Kolkata, India’s second-largest city is as human a place can be. Beneath the ageing exterior is the expectant vigour. Under the bludgeons of time are eyes that still widen in awe of its own culture. Under the wizened grey is a passionate red. Leading to a ravenous belly is an articulate tongue that knows good taste. Much like most people, there are no pleasant introductions with Kolkata. The moment you step foot, you’re flung into the deep end of a sea of humanity engrossed in its passionate tryst with culture, art, history and quotidian life.


  • Victoria Memorial:  Probably Kolkata’s best-known monument, and its most beautiful, the Victoria Memorial is a sprawling, spectacular white marble building built in memory of the colonial Queen Victoria’s demise. Inside, there are sprawling high-ceilinged halls, the central one hosting a permanent exhibition of the city’s colonial past. The adjoining manicured gardens host a light & sound show on winter evenings. Even if heading inside doesn’t interest you, beholding the magnificent building from afar, with its reflections in the nearby pools, is a memorable experience.
  • New Market: The labyrinthine network of passages and halls that make up the century-old marketplace called the New Market can often spring surprises for a first-timer, for the sheer variety of what is on offer; everything from apparel and handicrafts to jewellery precious and semi-precious, to the choicest of meat cuts. With a bit of work, you could nab great bargains too, which you should definitely invest in the amazing restaurants, bakeries and sweet stalls nearby, including the Nahoum Bakery and the legendary KC Das, credited with the mighty Rasgulla.
  • Rabindra SarovarThe colourful pandemonium that is Kolkata isn’t much likely to offer you a breather. Unless you visit the few spots of quiet retreat like the Rabindra Sarovar and the Maidan. The mornings see Kolkatans running, walking or ambling along the idyllic lakes. The afternoons see the health-conscious replaced by the love-struck, with hawkers and artists and chirping birds comprising the rest.
  • Partying at the Park Hotel: The Park Hotel, one of Kolkata’s best hospitality establishments, is a pulsating cynosure of several of the city’s best night-out spots. A vast varied selection of restaurants, bars and clubs- from the swanky cocktail bar with a 60s Swing feel called Roxy to a modern lively nightclub and bar called Tantra, from an upscale tastefully done-up Oriental restaurant in Zen to an international-level old-time pub with live music called Someplace Else, and many more- the options are aplenty. Chances are you’d run out of time before you run out of places to try here.
  • Football Match: Kolkata is at its passionate, zealous best the evening of a football match. Generations have mythologized the sport here. Friendships are abandoned and fault lines appear regarding your team loyalties. It’s only fair that two of the biggest football stadiums in the world, Salt Lake Stadium and Eden Gardens stand here; smaller arenas won’t withstand the fervour East Bengal, Mohun Bengal, and now Atletico de Kolkata inspire.
  • Dakshineshwar: Located on the northern outskirts of the city, the Dakshineshwar temple complex is one of the city’s most culturally significant structures. It is here that the revered and renowned Hindu mystic Ramakrishna began his spiritual sojourn, and his quarters are now a preserved piece of quiet reverence. Twelve shrines on the river waterfront are dedicated to Lord Shiva, and the main temple is consecrated to Goddess Kali.
  • Kumartuli, the idol-makers’ village: At the heart of Kolkata’s humanity is its love for arts and culture. Kumartuli, literally translating to ‘Potters’ Village’, is a kaleidoscopic glimpse into that. The craftsmen are essentially the lifeblood of the city’s fervent renowned Durga and Kali Poojas, supplying the idols that are the centrepieces of the celebrations. Take a walk of the locality, click a few pictures, and with a small tip, observe the idol-makers at work.
  • Indian Museum: The biggest and oldest major museum in the country, and one of the oldest in the World, appropriately titled Indian Museum, gives a vivid account of Indian and world history through a collection of epic proportions housed in a magnificent old palace. The six sections displayed in about two dozen galleries include artefacts ranging from the enlightening, like an Egyptian mummy and the Ashoka Pillar (India’s national emblem), to the ludicrous, like embalmed human embryos and jewellery recovered from a crocodile’s interiors.
  • Book Market at College Street: News flash- Kolkata loves its literature. No surprise that sifting through rare titles and rarer editions of all kinds of books at College Street is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have here. The second-largest used books market in the world offers something for everyone; the dirt cheap prices and the staggering variety will keep you coming back.


Kolkata loves its food, and in all probability, you will too. Surprisingly affordable and thoroughly delicious, it makes devotees of the hardest of believers. With the alarming culinary variety, the only fair way is to look at the plethora of options from different perspectives, like a true foodie!

Casual Dining

  • Flurys: In the tenth decade of its existence, Flurys once fuelled the breakfast palates of the English gentry at the Park Street, along with wealthy Bengali, Armenian, Parsi patrons, etc. Now, it is probably the mostly fiercely-loved tearoom and bakers in the country, mainly because they’ve kept with what has always worked for them- their old menu, recipes and even staff. They sell ungodly amounts of Christmas cakes, pastries and ‘full English’ breakfast, but it’s the simplest things like their age-old milk bread that is the best-loved.
  • Indian Coffee House: Kolkatans love their heated debates. The Indian Coffee House, also called the College Street Coffee House, has been the coliseum for many an intellectual exchange, duel and battle for the better part of a century. The coffee house’s unassuming cheap coffee and snacks have been the tinder where the city’s intelligentsia, including luminaries like Satyajit Ray, Amartya Sen, and many more, has raged intellectual fire.
  • Arsalan Restaurant: Kolkata’s biryani is a whole different beast, and the well-patronized Arsalan restaurant is arguably the best places to try it. Skipping all efforts of grandeur for a modestly modern ambience and business-like approach to serving the best biryani in town, their food is just cause for revelry amongst the locals. The biryani is best teamed with their juicy delicious spread of kebabs.
  • 6 Ballygunge Place: : 6 Ballygunga Place began with the simple mission of giving the rich, diverse, flavourful Bengali cuisine the limelight it deserves. And if its enthralled patrons are to be believed, it has succeeded and how! Housed in a gorgeous former bungalow, the restaurant is an homage to the Bengali culture of yore, from the pastel-y paintings adorning the walls and the chairs, to the antique phone in the hallway. The real hero in all this is, as it should be, their authentic Bengali food, done the way it should be. From local sea-food favourites like Daab Chingri (prawns in a tangy coconut curry) & prawn malaikari (a buttery curry), to recipes that have previously been hiding in the diaries of Bengali grandmas, to traditional desserts and beverages and snacks, the expertly trained chefs concoct a culinary experience bar none. Go for the buffet or the a la carte options; but if we were you, we’d take the buffet.
  • India Restaurant: Kidderpore’s India Restaurant is a good display of Kolkata’s culinary ethos- focus firmly on food, all other frills secondary. Appreciated for its décor, the restaurant is known for its Mughlai fare which takes no prisoners; the kebabs, rolls, biryani and Mughlai desserts are a constant sensory onslaught that one needs a lengthy breather to recover from.

Street Food

  • China Town: Kolkata’s Chinatown, India’s only one, located in the Tangra neighbourhood is where the original Hakka Chinese settled over 200 years ago. The Chinese population has significantly dwindled since then, and so have Chinatown’s fortunes, but they’re unforgettable for adding their Chinese/Indian-Chinese cuisine on to India’s culinary map. What remains of the prosperous tanneries and authentic Chinese shops of yore are a pale shadow, but the culinary tradition, with its street food and its restaurants, stays strong. For how long, is an entirely different issue.
  • Dacres Lane: A confluence of white and blue collar professionals, the young, and the travellers descends upon Dacres Lane for the small stalls selling quick bites, interesting dishes and filling meals that fail to pinch your pocket. The narrow street stays busy throughout the day, and as the evening sets in, the crowds divert from the stalls to the dingy bars in between.
  • Teretti Bazaar: Kolkata is not an early rising city, so the Teretti Bazaar is an anomaly, on multiple counts. Anywhere between 6 and 7, it begins to come alive to the smells of fresh vegetables, fresh fish, and fresh pork cuts. That shouldn’t be a foodie’s agenda, though. Many stalls line-up a remarkable array of Chinese-Indian fare, momos and soup to noodles and more.


  • OlyPub: Kolkata’s nightlife was never its strongest suit, but its old stalwarts like OlyPub that continue to reign supreme. Busy, pleasantly cheap, warm in hospitality with a good array of food and drink options, OlyPub could easily fill more than a few of your idle evenings.
  • Hoppipola: Relatively recent on the scene, the two Hoppipola outlets have made a name for themselves for the lively ambience, great food and of course, a range of drinks to keep everyone happy. We recommend the one in Acropolis Mall in Kasba, simply for it is older, but really both are great options for a night out.
  • Apart from these legitimate options, a constant fixture of the city is the ubiquitous dimly-lit, dirt cheap local bars. Do not go by appearances, though, they expect certain decorum from all of their patrons.


To book from the widest range of hotels, visit SpiceVacations.com.

First Class

  • ITC Sonar: Sonar literally translates to ‘Golden’ in Bengali, fitting for this remarkably luxurious property. If you are a true person of taste and only seek the best, this is where you need to head to. Every small detail is painstakingly though-out, every feature seemingly handcrafted. You’d receive the best in luxury hospitality, because you deserve the best.
    Distance from airport: 16 km
  • Harrington Residency: An experience in its own right, the Harrington Residency is a two-room sanctuary adjoining the enthralling Harrington Street Arts Centre. Experience warm hospitality, while witnessing profound displays of art, performing arts, literature, handicrafts and more.
    Distance from airport: 21 km

Premium Economy

  • Senses Hotel: Located in the middle of the commercial hub of the city, the Senses is popular with business travellers as well as couples exploring Kolkata, for the earnest service, and amenities that justify the price. Accessibility to major attractions is an advantage.
    Distance from airport: 15 km
  • Hotel Sawood International: Ostensibly a budget hotel, Sawood International is preferred for the views of the city from the rooms, for the helpful staff and the well-decked out rooms and surprising range of amenities for the targeted price. Perfect if you’re looking for a comfortable stay without shelling out much.
    Distance from airport: 19 km


  • Central Bed & Breakfast: A charming property, tastefully decorated with dollops of natural light, close to the heart of the city, a stay at the Central Bed & Breakfast would not come cheap but memorable experiences rarely do.
    Distance from airport: 22 km

Weekend Getaways

  • Digha: West Bengal’s most popular beach destination, Digha is the usual haunt for people looking to get out of the city. The place has a perennial festive air about it, and is also great to sample some typical Bengali sea-food, both the restaurant and fresh-fish-cooked-at-a-family-joint variety. If you’re looking to enjoy unobtrusive views of nature in solitude, head to the Talasari and Shankarpur beaches, 10 and 14 km away, respectively.
  • Sunderbans: The Sundarbans delta, the largest in the world, has an outlandish peerless countenance that defeats all adjectives. The Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers converge and then disintegrate into rivulets that snake their way through the seemingly endless Mangrove forests, again the largest in the world that appears to blot out the Sun. The wilderness is understandably home to alarming biodiversity, including the fabled man-eating Bengal Tigers, crocs, turtles, birds and more. A good place to begin the wild exploration is the Sajnekhali wildlife sanctuary, home to several species of birds and the Royal Bengal Tiger, apart from breeding centres for crocodiles, sharks and turtles.
  • Navadwipa: Quite unbecoming of the chaos that is West Bengal, Navadwipa-Mayapur is a small archipelago on the river Ganges that effortlessly eases you into a silent serenity. The meandering village roads, the orchids and the forests all lead to over 200 temples, most of them devoted to an avatar of Lord Krishna, spread throughout the 9 islands that lend the air a certain divinity.
  • Santiniketan: A cultural and spiritual retreat in the middle of overwhelming natural beauty, the Santiniketan estate is a well-spring of creativity and ideas. Much of its fame emanates from the Visva-Bharati University, India’s first university, which grew out of a school founded by the Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore as an attempt at breaking new grounds in education. Santiniketan is now a breath of fresh air in all senses, and a stimulating intellectual sojourn.
  • Diamond Harbour: A tiny city about two hours south of Kolkata, Diamond Harbour is located at the bank of River Hooghly, close to where it meets the Bay of Bengal. The beaches are serener, perfect for a refreshing getaway. If you’re in the mood for some activity, there is the Chingrikhali fort, the Lighthouse, a Naval Camp and the South Bengal Museum to be checked out.

General Information

Languages: Bengali, English, Hindi

Public Transport: While fairly old and rickety, there are multiple modes of transport in Kolkata. If you’re not in a rush to get somewhere, the trams gently rolling down the streets are great means for exploring the city. For a faster commute, choose between the Metro, the oldest in the country, which is currently operational on just one line but expanding quickly, or the yellow cabs, slightly expensive but a lot more direct, or the auto-rickshaws, if you can make sure not be ripped off. You will also see hand-pulled rickshaws plying around the New Market and a few other areas.

Weather: Like all southern coastal regions in India, Kolkata is subject to a tropical hot and humid climate. The summer months (March-June) can see fairly high levels of heat and humidity, with dry spells frequently seeing temperatures soar 40 degrees C. June to September are the Monsoon months where it can rain quite often; the average temperature hovering around 30. The colder months (December- February) experience mild winters, which is mostly a welcome change from the heat than actually cold.