Kolkata (Bengali:কলকাতা)(formerly Calcutta) is the capital of West Bengal and one of the largest cities in India. Kolkata is an 'in your face' city that shocks and charms the unsuspecting visitor. Abject poverty mix inexplicably with crumbling British Raj-era gems, sprawling gardens and historical colleges. Long known as the cultural capital of India, Kolkata continues to spawn generations of poets, writers, film producers and Nobel Prize winners. If your trip only allows for a visit of one or two of India's metropolitan cities, than definitely consider placing Kolkata on your itinerary. Love it or hate it, you definitely won't forget the city on the Hooghly.
- Southern fringes — the rapidly mushrooming localities to the south of the city. Includes Behala, Jadavpur, Garia and Narendrapur. There are a number of educational institutes and lavish shopping malls in this area. This is a relatively newer part of the city where a lot of expansion is going on.
- South Kolkata — the posher part of the city. Covers Ballygunge, Bhawanipur, Alipore, New Alipore, Rash Behari,and Tollygunge.
- Esplanade — the colonial district is still the central business area and is considered the heart of Kolkata. Made up of Park Street, Mirza Ghalib Street (Free School Street), Dalhousie Square, Chandni Chowk, Barra Bazaar and Sudder Street.
- Maidan — The area consisting of the huge park and its surrounding neighborhoods. Includes Fort William, Strand Road, Khidirpur, Dufferin Road, Hooghly Bank and Chowringhee.
- North Kolkata — the older area of the city, a fascinating district dominated by narrow little lanes and hundreds of century-old bulidings. Includes Chitpur, Bagbazar,Belgachhia,Shyam Bazaar, Shobha Bazaar, Maniktala, Jora Sanko and the famous College Street area. Also situated here are the Sealdah station, one of the largest train hubs in India, and the newly built Kolkata station. Dum Dum being the prime communication hub of Kolkata having International Airport, Metro Rail, Circular Rail, Ground Rail.
- Northern fringes — the large industrial area to the north of the city. Includes Kashipur, Dumdum, Belghoria, Khardah, Panihati, Titagarh etc. where there are a number of factories, including jute, paper, cotton, ordnance and chemicals.
- East Kolkata — Rapidly developing, specially IT sector and home to India's largest mall. Encompasses Salt Lake City (Bidhan Nagar), Rajar Hat, 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.
- Howrah — while technically its own city, Howrah is very much a part of the Kolkata metro area, and Howrah train station is where you'll arrive/depart from if connecting with anywhere north or west of Kolkata.
Ancient and Pre-British History
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 (Sutanuti, Govindapur & Calcutta) but in recent years a number of Indian historians have disputed this claim, arguing that Calcutta occupies the site of an older Indian city, centered around the ancient Kali temple at Kalighat. This claim has been accepted by the Kolkata High Court. The Court has dismissed the name of Job Charnock as the founder of the city and 24 th August as its date of birth. The historic Judgement was based upon an high level Expert Commitee findings. It has been proved that Kolkata had an highly civilized society for centuries before the Europeans first came here.
Whatever its origins, Calcutta 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. Calcutta became the center 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, and a violent and bloody Maoist movement (the Naxalite movement) in the 1970s, Calcutta has become synonymous with urban decay and poverty ("New York is deteriorating into New Calcutta," opined an editorial in The New York Times on Dec. 25th, 1988).
Kolkata is the main business, commercial and financial hub of eastern India. Kolkata witnessed an economic decline from the late sixties till the late nineties. The city's economic fortunes turned the tide as the economic liberalization in India during the early nineties reached Kolkata during late nineties. Kolkata is a multicultural, cosmopolitan city. Apart from the diversity of India, the cultures represented are that of the Europeans (Including Germans, Armenians, and others), and other Asians (Including Chinese, Sinhalese, and Tibetans).
Since 1977, a "Left Front" coalition of communist and Marxist parties has continuously ruled the state. This is reflected in street names and memorials in the city. For example there are streets like Lenin Sarani, Ho Chi Minh Sarani, etc.. The Left Front regained control of the Municipal Corporation of Kolkata from the Trinamul Congress in the 2005 civic elections.
Although the Govt claims that Kolkata is fast developing into a modern infotech city with various private sector companies setting up shop here, it seems the city is stuck somewhere in the 70's. 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 liberalization of the Indian economy. Its economy has been amongst the fastest growing in the country. The New Metro city is characterised by popular spots like Inox Multiplexes, Nandan, Tantra, Barista Coffee Shops, Sourav's Pavilion and Science City.
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 Taratolla, Kalyani, Uluberia, Dankuni, Kasba, Howrah are spread throughout the urban agglomeration. A huge leather complex has come up at Bantolla. An export processing zone has been set up in Falta. Specialized 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 at 22°82′ N 88°20′ E. It has spread linearly along the banks of the river Hooghly.
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 (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.
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 (Allahabad Bank, United Bank of India, UCO Bank) or regional headquarters (Reserve Bank of India, State Bank of India, Bank of India, Central Bank of India amongst many others) around the B. B. D. Bagh area. 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 (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 has recently finished construction 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.
Opposition to the setting up of the Nano factory at Shingur, 50 Kms. away from Kolkata, where the Tata's plan to build the cheapest car in the world, threatens to take away a lot of the investments due to come to the state.
Kolkata's "Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport" connects the city with the rest of the world as well as other Indian cities.
Because the airport is about 20km outside the city centre you should take a prepaid taxi. Expect to pay about Rs. 150-250 depending on your destination. 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.
Apart from the Taxis (prepaid or waved down) you can now avail of the new Volvo Bus service by Royal Cruiser (www.royalcruiser.com) (Rs 20 (50 US cents), 40 (1 USD), 60 (1.5USD)) 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 wee hours, it is better to opt for a prepaid service, 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!
Kolkata is well connected by rail to almost all the big stations in India and also serves as the gateway to North-Eastern India. The cities two major railway stations are Howrah (not in Kolkata actually, it's in the adjoining city Howrah) and Sealdah. A new terminus station called 'Kolkata' has also started functioning since 2005, but presently it accommodates very few trains.
Directly facing Howrah are ferries (Rs. 4) that can get you to the 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. If you are coming to Kolkata by trains using Sealdah station, you may prefer taking a pre-paid taxi to enter the city. The pre-paid taxi stand is just outside the station's main entrance. The counter is under a tin shade.
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 owned West Bengal Surface Transport Service Corporation (WBSTSC) and the Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation  (BRTC). WBSTSC 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 7:00AM and 7:30AM. The normal journey time is around 12 hours with a one-way fare of Rs550 or BDT600-800, roughly $8-12. If you're only headed to Haridaspur the fare is Rs86 (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 2km 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 may 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 ($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.
The fare is 2 times plus Rs 2 the reading of the meter. The Meter starts from Rs. 10, which means Rs. 22 actually. There is a "green taxi" which is red coloured (!) and charges the same. In case you are confused always ask to see the chart that the driver is supposed to carry with him. Expect to pay a bit more if you are going to the outskirts of the city or travelling at night - it will depend on your bargaining skills but should not be more than Rs. 20 on top of the taxi meter. Unlike other metro cities in India, there is no 50%-100% surcharge for late night hires.
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 - (033)44222222 and Megacabs - (033)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 Garia Bazar. It is the cleanest, most reliable, least but still rather crowded and most efficient of all the transportation Kolkata has to offer. Trains run every 10-15 minutes and at Rs 4-12. It runs from 8 a.m. to 9.45 p.m. from Monday to Saturday and 2 p.m to 9.45 p.m. on Sunday. Work is underway to connect districts further South. There is also an East-West line in the works on full swing, which will connect Salt Lake to Howrah stn.
"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 electrified suburban rail network of the SER and the ER is extensive and includes the Circular Rail.
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) and WBSTC (West Bengal Surface Transport Corporation) are probably the better option. A/C buses are also available to select destinations from near the airport.
Shared auto-rickshaws are available from different points. They travel in fixed routes and the fare is fixed(although you might find the driver charging a little more as the darkness sets in). They are supposed to take four persons, three in the back seat and one sharing the driver's seat!
Long the world's only major metropolis where human-pulled rickshaws were still a major form of transport, a complete ban was supposed to be imposed in November 2006 - but with 35,000 union members who are unlikely to disappear overnight it was not implemented.
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 Bengal, the native language of the people of Kolkata is Bengali. However, most educated people speak Hindi and English as well, and many others such as shopkeepers and taxi drivers would be able to communicate in broken English at the very least.
The city sprawls along the eastern bank of the Hooghly River, a tributary of the 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.
- Gurusaday Museum, Diamond Harbour Road
- Jawahar Shishu Bhawan
- Science City
- Sabarna Sangrahashala, Barisha.
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.
Along St George’s Gate Road, on the southern fringe of the Maidan, your sight is arrested by a splendid monument in white Makrana marble. Built in Italian Renaissance cum Saracenic style, Victoria Memorial was planned by Lord Curzon and opened by the Prince of Wales in 1921. This British attempt at building a second Taj Mahal , is dedicated to Queen Victoria and houses a fantastic collection of rare memorabilia from colonial days. A light and sound show recreates history every evening.
The adjoining Race Course, built in 1819, is one of the best in the east and is the scene of much gaiety, especially during the winter season.Northwards, along Chowringhee Road, stands the Birla Planetarium, one of the largest in the world. The central dome measures 25 mts in diameter.
Located on Chowringhee Road is the Indian Museum built in 1877 in Italian style of architecture.Walk in to a varied collection of exhibits that include unique fossils, Buddhist Gandharan art, an Egyptian mummy and a roomful of memories !
The 48 mt tower of Ochterlony Monument , now renamed Shahid Minar , holds command at the northern end of the Maidan.And the mighty river Hooghly beckons.At the northern end of the Maidan, towards the river, is the Old British Government house now called Raj Bhavan . Built in 1803, modelled on Lord Curzon’s home, Keddleston Hall, Derbyshire, England, this is now the official residence of the Governor of Bengal. There are many rare works of art and other interesting items. Entry is restricted.
A walk across is the Town Hall , built in 1813, in 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 , scene of legendary legal battles. Completed in 1872, the Gothic architectural style was copied from the Staadhans at Ypres, Belgium. The tower measures 55 mts.
The Howrah Bridge and the Vidyasagar Setu frame the skyline of the riverfront. The ambience is as amicable and profound as the river that flows alongside.But, turn back to your trail of discovery. Dalhousie Square was the administrative centre for British India. On one side is the General Post Office, a majestic specimen of Edwardian architecture. It is built on the site of the original Fort William. On the other side stands Writers’ Building , a massive Gothic structure with lonic pillars – still the house of political power.
The dulcet whispers of history echo through the old mansions of Hindu aristocrats in North Calcutta. One such old house, Tagore House, at Jorasanko, is the birth place of Rabindranath Tagore, India’s greatest modern poet. Converted to Rabindra Bharati University, it is now a centre for Indian Classical Fine Arts.
At Chorbagan is the Marble Palace built in 1840 by Raja Rajendra Mullick, now a museum. Spend your afternoon among precious objects d’art including works of Rubens and Sir Joshua Reynolds.When tired, take a tram ride along Red Road with the green expanse of the Maidan around you. The perfect antidote.
A little away, in the south of Calcutta, is a stately mansion. Once home of the British Viceroys, Belvedere House is now the National Library. It houses over a million books and is the biggest in India.A must is a day spent at Science City. Pick your special thrill at this exposition park. A space theatre, space flight simulator, recreated Jurassic forest, aviary and butterfly corner and much more !
The Missionaries of Charity is a new order formed in 1950 by Mother Teresa. Their vow ‘to give wholehearted and free service to the poorest of the poor’ was put into action with the setting up of several homes.Visit Mother Teresa’s tomb at the Mother House and witness the generosity of the her spirit at Nirmal Hriday (home for the dying) , Shanti Nagar (for lepers) and Nirmala Shishu Bhavan (the children’s home).For voluntary work with the Mission , in India, you may contact the London branch of the Missionaries of Charity, 41 Villiers Road, Southall , Middlesex , UK, or write in to the "Mother House", 54A, Lower Circular Road , Calcutta 700 014.
The Green Belt Enjoying a different Calcutta at the :
Maidan : Three km in length and over one km in width, the rambling green is the ‘lung of Calcutta’. Dotted with colourful maidan clubs, the area is a hub of diverse activities.
Eden Gardens : Named after Lord Auckland’s sister, this picturesque garden has a tiny Burmese pagoda set in a small lake. It also houses Calcutta’s Cricket Stadium.
Outram Ghat, Ganges riverfront : A pleasant walk . View the majesty of the busiest bridge in the world, the Howrah Bridge and the Vidyasagar Setu – an awesome structural feat . Or enjoy a cruise on the river in a panshi.
Zoological Garden : Covers 16 hectares of land and built in 1876. The lakes within are a favourite retreat for migratory Siberian birds.
Horticultural Garden : The lush environ is also the venue for exotic plant and flower exhibitions.
Rabindra Sarovar : A park and picnic spot with a central lake and overhanging trees. The rowing regatta events are held here.
THE SPIRITUAL SOJOURN
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Parsi Fire Temples : They cater to the religious needs of the prominent Parsi community of Calcutta. Located on Metcalf Street and Beliaghata.
Japanese Buddhist Temple : Located on the banks of Rabindra Sarovar.
Pareshnath Jain Temple : The temple is an ornate mass of mirrors, coloured stones and glass mosaic, and overlooks a beautiful garden. It is in Shyambazar.
- 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 Road, (east of Rabindra Sadan metro station) +33 2223 1210. 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.
- 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!).
- Calcuttawalks ! 9A Khairu Place close to chandni metro station. +919830184030 http://www.calcuttawalks.com 1000 The only walking tour company of Kolkata.
Also providing off beat and special interest tours.
- West Bengal Tourism Development Corp (WBTDC), +91 33 2248 8271, . Offers half and full day sightseeing tours around the city.
- University of Calcutta, . Established in 1857 it was the first modern university on the sub-continent.
- Bengal Engineering and Science University, Shibpur, . Established in 1856. First institute to conduct degree examinations in engineering in Asia(1864). First institute to introduce post-graduate(1954) and also doctoral(1962) programmes in engineering in India.
Volunteering is a real option here with several options.
- Mother Teresa's Mission accepts volunteers to help in its multiple projects around town. Enquire at the motherhouse.
- Brother Xavier's New Hope Search the internet to find a website on this amazing home for orphans of Kolkata's red light district. A much smaller mission that Mother Teresa's which one man built from the ground up. Brother Xavier and the children always need volunteers and funds.
Kolkata is an important trading center for handicrafts produced in Eastern India. Bankura horses, saris from Shantiniketan, and leather goods top the list of Kolkata specialities. It is also famous for its rasgollas and a tin or two as a gift for the folks back home. New Market is probably the most famous place to go shopping but there are bargains everywhere.
- South City Mall (near Jadavpur Police Stn)
- Metropolis Mall (near Hiland Park)
- City Center (Salt Lake City)
- Mani Square Supermall (EM Bypass)
- Metro Plaza (near British Embassy)
- Vardaan Market (on Camac Street)
- Orchid Point (Kankurgachi)
- Forum (Bhowanipore)
- Shreeram Arcade (New Market)
- City Center2 (Newtown, Rajarhat)
- Pantaloons (Gariahat, Camac Street, Kankurgachi, South City)
- Local Markets:
Maidan Market for all sport items at cheap price Chandni Market is famous for all small electronical items/gadgets & old reusable electronical products New Market for all kinds of Clothing,Toys,Collectible Shopping needs. Treasure Island is like a muti-storeyed market mainly fulfilling needs of Clothing demands & various other make-up & cosmetic items. Fancy and 5-star market in Khidderpore house all sorts of shipped goods starting from apparels to electronic gadgets.
(See district pages for restaurant listings.)
Kolkata was famous for having the best restaurants long before Indians in other cities learned to eat out. 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!). Flury's , on Park Street, was once considered the best English bakery in all of Asia and you can almost imagine Joe Stilwell and Lord Mountbatten arguing over who had command over the allied forces in Burma while enjoying tea, scones, and clotted cream!
But the joy of food in Kolkata is in its Indian foods. Nizam's, in New Market, is credited with the invention of the famous Kati Kebab roll and still serves up the best of the best. Street vendors selling egg rolls/chicken rolls abound and their freshly prepared kati rolls are safe to eat and enjoy. Mughali Paratha (a paratha stuffed with minced meat) is a Calcutta speciality and can be found in various 'cabins' off Chowringhee Road. 'Chops', a sort of deep fried ball stuffed with beet and veggies is another peculiarity that you won't find anywhere else in the world. Puchkas, the Calcutta version of paani-puri, is available on the streets but be wary of the water!
Bengali sweets are famous all over India. Rasagolla (cheese balls dipped in a sugary syrup), Pantua - a fried variant of the same, Rosomalai- the same cheeseballs dipped in creamy sweetened milk, Mishti Doi (sweet yogurt), Sandesh (several variations available). Try some shops like K.C. Das, Jugal's, Bhim Nag, Nakur Nandy, Sen Mahasoy, Ganguram and not to forget Mithai. These are cheap and should be eaten fresh.
Kolkata is also the home of Indian Chinese food (now making inroads in far-off New York!). Chinese restaurants are everywhere so try the Indian variant of hot and sour soup and the famous Indian chinese dish of chilli chicken.
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.
"Oh! Calcutta!" on the fourth Floor of Forum Mall, Elgin Road, serves authentic Bengali food. The specialities are the boneless Hilsa Fish fillet, steamed in a bannana leaf and served with a Mustard Gravy. Many expats, yuppies and affluent Kolkattans frequent this restaurant. The food is great, though bordering on the expensive, and portions usually small. Makes for an interesting evening out, accompanied by the incessant Bengali chatter, so characteristic of Kolkatta.
While it can be difficult to find a restaurant serving authentic Bengali food, today Kolkata has of as many 10 Bengali restaurants. One of the most authentic is Kewpies, situated behind Netaji Bhavan at 2 Elgin Lane. Here, food is served on terra cotta plates with banana leaves. There's also "Aaheli" at Peerless Inn, or the more reasonably priced "Suruchi" at 89 Elliot Road. There is a wide choice of vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes with an emphasis on local fish. Thalis (platters) are also available. Still, being invited back to a local's place for a home-cooked meal is the best way to sample Bengali cooking!
6 Ballygunge Place is stituated in South Kolkata and also offers an assortment of Bengali dishes. Bhjohori Maana has 6 outlets across the city. In South Kolkata, the Hindisthan Road outlet (Gariahat) is the best. Taroparbon is situated in Hindusthan Park, and has a large menu.
Kastur and Rahhuni are eateries, both offering Bangladeshi food and are situated off Free School Street, near Park Street.
Suruchi is an old eatery, which serves only lunch in simple surroundings, and is run by the destitute women of 'The All Bengal Women's Union' at Elliot Road, off Free School Street.
Kolkata is the epitome of drinking and pubbing. Loads of liquer 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. A few of them are:
- Tantra (Park Hotel)
- Someplace Else (Park Hotel)
- Big Ben (The Kenilworth)
- Underground (HHI)
- Shisha (Camac Street)
- Venom (Fort Knox)
For individual hotel listings, please see the the various district pages.
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. Budget hotels can also be found around the station in Howrah. Sudder Street is more centrally located but both are well connected by public transport.
There are numerous big budget deluxe 5 star & 4 star hotels around town such as ITC Sonar (near Science city), The Oberoi Grand (Chowringhee), Taj Bengal (Belvedere Road, Alipur), Hyatt Regency (off EM Bypass), Swissotel Kolkata (New Town), The Kenilworth (Russel St), Hotel Hindustan Internation (AJC Bose Rd), The Park (Park St) and the upcoming Westin Rajarhat (Rajarhat) and Interncontinental Kolkata hotels.
British-era clubs such as Tollygunge Club, Calcutta Club (AJC Bose Rd), Saturday Club (Theatre Rd), Bengal Club (Russel St) have lavish rooms for rent. However, they only accept bookings through members. Tollygunge Club is the ideal place to chill out. Drink chilled draft beer, lie in the outdoor jacuzzi and dine in style at the Belvedere.
- Hotel Aston 3, Aston Road, Kolkata - 700 020, India 091-33-24863145 http://www.hotelastonkolkata.comHotel Aston is strategically situated in the heart of Kolkata, India, close to the city center. It is 20 km from the Dumdum Airport and 6 km from the Howrah Railway Station. Designed to offer complete comfort without breaking your budget, Hotel Aston’s air-conditioned rooms are furnished with a television and telephone. Running hot and cold water is also provided. For anything else you might need, room service is available round the clock.
- Housez 43 43, Mirza Galib Street, Kolkata - 700 016, India +91 33 2227 6020 to 21 http://www.housez43.com Housez 43 is a boutique hotel in Kolkata, India. It has 28 tastefully designed rooms that reflects fine aesthetics. Their dining room is cozy, and provides a perfect European experience.
- Hotel Samilton 37, Sarat Bose Road, Kolkata - 20, India. 3051 - 7700 / 7777 http://www.hotelsamilton.com Rates start at Rs. 2595.00The Hotel Samilton is in Sarat Bose Road, the commercial hub of Kolkata, West Bengal, INDIA. Kolkata is one of the major metropolitan cities of India.The Hotel Samilton offers all facilities of a Modern Hotel with homely comfort. The hotel is well equipped and provide the best of services.
- Hotel Roland 28A, Rowland Road, Kolkata - 700 020 (033) 30517600 http://ttp://www.hotelroland.in Rates start at Rs. 1895.00 Hotel Roland is Situated in Central Kolkata, and the Maxmuller Bhavan is near by. It is around a 45 minutes drive away from the airport.The Hotel is located 8 kms. from Netaji Subhash Airport, 3 kms. from Howrah Railway Station and 1 km. from Esplanade Bus Stand. Hotel Roland offers 25 Air-Conditioned rooms with attached modern baths.
- 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 9XXXX XXXXX.
there are scores of interenet cafes that have sprung up in every nook and corner of the city. just look for them and you will find them.charges vary at around ~Rs.15 to 25 per hour.
- Iway,  has a branch at 59 Park St opposite Music World with around 20 computers and fast connections. ~Rs 25/hour.
Cell phone coverage in the city is excellent. There are many service providers offering a wide variety of plans. Among them are Vodafone , Reliance , and Tata Indicom . It might be a good idea to buy a cell phone and use one of those prepaid plans to get yourself connected while you are in the city.
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.
Embassies and Consulates
- Bangladesh Deputy High Commission, Circus Ave (Just east of AJC Bose Rd), +91 (0)33 2290 5208/5209, issues 15 day visas, ranging from Rs 500 (~$10) for Indians to a steep Rs 5000 (~$110) for American citizens. Applications are received at window #4 M-F from 9-11AM, and visas are generally ready the next afternoon. Bring 3 passport photos.
- British Deputy High Commission, 1A Ho Chi Minh Sarani, Calcutta 700071, +91 (0)33 2288 5173-76, +91 (0)33 2288 6536 (After office hours)
- German Consulate General Kolkata/Deutsches Generalkonsulat Kalkutta, 1 Hastings Park Road, Alipore, Kolkata 700027, +91-(0)33-2479 1141/ 1142/ 2150, 2439 8906. 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.
- United States of America, Consulate-General of the, 5/1 Ho Chi Minh Sarani, Kolkata 700071, +91-33-3984 2400. [ note that the ironic address was the result of a diplomatic snub by the then Marxist Bengal government during the period of the US war in Indochina] It is the oldest diplomatic post of the USA in India, and the second oldest in the world (the oldest being in London). Benjamin Joy was appointed the first American Consul to Calcutta by George Washington in 1792, upon the express recommendation of then Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson. The office at 5/1 Ho Chi Minh Sarani houses the Consulate General and the Office of Consular Affairs. The American Center, located at 38A Chowringhee Road, is home to the American Information Resource Center (formerly the American Library/United States Information Service), and the offices of the United States Educational Foundation in India (USEFI) and the U.S. Commercial Service (USCS).
- The French Embassy, opening shortly in the Salt Lake area. Allaince Francais du Bengal, a cultural institute of France, offers French courses and has a vast library.
- The Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China in Kolkata
EC72,Sector 1, Salt Lake City, Kolkata-700064, West Bengal, India 
To book train tickets the Foreign Ticket Office is on Fairlie Place - very helpful and efficient service.
Esplanade Bus Station is the Kolkata's main station for inter-state and inter-city buses.
- 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 hours and costs 300Rps. 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), 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 hrs). All the way to Dhaka (with a bus change at the border) will cost Rs 550 (about 12 hrs). 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 2km 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 Tu, Th and Sa and the 18 hr journey costs Rs 300.
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