India’s cultural capital is a shock to most tourists, and not always in a good way. Kolkata has its fair share of confronting poverty, crumbling colonial architecture and street kids desperate to sell sympathetic visitors a ‘bargain’. But amidst teeming streets thick with the flavour of human life are some of India’s brightest gems.
South Kolkata is the city’s fanciest quarter and one of the least congested. Equally ritzy are the five-star hotels, theme parks and Bengali gentry housing estates of fast-developing East Kolkata. Further up meanwhile, North Kolkata’s narrow lanes and centuries-old buildings are an ode to romantic dilapidation. The Esplanade is the clogged artery of Kolkata’s fast-beating heart, where the bustling human life flows faster than the nearby River Ganges.
Kolkata's Top 10
10. National Library The 250-year-old former viceregal residence is now full of bookshelves and reading rooms, but you’ll probably spend more time ogling the palatial interior…
5. Birla Planetarium The informative shows explaining the intricate world of planets and galaxies are sure to fascinate.
9. Saheed Minar This massive 48m (157ft) high column celebrates the martyrs of the freedom struggle.
4. Eden Gardens More for cricket fans than nature freaks, the gargantuan Eden Gardens is the oldest stadium in India and one of the finest in the world.
8. Nicco Park Spread over 40 acres, the ‘Disneyland of Kolkata’ is a feast for the eyes of nature freaks and adrenaline junkies alike.
3. Howrah Bridge The best-known landmark in Kolkata is best viewed from a distance, when the pretty lights mask its dirtiness.
7. Writer’s Building This massive heritage site has been home to all shades of political opinion. Whatever yours is, you’re bound to appreciate its grand red façade.
2. Victoria Memorial Modelled on the Taj Mahal, this early 20th century structure has its status as one of Kolkata’s top tourist attractions to thank for its well-maintained anatomy.
6. Marble Palace The eclectic and bizarre mix of magnificent sculptures and shoddy maintenance is everything a 19th century Kolkata mansion should be.
1. Fort William You’ll have to get permission to enter this majestic former British fortress, constructed in 1781 and still a picturesque site on the banks of the Hooghly. Its predecessor was the site of the infamous Black Hole of Calcutta.
- Fort William – This indestructible British Citadel in Kolkata was built in 1773 and is still in use today.
- Victoria Memorial – A wonderful monument made with Makrana marble in the Italian Renaissance style.
- Race Course – One of the best is Asia, built in 1819.
- Raj Bhavan – Built in 1803 and home to the governor of Bengal, with many rare works of art.
- Tagore House – Birthplace of India’s most well-known modern poet, Rabindranath Tagore.
Kolkata Art & Culture
- Indian Museum – Built in Italian-style architecture in 1877, it includes Buddhist Gandharan art, unique fossils and an Egyptian mummy.
- Marble Palace – Built by Raja Tajendra Mullick in 1840 and now a museum.
- National Library – This stately home in Kolkata was once home to British Viceroys.
- Science City – An exposition park with a space flight simulator, space theatre, a recreated Jurassic forest, butterfly corner and more.
- Kolkata Book Fair – The biggest book fair in Asia is held during the last week of January and first week of February.
- Rabindra Sarani – A traditional shopping area that brings in lots of crowds.
- Dakshinapan Shopping Complex – A large, open-air shopping area with a lovely courtyard in the middle.
- Fancy Market – Offers a wide selection of foreign and imported goods.
- Central Cottage Industries Emporium – Features wonderful local handicrafts.
- New Market – Kolkata’s most well-known and oldest market area, with more than 2,000 stalls.
Gay & Lesbian Kolkata
- Aqua Cocktail Lounge – A place to find a great hip crowd.
- Olympus Bar – A wonderful place in Kolkata to find something to eat or drink.
- Nandan Theatre – A cultural hub and a popular place to hang out.
- Sam’s Bar – Great place to meet new friends.
- Someplace Else – Offers a great variety of music and live bands on the weekends.
- Eden Gardens – A lovely garden in Kolkata that includes a Burmese pagoda and a small lake.
- Outram Ghat – Set on the riverfront of the Ganges and place for a wonderful walk or cruise on the river.
- Zoological Garden – Built in 1876 on 16 hectares of land. The lakes are a favourite place for migratory Siberian birds.
- Horticultural Garden – A lush area where you can find exotic flowers and plants.
- Rabindra Sarovar – Great spot for a picnic, with overhanging trees and a lake that offers regatta events.
- The Mohun Bagan Athletic Club and East Bengal Club offer soccer games.
- Kolkata’s Cricket Stadium is found in Eden Gardens and offers great games.
- The Royal Calcutta Golf Club is the first club in the world outside of Britain and offers a 18-hole golf course.
- To catch tennis games, check out the Kolkata South Club.
- The Royal Kolkata Turf Club is the place to go for equestrian races and polo matches.
Kolkata, formerly known as Calcutta, is the capital of West Bengal in India. Situated on the banks of the Hooghly River, Kolkata beckons visitors with its rich history and beautiful architecture, such as the Marble Palace and the Victoria Memorial. Kolkata is an extraordinary location to discover art, culture, history and, most of all, a refreshed spirit.
- Kali Temple of Dakshineshwar
- St Paul’s Cathedral
- Nicco Park
- Attend Durga Puja, an important fall festival
- See the beautiful Indian Museum of Kolkata
- Tour the Academy of Fine Arts
The summer months of May through August experience hot and humid days, with highs reaching about 104°F (40°C). Winter tends to last for about two and a half months, and temperatures drop to 57°F (14°C) between December and February. The average annual temperature is 80°F (27°C), annual rainfall measures 62 inches (1,575 mm) and the best time to visit is from October to March.
Getting There & Around
The Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport, located in Dum Dum to the north of the city, provides both domestic and international flights to Kolkata. Visitors can take trams and buses to reach hotels.
Public transport in the city is provided by Kolkata Metro, which is run by Indian Railways. With its extensive network, travellers are able to get about the city as well as the distant suburbs.
If you’re not Hindu, don’t try to enter the temple during Ratha Yatra in June/July. Happily, you can still enjoy the fairs and festivities of the event celebrating the symbolic movement of the chariot of Jagannath.
Kolkata comes to vibrant life for the Durga Puja Festival commemorating the goddess Durga and her trusty lion steed in late-September or early October.
The lavish street fairs that mark Eid are open to all in October/November. Kolkata is the gastronomic capital of Eastern India, so come hungry.
When To Go
Expect plenty of rain if visiting between May and September.
Most tourists arrive in the dry months between November and April, when the heat subsides and a walk around the Esplanade isn’t almost physically impossible.
The coolest months are December and January, when daytime averages still hover around 27°C (81°F).
More Info On Getting Around
Taxis are readily available and relatively affordable, but hone your bargaining skills for travelling at night and out to the fringes.
Kolkata has an extensive and very cheap bus network. Wave one down and jump in quickly – they will stop pretty much anywhere.
Want a more unique mode of travel? Hop in a rickshaw – the human-powered ones are still the best.
15 hotels in Kolkata, IN
With modern deluxe accommodations set close to local commercial establishments and leisure points, Jameson Inn Shiraz makes for an ideal base for business and leisure travellers looking for an... More
Hotel Lindsay welcomes travellers with affordable accommodations and genuine Indian hospitality in this heritage-rich Indian city. Tourists at this cosy Kolkata hotel should not miss a stop at... More
Boasting modern architectural design in central Kolkata, Fortune Select Loudon Hotel Kolkata offers a stylish base suitable for business trips and holiday vacations. Travellers can have a look at... More
Whether in Calcutta for a corporate trip or a much-awaited vacation, The Pride Hotel Kolkata offers an luxurious haven within a convenient location within the business district close to recreation... More
Whether travelling on business or pleasure, The Park Kolkata offers unlimited comfort and quality accommodation for a unforgettable holiday experience. GeneralThe meeting rooms, all with natural... More
Featuring luxurious accommodation and gracious hospitality, this charming property makes you to enjoy all the privileges, for an unforgettable stay. GeneralThe hotel offers 3 well-appointed... More
Experience the comfortable accommodation blended with warm hospitality and an excellent service Swissotel Kolkata. Indian Museum is the largest museum in Asia and the oldest in the Asia - Pacific... More
The location of the hotel near the airport is ideal for a business traveller who wishes to stay adjacent the airport. WHR01F 02/09 A modern contemporary design O2 Hotel is located just 1 km from... More
Located in a quiet environment near Hooghly River and connected to Kona Expressway, Fortune Park Panchwati Hotel Kolkata offers a contemporary business haven that promotes style and comfort in this... More