Kolkata (Bengali:কলকাতা) (formerly Calcutta) is the capital of West Bengal and one of the largest urban agglomerations in India. It is the largest city in Eastern India, as well as in the historical region of Bengal (today's West Bengal and Bangladesh). Kolkata is an 'in your face' city that shocks and charms the unsuspecting visitor. Long known as the cultural capital of India and home to the Bengal Renaissance, 'The City of Joy' continues to spawn generations of poets, writers, film directors and Nobel Prize winners. If your trip only allows for a visit of one or two of India's metropolitan cities, then definitely consider placing Kolkata on your itinerary. Love it or hate it, you definitely won't forget the 'City of Joy'.
The colonial district is still the central business and administrative area and is considered the heart of Kolkata. Made up of Esplanade, the northern part of Chowringhee, Park Street, Mirza Ghalib Street (Free School Street), Dalhousie Square (B.B.D. Bag), Chandni Chowk, Barra Bazaar and Sudder Street.
The area consisting of the huge park and its surrounding neighborhoods. Includes Fort William, Strand Road, Dufferin Road, Hooghly Bank and the northern part of Chowringhee.
The posher part of the city. Covers Ballygunge, Gariahat, Bhawanipur, Alipore, Chetla, New Alipore, Khidderpore, Rash Behari, Park Circus and Entally.
The rapidly mushrooming localities to the south of the city. Includes Tollygunge, Behala, Joka, Pailan, Budge Budge, Jadavpur, Garia, Narendrapur and new developments beyond. There are a number of educational institutes in this area. This is a relatively newer part of the city where a lot of expansion is going on.
The older area of the city, a fascinating district dominated by narrow little lanes and hundreds of century-old buildings. Includes Chitpur Road, Bagbazar, Belgachhia, Shyam Bazaar, Shova Bazaar, Maniktala, Jorasanko and the College Street area. Also situated here are the Sealdah station, one of the largest train hubs in India, and the newly built Kolkata station.
The large industrial area to the north of the city extends up to Naihati and Barasat. Includes Kashipur, Dumdum, Belghoria, Khardah, Panihati, Titagarh, Barrackpore, Madhyamgram etc. where there are a number of factories, including jute, paper, cotton, ordnance and chemicals. Dum Dum the prime communication hub of Kolkata having International Airport, Metro Rail, Circular Rail, overground rail is in this district.
Rapidly developing, specially IT sector and home to several malls. Encompasses Salt Lake City (Bidhan Nagar), Chinar Park, Rajarhat, Lake Town and the E.M. Bypass. Many five star hotels, theme parks, posh housing estates and techno parks are being built in this area.
While officially its own city, Howrah is very much a part of the Kolkata metropolitan area, and Howrah train station is where one will arrive/depart from if connecting with anywhere north, south or west of Kolkata.
Kolkata's history is intimately related to the British East India Company, which first arrived in 1690, and to British India, of which Calcutta became the capital in 1772. Job Charnock was widely known as the founder of Calcutta (There were 3 villages named Sutanuti, Govindapur & Kalikata. Later the village Kalikata became the city Kolkata.) but in recent years a number of Indian historians have disputed this claim, arguing that Kolkata developed naturally over a period, centered around the ancient Kali temple at Kalighat and the port at Khidderpore.
Whatever its origins, Kolkata flowered as the capital of British India during the nineteenth century, the heyday of the Raj. Calcutta University, the first modern Indian university was founded here in 1857. Kolkata became the centre of Indian arts and literature, and the national movement for independence got its start here. However, with the transfer of the capital to Delhi in 1911, the pains of the partition of Bengal in 1947,a violent and bloody Maoist movement (the Naxalbari movement) in the 1970s, Kolkata had become synonymous with urban decay and poverty.
Kolkata has become the main business, commercial and financial hub of eastern India. The city's economic fortunes grew as the economic liberalisation in India during the early nineties reached Kolkata during late nineties. Kolkata is a multicultural and cosmopolitan city, with diversity from all over India as well as Europeans (including Germans, Armenians, and others) and other Asians (including Chinese, Sinhalese, and Tibetans).
In 1977, a "Left Front" coalition of the Communist and Marxist parties came to power and ruled the state for 34 years. This is reflected in street names and memorials in the city with names like Lenin Sarani and Ho Chi Minh Sarani.
Kolkata is fast developing into a modern infotech city with various private sector companies setting up shop here. The landscape of the city is also fast changing with flyovers, gardens and several new commercial establishments. Kolkata city itself has expanded into its suburbs, with the Greater Kolkata stretching from Kalyani (in Nadia District) in North to Diamond Harbour in South (in the South 24 Parganas District).
The city's fortunes have looked up since the early nineties, coinciding with the liberalisation of the Indian economy. Its economy has been amongst the fastest growing in the country. The New Metro city is characterised by popular spots such as multiplexes, theatres, clubs, pubs, coffee shops, and museums.
Kolkata is home to many industrial units, of large Indian corporations, whose product range is varied and includes - engineering products, electronics, electrical equipment, cables, steel, leather, textiles, jewellery, frigates, automobiles, railway coaches and wagons.
Several industrial estates like Taratala, Uluberia, Dankuni, Kasba,Howrah are spread throughout the urban agglomeration. A huge leather complex has come up at Bantola. An export processing zone has been set up in Falta. Specialised setups like the country's first Toy Park, and a Gem and Jewellery Park have also been established.
Kolkata is also starting to become a major hub for the IT (Information Technology) industry. With the formation of New Town at Rajarhat and extension of Salt Lake's Sector-V, Kolkata is rapidly turning into a pro-IT town. More and more businesses are coming to Kolkata to set up their offices.
Kolkata is in the eastern part of India and is spread along the banks of the Hooghly river.
The Kolkata Municipal Corporation has an area of 185 square kilometres. The city proper today can be roughly divided into two sections along Mother Teresa Sarani (which was known during English rule as Park Street). North of Park Street is the more congested part of the city. South of Park Street is the slightly better planned section of the city.South Kolkata is better planned with wider roads and better equipped police force for keeping law & order. The better planning in South Kolkata is because it was built much later. The North is the real, old Kolkata and most of the oldest families and buildings are situated there. Over the past several years the city has expanded to the south and the east.
The old Central Business District (CBD) is where the seat of the West Bengal Government is located, along with many other government offices. Several banks have their corporate or regional headquarters around the B. B. D. Bagh area (named after the revolutionaries Binoy,Badol and Dinesh who forced entry into The Writer's Building, the epicentre of English government in West Bengal,and killed the officers who were famous for their rude and cruel treatment with the people and their various techniques of oppression). Many of Kolkata's older business groups have their main offices here. The area is a mix of multi-storeyed office blocks and colonial buildings.
The newer CBD is around the south of Park Street, Camac Street and AJC Bose Road. Several high-rise office blocks including some of Kolkata's tallest commercial buildings - like the Chatterjee International Centre, Tata Centre, Everest House, Industry House, CGO Building - are located here. An even-newer CBD is now being set up in the Rajarhat (Newtown) area, lying between Salt Lake and the Airport.
Maidan (meaning open field) is situated between the river Ganges and J.L.Nehru Road (or Chowringhee). It is said to be the lungs of Kolkata. The lush green meadow also houses Victoria Memorial, Eden Gardens, and several sporting clubs. Kolkatans simply love to stroll in the Maidan.
In an effort to relieve congestion in the main city, many government offices have shifted to high-rise office buildings lining Bidhan Nagar's (Salt Lake) Central Park.
The residential buildings are mainly lowrise and comprise of older colonial buildings and numerous new four storied apartment blocks. Ten to twelve storied apartment blocks have come up in large numbers in south Kolkata. The city has relaxed its rules on high-rise construction recently and twenty storied buildings are becoming more common. The tallest residential towers of eastern India - the four thirty-five-storey towers of South City have come up on Prince Anwar Shah Road.
Heavy construction activity along the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass is changing the face of the city. Luxury hotels, a convention centre, speciality hospitals, condominium complexes, malls and multiplexes are coming up at a rapid pace.
The city's expansion in the eastern side is spearheaded by the construction of a large new city called New Town adjacent to the well planned Bidhan Nagar. Located in Rajarhat, it is one of the largest planned urban developments in India.
The neglected western side of the urban agglomeration has got a boost recently with the signing of an agreement with Chiputra, an Indonesian company to build the Kolkata West International City (KWIC). Another huge new township is in the proposal state in Dankuni.
Slums and dilapidated structures exist in many pockets of the city proper and house over 25% of the city's population (Census 2001). Slum redevelopment schemes have helped improve living conditions by a small extent but there is huge scope for improvement in this area. Efforts to shift slum dwellers to newer developments have often met with resistance and failure because many of the slums are in prime areas of the city and the slum dwellers who are integrated in the social structure of the neighbourhood do not want to shift.
Kolkata has three main seasons: Summer, Monsoon, and Winter. Summer, from March–May, is hot and humid with temperatures touching 38-42° Celsius. Monsoon starts in June and lasts till September or October. This is the time when heavy showers sometimes lead to water logging. Winter runs from November to February. This is the best season to visit the city, as the weather is very pleasant with temperatures ranging between 8 and 20°.
Kolkata is in the GMT+5:30 time zone.
- Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport (IATA: CCU, Dum Dum Airport, নেতাজি সুভাষচন্দ্র বসু আন্তর্জাতিক বিমানবন্দর), Jessore Road (about 18 km outside the city centre. There is a prepaid taxi option (Rs 150-250). There is also a new rail link connecting the airport to the Circular Rail station in Dum Dum, however very few trains actually operate on the line at present take it from the city to 'Biman Bandar' Station(Code:BANB). - Also you can now avail of the new Volvo Bus service by Royal Cruiser (Rs 20, Rs 40, Rs 60) to the city centre. The bus plies on 5 different routes, so in case you are not sure, please ask the driver about the route and ask for his suggestion if the destination does not match the route. These air-conditioned buses are a wonderful way to escape the Kolkata heat and humidity. Cheaper, and hassle free, and since you can hail a taxi anywhere in the city centre to take you to your final destination, you do not need to worry. However, in case you are arriving at the busy hours, it is better to get a prepaid taxi, which takes you directly to your destination. - The buses are parked right outside the arrival gate at the DOMESTIC terminal- international travellers would have to walk down from their terminal for a distance of 800metres only. As you come out of the international terminal, turn left and keep walking towards the domestic terminal. Do not be dissuaded by the taxi touts, who would try and make you believe that the buses do not run anymore!), ☎ , fax: +91 33 2511 9266, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Services on the airport, at tha International Terminal:T. R. Stall (Newspapers, Magazines and General Items), a Duty Free Shop, a Garment Outlet, a Coffee Day and a Music Outlet .- At the Domestic Terminal: a couple Handicraft Shops, a Newspapers shop, a Medical Outlet, a Sweets Stall, a Florist. - Passengers Facilities: Trolleys, Telephone in Security Hold Area, Wheel Chair, Medical Inspection Room, Child Care Room, Assistance to Physically Challenged, Inter-Terminal Bus Service, Airport Post Office. +phone=+91 33 2511 8787, +91 33 39874987
For train timings etc. check with Indian Railways.
Kolkata is well connected by rail to almost all the big stations in India and also serves as the gateway to North-Eastern India.
- Howrah Railway station (हावड़ा जंक्शन रेलवे स्टेशन) (not in Kolkata actually, it's in the adjoining city Howrah, on the west bank of the Hooghly River, linked to Kolkata by Howrah Bridge. - Directly facing Howrah are ferries (Rs 5) that can get you to other side of the river to either Babu Ghat or Fairlie Place from where you can arrange onward transportation with anything from taxis to public buses to human rickshaws. With Kolkata's traffic situation this might actually save you time as well as money.). With 26 platforms, it has the highest train-handling capacity of any railway station in India; and is one of the busiest railway stations in terms of passenger volume per day. - There are currently 26 platforms in Howrah Station actually local trains of Eastern railway arrives mainly at 1-9 platforms but sometimes in busy traffic local trains of Eastern Railway may arrive from platform 10 to 12. Local trains of South Eastern Railway are mainly arrives at platform 12 to 23. Platform 17 to 26 are situated in New Complex.
- The Eastern Railway serves local trains to Belur Math, Tarakeswar, Katwa, Bandel, Sheoraphuli, Bardhaman and numerous intermediate stations and mail/express trains to Central, North and North-East India.
- The South Eastern Railway serves local trains to Amta, Mecheda, Panskura, Tamluk, Haldia, Kanthi, Medinipur and Kharagpur; and mail/express trains to Central, West and South India.
For passengers it has an enormous covered waiting area between the main complex and the platforms. The main complex has waiting and retiring rooms for passengers awaiting connecting trains. In addition there is a Yatri Niwas (Railway's travellers' lodge)with dormitory/ single room/ double room accommodation. The vehicular carriageways along the length of platforms allow passengers to be dropped near rail compartments — a facility unique among most major stations of the country.
- Sealdah Railway station, Bepin Behari Ganguly Street, Sealdah (-Tip: never ask a taxi from the nearby taxi-stand as they ask higher fares for taxi. There are pre-paid taxis to enter the city. The pre-paid taxi stand just outside the station's main entrance. The counter is under a tin shed.). - Handicapped/disabled access. There are 19 platforms.
- Kolkata Railway station (Kolkata Chitpur Railway Terminus, Bengali: চিতপুর), Belgachi (Buses: K1 ( Kolkata Station -Ultadanga- New Town -unitech) at an interval of about ten minutes; 007 (Makrampur - Kolkata Station via Tematha, Sonarpur Station, Kamalgazi, Garia, Patuli, Hiland Park, Mukundapur, Kalikapur, Ruby Hospital, Science City, Chingrighata, E.M. Bypass, Ultadanga, Khanna, Shyambazar); JM2 (Malancha - Kolkata Station via Harinavi, Rajpur, Kamalgazi, Dhalai Bridge, Patuli, Hiland Park, Mukundapur, Kalikapur, Ruby Hospital, Science City, Chingrighata, E.M. Bypass, Ultadanga, Khanna, Shyambazar) - If you reach near RG Kar Medical College and Hopital, which is only 8 to 10 minutes' walk, you get myriads of buses plying on different routes). This new terminus station has started functioning since 2005, it presently accommodates number of trains which previously terminated at Sealdah station. The station is linked to the Sealdah-Ranaghat Line and is served by the Eastern Railway for trains to Bandel, Kalyani Simanta, Gede, Shantipur, Krishnanagar, Dankuni, Kolkata Airport, Bongaon, Hasnabad and others. The number of suburban trains is lower than long-distance trains. This station runs many long distance express trains including two pairs of Garibrath Express, and one long distance passenger train - Lalgola Passenger.The Station also has an International train.The Maitree Express, provides a direct link between Kolkata and Dhaka, the capital of the neighboring country Bangladesh.There are five platforms, among them Platform 1 & 2 is used by only suburban trains, and Platform 3, 4 & 5 are used by long-distance trains. - Services: There are waiting rooms and retiring rooms for use by passengers awaiting connecting trains. In addition there is a taxi stand and a bus station outside the station.
- Santragachi Railway station, Santragachi Station Rd, Santragachi, Howrah (- There are Taxi stands and bus stands. A Volvo bus service to connect this area to Netaji Subhash Chandra International Airport). There are six platforms. Serves local trains to Amta, Mecheda, Panskura, Haldia, Kanthi, Medinipur and Kharagpur. - Nowadays, a few trains originate from Santragachi station to Ajmer, Porbandar, Nanded etc. and a Vivek Express running to Mangalore Central starting from Santragachi. Mostly all Howrah/Shalimar bound express/mail trains stop here.
- Shalimar Railway station :This is a small railway station (compared to Howrah Station) located outside kolkata which handles a small amount of EMU trains and few Express trains.
Trains originating from Shalimar Station are:
- Eden Gardens Railway Station, Strand Rd, Kolkata-700001 (Pier 'Outram Ghat', 100m -
Babughat Bus Terminus 200m - Esplanade Metro Station 1.3km). Located on the Kolkata Riverview line of the Kolkata Suburban Railway, it provides direct link to Khidderpore, Naihati, Chitpur, Majerhat etc. It only provides local EMU services.
- Esplanade Bus Station (Central Bus Terminus,), Rashmoni Avenue (Esplanade Metro Station 100m).
To/from Bangladesh, there are numerous bus options between Kolkata and Bangladesh. The most common way is the regular comfortable a/c buses from Dhaka to Kolkata via the Haridaspur / Benapole border post. Private bus companies Shohagh, Green Line,Shyamoli and others operate daily bus services on this route. Govt. buses run under the label of the state govt. undertaken West Bengal Surface Transport Corporation Limited(WBSTCL) and the Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (BRTC). WBSTCL and BRTC both operate buses from Kolkata every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday at 5:30AM and 8:30AM, and 12:30PM while from Dhaka they leave on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 7AM and 7:30AM. The normal journey time is around 12 hours with a one-way fare of Rs 550 or BDT600-800, roughly $8–12. If you're only headed to Haridaspur the fare is Rs 86 (2.5 hours). The Shyamoli Paribahan ticket office is at 6/1 Marquis St (parallel to and one block south of Sudder Street, and just west of Mirza Ghalib St, next door to DHL), 2252 0693. Beware that several travel agencies around this area also sell tickets for these buses, but at very inflated prices. At the border it's best to change money on the Indian side, but count it carefully and double-check the math on their calculator. On the Bangladesh side you can catch a flat-bed cycle-rickshaw for Tk5 for the 2 km trip to the bus stand for onward travel - or you can walk, but expect the hopeful rickshaw-wallahs to follow you at least half way.
To/from Eastern India via Bangladesh. Bus travel to some points in Eastern India are faster via Bangladesh (please note that visas will be required for entry into Bangladesh as well as for re-entry into India). If you're heading to points in Eastern India (Tripura for example) beyond Bangladesh—then there is a regular bus service between Dhaka and Agartala, capital of India's Tripura state. Two BRTC buses leave daily from Dhaka and connect with the Tripura Road Transport Corporation vehicles, running six days a week with a roundtrip fare of BDT600 (US$10). There is only one halt at Ashuganj in Bangladesh during the journey. Call +880 2 8360241 for schedule. Other entry points to North-Eastern India through Bangladesh are Hili, Chilahati / Haldibari and Banglaband border posts through Northern Bangladesh and Tamabil/Dawki border post for a route between Shillong (Meghalaya) and Sylhet in North-Eastern Bangladesh, and some others with lesser known routes from north-eastern Indian regions. Although scheduled bus-services to Shillong/Meghalaya from Kolkata through Dhaka may not be offered at present—it is still possible to get to those points via land routes going through Sylhet and then on to Tamabil/Dawki border outposts. Enquire at the Bus Service Counters for details.
Kolkata just wouldn't look the same without the plethora of yellow ambassador taxis that ply on its roads. They're easily available and relatively cheap, and will usually use their meters.
However, Kolkata taxis refuse to go to some distant remote locations (like Behala, Bansdroni, Howrah) where they wouldn't get any passenger while returning. If they agree, they will demand high pay; be ready for such a situation. New taxis have been introduced, which are called "No Refusal Taxis", but sadly, these taxis are also no different. Some of the new taxis are air-conditioned; usually, these will also have a "Same Fare" sign on them.
In Kolkata, it is a crime for taxis to refuse a request to go to certain destinations, and they can be fined, but if you threaten the driver with a complaint to the police, they will simply ask you to go ahead and complain.
You can find 'Orix' or 'Megacabs' air-conditioned taxis on call. Their fare is about Rs15-20/km. The telephone numbers to call for these taxis are Orix - +91 33 44222222 and Megacabs - +91 33 41414141.
Kolkata's "Metro Railway" was the first underground rail in India, yet it still has only a single route connecting the North and South of the city, from Dumdum to New Garia. It is the fastest, cleanest, most reliable, least crowded (though still rather crowded) and most efficient of all the transportation Kolkata has to offer. Kolkata’s one-line metro is the most stress-free and rush-free form of public transport. Trains run every 6-15 min. They run from 7AM-9:45PM from Monday to Saturday and 10AM-9:45PM. on Sunday. Work is underway to connect districts further north. There is also an East-West line in the works, which will connect Salt Lake to Howrah station. New Tourist Smart Cards shall be introduced, Card-I. valid for one day unlimited ride, Card-II. for three days. For more about these, read the conditions here.
"Calcutta Tramways" is the only tram service in all of India, and the oldest surviving electric tram network of Asia. Though decommissioned in some part of the city, electric trams are still one of the means of travelling between a few places within the city. They move slow on the laid tracks in traffic jammed streets, but they are environment-friendly (no emissions on the street, only at the source of energy generation). The network includes 21 Tram Routes
The electrified suburban rail network of SER and ER is extensive and includes the Circular Rail. Depending on the route, 'local' trains can be extremely crowded.
It is less expensive to travel around by train as compared to private cabs or taxis. Men are advised not to sit in ‘Ladies’ compartment.
The city has an extensive bus network (possibly the most exhaustive in the whole of India) and this is the cheapest, though not always the most comfortable means of transport. The routes are written all over the colourful buses in Bengali and also in English. The conductors call out their destinations to everyone he's passing and all you have to do is wave at the bus anywhere and it will stop, often causing a small traffic jam in the course. Just jump in.
Among the buses that ply the city streets, the deluxe buses run by CSTC (Calcutta State Transport Corporation), CTC (Calcutta Tramways Company), JNNURM (Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission) and WBSTC (West Bengal Surface Transport Corporation) are probably the better option. A/C buses (VOLVO) are also available to selected destinations.
In Kolkata, there are shared auto-rickshaws i.e. the auto-rickshaws don't ferry just a single person but four person at a time. The fare is not set by meters, as fares are fixed by the auto-rickshaw associations. Auto-rickshaws have a fixed route and a vehicle of that route travel in that particular route only.
However unlike taxis, they don't refuse passengers. The fare of an auto-rickshaw is much less than that of a taxi (for example, ₹7-10). Be prepared to give the exact fare as they are very reluctant to give change.
There are two types of rickshaws in Kolkata - human pulled rickshaws and cycle-rickshaws. However human-pulled rickshaws are confined to the Gariahat and Ballygunge region and take more fare than cycle-rickshaws.
The cycle-rickshaw is the most convenient mean of transport in Kolkata. It is very cheap and can accommodate two adults. The fare is not determined by meter by the respective rickshaw association. Unlike auto-rickshaws, they go to any place in a particular region.
However in night after 10pm the rickshaw drivers demand an exorbitant sum of money, the same goes for times during natural calamities like heavy rainfall.
The river offers a less crowded but slow traffic medium. There are several points (popularly called Ghats and jetties) on the bank of the river from where you can board several regular routes of ferry services. Ferries can be fairly large launches to small improvised motorized boats. Even if you don't get any exotic manual boat like you get in Varanasi, the river transport of the city lets you go to several old spots near the bank in a hassle-free manner with an additional dash of the view of decadent river front of the city.
Hiring a car
Privately owned rental car places are available throughout the city. Rates depend on the make, model, size and comfort level of the car. Agreements are flexible, for example, cars can be rented even for couple of hours at an hourly rate. Most rental cars are accompanied with a driver from the rental agency.
Being in West Bengal, the native language of the people of Kolkata is Bengali. However, most educated people speak Hindi and English as well. Many shopkeepers and taxi drivers are able to communicate in broken English, and government offices will typically have English-speaking staff on duty. Although it is generally not a problem getting by with English, it goes without saying that learning some Bengali will make your trip much smoother.
The city sprawls along the eastern bank of the Hooghly River, a branch of the river Ganges, which divides it from Howrah on the western bank. For travelers, the most relevant parts of Kolkata are south of the Howrah Bridge in the areas around BBD Bagh and Chowringhee.
- A walk along Chowringhee Road sets the pace as you set out to unravel the rare beauty of this city. Across the road sweeps a huge, lush green, open parkland called the Maidan, centering around Fort William, the massive and impregnable British Citadel built in 1773. The fort is still in use and retains its well guarded grandeur. Visitors are allowed in with special permission only.
- Jawahar Shishu Bhawan (Children Museum), J.L.Nehru Road (Rabindra Sadan Metro Station).
- Maidan, Maidan. 3 km in length and over 1 km in width, is a rambling green ‘lung of Kolkata’. Dotted with colourful maidan clubs, the area is a hub of diverse activities.
- Armenian Church, the oldest place of Christian worship in Calcutta. The church of Holy Nazareth was built in 1764.Among the other churches to visit are St Andrew’s Church. The Old Mission Church and the Greek Orthodox Church.
- Dakshineswar Kali Temple and Belur Math, built in 1847 on the banks of the Hooghly, north of Calcutta, the temple is associated with Shri Ramakrishna, the eclectic 19th century saint who revived Hinduism during the British Raj. Across the river stands Belur Math, headquarters of Ramakrishna Mission. The monastery is a haven of peace and religious harmony.
- Japanese Buddhist Temple, on the banks of Rabindra Sarovar.
- Jewish Synagogues, the Maghen David Synagogue on Jewish Synagogue Street and the BETHEL on Pollock Street are very old worship houses and a reminder to the cosmopolitan nature of the city.
- Kalighat, according to the legend, when Lord Shiva’s wife Parvati’s body was cut up, one of her fingers fell here. Rebuilt in 1809, this is an important shrine of Hindu Shakti worship. The temple is in the southern part of the city.
- Nakhoda Mosque, modelled on Akbar’s tomb in Sikandra, the red sandstone mosque has two minarets 46 mts high, a brightly painted onion shaped dome and can accommodate 10,000 people. Built in 1926 and located on Chitpur Road.
- Pareshnath Jain Temple, an ornate mass of mirrors, coloured stones and glass mosaic, and overlooks a beautiful garden. It is in Gauri Bari, near Maniktala.
- Parsi Fire Temples, cater to the religious needs of the prominent Parsi community of Calcutta. Located on Metcalf Street and Beliaghata.
- Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, commemorates the birth centenary of Shri Ramakrishna Paramahansa. Religious discourses and cultural exchanges are held here among international scholars. The institute is located at Golpark.
- St John’s Church, built in 1787 with Grecian columns. The burial ground has the mausoleum of Job Charnock, founder of Calcutta. On the north-west side of Raj Bhavan.
- St Paul’s Cathedral : Constructed between 1839 and 1847 in Gothic style with stained glass windows and two Florentine frescoes, the cathedral is the largest in the city and next to the Birla Planetarium. St Paul’s was conscerated in 1874.
- Take a walk along the river. There is a good promenade near Eden Garden.
- Take a stroll down memory lane at Princep ghat.
- Take a boat cruise in small boats under the starlit sky at Outram Ghat.
- Take an Auto Rickshaw / Tuk Tuk ride from Chandni Chowk to Lohapool, the driver will take you through some back alleys and narrow roads of Kolkata, sit tight and keep faith on the driver.
- Several modern cinemas are dotted around the city, including INOX at the Forum Shopping Mall and the City Centre in Salt Lake, 89 Cinemas at Swabhumi near Salt Lake City and Fame at Metropolis Mall in Highland Park, RDB Adlabs at RDB Boulevard, Near Infinity Building in Sector 5, Saltlake, all showing Indian and American blockbusters.
- Nandan, 1/1 AJC Bose Rd (east of Rabindra Sadan metro station), ☎ . The symbol of art and culture in the city and the site of the Kolkata Film Festival every November.
- Football (soccer) is a passion for many Kolkatans with the national clubs, Mohun Bagan Athletic Club and East Bengal Club being the best known teams.
- Indian Premier League. Is the main club cricket league in India. It is one of the most widely attended sporting events in the world, and if you are in Kolkata during the season (April–May), consider going to watch the home team (Kolkata Knight Riders) play at Eden Gardens.
- The Kolkata Book Fair takes place from the last week of January to the first week of February. This is the largest book fair in Asia and is a major event in the city.
- Durga Puja, a festival honoring the Hindu goddess Durga, takes place in October. The biggest festival for Hindus in Bengal and Eastern India, Kolkata takes on an almost carnival like ambiance. Streets shut down for the construction of pandals, large stands that depict events from the Ramayana and crowds flock to the biggest and best ones. A great time to visit Kolkata (unless you have a fear of crowds!).
Volunteering is a real option here with several opportunities.
- Brother Xavier's New Hope. Home for orphans of Kolkata's red light district. A much smaller mission than Mother Teresa's which one man built from the ground up. Brother Xavier and the children always need volunteers and funds.
- Human Wave, 103, Tentultala Lane,Mankundu, Hooghly, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. NGO that helps children, women and communities in cities around Kolkata. Visit their website for more info on their 2 weeks to 12 months volunteering opportunities.
- Mother Teresa's Mission accepts volunteers to help in its multiple projects around town. Enquire at the motherhouse.
Traditionally Kolkata had certain shopping areas or districts. The New Market area was considered the core of fashionable marketing. That was the market place for the British and later patronised by the more sophisticated amongst Indians. There were large markets in Burrabazar, Hatibagan-Shyambazar, Gariahat and Bhawanipur. There were several specialised markets - electrical goods at Chandni Chowk, jewelry at Bow Bazar, books at College Street, fish at Maniktala, flowers at Jagannanth Ghat, the Maidan market for sports goods and so on. Over the years, these markets have flourished and attracted customers from far and near.
The malls are a more recent addition. The South City Mall, supposed to be the biggest in the city, is in Kolkata/Southern fringes. East Kolkata, the area that has come up in more recent years, has large number of malls. New malls are being added. One has come up at Park Circus, an old neighbourhood in South Kolkata, in 2013. All the district pages list malls and markets in the district. Where there are border-line cases, the mall is listed in one district with a link in the other.
Kolkata has old traditions about eating out. Wilson's Hotel (it later became Great Eastern Hotel) is credited to have been the first western-style hotel/restaurant in Kolkata, serving what was then forbidden food for Indians, particularly Hindus. One could be treated as an out-caste if caught eating there, but the idea caught on and others followed. Many of the restaurants that line the streets in the Esplanade area have been around for more than a hundred years (unfortunately, many also show their age!).
The joy of food in Kolkata is in its Indian foods. Nizam's (at 23-24 Hogg Street), close to New Market, is credited with the invention of the famous Kati Kebab roll and still serves up the best of the best. For Mughlai dishes there are several places to eat in the Park Circus area, and there are others all over the city.
Bengali food is centered around fish. Macher jhol, literally fish in curry gravy, is a watery fish curry available everywhere and goes well with rice, but Bengalis everywhere swear by the hilsa fish (a variant of shad). Hilsa, lightly marinaded in mustard and steamed is up there with the best fish dishes in the world. There are a number of eateries serving Bengali cuisine in all the districts.
Bengali sweets are famous all over India. Roshogolla (cheese balls dipped in a sugary syrup), Panthua - a fried variant of the same, Roshomalai- the same cheeseballs dipped in creamy sweetened milk, Mishti Doi (sweet yogurt), Shondhesh (another type of milk-based sweet, available in several variations).
Kolkata is also the home of Indian Chinese food. Chinese restaurants are everywhere so try the Indian variant of hot and sour soup and the famous Indian Chinese dish of chilli chicken. The best place to have Chinese is to visit China Town near Tangra - EM Bypass. It serves the best of the Chinese dishes and you will find plenty of large, small & medium restaurants. There are some restaurants serving Thai, Mediterranean or Italian food.
Kolkata also has many excellent vegetarian restaurants ranging from budget to expensive ones. There are two types - those serving North Indian and those serving South Indian food.
For those looking for vegetarian street foods, one can find ubiquitous Jhal Muri (somewhat similar to bhel puri of Mumbai) a concoction of puffed rice mixed with various spices, vegetables & other ingredients available at street vendors all over Kolkata.
Street vendors selling egg rolls/chicken rolls abound and their freshly prepared kati rolls are safe to eat and enjoy. Mughali Paratha (earlier it was a paratha stuffed with minced meat, but now the minced meat has been replaced by cheaper but tasty alternatives) is a Kolkata speciality. Fuchka, the Kolkata version of paani-puri, but very different than the ones found in Delhi, is available on the streets but be wary of the tamarind water! It never troubles the local people and outsiders can safely taste this delicacy as long as they don't take too much of the water. A few sips will, of course, shoul not cause any harm.
Earlier, the restaurants were stand alone entities. A cluster of eateries in a single mall is a comparatively new idea and has become a large crowd puller.
(See district pages for restaurant listings.)
Kolkata is the epitome of drinking and pubbing. Loads of liquor shops are scattered all around the city, in each and every locality. Kolkata has drinkers of all sorts-the regular working class to the aristocratic Bengali.
Pubbing and night-clubs are also common in Kolkata.
- Tantra (Park Hotel)
- Olypub (21 Park Street), famous for the beer and the beef steak
- Afraa city center 1
- Someplace Else (Park Hotel)
- Big Ben (The Kenilworth)
- Underground (HHI)
- Shisha (Camac Street)
- Venom (Fort Knox)
- Roxy (Park Hotel)
- The Basement (Sarat Bose Road)
- The Fairlawn Hotel garden (Sudder St)
Note: Due to a recent government order all pubs are supposed to shut shop by midnight or max 1AM. So go early if you want to enjoy in club.
Kolkata has long had a concentration of budget backpacker hotels in the Sudder Street area and many of these are colonial era gems, albeit decaying ones. Sudder Street is centrally located and is well connected by public transport. Both the major railway stations at Howrah and Sealdah have many hotels around them. There are some hotels in Gariahat. In more recent years, hotels have come up around hospital facilities as for example at Mukundapur and Panchasayar. The growth of the IT Sector in the East Kolkata has lead to development of hotels in that area.
There are numerous big budget deluxe 5 star & 4 star hotels around town.
British-era clubs such as Tollygunge Club, Calcutta Club (AJC Bose Rd), Saturday Club (Theatre Rd), and Bengal Club (Russel St) have lavish rooms for rent. However, they only accept bookings through members.
For individual hotel listings, please see the various district pages.
Public call booths can be found easily throughout the city from where local, national, and international calls can be made. Else local sim card can be used for connectivity.Cell phone coverage is excellent with all major mobile service providers offering their services in the city.
The area dialing code for Kolkata is 33. From overseas dial +91 33 XXXX XXXX, from within India dial 033 XXXX XXXX. For mobile phones, dial +91 XXXXX XXXXX. Kolkata has only one area code (033).
Internet cafes are also available in plenty and charges between 10-25/hour. You need to show your identity card to use internet in those cafes.
- Police — ☎ 100
- Fire — ☎ 101
- Ballygunge — ☎ +91 33 24543179/2100, +91 33 24862601
- Bhawanipur — ☎ +91 33 24558092, +91 33 24541100, 24862711
- Dumdum — ☎ +91 33 25514167
- Maidan — ☎ +91 33 2223 2462/4551, +91 33 22480100
- Park Street — ☎ +91 33 22268321, +91 33 22832100, +91 33 22276437
- North Kolkata
- Calcutta Medical College & Hospital, 88 College St. ☎ +91 33 22414901
- Central Kolkata
- St. John's Ambulance, 5, Government Place. ☎ +91 33 22485277
- South Kolkata
- Wochhardt Medical Centre, 2/7, Sarat Bose Rd. ☎ +91 33 24754320
- North Kolkata
- Central Blood Bank, 205 Vivekananda Rd. ☎ +91 33 23510619
- Central Kolkata
- Belle Vue Clinic, 9 UN Brahamachari St. ☎ +91 33 22472321
- South Kolkata
- AMRI Apollo, Gariahut Rd. ☎ +91 33 24612626
- North Kolkata
- Central Kolkata
- South Kolkata
- Ruby General Hospital, (Private), , Kasba Golpark, E. M. by-pass. ☎ +91 33 39871800
- Medica Superspeciality Hospital, (Private), Mukundapur, EM bypass
Kolkata is reasonably safe, and in general the people are more friendly and helpful than in many of India's other large cities. One noted problem is the drug dealers around Sudder Street. However, as the dealers obviously do not want to draw undue attention to their activity, they are generally not persistent and rarely a threat.
Beware of chain, bag and mobile snatchers who follow people mainly in highly populated places like traffic signals, crowded roads and railway stations. Women should not ask for lifts from strangers, especially when they are alone.
Places like Watgunge and Garden Reach are unsafe for foreigners and should not be visited at night.
- Bangladesh, Circus Ave (Just E of AJC Bose Rd), ☎ , , fax: +91 33-2288-1616. Issues 15-day visas. Applications are received at window #4 M-F from 9AM-11AM, and visas are generally ready the next afternoon. Bring 3 passport photos.
- Italy, Alipore (3, Raja Santosh Road), ☎ , fax: +91 33-24793892, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Monday-Friday 10.00 -12.00.
- China, EC-72, Sector I, Salt Lake City, ☎ , fax: +91 33 4004 8168, e-mail: email@example.com. M-F 10AM-12:30PM.
- France, 26 Park Mansions, Park St.
- Germany, 1 Hastings Park Rd, Alipore, ☎ , , , fax: +91 33 4004 8168. The origins of the German consulate in Kolkata can be traced to before the existence of Germany itself, to the establishment of the consulate of the Kingdom of Hanover in 1851 and the Consulate of Prussia in 1854.
- Greece, 10th floor, 21 Camac St, ☎ , fax: +91 33-2283 1545, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Japan, 55, M. N. Sen Lane, Tollygunge, ☎ , fax: +91 33 2421-1971.
- United Kingdom, 1A Ho Chi Minh Sarani, ☎ +91 33 2288 5173~76, fax: +91 33 2288-1616.
- United States, 5/1, Ho Chi Minh Sarani, ☎ , fax: +91 33-2282 2335, e-mail: email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com. It is the oldest diplomatic post of the U.S. in India, and the second oldest in the world (the oldest being in London). Benjamin Joy was appointed the first American Consul to Kolkata by George Washington in 1792, upon the express recommendation of then- Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson. (Note that the ironic address was the result of a diplomatic snub by the then Marxist Bengal government during the period of the U.S. war in Indochina.)
- Vishnupur - famous for terracotta temples, clay sculptures, and silk sarees.
- Santiniketan - famous for the Ashramik School, and university founded by Nobel Laureate poet Rabindranath Tagore. The town is also known for its handmade leather crafts and kantha stitch sarees.
- North Bengal - a mountainous region home to Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri, Lava-Lolegaon and, further south on the Gangetic plains, the historic districts of Malda and Murshidabad.
- Phuentsholing - Bhutan Government buses depart for this Bhutanese border town from the Esplanade Bus Station at 7PM on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. The journey takes around 18 hr and costs Rs 300. The buses are comfortable, but the roads through West Bengal are full of pot holes, so don't bank on getting much sleep on the way.
- Sundarbans National Park - part of the largest littoral mangrove in the world, and home to the famous Bengal Tigers.
- Beaches - the southerrn part of the State hosts several beach towns such as Digha, Sankarpur, Junput and Mondarmoni. Take a car or a bus that plies regularly from Esplanade to these serene beaches.
- About 10 km from Kolkata in the village of Samukpota is a "Green Mall" which offers an extensive collection of palm tress plus other plants, gardening tools, yoga instruction, and South Indian food.
Bangladesh. Tickets for buses running to the border and Dhaka can be reserved at Shyamoli Yatri Paribahan, 6/1 Marquis St (parallel to and one block south of Sudder Street, and just west of Mirza Ghalib St, next door to DHL), ☎ +91 33 2252 0693. 2-3 buses per day leave this office on Tu, Th and Sa, usually at 5:30AM, 8:30AM and 12:30PM. The fare is Rs 86 to the Haridaspur border post (about 2.5 hr). All the way to Dhaka (with a bus change at the border) will cost Rs 550 (about 12 hr). Beware that several travel agencies around this area also sell tickets for these buses, but at very inflated prices. At the border it's best to change money on the Indian side, but count it carefully and double-check the math on their calculator. On the Bangladesh side you can catch a flat-bed cycle-rickshaw for Tk5 for the 2 km trip to the bus stand for onward travel - or you can walk, but expect the hopeful rickshaw-wallahs to follow you at least half way.
Bhutan. Tucked away in the corner of the bus station is a small Bhutan Government kiosk selling tickets for buses running to the Bhutanese border town of Phuentsholing. Buses depart at 7PM on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and 18 hour journey costs Rs 300.