Visit Kolakata, one of the most intriguing cities of the world. The city of music, theatre, historical buildings and interesting side streets. The erstwhile capital of British India, Kolkata has grown into one of the largest metropolitan cities of the world. A fascinating amalgam of life's extremities, where the hand drawn rickshaw of the yesteryears and the modern underground metro rail co-exist. It is a city with a soul.
The gateway to the mystic east, it has a fabled past and a fascinating present. The enigma that is Kolkata, is for every individual to discover. The heritage trail winds along the bustling streets to reveal a treasure of antiques, architecture, music, festivals and fairs, soccer matches, quiet evenings on a boat and much more. Visit the Victoria Memorial, Indian Museum, St.Paul's Cathedral, Sahid Minar, Tagore House, Marble Palace, Kalighat, Pareshnath Jain Temple, National Library or the clubs of Kolkata.
Great wealth yet great poverty, spaciousness cheek by jowl with the most overcrowded slums in the world, labour rallies and processions, Durga Puja and the delicacy known as misthi doi - Kolkata has all of it and more. A fascinating city with history and a treasured culture.
Calcuttans are friendly, warm and always ready to help. The city has many hotels and guest houses for the weary traveller and a well-knit transport system. Kolkata make you feel at home.
People & Culture
What to see
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Three hundred years ago, the city of Calcutta was born on the banks of the River Hoogly. The story dates back to Job Charnock and his chance mid-day halt near the quaint little village of Sutanuti, where the sparkle of green on the horizon promised repose to a tired British sailor.
It was much later that the villages of Sutanuti, Gobindapur and Kalikata were united to form the city of Calcutta, a British trading port that was destined to shape centuries of Indian history. A city of Nawabs and palaces, of Zamindars and baijis, of mujras and mushairas, of artists and craftsmen, it was the repository of a rich artistic tradition. Over the years, Kolkata thrived and became an important centre of the British Raj, a leading centre of commerce and a port of call for east bound vessels.
Patronized by wealthy and cultured connoisseurs, Kolkata had become a social and cultural capital. Gateway to the orient, it is where many journeys to the East begin.
The exquisite Victoria Memorial shining in the afternoon sunlight, the majestic facade of the Kolkata Museum, the gracefully sloping roofs of the Dakhineshwar Kalibari and the delicacy of the style of the Bengal School of painting reveal the rich diversity of the Bengali artistic heritage. Kolkata, a city with 25 museums, 22 identified heritage buildings, two golf clubs and the finest Polo club from the days of the Raj, is where the trail leads.
This city sheltered five Nobel laureates who have done India proud: Surgeon Major Ronald Ross, who discovered how malaria was being carried; Dr. C V Raman - the mathematician; Rabindranath Tagore - the bard of Bengal; Mother Teresa who needs no introduction and Amartya Sen who won the prize for Economics.
Kolkata is the hearth of art, literature, theatre, music and cinema. Drop in at The Academy of Fine Arts and The Alternative Art Gallery at Park Street to view the paintings of contemporary artists of Kolkata. Watch the native theatres of Bengal at the Mudhusudan Mancha in Dhakuria or the cultural shows at the Kala Mandir. Drop in at Nandan Cinema Hall. Visit the music stores to buy the popular albums of Usha Uthup, classical melodies of Ravi Shankar, Rabindra Sangeet or Nazrulgeet. Watch the magic shows of the P.C. Sorcar family.
Calcutta is a festive city. People love to celebrate. The main festivals are:
Kolkata Book Fair All the major book publishers of India set up stalls at the Kolkata Maidan. Publishers from other countries regularly participate. Books are available at amazing discounts.
Holi A spring festival. The traditional Bengali name of the festival is Dol-Jatra, a festival much loved by Bengal's religious leader Sree Chaitanya.
Bengali New Year
Academy of Fine Arts
Ashutosh Museum of Indian Art
Birla Industrial and Technological Museum
Fort William Named after King William III of England, construction of the present Fort William was completed at the end of the eighteenth century at the cost of two million pounds. A garrison of ten thousand can be accommodated here and six hundred guns can be mounted. Within the fort premises there is a church, a market, a post and telegraph office, a cinema, a swimming pool, a boxing stadium, parade and football grounds and a firing range.
A beautiful Gothic style construction, built in 1872.
Kali Temple (Kali Ghat)
Netaji Indoor Stadium
Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture
Zoological Gardens, Alipore
Places to eat
Calcutta has a wide variety of hotels: multicuisine, Indian, Chinese and Vegetarian. Multicuisine restaurants include Blue Fox (Park Street ), Amber ( Waterloo Street ), Kwality ( Gariahata Road ). Indian restaurants include Regent ( Chowringhee Place ), Aminia ( S.N. Banerjee Road ), Royal Hotel ( Rabindra Sarani ). Vineet ( Shakespeare Sarani ) and Gupta Brothers ( Park Street ) provide good vegetarian food. Kim Wah (Garcha Road ) and Jimmy's Kitchen ( A J C Bose Road ) offer Chinese cuisine.
How to get there
Air: Calcutta is connected by Indian Airlines and other private airlines with all the major cities of India. Netaji Shubash Chandra Bose International Airport is served by a number of leading carriers, including Air India, Thai International, Royal Nepal, Bangladesh Biman and Burma Airways.
Rail: Calcutta is well connected by rail with all the major Indian cities. Its two main railway stations are at Howrah and Sealdah.
Road: Calcutta is connected with major cities and towns through an extensive network of national highways.
Sea: The shipping corporation of India operates steamers from Calcutta to Port Blair in the Andaban and Nicobar Islands.
New Market is every shopper's paradise: garments, leather goods, jewellery and souvenirs are sold there. Fancy Market - Kidderpore sells a wide range of foreign goods. B.B.D. Bagh ( Dalhousie Square ) is the commercial hub of Eastern India and the nerve centre of the West Bengal government. Browse the road-side book stalls of College Street and Free School Street for rare and valuable books. Drop in at Seagull in Bhowanipore for the latest Indian best-sellers. Most definitely visit the Dakshinapan Shopping Complex having a huge galaxy of ethnic souvenir stores from various states of India.
Languages: English, Bengali, Hindi
Information & photos: Pallavi Bhattacharya
Editor: Romola Butalia   (c) India Travelogue. All rights reserved.