Esplanade (এসপ্ল্যানেড Esplyāneḍ) is the heart of Kolkata with all its colonial British buildings. The district takes a visitor back to the Raj era with nostalgic overtones. Many of the city's important buildings are here, the old central business district (CBD) of the city. The district also covers Barabazar, BBD Bagh and Dharmatala.
When the British arrived in Bengal, they decided to settle there, because it was less crowded than other areas. They built the old Fort William here (at the place where the General Post Office now stands). After their victory in the Battle of Plassey in 1757, they built a new fort in Gobindapur. However, Esplanade remained at the heart of what was then the 'White Town' of Calcutta. No Indian, rich or poor, dared to live in the district. They came for work during day time and went back to the 'Black Town' (North Kolkata) before sunset. With the Writers' Building occupying the north side and numerous commercial offices all around, it became the administrative and business centre of Calcutta.
Esplanade is also home to Kolkata's original Chinatown in Tiretta Bazaar. Although many of the ethnic Chinese have moved out to Tangra, a handful of Chinese restaurants and food stalls still remain in Tiretta Bazaar.
- 1 Esplanade Bus Terminus (Dharmatala Bus Terminus). It has bus terminals for buses from Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sikkim, Odisha, Jharkhand, Bihar and other parts of the country.
The North–South Metroruns over Chittaranjan Avenue and Chowringhee Road with the stop at Esplanade.
Esplanade can be reached by the Kolkata Suburban Railway via its Circular Line, with a stop at 2 BBD Bagh.
- 3 Fairlie Ghat, Strand Rd. Take a boat to Howrah Shipping Ghat
While Kolkata's tram network has shrunk, there's still a few routes operating from 4 Esplanade Tram Terminus.
- 1 Currency Building, 1, Surendra Mohan Ghosh Sarani. A three-story Italianate structure, consisting of floors covered by marble and Chunar sandstone. During its use as a currency office, the central hall contained the exchange counters for banknotes, gold, silver, and small change. In 1994, authorities decided to raze the building due to structural deterioration. However, the building was saved from being completely demolished and was renovated between 2005 and 2019. On 11 January 2020, the building was formally dedicated as a public museum at its reopening ceremony.
- 2 Esplanade Mansions, 1, Esplanade Row East. One of the buildings previously owned by Jewish businessman David Elias Ezra. The residential building was built in the Art Nouveau architecture style. As of 2022, it is owned by the Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) and houses commercial, railways and other government offices.
- 3 Metcalfe Hall, 12, Strand Rd. A neoclassical heritage building. Its ground floor houses the Asiatic Society's rare foreign journals and manuscripts section, while the first floor houses offices, exhibition galleries and a sales counter of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
- 4 Kolkata Town Hall, 4, Esplanade Row W. built in 1813, in the Doric style of architecture. It is now the City Magistrate’s Office. Don’t let the riverfront mesmerize you yet! Between the Town Hall and the Strand is the Calcutta High Court, a scene of legendary legal battles. Completed in 1872, the Gothic architectural style was copied from the Staadhans at Ypres, Belgium. The tower measures 55 m.
- 5 Samriddhi Bhavan, Strand Rd. Headquarters of State Bank of India (SBI), the oldest bank of India. It was founded on 2 June 1806 as the Bank of Calcutta, mainly to fund General Wellesley's wars against Tipu Sultan and the Marathas. The bank was renamed to Bank of Bengal in 1809, then Imperial Bank of India in 1921 and then State Bank of India in 1955.
- 6 Assembly House (বিধানসভা ভবন Bidhānsabha Bhaban), Esplanade Row West. The building houses the legislative assembly of West Bengal.
- 7 Bankshall Court (City Sessions Court, Kolkata), 2, Bankshall St.
- 8 Calcutta High Court (কলকাতা হাইকোর্ট), Esplanade Row W (near Babughat), ☏ , fax: , firstname.lastname@example.org. It is the oldest high court in India. It was established as the High Court of Judicature at Fort William in 1862. The High Court building is an exact replica of the Cloth Hall in Ypres, Belgium.
- 9 General Post Office (GPO), Netaji Subhas Rd. Notable for its imposing high domed roof (rising over 220 ft (67 m)) and tall Ionic-Corinthian pillars. It was built in 1868, at the site of the old Fort William, and has remained an important landmark of the city ever since.
- 10 Raj Bhavan (রাজভবন Rājbhaban, former name: Government House). The Governor's Residence. Built in 1803, modelled on Lord Curzon’s home, Keddleston Hall, England, this is now the official residence of the Governor of West Bengal. There are many rare works of art and other interesting items.
- 11 Writers' Building (মহাকরণ Mahākaraṇ), 16, B. B. D. Bagh North. Former office of the Chief Minister of West Bengal, which became famous for its involvement with three youngsters–Benoy Basu, Badal Gupta and Dinesh Gupta–who dared to challenge the British rule in 1930.
- 12 Kolkata Port Trust Maritime and Heritage Museum, GF, 6, Fairlie Warehouse, Strand Rd (local: ). M–F 10:00AM–4:30PM. A museum showcasing the heritage of the Port of Kolkata, with some wonderful models of ships once used by the port.
- 13 Reserve Bank of India Museum, 8, Council House St, email@example.com. One of the museums in India that covers the evolution of money in the country, from the earliest barter system and the use of cowries to paper money, coins, stock markets and modern-day electronic transactions. It is hosted in the old building of the Reserve Bank of India.
- 14 Smaranika Tram Museum, 6, Esplanade Row E (metro: ). 3PM–8PM (closed Th). A museum housed inside a decommissioned tram, showcasing the 150-year-old heritage of the tram system in Kolkata. There's a cafeteria in the museum which serves basic tea and coffee. The cafeteria is considered a great place for adda. ₹5.
- 15 Armenian Church of the Holy Nazareth, 2, Armenian St. 18th-century Armenian Apostolic church. The current building dates back to 1724.
- 16 Bauddha Dharmankur Sabha, 1 Buddhist Temple St, ☏ . A Buddhist monastery established in 1892 and run by the Bengal Buddhist Association. The distinct red building mostly consists of a school and a guest house. There is a very small Buddhist shrine tucked away on the 1st floor.
- 17 Carey Baptist Church, BB Ganguly St, Bowbazar, ☏ .
- 18 Magen David Synagogue, 109, Canning St. The largest synagogue in the East, with Victorian architectural style. It was built in 1884 by Elias David Ezra in memory of his father David Joseph Ezra, who made his fortune in the real estate trade of Kolkata.
- 19 Beth-El Synagogue (বেথ এল সিনাগগ).
- 20 Holy Rosary Cathedral (ক্যাথিড্রাল অব দ্য মোস্ট হোলি রোজারি). Also known as the Portuguese Church. Built in 1799, it's the only remaining major building of Kolkata’s lesser-known Portuguese colonial history.
- 21 Nakhoda Mosque. The largest mosque in Kolkata.
- 22 Tipu Sultan Mosque, 185, Lenin Sarani Rd. Historic mosque completed in 1842.
- 23 St Andrews Church, 15, BBD Bagh North (north of Dalhousie Square Bus Terminus).
- 24 St John Church and Compound, 2/1 Council House St, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Built in 1787, St John's Church is the third-oldest church in Kolkata and the oldest Anglican Church in the city. Its compound contains several graves including that of Job Charnock.
- 1 Curzon Park (Surendranath Park), Rashmoni Ave (metro: ).
- 2 Lal Dighi (লালদিঘি Lāldighi, Tank Square), BBD Bagh South. A historic water tank.
- 3 Metro Cinema, 8, Chowringhee Rd. A uniplex cinema hall and a heritage building with Art Deco architecture.
- 4 Millennium Park, Strand Rd. A beautiful park at the riverfront, inaugrated on 26 December 1999 and opened to the general public on the 1 January 2000. The park was developed by the Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority (KMDA).
- 1 Barabazar. One of the busiest shopping districts of Kolkata. The place was the old Sutanuti Hat before the British came. With the influx of the Marwaris (a trading class) during British rule from Western India, it was transformed into Barabazar (big market). The saying goes that if one is willing to pay the price, everything is available in Barabazar. The market thrives on selling larger quantities at cheaper prices.
- 2 Tiretta Bazaar (টেরিটি বাজার Ṭeriṭi Bājār). Named after Edward Tiretta, an late 18th-century Italian immigrant from Venice but often refereed to as Old China Market due to its historic association with Chinese Indian nationals. While the population has dropped significantly the bazaar is still the place to buy Chinese goods in central Kolkata and to eat Chinese food.
- 1 Chinese Breakfast, Sun Yat Sen St (behind Poddar Court). Early before 8:30AM when things start wrapping up. A delicious Kolkata experience, where Chinese fish dumping comes steamed, fried or in soup. ₹30.
- 2 K.C. Das Sweets, 11A&B, Chittaranjan Ave, Esplanade. Best known for its rôsogollas.
- 1 Great Eastern Hotel (The LaLiT Great Eastern Kolkata), ☏ . Built in 1841, the Great Eastern Hotel is one of the oldest hotels in Kolkata. The hotel has housed many famous personalities including Nikita Khrushchev and Nikolai Bulganin, Elizabeth II, Mark Twain, Dave Brubeck and possibly Ho Chi Minh.
- 2 Polo Floatel, 10, Strand Rd, BBD Bagh, ☏ .