Once the capital of British India, Kolkata is the bustling capital of West Bengal and often referred to as the cultural heart of India. Colonial landmarks battle for space with colorful temples and lively markets present a sensory overload. Public gardens offer a respite from this hot and crowded, yet ultimately rewarding destination.
Many attractions are in and around the Maidan, a huge public park where locals relax and play cricket or soccer. Marvel at the marble Victoria Memorial before tracing Kolkata’s colonial-era history at the Calcutta Gallery. Visit British-built monuments such as Fort William and St. Paul’s Cathedral. Find archaeological relics, including centuries-old Hindu sculptures, at the Indian Museum.
Walk or take a rickshaw to the BBD Bagh district, or Dalhousie Square, to see more examples of the city’s past, such as the Raj Bhavan and the neo-Gothic High Court. Watch a cricket match at the Eden Gardens and sample street food cooked by vendors at nearby Fairlie Place.
Take a taxi or rickshaw across the River Hooghly via the impressive Howrah Bridge. Visit the flower market at Mullick Ghat and see devotees offer prayers at shrines. Admire giant lilies and a centuries-old banyan tree at the picturesque Indian Botanic Garden, a 15-minute drive from Howrah Bridge.
Shop and bargain for fabrics and leather goods in New Market. Explore the chaotic streets of Barabazar Market while browsing textile shops and spotting religious sights. Stroll down Phears Lane in Old Chinatown, famous for sweetshops, teahouses and kebab stores. Along Park Street, elegant restaurants present Kolkata’s tangy Bengali cuisine.
Kolkata proudly showcases Bengali and Hindu art, dance and music. A popular festival is the 5-day Durga Puja, a flamboyant event with music, parades and performances at pop-up temples.
Kolkata is close to the border with Bangladesh and you can reach it via India’s excellent network of long-distance buses and trains. The city’s international airport has connections to major destinations around the world.