Kolkata or ‘The City of Joy’ is rightfully called the cultural capital of India. One may ask what makes Kolkata so special?
Well, it is one of the very few places which somehow managed to retain its romantic old-world charm while merging seamlessly with the urban metropolitan city life. It has always remained a uniquely important centre of history, art, and culture in the country.
The eccentricities of the city with its busy bazaars, the lavish structures of Victorian architecture, the warmth of the people and the sheer nostalgia make Kolkata worth visiting. Flying Squirrel Holidays provides customised Kolkata city tour packages to help you plan your next holiday to the fascinating city!
Once the capital of British India Empire, the colonial impression is evident in Kolkata’s architecture, culture, and cuisine. Known as ‘Calcutta’ back then, it was home to the headquarters of the British East India Company, and later, of the British territories in the Indian subcontinent.
From the colonial-era Victoria Memorial to the bustling Howrah Bridge, Kolkata’s architecture is impressive without a doubt. With a variety of historic churches, synagogues, temples, old mansions and colonial buildings, there are few cities that can boast of such rich cultural beauty.
As the hometown of Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, and several other highly influential literary and intellectual figures in Indian literature and society, the city has always been a leader in liberal-progressive ideas.
Kolkata is not only the cultural capital of India but also the food haven. One cannot just talk about Kolkata not talking about the food. Bengali sweets need no introduction. The spicy, tangy and absolutely mouth-watering dishes that Kolkata has to offer will leave you spoilt for choice. Add to that the traditional Chinese, Cantonese and Tibetan food that is found here.
It has a plethora of street food options too! Some of the must-try items are- ‘Phuchka’ (a unique spicy Indian snack), ‘Kathi roll’ (grilled kebab wrapped in a paratha), ‘Chowmein’ (Kolkata style Hakka noodles), ‘Mughlai Paratha’ (Mughal style flatbread filled with minced meat), ‘Fish Kabiraji’ (Fish cutlets fried in an egg batter), ‘Momos’ (steamed dumplings), ‘Kochuri’ (fried flatbread with a savoury filling) and many many more!
A temple revered for being the sanctum sanctorum of Goddess Kali, the Dakshineswar Kali Temple was built in 1855. It is situated on the eastern bank of the river Hooghly. It was also the place of stay of the greatest mystic and yogi Ramkrishna Paramhansa and his spiritual companion, Maa Sarada Devi.
The beautiful structure of Birla Mandir is hard to miss once you are nearby. The temple is dedicated to Lord Krishna and Radha. Once the evening sets the entire place lights up with golden diyas and sparkling chandeliers, a true spectacle.
The favourite weekend spot of Bengalis, Alipore Zoo is India’s oldest zoological park. It is well known for the vast variety of mammals, birds and reptiles that reside here. The zoo maintains carnivorous animals like the Bengal tiger, jungle cat, jaguar, fishing cat, Himalayan black bear, sloth bear and more.
Along with local weekend spots in Kolkata, there are several weekend tours from Kolkata, for spending a refreshing weekend in resorts and royal palaces of Kings
In the heart of the city, this colossal structure is among the must-visit places in Kolkata. St Paul's is an Anglican cathedral. It looks especially beautiful during the Christmas holidays when the cathedral and the surrounding streets are all bathed in light and festivities.
The second-largest cricket stadium in India and the third-largest in the world, the Eden Gardens is the pride of Kolkata. It has witnessed many iconic matches throughout the years. The stadium currently has a capacity of 80,000 and is often referred to as the “cricket’s answer to the Colosseum."
Prinsep Ghat is a recreational spot near the banks of the Hooghly river. It was built in 1841 and is located near the St George's Gate of Fort William. The enchanting view of the Vidyasagar Setu when the sun sets makes it a popular photography spot.
Belur Math is the international headquarters of Ramakrishna Mission, a worldwide spiritual movement. Founded in 1899 by Swami Vivekananda, the world-famous yogi and disciple of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, the serene campus of Belur Math attracts people of all faiths.
The National Library is the largest in India by volume. Established in 1836, it was then known as The Calcutta public library. The ground area of the library is more than 30 acres and the library itself has more than 2.2 million books.
A fairly recent addition to the city’s attractions, the beautiful Eco Park is the biggest urban park in India. It is spread over an area of 475 acres. There is a picturesque water body that surrounds the park and forms an island in the middle.
It also houses replicas of the Seven Wonders of the World situated throughout the park. Christ the Redeemer, Taj Mahal, the Colosseum, the Great Wall of China are some of the Seven Wonders that are present.
It is often said that Park Street never sleeps and truly so. It is a bustling place of activities, parties, fun and frolic. One of the most happening places in the city, it is home to numerous nightclubs, restaurants, lounges, pubs and eateries.
The place is at its peak glory during Christmas when the entire street is beautifully decorated and becomes the centre for all revelries.
The Park Street Cemetery was one of the earliest non-church cemeteries in the world, and one of the largest Christian cemeteries outside Europe and America in the 19th century. Opened in 1767 the cemetery was in use until about 1830. It is now a heritage site and is protected by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
The Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Indian Botanic Garden, better known as the Botanical Garden, is a sprawling garden spanning a total area of 273 acres located in Shibpur, Howrah, near Kolkata. The garden is considered to be one of the most stunning landscaped gardens in the entire country.
The major attraction of the garden is the vast and widespread Banyan tree, popularly known as the Great Banyan Tree. This massive tree is reputed for forming the second most extensive canopy in the entire world.
Drive down the Howrah Bridge early morning when it’s not so busy and experience the dramatic view of the entire city.
Take a boat ride across the Hooghly river from the Prinsep Ghat.
Take a tram ride in Kolkata, the only city in India which has this unique mode of transportation. It forms a part of the old colonial heritage of the city and is considered an icon of the city.
Go shopping at Esplanade. A shopaholics paradise, one may find a variety of apparel, cosmetics, toiletries, fashion items, daily use products, and many more items here. From pocket-friendly items to expensive luxurious items, one can shop anything and everything according to their budget here.
Enjoy a delicious breakfast at Tiretta Bazaar, Chinatown. Chinese breakfast foods like steamed buns, and hot dumplings, wontons, and momos, served steamed or fried for a very little price draw a big crowd daily.
Taste the delectable Bengali sweets. From Roshogolla to Nolen Gur Sandesh, there are innumerable sweets that the city has to offer. Some of the popular places where you can get a taste of the same are Balaram Mullick & Radharam Mullick, Banchharam’s, Ganguram among many.
Visit Kumartuli or the potter's colony. In the days leading up to Durga Puja, thousands of artisans tirelessly work in about 550 workshops to complete the statues of Durga and her four children (Ganesh, Lakshmi, Kartik, and Saraswati) in time for the grand festival. It is also an immensely popular photography spot.
Go birdwatching at the Rabindra Sarobar Lake. The lake is an artificial tank spread over 75 acres and is home to various exotic migratory birds from Siberia and Russia. The lake is surrounded by gardens which makes it a popular recreational spot perfect for idyllic picnics.
One of the most magnificent monuments in the entire country, the white marbled beauty of Victoria Memorial is one of the most iconic sights of Kolkata. Envisaged by Lord Curzon, the then Viceroy of British India, it was built in the honour of the deceased Queen Victoria.
It is spread over 57 acres of land, houses 21 lush green gardens, 28,394 artefacts, and 3,900 artistic paintings. It is also one of the most romantic places to visit in Kolkata. It hosts about 2 million visitors annually.
Howrah Bridge or Rabindra Setu is an iconic landmark in the city. Connecting the twin cities of Howrah and Kolkata, this cantilever bridge is one of the world’s busiest. It handles about 100,000 vehicles and more than 150,000 pedestrians daily.
It is also a cinematic star and has been featured in several famous movies such as 'Howrah Bridge’, ‘Barfi!’, ‘Amar Prem’, ‘China Town’, ‘City of Joy’, ‘The Namesake’ among many others.
Home to the ‘Bard of Bengal’, Jorasanko Thakur Bari is the ancestral house of the Tagore family of Bengal and the place where Rabindranath Tagore was born. This ancestral home was built in the year 1784, and also houses the Rabindra Bharati Museum.
This place has immense significance in the world of Bengal literature as this is where Tagore spent his formative years. It also stores 700 paintings that are kept in this ancestral home along with three different galleries, manuscripts, books and other antique items.
The ninth oldest museum of the world, the foundation stone of the Indian Museum was laid down in the year 1814. It is one of the largest museums in Asia and the largest in India.
It has a spectacular collection of contemporary paintings, sacred relics of Buddha, Egyptian mummies and ancient sculptures and some of the most brilliant collections of ornaments, fossils, skeletons, antiques, armours, and stunning Mughal paintings.
It is the oldest and largest planetarium in Asia and the second largest in the world. The design of the planetarium was inspired by the Sanchi Stupa and the massive dome is very prominent.
There are regular one-hour shows on wonders of space and facts about the galaxies held at the planetarium daily in three major languages, Bengali, Hindi and English.
According to Hindu mythology, when Lord Shiva performed his destructive dance, tandava, with Goddess Sati in his arms, after she had sacrificed herself, Sati’s body dismembered into 51 parts that fell off the sky. All the places where the body parts fell became sacred places of worship of Shakti - Shakti Peethas.
The Kalighat Temple is one among the 51 Shakti Peethas and it is said that one of the Goddess’ right toes fell at this site. The Kalighat Kali temple is among the most sacred places for Hindus and attracts many devotees every day. Inside the temple resides the idol of Kali whose protruded tongue and four hands are made of pure gold.
The grandest festival in the state and one of the biggest in India, the sheer magnificence of the festival cannot be merely put in words. If you want to truly experience Kolkata you should visit during the Durga Puja. The festival completely takes over the city for five to six days.
It celebrates the yearly visit of the goddess from her home in the Himalayas. Family members come home to be together for the five days of the festival, to dress up in new clothes, feast on local specialities and sweets, and attend pujas.
The main activity is the pandal hopping where people visit the beautiful pandals all over the city and revel in their glory.
Day 1Begin your day by visiting the most famous landmark that is the Victoria Memorial. After that check out the Indian Museum. If you want to do some shopping you can check out the New Market or Esplanade, have lunch here. After lunch, visit St Paul's Cathedral. Next up is the Prinsep Ghat, an ideal place to visit in the evening to watch the sunset. The last stop of the day is the Birla Mandir, located in Ballygunge, about 6.5 km from the Prinsep Ghat.
Day 2Start your second day with the Jorasanko Thakur Bari. After that, visit Kumartuli, the potter's colony which is located 2 km away from Jorasanko. From here you can take a cab and drive straight to New Town, via the Biswa-Bangla Flyover which leads to Eco Park. There are many amusement parks in this area like the older ones like Science City or Nicco Park, the later ones like the Aquatica or the newest one like the Eco Park. If you have energy left after the entire day of travelling, spend the night at park street and witness the striking nightlife of the city.
Day 3On your last day head straight to College Street in the morning. It is the largest second hand book market in the world. You can find everything from college textbooks to the rarest of storybooks. Next head to Dakshineshwar Kali Bari, one of the most revered Kali temples in India. After offering your prayers in the temple, take a ferry across the river to reach Belur Math on the opposite side of Ganga. Watch the sunset at the Ganga Ghats and return to the temple to experience the spectacular evening aarti.
Please email me a copy of the sample itinerary
Kolkata is a pretty economical city to visit and travel in. The transportation within and the food is cheap compared to other Indian states. There are various categories of hotels in Kolkata, from economic to luxurious.
The cost will be affected by the standard of accommodation as well as the number of days. However, this is just an estimate as Flying Squirrel Holidays provides customized Calcutta sightseeing packages to suit your budget and preferences. Our packages cover all major Kolkata tour places.
What is the best time to visit Kolkata?
October to March is the best time to visit Kolkata.
Which are the best places to visit in Kolkata with family and kids?
Howrah Bridge, Victoria Memorial, Park Street, JorasankoThakurbari, Indian Museum, Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary, Birla Temple, Marble Palace Mansion, and Eden Gardens are the best places to visit in Kolkata with family and kids.
What is Kolkata’s famous food?
Some of the most famous food dishes of Kolkata are Macher Jhol, Roshogolla, Sondesh, Mishti Doi, and Phuchka.
Kolkata has its own vintage charm with its colonial architecture and culture heavily influenced by the British era. Cradle of the Bengal renaissance movement and the freedom struggle, the city has a life of its own. Experience the rich cultural beauty and the rustic charm of the city that’ll welcome you with open arms. Visit Kolkata with Flying Squirrel Holidays tailormade Kolkata tour packages!
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