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...
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).
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.