attractions make it easier for any tourist to wander around carefree.
- Park Street is another area which is chaotic and simply enticing. There are numerous western-style markets, restaurants, bookshops and so much more that tourists can be delighted for. Staying around this area can make tourists wander with joy. There are various hotels that cater both budget conscious and luxurious.
- New Town is that type of an area with more IT-based companies, posh development all around but also includes attractions, malls, restaurants etc. that are worth visiting. You will find a lot more luxurious hotels with great hospitality and at the same time, you will not miss on hotels that cater to the budget conscious-minded tourists.
- Ballygunge and South Kolkata is another area where you can stay and also travel places around easier. There are various modes of transport to wander around and you’ll also find various restaurants, boutiques and a lot more at this area.
Top places to visit in Kolkata
This is one such famous area that is filled with various entertainment hubs, restaurants, markets that are worth drooling for. During the festive seasons, the celebratory feeling around this area is uncanny and people of all kinds enjoy visiting this area.
VICTORIA MEMORIAL – This white glorious building was constructed in 1921 to commemorate Queen Victoria. It includes the collection of paintings, scriptures and sculptures that tourists can visit and look for. Around the building is a giant garden that tourists of all kinds can wander and relax.
One of the longest bridges in the world, Howrah Bridge is one such bridge that in order to really appreciate, you must walk around that area. To witness its beauty a little farther, there are boat and cruise rides you can take a tour and enjoy its overall view.
BELUR MATH – This peaceful yet distinctive architectural shrine was founded by Swami Vivekananda. He is a chief disciple of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and this is said to be the headquarters of Ramakrishna Math. Tourists can visit and witness this leafy complex. Photography is prohibited at this place and its recommended to visit in the evening for the aarti ceremony.
Kalighat Kali Temple
This Hindu temple is where people come to devote and pray to the Goddess Kali. Also, an integral part of the city, the place is busy and a bit chaotic.
Indian Coffee House
Experience one of the historic restaurants that continue to cherish the essence of the colonial era in terms of furniture, frames and overall size of the restaurants. It was once a popular meeting place for intellectuals, freedom fighters etc. Currently, college students visit frequently as near the coffee house exists the second-largest handbook market in the world.
M.P. Birla Planetorium
This is the second largest in the world. It is closer to attractions like St. Paul Cathedral and Victoria Memorial. There are regular shows every hour about the galaxies and its facts in different languages i.e. Bengali, Hindi and English. It’s also one of the oldest planetariums built-in 1962. With the up-gradation of advanced projectors and renovation in 2017, the experience of gazing at the projected universe makes it truly memorable. The M.P. Birla Planetarium is open from 12 PM to 6:30 PM to book tickets.
This park is located at BBD Bagh near Calcutta High Court and the General post office. Inaugurated in the year 1999, this park is one of the earliest projects with the riverside. This is a park that caters for both kids and adults with activities like bumpy cars, toy train, boat rides and much more. There’s also a food court at the park such that people can leisurely indulge and spend time in the gardens around the park. It is open from 10:00 AM to 6:30 PM
This is one of the largest urban parks that have picnic gardens, flower gardens, activities, musical fountains, replica of Seven Wonders of the World and much more. This park is huge that it might take an incredible amount of time to visit every corner. It is overwhelming and at the same time joyful. This park opens from 12:00 PM to 7:30 PM at most days and in Sundays/holidays opens at 11:00 AM.
This is an amusement park with plenty of fun family, kids and thrill rides. Inaugurated in the year 1991, it expansions occurred and continues to be one of the fun parks where everyone can have endless fun. They also have a replica of Eiffel Tower, a fighter aircraft as an attraction to the visitors. There are other activities like bowling, 4D movie theatre that can be entertained by adults. This park is open from 10:30 AM to 8 PM.
Alipore Zoological Garden
Alipore Zoo also known as Calcutta Zoo is one of the oldest yet busiest zoological parks in Kolkata. Few reasons why this zoo is popular. First, there was a giant tortoise that lived for 250 years and also tigers that were enclosed in large glass cages. The zoo otherwise houses exotic animals, reptiles, mammals, birds and also an aquarium. Tourists of all ages can visit and witness the species across the zoo. It’s open from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM.
Things to do in Kolkata
Experience the tram ride
One of the oldest trams that continue to function in a few areas. Tickets are cheap and its truly a joyous experience sitting on the tram and looking around the hustle and bustle of the city.
Relish the sweets & dishes
The city of joy has numerous eateries to offer. Popular sweets like Shondesh and Roshogolla are incredibly famous and are almost common in every household. There are other restaurants offering authentic Bengali experience and also in some areas also serve various western-style food in streets making it accessible to all kinds of tourists.
Sunderban National Park
A UNESCO world heritage site, that’s a treat for wildlife enthusiasts and in general tourists once visiting the park will witness Royal white Bengal tigers, a unique breed of birds, floral nature and many other species around the park.
Cuisines to taste in Kolkata
This is a traditional spicy fish curry with potatoes and tomatoes. Rice and fish are like a staple food at Kolkata so if you ever visit Kolkata, do not miss on savouring Macher Jhol. It’s present in every restaurant hence it will not be that hard to get it unnoticed.
This is a rich flavoured spicy mutton spicy curry infused with the range of vegetables that’s devoured with Luchis and is one of the popular dishes present at Kolkata. Available at various restaurants, you must give it a try and savour the delicious curry.
This is one such comfort food that is devoured by Bengali households. This is a dish with potatoes cooked in a tomato curry and is savoured with either luchi or rotis. To all the vegetarian tourists, this is a popular dish that’s worth devouring.
This dish cannot be skipped. This aromatic flavoured rice with chicken/mutton and potatoes makes it such a comforting hearty dish. There are restaurants that serve authentic Kolkata style biriyani and it sure is a dish to devour and not miss out.
This sweet yogurt is a must try for any sweet lovers. While there are certainly few numbers of brands offer in small packs, you must try fresh ones from authentic sweet shops. You will realise how pale others taste in comparison to the authentic Mishti Doi.
The sweets here at Kolkata have incredible amount of varieties that its hard to try all at once. Few popular ones like Shondesh and Roshogollas cannot be ignored as its almost like a staple in every Bengali household and is easily available by street vendors. It is an easy recommendation to try these sweets.
Souvenir to buy in Kolkata
- THE SHOLAPITH HANDICRAFTS: A traditional Bengali craft that’s prevalent in various social gatherings and festivals. Sholapith is a soft white core extracted from the stem of the spongy plant and is ultimately crafted into beautiful things. You will find its artworks in fairs and melas for an affordable price.
- THE CONCH SHELL BANGLES: These are bangles that are carved and crafted from the shells. You can either buy the whole shell or buy bangles. The shapes are never meant to be perfect as its carved from shells. There are bangles that are designed based on artists preferences. Available at jewellery stores, tourists can witness the Bengali Jewellery.
- SAREES: Kantha, Baluchari and Tant sarees are some of the authentic Bengali embroidered sarees. Available at various markets, these sarees exude vibrant colours and exquisite designs that are worth wearing in any occasion.
- TERRACOTTA: These are the soil souvenirs that come at an affordable price range. There are elements like Bankura horses, instruments, figurines, utensils and much more. The craftwork with red laterite started as early as the 16th century and it continues to be available at various craft shops across Kolkata.