Vir Sanghvi, the famous journalist, once said, "If you want a city with a soul, come to Calcutta".
The famous writer Dominique Lapierre also wrote a novel based on the city by the name 'City of Joy', which was made into a movie in 1992 starring Patrick Swayze, Om Puri and Shabana Azmi.
The 'City of Joy' earned its nickname because of its unfettered enthusiasm for its culture, traditions, literature, history, food and more. Kolkata is the perfect amalgamation of old-world charm and modern India. Every nook and corner of this city is filled with stories that are bound to mesmerise and charm you!
Kolkata has something for everyone. From art and literature, to sports, food, shopping, history, architecture, religion, spiritualism and even politics. There is more to Kolkata than one can ever imagine; here's a brief glimpse into the City of Joy!
Brief history of Kolkata
Kolkata, previously known as Calcutta, was developed by the British East India Company in the 17th century. It used to be the capital of the British Indian empire till 1911 when the capital was relocated to Delhi. Before the British, Calcutta was ruled by the Bengal Sultanate (Mughals).
Some must see places in Kolkata
1. Victoria Memorial
An architectural wonder and one of the most iconic monuments in Kolkata, the Victoria Memorial, was built in honour of the British Empress, Queen Victoria, between 1906 and 1921.
Located in the heart of the city, the structure is made of white marble and is considered to be one of the most photographed buildings. The museum is open to all and showcases sculptures, paintings, arms and weapons from the British Era. Do make sure to stay back and enjoy the Light and Sound Show in the evening when you visit.
2. Armenian Church
The Armenian Church, also known as the Holy Church of Nazareth, was built in the 18th century as an Armenian Apostolic church in Kolkata. The Church, funded by the British East India Company in 1705 is one of the first buildings made after the Armenian population signed a contract with the British to take refuge in India.
3. South Park Street Cemetery
One of the earliest non-church cemeteries in the world, it was opened in 1767 and was in use until 1830. The cemetery is now a heritage site protected by the Archaeological Survey of India. It is a burial ground consisting of approximately 363 graves, some of them being of notable legends like Job Charnock, Henry Vivian Derozio.
4. Indian Museum
Founded by the Asiatic Society of Bengal in 1814, it is also known as the Imperial Museum, and is the ninth oldest museum in the world. The museum is the oldest and largest museum in India and houses a rare collection of antiques, armour, ornaments, fossils, mummies and Mughal paintings.
5. Jorasanko Thakur Bari
Situated in Jorasanko in North Kolkata, this mansion is the ancestral home of the Poet and Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore. Tagore was born here and spent most of his childhood here too. He died in this mansion on 7th August 1941.
6. Fort William
The fort was built during the rule of the Bengal Presidency of British India on the banks of the Hooghly River in 1696 after taking permission from the then Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. It was named after King William III. Today, Fort William is owned by the Indian Army and is the Eastern Command headquarters.
7. Princep Ghat
Princep Ghat is a ghat built by the British in 1841 on the banks of the Hooghly River. It is one of the oldest recreational spots in Kolkata. The ghat was named after the eminent scholar James Princep and a Palladian memorial porch was constructed on the site in 1843 in a mix of Greek and Gothic architecture.
Things to do in Kolkata
1. Take a boat ride on the Hooghly river
Take a scenic boat ride on the Hooghly River from Judge's Ghat (adjacent to Princep Ghat) on an old-fashioned boat called a Nouka. One can go for the boat ride either early morning or at night to enjoy the real beauty of the river. Early mornings are a good time to catch the sunrise, while a night ride will leave you mesmerised with an amazing view of the Howrah Bridge and the Vidyasagar Setu, also known as the 2nd Howrah Bridge.
End your evening boat ride with a glimpse of the Ganga Aarti from the river at the Ramakrishna Ghat.
2. Offer prayers at Kalighat and Dakhineshwar
Considered to be one of the holiest of the 51 Shakti Peeths, the Kalighat Kali temple is a must-visit place when in the city. The temple is situated on the banks of the Adi Ganga, a small canal connecting to the Hooghly River. It is believed that the temple was built in the 15th century due to the presence of coins found here belonging to the Gupta Empire.
Legend says that the right toe of Sati fell at Kalighat, where the temple was built later, and the presiding deity here is called Kalika, after whom the city was named Kolkata.
The Dakhineshwar Kali temple is located on the eastern bank of the Hooghly River. The temple was built in 1855 by the zamindar philanthropist Rani Rashmoni. It is famous for its association with Sri Ramkrishna Paramhansa and Ma Sarada.
3. Visit Kumartuli
A small locality in North Kolkata, originally known as Coomartolly, this place is famous for being home to potters and their expertise in sculpting Indian Gods and Goddesses out of clay for different festivals year-round. A must-visit before the beginning of the Durga Puja festival to witness 1000 idols of the Goddess being made here from scratch.
4. Stroll through College Street
Also known as Boi para, this is a 900-metre-long road in north Kolkata that represents the intellectualism of the city. It is the largest book market in Asia and the biggest second-hand book market in the world. There isn't a single book or a title that you cannot find here!
College Street also gets its name from the numerous colleges and universities here - The University of Calcutta, Calcutta Medical College, Presidency University, the Sanskrit College to name a few.
College Street is also home to the famous Indian Coffee House, a café that has been the centre of intellectual activities for decades since British rule.
5. Binge on delicacies at Park Street
While a small paragraph about a single street in Kolkata isn't enough to do justice to the city's gastronomical delights, it is a small attempt at giving you a taste of all that encompasses the city.
Satiate your taste buds at the many iconic eateries at Park Street, all located in a row, next to each other. Some of the must-visit age-old restaurants here are:
PeterCat: For the best Chello kebabs in town
Mocambo: For sizzlers
Marco Polo: For the best Pan-Asian food
One-Step-Up: Old-world continental food
Bar-B-Que: Indo-Chinese Cuisine
Kusum Snack Bar: A hole-in-the-wall eatery serving some of the best Kolkata Rolls
Flurys: The legendary breakfast place and gourmet patisserie in town, now run by Park Hotels
We hope that this article has you excited about visiting Kolkata.
So why wait any longer? Start planning your next trip to the beautiful and mesmerising 'City of Joy'!