Kolkata

A city of many guises, Kolkata is regarded as the cultural capital of India. Plays and art exhibitions are daily fixtures of this charming city and the city is studded with fascinating architectural features.

Start by taking a tuk tuk or auto rickshaw ride from Chandi Chowk to Lahapool, a wonderful way to immerse you in Kolkata life.

The most important Hindu temple in Kolkata stands at Kalighat, west of the city center. Thousands of pilgrims visit Kali Temple each day to worship the goddess Kali.

Birla Temple in the heart of the city is another spiritually significant building of Kolkata. Beautifully maintained the temple was only completed in 1996, having taken 26 years to construct.

Built in 1853, Marble Palace is one of Kolkata’s most famed architectural feats. The palatial 19th century neoclassical structure is filled with statues and paintings. The palace still serves as a private residence and although admission is free, visitors need to stop by the West Bengal Tourism office for permission to enter this site.

For visitors who prefer the outdoors, there is a wonderful walking path beside the Hooghly River that can be accessed through the picturesque Eden Gardens. From Outram Ghat visitors can take a boat ride down the river, which offers a different perspective of the city.

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Currency Indian rupee
Time Zone UTC +5.30
Book Flights to Kolkata Book now
Population 4,496,694
Area 1,886.67 km2
Languages Bengali, English, Urdu, Hindi
Holiday Packages to Kolkata Book now
Dining

With a long history of cultural diversity, West Bengal cuisine has absorbed the flavours of many ethnicities. The British, Christian and Jewish communities brought with them the traditions of tea and baked goods. Sweets are an important part of the Bengali diet and bakeries selling Jewish style treats are very popular with local Kolkatans. While Kolkata may be a big city with lavish restaurants and fast food chains, eating at food stalls remains a significant tradition. Cultural diversity spills into the streets with stalls not only featuring Indian foods like samosas (pastry stuffed with meat and vegetables) and jhal muri (puffed rice mixed with sweet or savoury ingredients) but Tibetan snacks such as momos (dumplings) and thukpa (Tibetan noodle soup) and Chinese dishes like chowmein are now commonplace as well. Deckers Lane has a reputation as being one of the safer food stall areas of the city. For Kolkata’s signature fast food, try a hot tathi roll (meat kebabs wrapped in dough) or battered eggplant slices known as Beguni. When it comes to restaurant menu-picks, try machher johl, a spicy Bengali fish stew or cholar dal, which is a lentil dish with coconut and garam masala. For dessert, traditional sweets such as roshogolla (a type of cottage cheese simmered in sugar syrup) or sandesh (cottage cheese coated in sugar and cooked over a low heat).

Shopping

An important trading centre for crafts made in Eastern India, Shantineketan sarees and Bankura horses are easily sourced in Kolkata. The New Market is one of the most popular places for shopping. Visitors who enjoy the fun of haggling but wishing to escape the heat (but not the crowds) will enjoy Kolkata’s most popular market. Located near Dharmatala and by the side of Jawaharlal Nehru Street, the air-conditioned New Market sells everything from fabric to jewellery. As the intellectual capital of India, Kolkata is home to a great number of bookstores. College Street stretches for 1.5km, running from Ganesh Chandra Avenue crossing in Bowbazar to Mahatma Ghandi Road, it’s known as the colony of books. As well as popular fiction and non-fiction, books on politics, women’s issues and environmentalism can be found here. Many of the bookshops in Kolkata are not just limited to selling books but are a good place to find souvenirs or stop and have a cup of coffee. The Hatibagan area is known for its choice in cinema and theatre halls, including the Star Theatre, popular for cheap tickets.