Tourist’s guide to Kolkata – the Bengali capital city

The city of Calcutta is the most majestic and wretched city of India. Despite the long history, he managed to maintain his own identity and a large number of interesting sights that attract travelers from all over the world.

Calcutta city view from above

General information

Calcutta (since 2001 – Kolkata) is the capital of West Bengal, a large Indian state located in the eastern part of the country. Included in the 10 largest cities on the planet, is the second largest metropolis of India. The majority of the population, with a total population of up to 5 million, are Bengalis. It is their language that is considered the most common here.

The tourist, who was in this city for the first time, Calcutta causes a very mixed impression. Poverty and wealth go hand in hand, the luxurious architecture of the colonial era contrasts sharply with unsightly slums, and the elegantly dressed Bengal aristocrats – with merchants and barbers living right on the street.

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Calcutta Street

Be that as it may, Kolkata is the cultural heart of modern India. Here is the country’s best golf course, more than 10 universities, countless colleges, schools and institutes, many old gentleman’s clubs, a huge racecourse, several museums and galleries, as well as offices of major international companies and much more. The main areas of the city are distinguished by a well-organized infrastructure and excellent transport links, operating both within the city limits and beyond.

And Calcutta is the only place in India where rickshaws are still allowed. Not motorcycles or bicycles, but the most ordinary ones – those who run on the ground and pull a cart of people with them. Despite the hellish labor and scanty pay, they continue to carry numerous tourists who come to this unusual and many-sided city.

Rickshaws in Calcutta

Historical reference

The history of Kolkata began in 1686, when an English entrepreneur Job Charnock arrived in the quiet village of Calikatu, which existed in the Ganges River delta from time immemorial. Deciding that this place was ideal for the new British colony, he laid here a miniature copy of London with wide boulevards, Catholic churches and picturesque gardens, crammed into strict geometric shapes. However, a beautiful fairy tale quickly ended on the outskirts of the newly-minted city, where Indians serving the British lived in crowded slums.

The first blow to Calcutta was inflicted in 1756, when it was conquered by the Navab of neighboring Murshidabad. However, after a long fierce struggle, the city was not only returned to the British, but also turned into the official capital of British India. In subsequent years, the fate of Calcutta evolved differently – it either went through a new round of its development, or remained in complete contention and desolation. The civil war for independence and the unification of West and East Bengal did not bypass this city. True, after these events, the British quickly moved the colonial capital to Delhi, depriving Calcutta of political power and seriously affecting its economy. However, even then the city managed to get out of the financial crisis and regain its former position.

Bridge in Calcutta

In the early 2000s, Calcutta received not only another name – Kolkata, but also a new administration, which is distinguished by a more friendly attitude to business. In this regard, numerous hotels, shopping, business and entertainment centers, catering establishments, residential skyscrapers and other infrastructure elements began to appear on its streets.

Nowadays, Kolkata, populated by representatives of various nationalities, continues to actively develop, trying to eradicate the prevailing opinion among Europeans about total poverty and desolation.

sights

Kolkata is famous not only for centuries of history, but also for its many diverse sights, among which each of you will find something interesting for yourself.

Victoria Memorial

One of the main attractions of Calcutta in India is a huge marble palace, built in the first half of the 20th century. in memory of the British Queen Victoria. Historians claim that the prince of Wales himself laid the first stone of the building, made in the style of the Italian Renaissance. The roof of the building is decorated with decorative turrets, and the Victory Angel crowned from pure bronze crowns the dome. The memorial itself is surrounded by a picturesque garden, along which many pedestrian paths are laid.

Victoria Memorial

Today, the Victoria Memorial Hall houses a museum dedicated to the history of the country during the British conquest, an art gallery and several temporary exhibitions. Among other things, here you can find a hall in which rare books of famous world writers are collected. No less interesting are the monuments erected in the palace. One of them is dedicated to Victoria herself, the second to Lord Curzon, the former Viceroy of India.

  • Opening hours: Tue.- Sun. from 10:00 to 17:00.
  • Ticket price: $ 2.
  • Location: 1 Queen’s Way, Kolkata.
House of Mother Teresa

Mother House, which is part of the Foundation “Sisters-Missionaries of Love”, founded by Theresa of Calcutta in 1948, is a modest two-story building, which can be recognized only by the blue plate with the corresponding inscription. On the ground floor of the house there is a tiny chapel in the center of which a gravestone made of snow-white stone is installed. It is under it that the relics of the saint are stored, who made a huge contribution to the life of the poor population of India. If you take a good look, you can see the fresh flowers that are regularly brought by grateful inhabitants here, you can see the name, years of life and the most vivid sayings of the world famous nun inscribed on stone.

House of Mother Teresa

The second floor of the building is occupied by a small museum, among the exhibits of which there are also personal belongings of Mother Teresa – an enameled plate, worn sandals and a few very interesting items.

  • Opening hours: Mon-Sat from 10:00 to 21:00.
  • Location: Mother House AJC Bose Road, Kolkata, 700016.
Temple of the Goddess Kali

The majestic temple complex, located on the banks of the Hooghli River in the suburbs of Calcutta, was founded in 1855 at the expense of the famous Indian philanthropist Rani Rashmoni. The place for its construction was not chosen by chance – it was here, according to ancient legends, that the finger of the goddess Kali fell after Shiva cut it into 52 pieces during the performance of his frantic dance.

Temple of the Goddess Kali

The bright yellow-red temple and the gate leading to it are made in the best traditions of Hindu architecture. The greatest attention of tourists is attracted by the nahabat towers, of which during each service various melodies are heard, a large music room with a terrace supported by marble columns, an indoor gallery with 12 Shiva temples and the room of Ramakrishna, a famous Indian guru, mystic and preacher. Dakshineswar Kali Temple itself is surrounded by lush gardens and small lakes, creating a truly fabulous picture.

  • Opening hours: daily from 05:00 to 13:00 and from 16:00 to 20:00
  • The entrance is free.
  • Location: Near Bali Bridge | PO: Alambazar, Kolkata, 700035.

Park Street

Looking at a photo of Calcutta (India), one cannot fail to notice one of the central streets of the city, laid down at the end of the 19th century on the site of a former deer park. Most of the luxurious mansions belonging to the richest residents of the city have survived to this day. In addition to them, Park Street has many cafes, several fashionable hotels and a couple of important architectural sights – St. Xavier College and the old building of the Asian Society, built in 1784.

Park Street

At one time, Park Street was the center of Kolkata’s musical life – it launched many well-known performers, who at that time were only promising youth. And here is an old British cemetery, the tombstones of which are real architectural masterpieces. Be sure to check out here while walking – there really is something to see here.

Location: Mother Teresa Sarani, Kolkata, 700016.

Eco park

An eco-park, considered one of the main natural attractions of Calcutta, is located in the northern part of the city. Its territory, which occupies about 200 hectares, is divided into several thematic zones. In the center of the complex extends a huge lake with an island, on which there are several decent restaurants and comfortable guest houses. You can plan to visit the Eco Tourism Park all day, because numerous activities designed not only for children but also for adults will definitely not let you get bored. In addition to traditional walks and cycling, visitors can enjoy paintball, archery, boating, etc.

Eco Park in Calcutta

Opening hours:

  • Tue-Sat: from 14:00 to 20:00;
  • Sun: from 12:00 to 20:00.

Location: Major Arterial Road, Action Area II, Kolkata, 700156.

Howra Bridge

Howrah Bridge, also called Rabindra Setu, is located near the Mahatma Gandhi metro station in the Bara Bazar area. Due to its impressive size (length – 705 m, height – 97 m, width – 25 m), it entered the 6 largest cantilever structures in the world. Built at the height of World War II to help the allied British forces, the Howrah Bridge was the first such structure, during the construction of which instead of bolts and nuts they used strong metal rivets.

Howra Bridge

Currently, Howrah Bridge, which is crossed daily by hundreds of thousands of cars, is the main symbol not only of Calcutta, but of all of western Bengal. It is of particular interest at sunset, when huge steel consoles sparkle in the rays of the setting sun and are reflected in the quiet waters of the Hooghli River. For a better view of the city’s most impressive landmark, head to the end of the Mullik Ghat flower market. By the way, photographing the bridge is forbidden, but recently compliance with this rule has been rather poorly controlled, so you can take a chance.

Location: Jagganath Ghat | 1, Strand Road, Kolkata, 700001.

Birla Temple

An overview of the sights of Calcutta completes the Hindu temple Lakshmi Narayana, located in the southern part of the city. Built in the middle of 20 tbsp. With the money of the Birla family, he became one of the most beautiful creations of our time. Indeed, a multi-tiered structure made of snow-white marble, decorated with elaborate floral patterns, carved panels, small balconies and graceful columns, can conquer even a seasoned traveler. Another feature of Birla Temple is the absence of bells – the architect considered that their chime could disrupt the calm and peaceful atmosphere of the shrine.

Birla Temple

The doors of the temple are open to all comers. But only at the entrance you will have to leave not only shoes, but also a mobile phone, a camera, a video camera and any other equipment.

  • Opening hours: daily from 05:30 to 11:00 and from 04:30 to 21:00.
    Free admission.
  • Location: Ashutosh Chowdhury Road | 29 Ashutosh Choudhury Avenue, Kolkata, 700019.

Housing

Being one of the largest tourist cities in India, Calcutta offers a large number of places to stay. Here you can find luxurious 5 * hotels, and comfortable apartments, and budget, but quite decent hostels.

Hotel in Calcutta

Housing prices in Calcutta are at about the same level as in other resorts in India. At the same time, the gap between the different placement options is almost invisible. If the minimum cost of a double room in a 3 * hotel is 13 $ per day, then in 4 * – only 1 $ more. The guesthouse will be cheaper – its rental starts at $ 8.

The city itself can be divided into 3 districts – northern, central, southern. Accommodation in each of them has its own characteristics.

DistrictprosMinuses
North
  • Close to the airport;
  • There are many green areas.
  • Far from the main city attractions;
  • Poor transport accessibility – there is no metro, and travel by bus and taxi will cost a round amount (by local standards).
Center
  • The abundance of historical and architectural attractions;
  • The presence of large shopping centers;
  • Developed transport system;
  • A lot of different housing for every taste and budget.
  • Very noisy;
  • Inexpensive accommodation options are taken apart quickly, and the rest are not accessible to everyone.
South
  • The presence of shopping and entertainment centers;
  • There are lakes, parks, modern art galleries;
  • Excellent transport accessibility;
  • Housing prices are much lower than in the other two areas.
  • This part of the city is considered the newest, so here you will not find any historical memorials or architecture of the 19th century.

Food

Cafe in Calcutta

Arriving in Kolkata (India), you certainly will not stay hungry. There are more than enough restaurants, cafes, eateries and other “representatives” of food service, and the streets of the city are literally dotted with small stalls where you can taste traditional Indian dishes. Among them, khichuri, rays, googni, pulao, biryani, kharchari, papadama and, of course, the famous Bengali sweets – sanddesh, mishti doi, khir, jalebi and pantois deserve special attention. All this is washed down with sweet tea with milk, which is poured not into the usual plastic cups, but into small ceramic cups.

The main difference of local cuisine is the combination of sweet and spicy tastes. Food is cooked in oil (mustard – for fish and shrimp, ghee – for rice and vegetables) with curry and a special mixture that includes 5 different spices. On the menu of many restaurants there are many dishes from dala (legumes). Soups are made from it, stuffed for cakes, stews are prepared with meat, fish or vegetables.

Most decent establishments are located in the Chowringa Road and Park Street area. The latter has a huge number of private and public institutions, so at lunchtime it turns into a huge kitchen that can satisfy the appetites of numerous office workers. Regarding prices:

  • lunch or dinner for 2 in an inexpensive diner will cost $ 6,
  • in a mid-level cafe – at $ 10-13,
  • a snack at McDonalds – at $ 4-5.

If you intend to cook on your own, look at local bazaars and large chain supermarkets (such as Spencer’s) – the assortment is large there, and the prices are quite affordable.

All prices with the article are indicated for September 2019.

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Weather and climate when it’s best to come

Calcutta in India has a mild tropical climate. Summer here is hot and humid – the air temperature at this time is from +35 to + 40 ° C, and the greatest amount of precipitation falls in August. At the same time, it rains so hard that sometimes the road disappears from under the feet. Vacationers during this period are extremely few, and for those who are not afraid of adverse weather conditions, we advise you to bring an umbrella, raincoat, several sets of quick-drying clothes and rubber slippers (it will be hot in boots).

Weather in Calcutta

In late autumn, precipitation stops abruptly, and air temperature drops to + 27 ° C. It was at this time in Kolkata that the high tourist season began, lasting from mid-October to early March. True, it is quite cool at night in winter – with the sunset, the thermometer drops to + 15 ° C, and in some cases can reach zero. With the advent of spring, tropical heat is gradually returning to Calcutta, but the number of tourists is not getting smaller. The reason for this is the Bengal New Year, celebrated in mid-April.

Useful Tips

When planning to visit Kolkata in India, take note of a few useful tips:

  1. Going on vacation in spring or summer, stock up with enough repellents. There are a lot of mosquitoes, in addition, most of them are carriers of malaria and dengue fever.
  2. Catching a yellow taxi at rush hour is extremely difficult. Faced with a similar problem, do not be afraid to seek the help of a policeman.
  3. Policeman in Calcutta
  4. Sitting in the car, immediately say that you want to go on the counter. The latter should be set to 10.
  5. Despite the fact that the city of Calcutta is one of the safest places in India, it is better to keep money and documents closer to the body.
  6. Do not forget to wash your hands before eating and drink only bottled water – this will protect you from intestinal infections.
  7. Street toilets Kolkata is absolutely not suitable for women, so do not waste time in vain – it is better to go to a cafe, a cinema or any other public institution right away.
  8. Market in Calcutta
  9. It is better to buy silk saris, ethnic jewelry, clay figures and other souvenirs in the markets – there they are many times cheaper.
  10. In order not to mess with warm things, leave them in the airport’s luggage room.
  11. When deciding to move around the city on your own or rented transport, remember that the traffic here is left-hand, and on some roads it is also one-way. In this case, first it is directed in one direction, and then in the opposite direction.
  12. Even in comfortable 4 * hotels in Calcutta, there may not be any change of bed linen and towels – when booking a room in advance, do not forget to check this information with the administrator.

Walking along the streets of Calcutta, visiting the cafe:



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