“Calcutta is beautiful. Wherever you place a camera, you get a vision” said the popular writer and director – Pradeep Sarkar and the man couldn’t have been more right. The second biggest city in the country looks like a fantasy town that came to life straight out of a brilliant novel. The old-colonial era buildings in the former British capital add a certain charm to the city that makes it an absolute treat to a beholder’s eyes. No wonder the busy city is praised by many as the intellectual, cultural, and artistic capital of the country!
Take a walk in North Kolkata to witness the chaotic lifestyle of the present day crowd function in perfect harmony against the backdrop of a bygone era. And the food! Don’t miss out on a delightfully gastronomic experience in the alluring food streets of Kolkata. If the hectic city life slightly aches your bones, sit near one of the picturesque Ghats and let the hot tea help you forget the world!
16 Best Places To Visit In Kolkata
- New Market
- Victoria Memorial
- Howrah Bridge
- Park Street
- South Park Cemetery
- Dakshineshwar Kali Temple
- Belur Math
- Fort William
- Prinsep Ghat
- Old Chinatown
- Mother Teresa’s House
- National Library
- Piyali Islands
- Calcutta Botanical Garden
1. New Market [Lindsey Street]
Are you ready to bargain? This is because the shopkeepers at the New Market have the ability to convince you to buy anything under the sun, and truly so. With over 2,000 stalls, the New Market is a one stop destination for all your needs. Built by the British in 1874, the market was formerly known as Sir Stuart Hogg Market and was bustling with the upper class British. Now, in the 21st century, the market has adapted to the classic Indian routine. Even though the market closes around 8 pm, don’t restrict yourself, the tranquillity of the brightly light street lights and stalls serving delicious tea and snacks is a sight that will soothe your soul!
2. Victoria Memorial [Queen’s Way]
The great big, white marble building that stands in the heart of the city is the brainchild of George Curzon, Viceroy of India. It is a vital part of Kolkata tourism. The memorial was built to commemorate Queen Victoria in between the years of 1906 to 1921. It has now been transformed into a beautiful museum that houses a remarkable collection of ancient artefacts in its 25 stunning galleries. One of the most popular tourist spots in Kolkata, Victoria Memorial receives visitors from all over the globe. The architectural wonder is built in Indo-Saracenic revivalist style with a blend of British architecture and methods borrowed from various parts of the world such as Egyptian, Mughal, Venetian, Islamic, and Deccani.
The memorial is open from 10 am to 5 pm on all days of the week and the entry fee starts from Rs 20.
3. Howrah Bridge [Connecting Howrah & Kolkata]
The fourth busiest Cantilever bridge in the world is probably the first suggestion you will get when you ask about the best places to visit in Kolkata. The celebrated landmark built upon River Hooghly acts as a gateway to Kolkata and connects the eastern Bank of Howrah to the western banks of Kolkata. The construction of this architecturally brilliant bridge was initiated in 1939 and the bridge was renamed as Rabindra Setu to honour the Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore in 1965. About 90,000 vehicles and hundreds of pedestrians travel on this bridge every day.
4. Park Street [“Food Street”]
“The street that never sleeps” has been the seal of Kolkata’s vibrant night life since the 40s. Many popular musicians, artists and writers walked around, wrote, sang, and played in the long-standing, popular night spots that still have the power to light up the creativity in any artist that walks into them. With plenty of restaurants and pubs, the Park Street has forever remained Kolkata’s favourite hangout spot and an integral part of Kolkata tourism. The historical street houses some ancient monuments and buildings from the British era that add to the culture of this unique street. The street has now been officially renamed as Mother Teresa Sarani and was earlier called as the Burial Ground Road.
5. South Park Cemetery [On Park Street, Kolkata]
Another popular tourist spot in Kolkata, the South Park Cemetery is unlike any other place in the city. Well-known as one of the earliest non-church cemeteries in the world, it is located on the popular and busy Park Street. The heritage site that’s protected under the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is the resting place of many notable personalities. Constructed with a mix of Gothic and Indo-Saracenic style of architecture, the memorials are constructed with a classic taste and peppered with tombs and sculptures. Even though visiting a cemetery on a trip isn’t for everyone, it is a perfect spot for those who poetically look for beauty in death.
6. Dakshineswar Kali Temple [Dakshineswar near Kolkata]
The temple of the goddess who is believed “to liberate her devotees from the ocean of existence” – Bhavatarini, a manifestation of goddess Kali, was constructed by a philanthropist called Rani Rashmoni in 1855. The beautiful temple complex built in the classic ‘Nava-ratna’ style of Bengali architecture is a popular pilgrimage spot for Hindu devotees. The temple that stands on the calm eastern bank of the Hooghly River was once a residing place of the Hindu mystic – Ramakrishna Paramahansa. It is among one of the most famous temples in Kolkata.
7. Belur Math [West Bank of Hooghly River, Belur]
On the western bank of the Hooghly River, the historic Belur Math welcomes peace-seekers from all over the world, whether or not they are interested in or follow any religion. As the headquarters of Ramakrishna mission, the popular pilgrimage spot consists of prayer halls and shrines dedicated to Sri Ramakrishna, Sri Sarada Devi and Swami Vivekananda. As Sri Ramakrishna’s resting place, a memorial lies within the Math and the swami’s belongings are displayed in his room for the visitors. The excellent architecture and spiritual ambience make Belur Math one of the best places to visit in Kolkata.
8. Fort William [Eastern Banks of the River Hooghly]
The monumental fort initiated by the British East India Company and reconstructed by Sirāj al-Dawlah, nawab of Bengal stands speaking volumes of India’s historical past. Built on the eastern banks of the Hooghly River, presently, the fort serves as the headquarters of the Eastern Command wing of the Indian Army. Named after King William III, the fort stands in front of the largest park in the city – Maidan. A special permit from the Commanding Officer is required to visit Fort William and it is open from 10 am to 5 pm on all days of the week! It is no doubt one of the best historical places in Kolkata.
9. Prinsep Ghat [ Between Water Gate and the St George’s Gate]
Built by the British in 1841 on the bank of Hooghly River, the Prinsep Ghat is a great place to spend a relaxing evening. Open your picnic baskets or enjoy delicious street food and chai as you sit in front of the silent waters overlooking the Vidyasagar Setu. Boating services are also available at the Ghat and it makes for an excellent spot for romantic dates. The picturesque location boasts of monuments built in elegant Greek and Gothic styles.
10. Old Chinatown [Tiretta Bazaar]
The only such Chinatown in India is home to Kolkata’s ancient market that comes alive as the sun sets. Tiretta Bazaar crawls with hungry Indians looking for authentic Chinese street food. Once home to hundreds of Chinese merchants, the old market is slightly losing its originality with the struggle to adapt to the modern world. The historical street food destination opens up early in the morning for those looking to have a scrumptious breakfast with a minimal budget.
11. Kumartuli [Traditional Potters’ Quarter in northern Kolkata]
If you’re looking for the ultimate cultural tour of Kolkata, turn your graze towards the artistic lanes of Kumartuli. The traditional potters’ quarter is where most of the globally admired Durga idols are sculpted with devotion and perfection for the famous Durga Puja. The skilled potters here depend on their ancestral art of clay idol making for their livelihood. Over 150 families and thousands of artisans work hard in the congested studios to bring out some of the most intricate work ever seen in the history. If you have an innate passion for art and untouched empathy for artists, this is the place you have to be.
12. Mother Teresa’s House [Ripon Street]
Kolkata tourism thrives due to this famous place as well. The tale of the historical and cultural land of Kolkata is incomplete without the moving anecdotes from the life of the humanitarian and Nobel Peace Prize laureate – Mother Teresa. Mother’s house receives hundreds of visitors from all over the world who come here to pay homage to the sacrifice of a great human being and rest amongst the peacefulness of her followers’ beliefs. The place also receives many volunteers who attempt to walk in the path that was charted by Mother Theresa and serve the ones that are in need of other’s help. The missionary remains open from 8 am till 6 pm on all days except Thursdays.
13. National Library [Belvedere Estate, Kolkata]
The National Library is where you will find a massive and stunning collection of books from all parts of India. The largest library in the country is the perfect place for book lovers and history buffs. With a collection of over 2.2 million books, it is a delight to just walk around in this library and feel the touch and smell of age old books that are carefully preserved. As an ancient building that was built as early as in 1836, the library is also popularly rumoured to be home to haunted spirits that roam the corridors. Well, who can blame them, right?
14. Piyali Islands [Dongajora]
Planning a short trip from Kolkata? Well, Piyali Island definitely deserves your consideration. Piyali River is the gateway to Sunderbans, and a bridge over the river will take you to this remote lush green island. It is a source of tranquillity, and perfect for having a good time away from the city. The island is covered by mangrove forests and has pollution-free environment. Many migratory birds fly to the island so one can see a variety of bird species. There is one tourist lodge that provides nice accommodation for overnight staying and decent dining facilities. Take a walk in the wilderness, enjoy boat rides and relish the village life surrounding the island. If you wish to include this island in your Kolkata sightseeing, do plan them with these points in mind: –
- It is located 72 km away from the main city, nearby Piyali River.
- It will take around 2 hours if you are travelling by car. If you are travelling by train, get down at South Barasat Station, from where trekkers can take you to the destination.
- The best time to visit the island is during winter season if you are a bird watcher.
- Prices for boating starts from Rs 100.
15. Shantiniketan [Birbhum district of West Bengal]
The abode of learning- Shantiniketan was brought into light by Rabindranath Tagore, one of the famous poets of India, and will evoke many childhood memories. From his songs to his poems, this place gives us a nostalgic environment. The Vishva Bharati Campus is the most famous place in town, where the students are the guides who show you around for a nominal fee. The university brings in many students as it provides a conjunction of cultures. Famous alumni of the university include our former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, filmmaker Satyajit Ray and economist Amartya Sen. Shantiniketan is a paradise for shoppers. You can find many beautiful handmade products like leather bags, jewellery, terracotta etc. at pocket-friendly prices. The place is humble and has many temples, melas, gardens and institutes which brief up the historical times. Shantiniketan is perfect for a short trip from Kolkata.
Located near Bolpur in Birbhum district, about 163 km away from Kolkata, it is well-connected via trains and roads. The journey by train is shorter and scenic. It is a 3-hour drive by roads. E-rickshaws called Toto are available at reasonable price within the town. You might prefer to explore the town on foot.
The best time to visit is during September to March when the town hosts fairs and festivals. One can also visit in December during the Poush Mela which is a celebration of music and crafts.
16. Calcutta Botanical Garden [Shibpur, Howrah]
Ranked number one in Kolkata’s tourism list, the Calcutta Botanical Garden is one of the oldest gardens in India and one of the best things to do in Kolkata is to explore it. It was founded by the East India Company in 1787 to cultivate plants for commercial purposes. Located on the west bank of the Hooghly River about 8 km away from the main city, the garden covers an area of about 273 acre which has approximately 12000 flora species from all over the world. The main attraction of the garden is a Banyan tree, covering an area of 3 acres and is about 250 years old. The landmark gives an appearance of huge foliage than a single tree, and is the second largest canopy in the world. One can find an abundance of beautiful palm trees, bamboos, orchids and other colourful flowers too. Refresh your mind with the thriving greenery of the ever-growing flora. A visit to the garden is must if you are travelling to Kolkata.
You can easily reach it via the metro or bus. If you are taking the metro, get down at Tollygunge station and book a cab till the garden. If you choose to drive, parking facilities are available. Best time to visit is during the winter season, i.e., October to March when the weather is just right for strolling. The Ticket charges are Rs. 5 per person, and if you are carrying a camera, an extra Rs. 10 is charged. They are closed on Mondays and can be visited between 10am to 5pm on all other days of the week.
So, are you all set for your trip to the City of Joy? You can take you pick depending on your taste, budget and accommodation. The city is best for tourists during the Durga Puja if you want to feel the festive pulse and during winter, when exploring is a pleasure and you can dig into a variety of dishes at famous restaurants or at street stalls.
Explore Kolkata from the list above and get ready for an unforgettable experience.