History and Culture:
Calcutta was established in the year 1686, as a result of the expansion plans of the British Raj. Job Charnok, an agent of the East India Company chose this place for a British trade settlement. The site was carefully selected, being protected by the Hooghly River on the west, a creek to the north, and by salt lakes about two and a half miles to the east. There were three large villages along the east bank of the river Ganges, named, Sutanuti, Gobindapur and Kalikata. Calcutta derived its name from the last of the village settlements of Kalikata. The word “Kalikata” has origins from the Bengali word “Kalikshetra” meaning Ground of the Goddess Kali. In 1772, Calcutta became the capital of British India, and remained so till 1912, after which the capital was shifted to Delhi. In 1947, when India got freedom and the country got partitioned between India and Pakistan, Calcutta was included in the Indian part of Bengal – the state of West Bengal and became the capital of the state. In 2001, Calcutta was officially renamed Kolkata.
Kolkata is rightly referred as the ‘Cultural Capital of India’, that pioneers the Indian renaissance. It is a city that has nurtured literary and artistic heritage since ages. Durga Puja is the grand festivity of Kolkata and celebrated with pomp. It boasts of the ingenious generations of writers, poets, dancers, singers, musicians, filmmakers, painters, Nobel laureates and many more. Music and dance are the two most integral cultural aspects of Kolkata, and are taught to every Bengali.
Things to see in Kolkata:
Tips: The Victoria memorial gallery is open from Tuesday to Sunday, 10 AM – 5 PM. For foreigners – the entry fee to the museum is Rs. 200/-(per head).
The Victoria memorial gardens are open all days of the week from 5.30 AM – 6.15 PM. Daily ticket : Rs. 10/- (per head, per entry)
The iconic landmark of Kolkata has turned 75 this year, making it all the more essential to pay a visit there.
The Marble Palace
Built by an affluent Bengali merchant Raja Rajendra Mullick in a neoclassical style, this incredible building is made up of 26 varieties of Italian marble.
Opening hours: 10 AM – 8 PM
Ticket Price: Free, but a permit must be acquired from the West Bengal Tourism Information Bureau at BBD Bag, Kolkata, at least a day before the intended day of visit since a part of it is still a private residence.
Sprawling over forty acres of land on the west bank of the Hooghly River, Belur; the Belur Math in Kolkata is a place of pilgrimage and also the headquarters of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission.
Opening hours for museum: Tuesday to Sunday. Morning: 8:30 AM to 11:30 AM, Evening: 3:30 PM to 5:30 PM.
South Park Street Cemetery
The Park Street Cemetery is one of the oldest cemeteries of Kolkata. The mausoleums and memorials are architecturally impressive and represent the grandeur of the colonial period. It houses the tombs of distinguished expatriates who were once an integral part of Kolkata’s history.
Opening hours: 10 AM – 5 PM
Kolkata’s lovely 109-hectare Botanical Gardens make for a great place to escape from the city’s frazzling sounds and smells. Founded in 1786, the gardens are home to more than 12,000 plant species.
Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday 6 AM – 5 PM
Price: Rs. 100 for foreigners
Things to do in Kolkata:
Grab breakfast in Chinatown
Known as Tiretti Bazaar, it is the best place grab to a hearty street breakfast of momos (dumplings), sausages or rolls to set you up for a day’s sightseeing.
Ride the Kolkata Tram
Kolkata is the only city in India where you can ride an electric tram through the streets. The trams have a wide network throughout the city, with stations at all the major junctions. The base fare starts from only Rs. 4. Tram route from Kidderpore to Esplanade takes only Rs. 5.
Go First Edition Book Hunting on College Street
Kolkata’s used books market, College Street, is the second largest of its kind in the world and a book collector’s paradise. Many bookstores here contain rare publications or first editions of books dating back to the 19th and 20th centuries.
Best Places to Eat in Kolkata:
Popularly known for its curious blend of Bengali and Continental cuisine, Bohemian is a favourite amongst Bengalis! Their star dishes are the Kacha Lonka Mangsho, Bhetki, Chital and Cheesecake Malpua. They have a beautiful decor and cozy ambience.
Cuisines: Bengali, Continental, Seafood
Address: 32/4, Old Ballygunge, 1st Lane, Near Bondel Road, Ballygunge, Kolkata
Flurys is the perfect location to catch up over a traditional English cream tea or grab a refreshing break from the summer heat with an iced coffee with ice cream. Flurys is also the place to go in Kolkata for weekend brunch, serving its popular English breakfast all day.
Cuisines: Bakery, Continental, Cafe, Desserts
Address: Opposite McDonald’s, 18A, Park Street, Park Street area, Kolkata
Nizam’s claims to be the inventor of the famous kathi roll, which has become one of the must-try dishes in Kolkata. Apart from this amazing comfort food, you can also try their delicious Mutton Rogan Josh and Phirni.
Cuisines: Fast Food, Mughlai, North Indian
Address: 24, Hogg Street, New Market, New Market Area, Dharmatala, Taltala, Kolkata
This amazing gem located in the Ballygunge area is very evidently an absolute favourite amongst the Bengalis! Ideal for a romantic date, this place is popular for its classy decor and soothing ambience, and a courteous staff. The food here is exceptional, and people love the Shepherd’s Pie, Sushi, Dajaj Chermoula, Spicy Rice, Mousse and Saffron Rice here.
Cuisines: Continental, Asian, Middle Eastern
Address: 54/1/2A, Hazra Road, Ballygunge Phari, Near Hazra Law College, Ballygunge, Kolkata
Kolkata comprises of an amazing blend of different cuisines, and not just Bengali food. There BarBQ to prove that! This awesome Chinese/North Indian cuisine-selling restaurant has some classic favourites such as Chicken Butter Masala, Chicken Hakka Chowmein, Chicken Bharta, Mutton Rogan Josh and Chicken Honey. It’s also loved by the Bongs for its great ambience and friendly staff.
Cuisines: Chinese, North Indian
Address: 43-47-55, Park Street Area, Kolkata
Best Budget Hotel: Hotel Cecil
Cecil is a great budget hotel with lots of facilities such as Complimentary breakfast, Air conditioned rooms, Laundry, WiFi connectivity, Television, Call – in doctor and Room service at a very affordable price.
Address: 52/1/1, College Street, Bow Bazaar, Kolkata
Prices: Rooms start from Rs. 2499.
Best Boutique Hotel: The Corner Courtyard
With a range of themed rooms in bright colours and lush, quirky decor, The Corner Courtyard offers a unique Kolkata experience that’s not to be missed. Along with its intimately designed rooms, the boutique hotel is also home to a vibrant restaurant serving a range of local and international dishes.
Address: 92B, Sarat Bose Road, Hazra, Bhowanipore, Kolkata
Price range: Rs. 3,597 – Rs. 5,523
Best Luxury Hotel: Oberoi Grand
Opened in 1888, this luxury heritage hotel is a palatial landmark in the Kolkata and offers well-appointed rooms, excellent dining, great facilities and truly wonderful service a stone’s throw from the main sights.
Address: 15, Jawaharlal Nehru Road, New Market Area, Dharmatala, Taltala, Kolkata
Price range: Rooms start from Rs. 8000.
- India’s coolest Street Art Organisation, St+art India launched itself a couple of days ago in Kolkata with a series of small-scale events in collaboration with Bonjour India and Aravani Art Project, and the theme for the city was “The Unseen”. Started from 4th and ended on 14th February, Kolkata has been witnessing the well-known French artist Chifumi gifting the city walls and its people with beautiful artworks in his famous bright pop art theme. He has been focussing on the lives of people living in the infamous red light districts of the city, thereby attracting the common man’s attention towards the subject, and provoking thought and conversation on the matter.
- Blue and Beyond is one of the best rooftop restaurants in the city where you can get a bird’s eye view of New Market and see as far as the Victoria Memorial. Although it is pretty during the day, it is ideal during the sunset. The scattered plants and candle-light add to the mood.