Kolkata is sprawled along the fringes of the Hooghly river. It was once the capital of British India. Kolkata is known as the cultural mecca of India as it has cultivated impressive monuments, which exist in stark contrast to the underlying poverty.
As soon as you arrive here, you get entranced by the bustling energy of this city. Whenever I first heard of Kolkata I would instantly think of Macher Jhol and Rosogolla. That is the things it is famous for.
I am not a great fan of cities, and thus I want to go to places that are quiet and quaint. Kolkata is the total opposite of it, it is loud and bold. It is on your face!
Kolkata – the sweetest and the traditional state of India. If you want to experience Kolkata, you need to see its famous buildings and temples. It is the perfect symbol of history. From the colonial period to the post-independence, many buildings were created. Each structure echoes the story of its era. Here are the important landmarks in Kolkata you must visit.
My first impression of it was dirty. Yeah, as a traveler I am supposed to give you the honest reviews of places I visit, and yes I found Kolkata very dirty, and the smell of fish just doesn’t go. I have done a series of weekend trips to Kolkata, as it is close to my place. I will be making many more because I haven’t yet taken all that Calcutta has to offer.
Things To Do In Kolkata
The first thing I do when I reach my room – relax. And I always choose my hotel locations near to the places I want to visit. The cab rides are expensive here, so it is better if you can cut short the distance or simply walk there.
One of the main attractions of Kolkata is Victoria Memorial. The crowning moment of British Raj in India. It is a must-see place in the city with a museum which gives you the detailed knowledge of British rule in India. There is an entrance fee you have to pay before you enter the memorial.
Lord Curzon ordered that Victoria Memorial be made not only in the respect of Queen Victoria but also to remind all the visitors who came to the city to know of the glorious past. I was already evening when I reached the memorial. So I could not look inside the museum. A pity!
But I had plenty of time to walk around the memorial and admire the Indo-Saracenic architecture. It is admirable. The sculpture of Queen Victoria sitting on the throne is an imposing one. And when the lights go on in the garden surrounding it. It is a treat to see the memorial come alive. I sat beside the lake near the memorial, and watched the Angel sculpture on the top of St Paul Cathedral. I wish to go there soon.
This building reflects the opulence and splendor of the British era in India. After the death of Queen Victoria, Memorial was erected in here respect. It covers a vast area of 64 acres. You can walk in the memorial. But you have to pay $3.5 as an entry fee. The cost is lower for locals. Interior of the marble building is just sheer genius.
It was designed by William Emerson. He brought the Saracenic and Mughal architecture together. And what you see in front of you is a masterpiece. You can learn a great deal about the Royal British families and history of the colonial period in India.
I do not do a lot of shopping when travelling because of two reasons. One because it adds to the luggage and two I could use that money in doing something more exciting while traveling. I prefer to buy small valuable artefacts and souvenirs. This time, I got myself metal earrings carved as peacocks from Dharamsala, they are my absolute favourite.
But Esplanade was a whole different story. It was Christmas time, and shopping fever catches you then, no matter what a miser you are. So, I hopped on the metro, and headed for Espanade. I don’t like the bustle but hey that is the charm of flea markets. Esplanade is a place where you can get all kind things from shoes , purses, clothes, jewellery to chargers, phones, bags and any form of electronics. It is huge place to explore, so take your time.
St Paul’s Cathedral
Just from the tiny lake in Victoria Memorial, you can spot the Angel of the St Paul’s cathedral. It is one of the finest British architecture left in India and the biggest church in Kolkata. The cathedral is of Gothic style made of stained glass windows.
India was under the British rule for two hundred years. That is the reason; you can spot many pieces of evidence of colonial architecture spread across the country. Kolkata was a developed part of the nation during that period.
The British decorated it as much as they could. St. Paul’s Cathedral was built in 1839. Cubic shaped clock tower and gothic columns make it appear as some Cathedral in Britain. It has been damaged many times but preserved back to its style.
And near the St Paul’s Cathedral lies the Birla Planetarium, which is the largest in Asia. There are shows held here from 12 pm to 7 pm, from Monday to Friday. But on weekends there are extra shows in languages other than English, Bengali and Hindi.
Birla Planetarium may be the largest in Asia, but Science city is also the largest Science center in the Indian Sub-continent. You need an entire day to spend in Science City because it is so huge. There are galleries. There is also a science park outdoor where you can practically learn the science.
The capital is known to be the busiest place in India. In the same way, the iconic Howrah Bridge is the most active in the world. There is a tale behind its construction. One that says its engineer threw the plan of it inside the river. So that nobody else constructed a bridge like this. It is one of its kind.
In the nineteenth century, the suspension bridge was engineered. Across the Hooghly River, it stretches over 450 meters. You can walk on the bridge and experience the thrill or take a taxi. But be warned of the crowd and traffic.
If you travel by train, then you will reach the Kolkata station. And as soon as you step out of the station you see the Howrah Bridge. You will hire a taxi right under the bridge and ride on the bridge to reach your destination.
The history related to the Bridge is what makes it so appealing – the bridge does not have any nuts and bolts and is a suspension bridge. Rabindra Setu is the name of the bridge, but its popular name is Howrah.
You might think that Kolkata is obsessed with marble buildings. But in the early nineteenth-century marble was considered an extravagance. So, to mirror luxury in their homes and buildings every well- off families made marble their thing. The marble palace was the home of Raja Rajendra Mullick.
He was a renowned zamindar of the area. Now the palace showcases art pieces from various countries. Italy, Britain, Netherlands and much more. The intricately carved marble structures are lavish. You can take selfies with the statues of different Gods and famous explorers.
After the Rabindra Setu, comes the newer Bridge the Vidyasagar Setu which is far modern in look. You can go to a park just near the bridge and take boats to ride on the Hoogly River.
The first place I ever visited was Vidyasagar Setu. You must have heard a lot of controversies regarding the Howrah Bridge and it so hyped. You can see the bridge right near the railway station, and your taxi will take you through it also. But Vidyasagar Setu is a relatively new Bridge. The entrance to the area was like a garden, I saw many people strolling there. Having their evening leisure. Then I came across a building which looked like Colosseum( to my eyes at least). But when I went in there was cow dung everywhere. I didn’t know whether it was a stable or building.
I also came across a ghat, where I saw boats being docked. And curious that I am I asked how much is a ride going to cost? He did not have to answer for me to jump on the boat. I sat right on it when he handed me the lifejacket. The boat was traditional, which was made of wood, and even had a safe corner for sitting, a prototype version of a shikara.
The ride was peaceful, the black waters hypnotic and the lights above in the bridge- piercing. I had finally found a spot to relax in a noisy city.
South Park Street Cemetery
If you are a goth or a nyctophiliac, then the South Park Street Cemetery is your kind of place. It was the burial ground of British soldiers who could not return home. Moss covered epitaphs, and quiet atmosphere gives it an eerie touch.
No Soldier will come out their graves to greet you. But you can sling your camera and click some fantastic picture of the oldest cemetery in Kolkata.
Taste Macher Jhol & Rosogulla
The hullabaloo of Kolkata might annoy you, but the foodgasm you get here is incomparable. The street food here has variety and taste. Chaat is my favorite because as an Indian girl I like it spicy.
The “puchka” (Pani-puri) with the tamarind water is a party in the mouth.
Apart from the street food, it has got places where you can fulfill your biriyani dream too. I headed off to Balle Balle with my friend to this Bollywood themed restaurant. It was packed but the food was gob-smacking. And no matter what, do try the Rosogolla, this sweet should be in the mouth of anyone who visits Kolkata.
The best Zoo you can find in Kolkata is the Alipore Zoo. So, it is also the most crowded one. Children love partying here during weekend and holidays. So avoid going there in such days, if you can help it. The entrance fee is meager but there is nothing available to eat inside the zoo, so you can take something from the outside.
You must get tired of my whining of the crowds in Kolkata, but at Aligarh it was Christmas. I had gone there during the Christmas Vacation, and that too on a Sunday, and let me warn you that is not a good idea. All the children come to party here, and they keep stomping your foot.
But I love to go to zoos, not because I like animals being trapped but I would go see them even when they would be in a sanctuary. I am fascinated by them. Aligarh Zoo, has lot of species to look at. And it is huge. I have had the chance to see many species in the Padmaja Naidu Zoological Park, and the Sanctuary in Sikkim, but I saw many exotic species here.
I saw lion, whom I had never seen. He was lounging in his den. And the glorious Black Swan, I wish I could use heart emoji here to express how much I loved that creature. I saw the ostrich up close, it was taller than any man around- 7 ft to be precise.
I can’t just sit here and make lists, because there were so many of them that caught my attention. It would take a long post to do that, and it might get boring. So, lets skip to the next.
How to Get Here
Kolkata is the cultural hub of eastern India. And it has got all kind of connectivity. There is the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose airport in Kolkata. And it also has a massive railway station where trains run from around the country.
Best Time To Visit Kolkata
The best time to visit is during the Durga Puja, that is what Durga Puja is called in Bengali. The city looks beautiful with shimmering lights in every nook and cranny. The city is a busy one, and during the festival, it gets super busy. So, if you can brave the crowds this time is for you.
What to wear
Kolkata is a humid place. You won’t need a sweater there even in December. That says how hot it is. Kolkata is a place where people are far too busy to gaze at you. Girls, You can wear shorts, skirts, and dresses anything you prefer to.
Bengali is the language used in Kolkata. It is closer to its sister language Odia. You can understand Odia if you know Bengali and Vice Versa. Most of the population here is well educated. They can speak English. You will have no problem in communicating with them.
Rupees is the currency used in every state of India. Kolkata is an important city, so you can find many shops accepting cards.
Nearly every area has Wi-Fi, but most of them aren’t open networks. The best you can get is at your hotel who will share their Wi-Fi with you.
The Bongs (the Bengalis) are very devoted to their culture. And they take pride in it. Do not by any chance try to offend them because you might lose their friendship after that. There are hawkers mostly everywhere, and the place does not stop smelling like fish. But that is what Kolkata is about Hoogly and Macher Jhol( Fish curry).
As mentioned earlier, if you visit Kolkata then the Machher Jhol is must- have on the list. You can eat fish curry anywhere, but the taste you get here is far different than any other place. And even though you do not eat it at a swanky restaurant and have it at a residency, you will still love it. Other than that Rosogulla is the delicacy which popularized the city once again.
There are yellow taxis everywhere around Kolkata. That is the trademark by which many remember Kolkata. You can use the taxis or the Uber / Ola app. Most of the times, you have to book the cabs way ahead of time. The traffic is so bad, you need to wait long for the cab to arrive. Another option which is cost efficient is the metro, once you get a hang of it you can reach anywhere you want in Kolkata. You can check the schedules of the Metro on the internet to get a better idea of it. Or you can ask your hotel staff to guide you with it.
The road condition of Kolkata depends on the area through which you travel. The main roads are in top condition and a joy to ride on. But there are also places, like on the fringes of the city where you will find holes and mud.
Kolkata is an expensive place as compared to other Eastern India state. If you paid 1500 INR for a suite in Puri, you will have to pay the double 3000 INR for a decent room in Kolkata. It is better to visit Kolkata if you know someone there, so you can cut short the accommodation cost. If not, then you need 20K to spend a week in Kolkata.
How many days to travel
Kolkata has places which never get old. In every corner, there are still tokens from the past you will not want to waste. If you want to give Kolkata a thorough visit then you need 5 days to cover the main attractions.
How safe is Kolkata
Safety in Kolkata depends on where you go. If you go to a CCD, then be rest assured that you have security. But if you go to Esplanade, do not go there without company. Be safe rather than sorry.
November 3, 2016 5:39 pm
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