Kolkata

Brief

Kolkata, previously called ‘Calcutta’, is a city beyond brick and mortar.With an enticing history, it is also one of the major metropolitan cities of India.In 1698 three villages, Sutanuti, Kolkata and Gobindapur, bought from the local landlord Sabarna Chowdhury, were joined by Job Charnock, an administrator of the English East India Company to form Calcutta, the capital of British India(1772-1911).

‘The city of joy’, is driven by emotions and love for its rich heritage, art, culture, festivals, food and football. Kolkata, the capital of the State of West Bengal has a chaotic sweetness to even her daily mundane.During the main festival of Bengal, the Durga Puja, nominated for UNICEF’s World Heritage Status, there is a huge rush in the city. Bengali, Hindi and English are the major languages spoken.

 

Travel Tips

Winter is pleasant and sunny with temperatures ranging from 20-12 degrees Celsius. Summers are sultry, temperatures crossing even 40 degrees Celsius with extreme humidity. So it is essential to wear cotton clothes during the summer season.

Most of the museums and other historical buildings have nominal entry fee and are closed on Mondays.The major markets are closed on Sundays.

Visiting Kolkata during Durga Puja (September/October) is definitely a unique experience, but bookings must be done well in advance as there in an unimaginable rush in the city.

Things to do

The Victoria Memorial, built between 1906 and 1921, in the memory of Queen Victoria, now a museum, is a majestic marble monument with a beautiful garden.Enjoy a ride on a horse carriage from the Victoria Memorial, around the green Maidanand the beautiful red road with horses grazing in the Race Course beside.

St. Paul’s Cathedral (1847), the seat of the Diocese of Calcutta, has an august Indo-gothic architecture. The huge trees around the area make the place magical.

Fort William (1696),now being used as the Eastern command headquarters for the Indian Army has its genesis in the British Raj.

The Shaheed Minaar (1824), a 50m tall and slender tower, standing on the green Brigade Ground, offers a bird’s eye view of the city. This monument is beautifully illuminated in the evening.

PrincepGhat (1841), built in memory of the English Scholar and antiquary, James Princep, has Greek and Gothic architecture with panoramic view of River Hooghly on one side and the modern VidyasagarSethuon the other. Boating, taking a stroll by the river and munching street side delicacies feel splendid.

Eden Gardens (1864), the oldest cricket stadium in India, is definitely a Cricket lover’s favourite spot.

For the film and art lovers,Nandan, the Film and Cultural Centre and Academy of Fine Arts, the first Fine Art Society in India are important. MohorKunjo or Citizen’s Park, famous for the musical fountain, is just opposite to the Academy.

A drive/walk around the Dalhousie Square is a must for history buffs. The stoned pavements and the colonial buildings with Laal Dighi at the centre, are similar to those of London’s Trafalgar Square. St. John’s Church (1787), Kolkata’s first Parish Church, faces the Dalhousie square. It was modelled after London’s Gibb’s St.Martin’s, with a Neo Classical Structure, with a 174ft tall stone spire with a giant clock. It’s compound being an age old cemetery, houses tombs and memorials of some eminent historic figures. The Calcutta Black Hole Monument, Lady Canning’s Memorial and the Mausoleum of JobCharnock, the founder of Calcutta, lie here. In this area you can see theGPO, Writers’ Building, Raj Bhavan, Metcalfe Hall and other imperial buildings standing tall.

MullikGhatFlowerMarket, near the southeast end of Howrah Bridge is Asia’s largest flower market and is fascinatingly colourful. An early morning stroll around the place with sip of a hot smacking chai, watching the local wrestlers’ practise their art, has a different essence.Ferry ride across the river in the evening, sighting the majestically lit Howrah Bridge, the historic cantilever bridge, is eventful indeed.

Rabindranath Tagore, India’s first Nobel Laureate was born atJorasanko Thakur Bari, to the eminent Thakur/Tagore family whose contribution to Indian Renaissance is remarkable. This house is now a heritage museum and gallery, objects and pictures, literary work and paintings by Rabindranath Tagore his family. A 10minutes’ walk will take you to the Marble Palace, a palatial marble building of the monarchs of the Imperial Era. Nakhoda Masjid, on Zakariya Street, Chitpur, is Kolkata’s principle mosque with majestic red lime stone structure. Zakariya Street comes alive with gastronomic adventures for Iftari during Ramadan.

If you are a photography buff, do visit the Kumartuli (especially pre Durga Puja) to see how the idols are being built and feel the romanticism.

Book lovers must visit Asia’s largest book market and the World’s 2nd largest market for 2nd hand books, the College Street, the mile long avenue dotted with book stores on both sides. The College Square houses the University of Calcutta, Asia’s oldest University, the Medical College and the Mahabodhi Society.

Nature lovers will definitely enjoy RabindraSarovar, a beautiful artificial lake spread across 192 acresamids the posh urban south and Howrah’sBotanical Garden withtheGiant BanyanTree as the starattaction. Another place to visit is the Zoological Garden of Kolkata, Alipore, spread over 45 acres, is the oldest in the country and houses around 1250 animals and is home to numerous migratory birds in the winter.

For shopping Dakshinapan and Gariahatshould not be missed. The Hogg market and the Newmarket in Esplanade area with Park Street being just beside, is the heart of Kolkata. It is not only a shopper’s paradise but also a food lover’s. There are numerous restaurants all along the street. Park Street’s illumination with lights, laughter and food is worth a visit during Christmas. Another unique spot is the South Park StreetCemetery with 1600 Indo-Gothic tombs. The Indian Museum, India’s oldest and the largestmuseum, is not only a must visit for its plethora of collectibles of Buddhist and Mughal exhibits, mummies and other Egyptian exhibits, fossils, skeletons and more but also for its massive architecture.

The Nicco Park,Wet-o-World, Aquatica, Newtown’s Eco Park and Biswa Bangla, Science City, Birla Planetarium, Birla Technical Museum, are all places for amusement and science enthusiasts.

The Birla Temple, the Kalighat temple, One of the 52 Shatipeeths, the Dakshineswar Temple where Shri Ramakrishna Paramhansa lived most of his days, Belur Math, the headquarters of Ramakrishna Math and Mission, founded by Swami Vivekananda, Ramakrishna’s chief disciple and Swamiji’s house, now turned into a museum, are significant sites.

What to Eat & Where to Eat

Kolkata’s Rasgulla, Mistidoi(Sweet Curd) and Sandesh (Made of cottage cheese) are unique. Try BalaramMullick&RadharamanMullick in South Kolkata or Nakur’s (Favourite of SRK and KKR) in north Kolkala or Bhim Chandra Nag in the Central. Besides sweets Bhim Nag is also famous for the customised Bengali Swiss made 19th Century clock gifted by Thomas Cooke. If you want to carry home a tin of Kolkata’s Rasgulla, KC.Das and BalaramMullick offer tinned rasgullas.

For Authentic Bengali dishes do visit 6, Ballygunge Place, Kewpie’s,Oh Calcutta(boneless fishavailable) and Kasturi.

Kolkata Biriyani is different from that of the rest of the country. Try out at Arselan, Aminiaor Shiraj.

Parkstreet is a repertoire of restaurants, from old and classic restaurants to modern hip lounges. You can also walk around with a kati roll from Kusuk Rolls. Mocambo and Peter Cat are legendary ones, famous for Chicken A-La-Kiev, Devilled Crabs and Chelo Kebabs.

Breakfast platter at Flury’s with variety of cakes and pastries are a must try.

Mainland China Restaurants are famous for authentic Chinese. Kolkata has a dedicated China Town for authentic Chinese food, with Beijing and Big Boss being most popular restaurants there. One can try great Chinese breakfast, early morning, on the streets at Terreti Market.

Try out College Street’s Paramount’s sherbets, the Daab Sherbet being the most unique one.

Getting Around

Public transport facility is good with private and state buses (Air conditioned too) and taxis. The North South stretch is well connected by Metro Railway. A lot of places are well connected by local trains. For local trips there are auto rickshaws and rickshaws, a few of them being those traditional hand pulled ones. The landmark Calcutta trams should not be missed too.

  • Flight

    Nearest Airport: Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport, Dumdum, is well connected to the city with buses and taxis.

     

  • Train

    Nearest Railway Station: The major Railway Stations connecting Kolkata nationally are at Howrah, Sealdah, Kolkata and Santragachi with well connecting local trains, buses and taxis.

     

  • Bus

    On road service:Calcutta Transport Corporation (CTC) has its major terminals at Esplanade, Golpark, Karunamoyee (Saltlake), Behala, and BBD Marg. Besides other cities of West Bengal, one can avail bus tickets from Kolkata to many other important cities outside West Bengal.

Surrounding Attractions

Mini Europe Heritage of Hooghly District: The Hanseswari Temple at Bansberiya (1814), Bandel Church (1599), Hooghly Imambara (1841), the Dutch town of Chinsura and Serampore and the French Colonial town of Chandannagar, famous for Jagadhatri Puja are heritage sites.

Bolpur, Shantiniketan, the land of Tagore’s vision isa beautiful picture of rural Bengal with amazing handicrafts and fabrics.

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