Kolkata, the former capital of British India, is a city rich in colonial-style architecture, famous landmarks, and intellectual and cultural history. Most guidebooks won’t take you to all of the beautiful places you can find on a full tour of Kolkata – for example, they may suggest the Dakshineswar Kali Temple, but there is so much more to see! This area of India is an amazing place where you can see devoted people completely focused on perserving the Kali order. It is a unique experience that can’t be found in many other places.
When To Go:
The ideal time to visit the city is between October and March, when the weather is at its finest. If you come at this time, you’ll avoid the hot and humid summer weather, and you can catch the festivals of Durga Puja, a ten-day holiday that is usually celebrated in October. For most of the year, Kolkata city is the idea vacation spot for learning to play cricket, experiencing religious ceremonies, or viewing amazing architecture.
Keep reading for some of the best places to visit in order to truly understand why this city is so amazing:
Belur Math Shrine
Start your sightseeing adventure at one of the best attractions in the city, the
Belur Math Shrine.
There is plenty to do at the Belur Math, and its shrine is a display of incredible architecture. Even the view from the outside is mystical- you’ll feel intense reverence as you admire its design. Through the windows, you can catch a glimpse of the pious pilgrims worshipping there.
It’s important to note that photos are, unfortunately, not allowed. It is also recommended that you check its opening hours ahead of time since inconsistent hours are not uncommon. It is more than an hour drive from the center of Kolkata (at Park Street), so you definitely would not want to waste your time traveling there only to find it closed.
After seeing the shrine, take a ferry to reach the rest of Belur Math Road. Here you will discover a serene place, free from the hustle and bustle of city life. Come in and absorb the tranquility and peace of being away from the noise, traffic and heavy air. The architecture of Ramakrishna Temple House is meant to embody the main features of different religious faiths, thus creating a feeling of total harmony for all. This visit can be done within an hour–and is well worth the time.
House of Mother Teresa
Another oasis of peace, the
House of Mother Teresa
contains a museum dedicated to her life and work, as well as the tomb of the great woman herself. Photos are not allowed and a rule of silence must be followed, but you’ll be grateful for the chance to experience the life of Mother Teresa in peace.
In the museum, you can picture her experiences through the “Via Crucis” (Stations of the Cross) and can read all about her remarkable life and great deeds in the provided captions. The captions, phrases and stories of her that fill the museum will likely bring you to tears. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself overwhelmed with emotion here–it happens to many a visitor.
After visiting her house, take the time to visit Mother Teresa’s nearby orphanage. Here you’ll get the chance to meet her dedicated staff, who are still continuing her legacy of complete service and humility. Their dedication to helping others will leave you speechless. This visit will surely touch your heart and leave you with lasting memories.
Dakshineswar Kali Temple
One of the most impressive temples in India, the
Dakshineswar Kali Temple,
is certainly worth your while. It is dedicated to the Krishna deity and is visited by huge crowds of tourists and devotees every day. One of the most amazing features about this temple is the fact that is remains peaceful although it is often filled with devoted followers. The nearby banks of the Ganges are filled with people coming to bathe in the river or just contemplate in peace. For many, it is a guaranteed spot of tranquility and peace.
In case seeing the mystical shrine isn’t enough, you can walk through to the other side and get a view of a dozen small Shiva sculptures that surround the temple. They will delight you almost as much as the temple.
Victoria Memorial Hall
As the former capital of British India, it only makes sense that you would stumble upon a monument to British royalty in this city. You will not be disappointed when you head to the
Victoria Memorial Hall
, a beautiful (yet imposing) white marble building located in a nicely kept park. It was completed in 1921, its purpose to commemorate Queen Victoria, who died in 1906. Although the hall is classic British architecture, it currently exhibits paintings by contemporary artists.
As you walk toward the building’s entrance, you will find yourself welcomed in by a statue of the queen. For a moment, you may feel like you’ve left India. Climb the stairs to the second floor and you’ll get a splendid view of the park, which contains a huge monument dedicated to Queen Victoria and her empire. The building is not only beautiful, its impressive stature will also command your respect. Its white marble construction, combined with distinct European style is quite noticeable in the city, but not in a way that is distracting.
Inside the hall you will continue to journey back to British Colonial times. The museum expertly explains the British colonial impact on Indian society. In case you need somewhere to rest after a day packed with sightseeing, or would like to rest your mind after a thorough history lesson, its adjacent garden is the perfect place.
After a good rest in Queen Victoria’s gardens, continue on a flower expedition by next going to the
. This bridge connects Kolkata to the other side of the Hooghly River, and can be crossed by foot or vehicle. Near the foot of the bridge lies a colorful flower market, alive with flower merchants and shoppers alike, working to the sound of the rushing Hooghly River in the background. It is a scenes of color and vibrancy, that describes the spirit of Kolkata.
The bridge itself is also “colorful”, but in a different way. Teeming with vehicles and pedestrians, you can get a glimpse of every type of Kolkatan on its deck. There are porters, train station workers, school children, beggars, and flower merchants all swarm the bridge on a daily basis. This central spot is a true melting pot of the city. Take a look and soak in the diversity.
To give your feet a rest, hop on the metro and take a quick ride to the
, one of the most modern shopping malls in Kolkata. Its value lies not only in the numerous shops, but also in its restaurants. Every type of cuisine that you could crave (including Chinese, Japanese, Korean, South Indian and Mughlai) can be found here. Take a break from authentic Indian, and try some foods of the Far East. You can also shop for almost anything while here, (after you try out some new cuisine at one of the restaurants, of course). Then, if you have any energy left, finish your evening with the vibrant nightlife scene.
South Park Street Cemetery
Begin one of your mornings with a peaceful walk through the
South Park Street Cemetery
, a quiet colonial cemetery nestled in the middle of Kolkata. Used by early British colonists between 1750 and 1830, this area reveals information about the lives of the colonists through writings on the tombs and mausoleums. They are, of course, mostly in English.
The cemetery is located central to the city, and is shaded by large trees. It is an important tourist destination, so while not filled with the graves of Indians, the government still maintains this historical collection of graves and mausoleums. In the back of the cemetery, there is a grassy space, perfect for quiet reflection. It is free to walk through the area or relax in the back. You can find peace and knowledge spending some time strolling through the old trees and tombs; discovering more about this city’s colonial history.
St. Paul’s Cathedral
St. Paul’s Cathedral
has no affiliation with the St. Paul’s church in London, but it is still an important destination. Unlike the London church, it is much more modest. Visitors to this church frequently come for its view. You can, climb to the top of the cathedral and get a scenic view of the entire city. Whether you come for the view, or would like to see a Christian landmark in Kolkata, a quick visit is definitely worth your time.
Enjoy this newly renovated park near the river whenever you need some time to relax. Princep Ghat is two kilometers of street food vendors that is illuminated at night and filled with clean grassy areas. Its well- kept landscape is a favorite hangout spot for youth and couples. It is located near the river and is a popular lover’s lane for locals.
While there, grab some street food and find a seat on one of the many wooden benches, or simply spend some time admiring the quiet riverside. You are safe to relax in peace, thanks to the numerous security personnel around the park. The modern lighting, paved walkways, lush vegetation, and overall cleanliness, and are just added bonuses to a quiet night in the park.
Avoid bringing your smartphone or camera to this temple, as these items are forbidden and bags are thoroughly inspected. You should also wear modest clothing and remain in complete silence, as these are important temple rules. These minor hassles are worth it, however, as the
is one of the more authentic temples you can visit in Kolkata.
The temple is gorgeous and contains a dazzling chandelier in the main hall. Radha, Krishna, Durga, and Shiva are all deities that you will find enshrined here. Statues of the ten incarnations of Vishnu can also be found in this temple, as well as Ganesha on its side. If you are a devoted follower, or someone curious about the religion, the Birla Temple should be a mandatory stop on your visit.
College Street (Boi Para)
Locally known as
is a book lover’s paradise. Here, books can be found in every language. If you are unsure what to get, ask one of the well-read booksellers for their recommendations. They are generally more than happy to help.
Once you’ve found a book, head to one of the nearby cafes or restaurants and enjoy a good read. The Indian Coffee House offers an especially pleasant atmosphere for reading and sipping a cup of coffee, so indulge and get lost in a good book.
Marble Palace Kolkata
If you’re hungry for another taste of colonialism, check out the
Marble Palace Kolkata
. This palace houses a multitude of paintings, ceramics, old furniture, and sculptures. Just like many other colonial structure, this palace, of course, includes a lovely adjacent garden.
Also, like other palaces in Kolkata, photos are not allowed, but you will have a clear picture of it in your mind once you visit. You can find it near the Jorasanko Thakur Bari.
Science City Of Kolkata
Located in just a 10 minutes’ drive from the city center, the
Science City of Kolkata
is a blast from the past—mostly because it hasn’t been renovated since its opening several decades ago. Don’t let the exterior fool you though, this site can provide endless amounts of quirky fun.
Walk past the large dinosaur replica and enter the building, then begin your visit with a ride on the cable car. It takes you to see the entire science center at a considerable height, and is an exciting ride for the entire family. Then head to the park outside to enjoy the maze and playground. No need to pack a lunch- you can buy lots of tasty treats (such as ice cream, popcorn and candy) or grab lunch at the restaurant, located inside.
Escape the heat after that by watching a 3D movie in the only air-conditioned room in the building. Once you’ve cooled off a bit, enter the “Jaws of the Dinosaur” and observe lots of moving dino replicas. There are also plenty of hands-on science exhibits, including a time machine. Kids and adults alike will enjoy this place–and for once, photos are allowed!
ISKCON Kolkata Sri Sri Radha Govind Temple
This small sanctuary was built by Srila Prabhupada and includes a structure built specifically for celebrating special occasions. Inside, the lovely altar presents two deities, encouraging devotees to pray or just enjoy the tranquility.
Unlike many temples which are strictly for prayer and meditation, this temple also houses a restaurant with reasonably priced vegetarian food. This temple is the perfect way to end your tour of the mystical city of Kolkata.