Arts, theatre, literature, history and food too, the city of yellow taxis has a lot of colours and layers to it! But before the art renaissance, the city that the British East India Company made “Calcutta” had actually existed as 3 separate villages under the Mughal reign. The British hold over the city remains visible in its architecture and beyond. So, if you’re visiting the city that is a former capital of erstwhile British India, then here are some suggestions for you to explore it.
How to reach: As one of India’s leading metropolitans the city is well connected by both air and railway routes.
Best time to visit: November to February
Hop on a tram ride and in a yellow taxi for that quintessential Kolkata vibe and get set exploring the busily bustling city!
- Fort William and around
If you’re visiting a city that was the capital of India for more than a century, then how can you not immerse yourself in its history? Fort William was built in 1696 and named in order to honour King William the III of England. The massive structure took approximately 10 years to be completed. The fort has 6 gates and the lawns around it are referred to as the “lungs of Kolkata” for the greenery they lend to the city. Today, the fort is largely under the Indian Army, so, it isn’t fully accessible to the public but you can enjoy portions of it. Perched near the banks of River Hooghly, the fort complex is much bigger than the fort alone, with the likes of Prinsep Ghat and others also coming under its area. You can take a leisurely boat ride there; this is best at the sunset hour.
2) The Marble Palace
In the northern part of Kolkata, there are rajbaaris which are structures of old colonial remnants in the otherwise busy streets in this part of the town. You can walk around on foot to let the contrast from the squalor to the modern outcroppings and the heritage marks strike you. One important building reflecting the grand heritage of the city is the Marble Palace. With its neoclassical style architecture, it has been constructed even with hints of Chinese and of course, Bengali influence. If you’re wondering why it is named after marble, surely the material is used in many structures, well, the answer is that this palace was constructed using 126 different types of marble! Rare artworks, furniture and even a music room are all sure to transport you to a different era.
3) Eden Gardens
Now if you’re a cricket fan, would you really miss a chance to see Eden Gardens? Active since 1934, the stadium has seen many centuries and even five wicket hauls. As for the ones who like me are probably not cricket fanatics, the fact is a live match is a whole different ball game. The sweat of the players palpable even from a distance, the bated breath of the audience as their eyes follow the ball in the air and the atmosphere triumphing with screams of glee as their favoured team wins. Ah a live match is an infectious experience to almost all of us, so, if during your visit to Kolkata you can witness one, then why not!
Click here to check out five best places to see in West Bengal!
4) Victoria Memorial
Victoria Memorial is what we have all heard of from our childhood textbooks. It has remained a fascinating monument not just for all of Kolkata but for all of India actually. Lord Curzon in his tenure as the Viceroy of India had the brainchild to get this monument built. He wanted it to be a monument in honour of the Queen of England, along with a gallery and a testament to the might of the British Empire in India. Intended to serve as a “standing record of our wonderful history”, the monument’s construction commenced in 1906 and it was opened to the public in 1921. Walk around its halls, gaze at its structure and learn more about the history of our land.
5) Central Park, Salt Lake
A highly developed residential area called Salt Lake houses Kolkata’s second largest open space, Central Park. Also known as Banabitan it has been built around a considerably large water body. Looming trees, groomed shrubs and trim grasses lend to the pleasantness at this park. You can even spot ducks in the lake. When you find yourself tired by the tall concrete structures and the overall business of the city, a visit to even a simple park such as this can leave you feeling fresher and better. Incidentally, if you’re looking to experience the Kolkata air then the biggest open space is the Maidan. While you won’t find it empty, you will find it packed with sports players and lovers enjoying the thrill of playing. So, who’s up for kicking around and getting some football time in while in Kolkata?
6) Paul’s Cathedral
This Anglican church was built by the British empire as one of the first of such a massive stature to be built outside of Great Britain. Its another reminder of the beautiful architecture that Kolkata is teeming with. The church is of great significance to the Christian community, after all it is the seat of the Diocese of Calcutta. A diocese is the district under the pastoral jurisdiction of a bishop, making this church of great relevance for the region at large. While its cornerstone was laid in 1839, the church took over 8 years to be completed. While earthquakes impacted the church, it has been restored and maintained thereafter and you can go witness it for yourself.
7) Food, food and food!
As I write this article, I find myself feeling extremely hungry. And I blame my Kolkata based friends for this because when asked for suggestions about things to do in the city, all everyone mostly came up with was food and a lot of it! From chelo kebab at Peter Cat to breakfast at Flurry’s, a whole lot of street food like jhal muri, etc. to the ever so popular puchka¸ Bengali Thali to more food at Stock Exchange…ah the list goes on and on. The point is when in Kolkata forget about your calorie count for a while, bring on those baggy pants and hog away to glory. What are you going to bite into first? I have prawn cutlets on my mind!
Click here to read about Bengali Cuisine in Detail!
8) Underwater Metro!
So, the underwater metro is expected to launch in Kolkata by 2021. If you are amongst the lucky folks to visit at a time that it has started, why not give it a shot? After all it is the first of it’s kind in India! Beneath the Hooghly River an underwater tunnel is being constructed presently. The metro is projected to stretch for a little over 10 kilometres and will be capable of carrying 9 lakh people on a daily basis!
All in all, Kolkata is a vibrant city rich with its historical and cultural experiences. There are more things to do as per what your idea from the visit is. For instance, people with kids and those interested in science can visit Science City to see the interesting models and activities built to explain concepts. Then those with a weekend in hand can even drive off approximately 120kms to explore the wildlife at Sundarbans National Park. Meanwhile, the truest cultural experience would of course be to visit when the Durga Puja is in full swing in October, where the whole city comes to life. So, what’s your idea of a visit to Kolkata?
Read about Things to do in Varanasi here!