“You want your city clean and green, stick to Delhi.

You want your city rich and impersonal, go to Bombay.

You want them hi-tech and full of draught beer, Bangalore’s your place.

But if you want a city with a soul, come to Calcutta.”

– Vir Sanghvi, Journalist and TV personality 

This quote sums up Kolkata beautifully. At first, the smells and sounds may overwhelm you. It is not a city that you can whiz through. Its rich heritage has to be discovered layer by layer. Be it admiring the art scene, gastronomical explorations, wandering in the bazaars and lanes or enjoying views along the Hooghly river, the city will provide a memorable journey. Here is a list of things to do and places to visit in Kolkata.

The Most Interesting Places to Visit in Kolkata

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Meet a 4000 year old mummy

The Indian Museum is the largest and oldest museum in India. You can spend hours walking in and out of the many galleries displaying antiques, armours, fossils, and Mughal paintings. The star attraction is a 4000-year-old Egyptian mummy.

Indian Museum

CC by 3.0/ Biswarup Ganguly. The mummy at Indian Museum, Kolkata

Head to Kolkata’s Art Galleries

If you are a connoisseur of art, a tour of the art galleries of Kolkata is a must. Do visit Genesis Art Gallery, Galerie 88, Chitrakoot Art Gallery, Aakriti Art Gallery, Academy of Fine Arts, Gallery Gold, Emami Chisel Art and Birla Academy Of Art And Culture amongst the many galleries that showcase contemporary and emerging Indian artists.

Indian Museum CC by 3.0/ Biswarup Ganguly. Academy of Fine Arts, Kolkata

Take your Camera Along to a Historic Potters’ Quarter

A top destination for photographers, Kumartuli in North Kolkata offers a tryst with the rich artistic heritage of Kolkata. Get a pair of sturdy walking shoes and wander around the many labyrinthine (albeit squalid) lanes. The district houses more than 400 potters, you will come across rows and rows of clay busts, headless torsos and effigies. Kumartuli is at its frenzied best for about a month during the run-up to Durga Puja, when the artisans start preparing idols for the festivities. If you have time, do walk up to the banks of Hooghly past the once-opulent Gothic mansions from the British era, now reduced to a crumbling slice of history.

Kumartuli in North Kolkata CC by-SA 4.0/ Sujay25. A workshop at Kumartuli in North Kolkata

On a Boat Ride from Prinsep Ghat

Prinsep Ghat was built in 1841 on the banks of Hooghly river. Today, it is an atmospheric locale, with breezy weather and stunning views of the Vidyasagar Setu. If feeling adventurous (or romantic!), do go for a sunset river cruise on traditional small wooden boats steered by local fishermen. Have more time at hand? Then, visit the Millennium Park – a beautified riverfront from where you can take longer cruises to catch a glimpse of daily life and rituals at the many ghats of Kolkata. Vivada Cruises offers three-hour long cruises with meals/ snacks.

Prinsep Ghat CC by-SA 4.0/ Slyronit. Prinsep Ghat, Kolkata.

A Breakfast for Kings at Tiretti Bazaar (Old Chinatown)

Pop-up stalls crop up daily from 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. in this area. Delicacies sold include dumplings, meat broths, hot chilly soup, pork sausages with buns, momos and baos, spring rolls and many more. The Hap Hing Co. Chinese Provision & Medicine Stores, the Sing Cheung Sauce Factory and Pou Chong Bros Pvt Ltd stores are a must on your itinerary for stocking up Chinese ingredients — homemade sauces, teas, spices, et al. For lunch, drive down to 6 Ballygunge Place restaurant (in Ballygunge or Salt Lake) for a delicious six-course Bengali food buffet.

Tiretti Bazaar (Old Chinatown) CC by-SA 3.0/ By Arup1981. Old Chinatown, Kolkata.

Check-in at the ancestral home of a famous Nobel laureate

This is high up on the list of places to visit in Kolkata. Rabindranath Tagore’s beautiful ancestral house known as ‘Jorasanko Thakurbari’ was built in 1785. It has been now converted into a museum, with an impressive collection of portraits, paintings and family photographs.

Jorasanko Thakurbari CC BY-SA 3.0/ Tanmoy Bhaduri. Jorasanko Thakurbari, Kolkata.

Leaf through the book stalls of College Street

A haven for bookworms, you are headed to the largest secondhand book market in the world! The mile-long College Street is lined with stores and stalls selling possibly every title to ever have been sold in the city. Haggling over the prices is mandatory! After you have picked up your books, head to the India Coffee House for chai and singara (fried savoury dumpling), it is a favourite haunt of intellectuals and students alike.

College Street, Kolkata CC BY 3.0/ Biswarup Ganguly. College Street, Kolkata.

Shop at Burrabazar and Gariahat

Be prepared for some heavy duty jostling. Burrabazar started as a yarn and textile market and has since evolved into one of the largest wholesale markets in India. It has various sections, each specialising in different commodities – spices, textiles, hardware, electronics etc. As they say, “Anything and everything is available at Burrabazar. Even the tiger’s eye is available here if you pay the right price.” For sari and jewellery shopping, Gariahat is your destination. On the Gariahat Road, you can shop (or window-shop too) in Ballygunge AC market, Dakshinapan shopping centre, Mukti World mall as well. After the shopping had rekindled your appetite, walk over to the Aminia Restaurant and devour a plate of Biryani and rasgullas (ball-shaped cottage cheese dumplings served in sweet syrup).

Burrabazar, Kolkata CC BY 3.0/ Biswarup Ganguly. Burrabazar, Kolkata.

Visit the Seven Wonders at Eco Park

Eco Park located in New Town (Rajarhat) is a sprawling urban park with ecological zones, theme gardens and a lake. Seven sites are being recreated inside the park, including India’s Taj Mahal, Brazil’s Christ the Redeemer, Moai statues of Easter Island, the Great Wall of China, Colosseum of Rome, Petra in Jordan and the Great Pyramid of Giza, Egypt.

Eco Park, New Town (Rajarhat) CC by-SA 4.0/ Harishverma12/ Eco Park – New Town map

Enjoy the nightlife at Park Street

The lively Park Street is the heart of Kolkata. As the evening lights come on, the street dons a cheery, vibrant look. Many restaurants, clubs and lounges line the three-kilometre-long stretch. The Park hotel houses two famous nightclubs, Tantra and Roxy. For dinner, you can choose among Kwality, Arsalan, One Step Up and Tung Fong restaurants. For sumptuous Kathi rolls, head to Kusum Rolls. If you dig legendary institutions, Peter Cat is the place to be. Order Iranian-style kebabs and chicken sizzlers. Beer is served in pewter tankards. The place is very popular and does not take reservations, so plan to queue in by 6:45 p.m. to get a table.

Park Street, Kolkata CC BY-SA 4.0/ Sujay25. Christmas lights at Park Street, Kolkata.

Pick up souvenirs at a Biswa Bangla Showroom

A trip to Kolkata is incomplete if you do not bring back a piece of Bengal. Biswa Bangla promotes social enterprise and works with local craftsmen & weavers to create quality handicrafts. The collection includes stoneware, pottery, dolls, masks, perfumes, sarees, embroidery, sauces, teas, honey et al. Do pick up a tube (100 ml) of Nalen Gur (liquid date palm jaggery), an essential ingredient in the preparation of Bengali sweets. There are five showrooms in Kolkata – Park Street (Beside Oxford Bookstore), Dakshinapan shopping centre, New Town – Rajarhat (at Central Mall), Domestic Airport and International Airport.

You really do not need more reasons to visit the ‘City of Joy’. With your list of things to do in Kolkata all ready, start planning your trip now!

 

Best time to visit Kolkata
October to March is preferable as temperatures are pleasant. The city gets very hot and humid in the summer. The city is at its festive best during Durga Puja (the biggest celebration of ‘em all), Diwali and Christmas.
Where to Stay
There are lots of good hotels in Kolkata to choose from — Park Plaza Kolkata Ballygunge and Swissôtel Kolkata are among the top choices.