Kolkata, or the City of Joy, is a perpetual celebration of human life that embodies a unique blend of luxury and poverty, refinement and madness, futurism and aesthetic decay. As the former capital of British India, Calcutta's royal past is deeply ingrained in its every nook and cranny, alongside with ancient temples and palaces built in the era of the Great Mughals. Nonetheless, the city is rapidly growing, especially in the realm of IT-technologies, luring in thousands of young, talented, and well-educated people with creative ideas and lofty aspirations.
Kolkata is also the birthplace of modern Indian literature and art, with famous figures like Rabindranath Tagore and Satyajit Ray hailing from the city. It's not just artists and writers who have made their mark on Kolkata, though – famous preacher Ramakrishna and Mother Teresa have also left their legacies here. Let’s discover the many wonders of this urban oasis, and without fail, immerse ourselves in the delectable delights of its culinary world too.
This enormous marble palace, constructed in the first half of the 20th century, stands tall and proud, serving as a tribute to the legendary Queen Victoria. Crafted from pure white marble, the same material as the iconic Taj Mahal, the structure is crowned with ornamental turrets and a bronze statue of the Angel of Victory, which sits atop the dome. Inside the Victoria Memorial, a museum awaits, dedicated to showcasing the country's history during the British reign. Surrounded by a sprawling park, adorned with serene lakes, exquisite sculptures, and inviting benches, the Victoria Memorial remains a favorite spot among the locals, providing an oasis of tranquility and peace amidst the hectic city. Visitors are welcome to explore the Memorial for a fee of 500 rupees, with the palace being closed on Mondays. Alternatively, one can purchase a ticket to the garden alone for a mere 20 rupees, to bask in the beauty of the picturesque park.
It's one of the most aromatic Indian appetizers, small pieces of chicken are marinated in spices and yogurt and chargrilled using skewers. Tikka means "pieces" in Hindi.
Kookie Jar is a popular bakery located on the third floor of South City Mall close to the Victoria Memorial. Both locals and tourists frequent this spot for their delectable cakes, pastries, biscuits, and other baked goods. Don't miss out on their chocolate nougat cake, strawberry crumble pie, or lemon tart, and be sure to pair it with a cup of delicious macchiato. If you're looking for something more filling, they also offer options like chicken shawarma, basil pesto bread, or chicken tikka in masala bun. Kookie Jar is definitely worth a visit if you have a sweet tooth or need a quick snack while exploring the city.
The Howrah Bridge is a remarkable landmark of Kolkata that stands as a symbol of engineering marvel. It was constructed during the turbulent period of World War II, spanning across the river Hooghly for 705 meters with a towering height of 97 meters and a width of 25 meters. What makes it truly exceptional is the fact that it was the first bridge in the world to be constructed using only rivets, without any nuts and bolts. The bridge has stood the test of time and has become a vital transportation link for Kolkata. It's not just a structure but a lifeline for the city that carries more than 250 000 vehicles and pedestrians, and even a significant number of cows every day, making it one of the busiest bridges in the world. Have a stop here, to take a memorable photo of this beautiful bridge at sunset.
Tabbouleh (also spelled tabouli) is a super fresh herb and bulgur salad, with parsley being the number one ingredient. It’s dotted with diced cucumber and tomato, and dressed simply with olive oil and lemon juice. It’s refreshing, light and packed with healthy ingredients.
Go back to the city’s center and check out Piccadilly Square, a vegetarian café which offers a delightful blend of European cuisine with English and traditional Indian influences. To start off, try their light appetizers such as cauliflower tabbouleh, French crepes or beetroot hummus with feta cheese, accompanied with Italian focaccia or panini sandwich. Next, indulge in freshly made Belgian waffles paired with a hot cup of English tea, and end your meal on a sweet note with a serving of chocolate ice cream and their famous blue truffles filled with pistachio cream.
Park Street, a bustling avenue in the central part of Kolkata, is a hub of culinary delights, cultural attractions, and architectural gems that depict the city's rich history. It's a street that never sleeps and a gastronomic center adorned with iconic eateries and outstanding landmarks, such as the Park Hotel, the South Park Street Cemetery, the Asiatic Society, shopping arcades, nightclubs, and more. Exploring this street during the wee hours of the morning is a top choice for night owls and couples seeking an intimate walk in a tranquil environment, free from the usual bustle of crowds. Taking a tram ride with friends, or even alone, is also one of the most interesting activities in Kolkata, as it is the only operating tram network in India. There are special tram tours that are very interesting for tourists, as they can experience the true essence of this vibrant city.
An Italian dessert of sweetened cream thickened with gelatin and molded. The cream may be aromatized with coffee, vanilla, or other flavorings.
The Saffron Tree is a renowned establishment that revives the lost dishes of the Nawabs – Muslim rulers of princely states in India during the Mughal era, known for their lavish lifestyles, love for art, architecture, and fine cuisine. Their culinary legacy is still celebrated today, so you'd better steer clear of common biryani and explore the unconventional flavors instead. Why not start with prawns coated in aam-flavored mayonnaise or litchi ke kebab, which has its roots in the kitchens of the Nawabs of Lucknow? Alternatively, you could try Hyderabadi murg sofiana, featuring tender chicken in almond paste and milk. Finish off with wine-poached apricots served with roohafza panna cotta, rose water and saffron strands, and don't forget to indulge in mango lassi as well.
For art enthusiasts, the Indian Museum in Kolkata is an undeniable delight, offering a window into an exceptional collection of artifacts and works of art. As the largest and oldest museum in India, it's a notable attraction that draws a great number of tourists, and for good reason. The museum boasts an incredible array of exhibits, ranging from a unique collection of antiques to rare jewelry, paintings from the era of the Great Mughals, fossils, mummies, skeletons, and much more. There's something to captivate every visitor and provide a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of India. The entrance fee is ₹50 for Indian adults, ₹500 for foreigners, and note that the museum is closed on Mondays and public holidays.
The lamb meat is tenderer and more nutritional if compared to any other meat and has a particular gamey taste. It is not as firm as beef but chewier than chicken.
If you're a fan of Asian cuisine, you definitely need to check out this stylish restaurant, serving unusual Chinese, Korean, Burmese, and Thai dishes. For starters, take lamb with mahalak sauce, delicious Vietnamese chicken rolls, and scrumptious lobster in black pepper sauce. For your main course, we recommend Thai green chicken curry, Malaysian fish curry, or braised chicken in smoked chili sauce, all served with your choice of mixed fried rice or plain rice. You can't leave without trying beautiful and tasty desserts, including lychee ice cream, chocolate rolls with vanilla ice cream, and rambutan with ice cream. All these exotic recipes have been expertly adapted to suit the tastes of Indians and European tourists, so you won't be taken aback by anything.
Sundarbans is the largest mangrove forest on the planet, and a prime destination for nature lovers and adventurers seeking a thrilling experience in India. This well-maintained national park, located near Kolkata and recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the wonders of the natural world, boasting exceptional biodiversity and a unique flora and fauna. It's also home to the largest population of royal Bengal tigers. The best time to visit is between September and March, as this time of year offers favorable weather conditions for wildlife expeditions. Admission fees are ₹60 for Indian nationals and ₹200 for foreigners. If you don’t want to leave the city, then head to the Alipore Zoological Garden not far from the historical city center, which was established in the 1870s, and is India's oldest zoo with 100+ species of exotic animals.
Prawns are delicious, whether stir fried, tossed through pasta, cooked in spicy curry, or placed in salads. Prawns can be served on their own, as a side dish, an appetizer or a snack.
Spice Kraft is a fusion restaurant in Kolkata, known for its Asian and Indian cuisine that includes forgotten recipes from ancient Nawabs, royal hotels and Pakistani roadside dhabas. Some dishes you should try here include malai curry smoked fish-en-papillote, mixed noodle cantonese, hunan fish, spicy orange peel chicken, hammer jack (their signature cocktail), and dajaj chermoula with prawns in fragrant coriander sauce. In addition, you can sample their alcoholic ice cream with Kahlua liqueur and dark chocolate, or white-orange parfait with Cointreau and dark fudge torte. Wash it down with the tangy mandarin lemon grass shocker mocktail, and you’ll never forget this fantastic evening in the heart of Kolkata.
This list of must-see attractions in Kolkata is just the tip of the iceberg, and there are so many other spots to see here. For example, just a stone's throw away from Victoria Memorial, stands the imposing St. Paul's Cathedral – a splendid edifice built in the 1800s. Not too far off is the Birla Planetarium, where you can explore the intriguing secrets of the universe. For those with a passion for the arts, the Marble Palace is an absolute must-visit, with a vast collection of awe-inspiring works by legendary painters like Rubens, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, and Renoir.
Also, there is an abundance of ghats dotted throughout the city – a set of steps leading down to the river, where you can relish in the beauty of a sunset while savoring a cup of tea. One of them is the Prinsep Ghat, providing breathtaking views of the Vidyasagar Setu in the backdrop.