The cultural heart of India, Kolkata takes great pride in its art, literature and cuisine. The city sprawls along the Hooghly River's eastern bank, which divides it from Howrah on the west. There's scarcely a city so passionate about everything—from politics to sports to films—nothing is complete without a spirited, often unending conversation, fondly known as "adda". As India's third most populous metro, there is an air of urban decay to the city, but it still manages to charm every visitor.
Best time to visit Kolkata: October to March is the ideal time to explore the city of Kolkata.
How to reach
Flights to Kolkata: Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport is the nearest airport, located about 17km from the city centre. IndiGo operates over 100 daily non-stop flights to Kolkata and other key locations in India.
By train: Kolkata is well-connected to almost all major stations in India via a good railways network.
By bus: Kolkata has a vast network of buses, connecting it to the country's all significant parts by National Highways.
Getting around/transport in Kolkata: Kolkata is well-equipped with different kinds of modes of transportation, that includes buses, trams, auto-rickshaws, cycle-rickshaws, metro and local trains.
Kolkata’s famous biryani joint known for its chicken and mutton biryanis, chicken bharta, mutton seekh kebab, mutton tikka butter masala and firni.
Another biryani legend, this one is known more for its accompaniments—the mutton kassa and Murgh mussalam. If you happen to visit during the holy month of Ramazaan, don’t miss the haleem.
The perfect ‘Calcutta Continental’ joint famous for its chelo kebabs chicken or mutton kebabs served with buttered rice and topped with a fried egg.
An iconic bakery, confectionery and café since 1927, it is known for snacks and desserts, sandwiches, chicken patties, cream cakes, rum balls, chocolate boats, strawberry cubes and Darjeeling tea.
A spacious three-storey restaurant in Tangra or Chinatown. Try classics like stuffed tofu, prawn fuyong, Korean fish stick, kung pao chicken, threaded chicken, dragon’s eye (deep fried breaded shrimp) and dragon chicken. It’s packed on weekends, but well worth the wait. The slow-cooked suckling pig must be ordered a day in advance.
Owner Rakhi Purnima Dasgupta’s mother Minakshie Dasgupta (fondly called Kewpie) wrote the culinary bible The Bengal Cookbook, and the home-turned-restaurant is a tribute to her. Dine within lithograph-covered walls, with home-cooked dishes like doi potol (spicy pointed gourd masala), dhokar dalna (lentil preparation), chorchori (mixed vegetable curry) and jackfruit or ilish paturi, wrapped in leaves.
Kolkata’s macaron mademoiselle Sneha Singhi, a Cordon Bleu graduate, serves delicious egg-etarian fare of omelettes, sandwiches and pasta. Try the chicken n’ mushroom or creamy spinach n’ corn crêpes and red-velvet pancake with white-chocolate sauce.
Named after Manna Dey’s famous 70s Bangla song about a mythical cook, the famous Bengali cuisine chain has expanded to Puri, Bengaluru and Mumbai and a dozen locations across Kolkata. Try the thala (meal), various chops, bhetki kabiraji cutlet (fish cutlet in flaky egg), mutton dakbangla and murshidabadi raan (which serves three).
Dating back to 1923, this is the home of the Kolkata Kathi roll. Besides a decent biryani, there’s chicken and mutton rolls and the aloo-anda roll; the potato is fished out of biryani after being slow-cooked in ghee. No coincidence it’s on the road called Hogg Street!
You’ll find great Bengali cuisine with an all-day buffet on the ground floor, à la carte on the first and a range of mocktails named after city roads. Try prawn cutlet, bhapa ilish (steamed hilsa), gondhoraj chicken and daab chingri (creamy prawns served in a tender coconut), besides nolen gurer ice cream and baked mihidana pearl pudding.
The Oberoi Grand, Jawaharlal Nehru Road Dubbed the Grand Dame of Chowringhee, the 1880s British-era building has an excellent Spa and Thai restaurant. Take the hotel’s guided European Walk to sights like Dead Letter Office, St. Andrew’s Church, Writer’s Building, Tank Square and Job Charnock's Mausoleum.
The Lalit Great Eastern, Old Court House Street Kolkata When it opened as The Great Eastern Hotel in 1840, it was Asia’s first luxury hotel. Today, the beautifully refurbished property at Dalhousie Square is a throwback to colonial times. If you’re feeling peckish, the Bakery does excellent pies.
The Corner Courtyard, Sarat Bose Road An elegant and arty boutique hotel with décor that includes a bread machine, rusty irons and objects from the 1830s. Stay here for an experience that’s not cookie-cutter.
Bodhi Tree, Swiss Park A beautiful boutique guesthouse and serviced apartment with thematic rooms and classy suites in a quiet corner of South Kolkata near Rabindra Sarovar Metro station. The quiet, meditative ambience, is heightened with its art gallery-cum-café Monastery of Art and garden and patio library.
Redbrick Residency, Sarat Bose Road A century-old heritage guest house with four rooms, period furniture and a dedicated caretaker (who can source Kolkata’s famous biryani). The central location is a big plus!
Rich in Gothic and Greek inlays, Prinsep Ghat is one of the oldest recreational spots in Kolkata. The place is usually crowded on weekends with people strolling along the bank or boating on the river while enjoying a stunning view of Vidyasagar Setu.
Tagore lovers can visit the poet's family home Jorasanko Thakur Bari (Rabindra Bharati University campus) for plays and other cultural events. Kolkata has a busy calendar with jazz shows at the Dalhousie Institute and concerts at Max Mueller Bhavan and The Seagull Foundation of the Arts for literature, art exhibitions and other events.
This 480-acre Park is a favourite spot in the city among locals and tourists also. The place is equally entertaining for children and adults. It comprises multiple themed areas such as Herb Garden, Wildflower Meadow, Bamboo Forest, Formal Garden, Tropical Rain Forest, Rabi Aranya, Tea Garden, Fruits Mask Garden. Besides the par also has separate entertainment space like music fountain, Shishu Kendra, Rose Garden, Baul Gram, and Ayurvedic centre.
If you love wildlife and want to add thrill to your trip then visit Sundarbans is a must. Home to the Royal Bengal Tiger, this sizeable coastal mangrove forest area is spread over 4262 sq km. If you are lucky, you might see monitor lizards, Ganges River dolphin in their natural habitat, crocodiles, and Olive Ridley Turtles presently under the conservation program. The winter months are best to visit Sunderbans Tiger reserve, so plan your trip accordingly.
West Bengal was known for its zamindar culture and to know all about it, you need to Sabarna Sangrahashala that preserves the history, culture, and traditions of influential zamindar families dating back to 10th century. Developed by the Sabarna Roy Choudhury Paribar Parishad, it is run entirely by the family without government aid. The exhibits range from cooking vessels to ivory boxes to documents and stamps.
Built in a mix of Turkish, Syrian and Egyptian style, this monument is an iconic landmark for the city. It has an Egyptian base with a height of 158 feet, a dome in Turkish Ottoman design and a pillar in Syrian style. There are two balconies at the top of the pillar, but prior permission must be reached there.
This area was once home to 20,000 traditional Chinese Indian nationals which has now decreased to only 2,000 people. But it still has the impression and charm of Chinese culture in architecture, culture and especially the food. Several restaurants serve authentic Chinese food.
The city is also an excellent base for excursions–cultural tours to Bolpur and Santiniketan, and historical trails to Barrackpore where Mangal Pandey ignited the first spark of the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny. While there, pop by at Dada Boudi biryani opposite the railway station for a quick bite.
You must visit Kolkata during Durga Pujo as the city wears a festive look with locals and tourists alike thronging street-side food stalls and decorated puja pandals vie to outdo the other in concept and design.
The biggest festival of the Bengali community is Durga Puja which commemorates the victory of Goddess Durga over a demon king Mahisasur. It marks as the universal resurgence of the power of creation over destruction. Durga is the Goddess of divine power against all evils. The story goes that Mahisasur, the Buffalo Demon, through years of praying, received the blessing from Lord Brahma, that no power can kill him, which means he is invincible. But once gaining this power, he started ravaging the whole world and killing people. And, finally, he wanted to uproot the Gods too. The Gods, in dismay, combined their powers to create a beautiful maiden, and each placed his or her most potent weapon in one of her ten hands.
It is an extravaganza that unfolds the age-old tradition and culture, and in contrast, it is the time when you can get hold of people in traditional wears. During Durga Puja Festival, the city explodes with more than thousand thematic and colourful pandals (fabricated structure) and reveals several forms of goddess Durga idols, thus pulling in a huge number of people and making it one of the biggest festivals in the world.
In Kolkata, people consider this day to be very fortunate for their children to start writing for the first time and is also marked by young girls wearing colourful sarees and going out on the streets to visit the richly decorated pandals of Goddess Saraswati.