6 mins

An Insider's Guide to Kolkata

Our featured blogger, Ekta Bhatnagar, reveals the hidden corners of her home town and lists the places you must visit

Victoria Memorial (Ekta Bhatnagar)

Let me start by saying this – I love Kolkata! It is the city where I spent my childhood, my school and college days. Kolkata has that special place in my heart.

Whether it is the people, or the great street food, the ‘mishti’ sweets of Bengal, the Durga Pujo festivities, the trams, the metro, the river banks, the yellow coloured ambassador cabs, the hand pulling rickshaw, the ethnicity, the music, Kolkata has the feel of the entire Indian culture. Kolkata offers a wide range of picturesque beauty and a welcoming smile to every tourist.

Here is my list of the places you must visit, even if you are only in the ‘City of Joy’ for a few days.

1. The Victoria Memorial

You cannot miss this place – it sits right in the middle of the city. This former British treasure was built in the memory of Queen Victoria and its magnificent architecture, lush green lawns, royal paintings and historic artifacts take you straight back to the Victorian era.

It is open to visitors from 5:30am till 7pm on all days including holidays, but my suggestion would be to visit the memorial in the evening, and then move on to witness the beautiful ‘Fountains of Joy’, a colourful extravaganza, bang opposite to the memorial. These are Kolkata’s very own musical fountains, dancing to the symphony of melodious music every day from 6pm to 8pm. It is the pride of Bengal, set to a perfect blend of water, music and lights.

2. Maidan and Park Street

Near the Victoria Memorial are two of Kolkata’s most famous hotspots – Maidan and Park Street.

Maidan is a large stretch of land, a vast field, and is a hub for people who come to exercise, take an evening walk or clubs for cricketing practice. It is also home to Eden gardens, Fort William and the Kolkata Racecourse. The street food of Maidan is extremely famous and one should try the ‘Puchka’ or ‘Paani puri’ and the yummy Kolkata Chaat.

Maidan is close to Park Street, which gives you the feeling of being in Times Square, New York. Park Street is famous for its variety of restaurants and Kolkata’s nightlife hub, Moulin Rouge, Blue Fox, Waldorf, Sourav’s to name a few.

3. Kolkata’s bridges

There are two amazing bridges in Kolkata – one is the Old Howrah Bridge, also known as Rabindra Setu and the other is a fairly new addition, The Vidyasagar Setu or the new Hooghly Bridge, crossing the Hooghly River.

The Howrah Bridge is considered to be one of the busiest bridges in the world with a number of vehicles and pedestrians going about their everyday chores.

The best way to see the bridges is to take a cruise on the Hooghly River. In the evening, you can get a breathtaking view of the Howrah Bridge as well as the Vidyasagar Setu.

4. Kolkata’s museums

The Indian Museum of Kolkata is the oldest and the largest museum in India. It has a huge variety of exhibits from dinosaur fossils, to a collection of antiques, mummies, ornaments, paintings, skeletons, weapons and more. It has over 60 galleries and such a huge collection, making an entire day seem less.

A visit to the Science City, if you have kids, is also recommended. It is the largest science centre in India, open from 9am to 9pm and has everything from Space Odyssey to Evolution Park to Time Machine to 3D theatres – basically everything related to science in one place!

5. Kolkata’s temples

For those looking for a religious experience, The Birla Mandir, Kalighat and the Dakhshineshwar Kali Temple are a must visit.

Birla Mandir is world famous for its architecture, built of white marble and clean surroundings. Kalighat is one of the oldest and famous temples in South Kolkata, dedicated to Goddess Kali. The Dakhshineshwar Temple is also dedicated to Goddess Kali and is located on the banks of the Hooghly River. It is a much bigger temple than Kalighat and known for its red brick architecture, often visited by tourists.

The Ramkrishna Temple located at Belur Math, another spiritual place, was founded by Swami Vivekananda. It follows the Ramkrishna Mission as Swami Vivekananda was his ardent follower. The temple shows the unification of Hindu, Christian and Islamic culture situated on the banks of River Ganga.

6. Mother Theresa’s House

The Mother House, Nirmal Hriday, located at Chowringhee in Kolkata is where visitors come to pay respect to Mother Teresa. One can see the Mother’s tomb and also the place where she stayed. It is a place to experience peace and to give back something to the world.

7. Kolkata’s food

You must try Kolkata’s famous street rolls – simply delicious! Bedouin is one of the famous joints for rolls and has branches across Kolkata.

Don’t miss Flury’s at Park Street, a famous hangout for oven-fresh cakes, desserts or a leisurely breakfast. Or the famous sweets of Bengal, Mishti Doi and Rossogolla, just to name a few. Just choose a stall and tuck in.

An early morning visit to Howrah Bridge offers a great chance to catch people bathing at the ghats of the Hooghly. Sip hot tea and have hot samosas while enjoying the scenic beauty Kolkata.

Ekta BhatnagarOn The Move | Ekta Bhatnagar

On The Move is my diary, my personal experiences, about the places I have been to, the culture and people I have met, about a passion – travel writing! The destinations I would cover are mostly in India, such a vast country offering you a mix of varied culture, that one life isn't enough to explore it to the fullest.

So, enjoy and explore with me.

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