- Kolkata — this centre of Bengali culture, the largest city in the state and the capital of the country until 1911, isknown as the "City of Joy"
- Howrah — Kolkata's twin city, the second-largest in the state, with the largest railway complex in India
- Darjeeling — a beautiful hill station and centre of a major tea growing area.
- Siliguri — a major business and shopping centre
- Durgapur — an industrial metropolis
- Asansol — an important mining and industrial centre
- Bardhaman - a major agricultural town
- Haldia — a developing port city
- Barrackpore — a suburban town of Greater Kolkata. It is the Oldest Cantonment in India and the Second War of Independence started here.
- Dakshineswar — famous for the Hindu temple of Goddess Kali known as Bhavatarini, an aspect of Kali, meaning, 'She who liberates Her devotees from the ocean of existence i.e Saṃsāra'. Situated on the eastern bank of the Hooghly River, near Kolkata the temple was built by Rani Rashmoni, a philanthropist and a devotee of Kali in 1855. The temple is famous for its association with Ramakrishna a mystic of 19th Century Bengal.]
- Gadiara — a small riverside town just outside Kolkata
- Sagardwip — pilgrimage site on an island in the Sunderban
- Santiniketan — town of Rabindranath Tagore's university
- Bibhuti Bhushan Wildlife Sanctuary
- Gorumara National Park
- Sundarbans National Park
West Bengal was born with the partition and independence of India, with millions of refugees pouring into the state. It has since seen a lot of turbulence. Anyone visiting the state should be aware of Bengalis' preoccupation with strikes (bandh). When these occur, all transportation (except train) stops, and so travel is impossible. Travellers flying from Kolkata need to take this situation into account and plan to arrive several days early.
The topography of the majority of West Bengal is flat, and as a major rice-growing region, it is characterised by a lush and green environment. However, with the notable exception of the towns located in the tea-growing areas of Jalpaiguri (the area around Siliguri) and Darjeeling, the urban areas tend to be characterless jumbles of concrete boxes devoid of charm.
Bengali is the main language here. Apart from Bengali - English, Hindi, Odia (also known as Oriya) and Assamese are also widely understood by the local people. In the Darjeeling area, the main language is Nepali.
Kolkata is normally the gateway to the state, but there are entry points all around. Two commercial airports are at Kolkata and Bagdogra. The state has a number of smaller airports. Railways link it with other states from all sides. Major road connections are NH 2 from Delhi, NH 5 from Chennai, NH 6 from western India and NH 31 from Guwahati. Major ports are Kolkata and Haldia, and there are a number of smaller ports. Kolkata is also connected by the golden quadrangle that joins the four metropolitan cities of the country (Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Chennai).
Within the state the main transport links are trains and buses. Apart from the mail and express trains coming from outside the state (they are generally very crowded), there are a number of fast trains within the state and a large number of passenger trains and locals (mostly around Kolkata). Taxis and hired cars are available in most places.
The state stretches from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal and so there are many things to see. Some of the places of tourist interest are listed above. It has wonderful cultural heritage, particularly towards the rural sides. The northern side has beautiful hills and forests, while the south has some nice beaches.
Visit sweets shops in Kolkata. Some of the sweets are unique.
Bengal is famous for fish preparations and sweet-meat but some of the vegetarian dishes are also a speciality. In earlier centuries widows were prohibited from taking anything other than vegetarian food (predominantly they still are but now rules are being broken) and they were principal chefs in large homes. They developed the vegetarian dishes extensively.
In a big city such as Kolkata one will get food as per choice of people from all over the country. Then one gets Chinese, Thai and continental. In most of the other towns it is Bengali cooking, plus Punjabi or North Indian preparations and some South Indian outlets. Mughlai dishes are popular.
There are plenty of bars across the state.
West Bengal is very safe for foreigners. There is hardly any incident of crime against foreigners in recent years. People are friendly and accept people of different cultures warmly. As a foreigner you might find people staring at you but they are just curious. But if you notice anything objectionable in their behaviour with you, face them boldly and ask for help. People are helpful and you will have them coming to your rescue. You may also call the police. They are reliable.
West Bengal is a very politically active state. You may witness clashes, which most often occur between students of fronts affiliated to the ruling Trinamool Congress and the opposition parties. It is better to stay out of the matter and leave the area, as even the police sometimes get involved.
There are certain areas in West Bengal infested with Maoist insurgents and the state government along with the central forces is in a state of battle with them. These areas are mostly located to the south-west of West Bengal along its border with neighbouring states of Odisha (formerly Orissa) and Jharkhand. The areas include the district of Paschim Medinipur, parts of Purba Medinipur, Purulia and Bankura. These places, though having a rich tribal culture heritage, are not usually frequented by tourists. If you would like to visit any of these areas, check on current information on the security situation. Though the targets of the insurgents are mostly the personnel of security forces, a few attacks on civilians were also reported in the past. The incidence of Maoist violence has diminished recently, but they continue to be a ruthless force. Apart from that, the rest of West Bengal is very tourist-friendly.