Kolkata, truly called as the ‘City of Joy’, is a gem of a city for tourists visiting West Bengal. This historical city was one of the first British colonies in India and the world. Thus, there is a British feel in most of the architecture of its historical monuments. Kolkata is also the oldest functioning port in India. Taking a glimpse of its history, it was once ruled by Nawabs of Bengal under the Mughals, after which the Brits took over and made it their Capital. That made it a hub of literary, art and music activities in the 19th and 20th centuries. You will witness amalgamated cultures that are deeply rooted in Kolkata. The Independence Movement was most active here in the British Capital. Don’t be surprised by its crowded streets and Bazaars as it is the third most populated metro city after Mumbai and Delhi in India. If you are visiting Kolkata as a tourist, take a look at this list of the 10 best places where you must go during your stay:
1. Victoria Memorial
This magnificent palatial building was built in 1902 to commemorate the death of Queen Victoria, but it was opened for public viewing only in 1921. A major landmark in Kolkata, a trip to the city remains incomplete without a visit to this royal Memorial. If you are interested in studying its history closely, it houses a gallery with paintings of the Royal British family, historic lithographs and documents of historical interest. The architecture reminds of an Italian Renaissance style. Due to its white and grand looks similar to the Taj Mahal of Agra, it has been nicknamed as Taj of the Raj (the British rule). To make the visit more memorable, try to go in the night time to witness its stunning beauty on a moonlit night. Visitors often enjoy the Horse carriage rides which are routinely available in front of the building’s lush green gardens. You can also attend the Sound and Light Show in English (Oct to Feb – 7.15 pm to 8.00 pm) and (March to June – 7.45 pm to 8.30 pm) held within the premises.
2. Howrah Bridge
This grand beauty awaits you just as you move out of Howrah station and move towards the city. ‘Rabindra Setu’, named after the legendary Bengali Poet and Author Sri Rabindra Nath Tagore, is the busiest bridge in the world and you will notice it immediately as you enter it. It is a cantilever bridge built over the raging Hoogly River, and the most noticeable key point about this structure is that it stands without pylons. Around 1,00,000 vehicles and lakhs of pedestrians cross this 450 m long bridge daily and you cannot picture Kolkata without remembering this spectacular structure.
3. Birla Mandir
This famous Hindu Temple is situated on Ashutosh Chowdhury Avenue, Ballygunge. Built in white marble, this home of God is spread over 130 acres of land, and it took over 26 years to complete its construction. The iconic Indian industrialists, the Birla family takes care of this Radha Krishna Temple.
Janmashtami is one such annual occasion when lakhs of devotees come to worship their deity Shri Krishna on his birthday. It opens from 5.30 am to 11 am in morning and 4.30 pm to 9 pm in evening time every day.
4. Dakshineswar Kali Mandir
Situated along the Vivekananda Bridge on the banks of Eastern side of River Hoogly, this Hindu temple is a world famous pilgrimage and is especially known as the place where the great philosopher and thinker Rama Krishna Paramhansa gained spiritual vision about the religious unification. You must definitely pay a visit to this Goddess Durga temple which is surrounded by 12 Shiva temples all around the central courtyard. A must-go corner is the chamber of Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa where his bed and a picture are placed and absolute silence prevails to feel his divine presence. Visit timings are 7 am to 12 pm and 4 pm to 9 pm.
5. Indian Museum
This is the largest and oldest museum not only in India but in the entire Asia Pacific region. Started by a Dutch Botanist, Dr. Nathaniel Wallich, it is an epoch in the history of India which has risen from a single museum in Kolkata to 400 museums all over India now. The huge museum has 6 basic sections divided into 35 galleries that proudly exhibit the diverse culture, scientific and technological achievements and much more. It showcases antique pieces, paintings, ornaments, utensils, artefacts, fossils and even mummies! The entry timings are 10.00 am to 5.00 pm and the museum is closed for public every Monday.
6. Belur Math
If you are a spiritually inclined person, you should reach out to this peaceful destination. Formed by Swami Vivekananda in memory of Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa, it now serves as the headquarters of the Ramakrishna Math. The building is enticing and serves as an example of modern temple architecture (blend of a temple, church and mosque), which is an elite example of universal brotherhood as preached by Swami Ji. An early morning visit is a breathtaking sight with the River Ganges touching the temple’s peaceful spirit and it is a center of spirituality. Swami Vivekananda breathed his last here. Even you are not a very religious person; you will definitely be attracted by the spiritual ambience of this popular pilgrimage.
Timings: 6.30 am to 11.00 am and 3.30 pm to 7.00 pm (open all days). Photography is restricted in the premises.
7. Park Street
This is famous as the street in Kolkata that never sleeps. Officially known as Mother Teresa Sarani, it is the most visited thoroughfare in Kolkata. You will love the varieties of cuisines that are available in this Food hub. There is an array of restaurants and pubs which are most haunted by younger crowds during the night time. You can also look at the Asiatic Society and St. Xavier’s College buildings here. Lately, the police department initiated a Happy Street event wherein they close the roads to all motor vehicles for a few hours on every Sunday morning. Then citizens from all walks of life perform, casually walk or play games, including art and games for kids. A visit to Park Street gives you the whole feel of Kolkata in a nutshell.
8. Kolkata Race Course
This prime horse racing location is functioning since 1819. Maintained by the Royal Turf Club, it houses 5 racing tracks, a Polo ground, Golf Course and a lake. Famous celebrities including Bollywood stars and industrialists from the elite class are often spotted during the racing season. On the other hand, it is also an entertainment area for common people like the locals and college students, who visit in large numbers to witness the exciting racing events. There are 30,000 capacity galleries for the audience. Visit on a Racing Day to enjoy more. The happening racing season is Nov till March and July till Sep.
9. Science City
Looking for an exciting educational brush up with science and technology? Science City is the perfect place, equally enjoyable for both kids and adults. Scientific concepts are explained in simple words in the interesting movies showcased in the Space Theatre. The 3-D Vision Theatre uses innovative digital technology to project images in mesmerising shows to be seen with Polaroid spectacles. There is a time machine which gives a motion simulator ride with audio visual synchronisation and is a one of its kind experience. The timings are 9.00 am to 9.00 pm and it is open round the year.
10. Nicco Park
Enter this theme park which is the largest in Kolkata to have loads and loads of fun with family and friends. Situated in the Salt Lake City, it is a wonderful recreation and education park. Spread over 40 acres, the park has been developed as a joint venture of Government and the Nicco group of industries.
There are about 35 rides suited for a variety of age groups, like the toy train, giant cyclone, water coaster and many more. There are scientific explanations about the rides and an interesting solar energy park to increase environmental awareness. A decommissioned MIG 21 aircraft stands in the middle for general public to admire the fighter plane deployed by Indian Air Force for combat purposes. In all, fun and frolic combined with bits of educative knowledge make the Nicco Park an adorable destination for all.
Kolkata is an energetic, engaging and pleasing city and there are so many sites to visit for a tourist. A myriad of arts, cultures, music, food, architecture and fun – all folded into one. That is Kolkata. Plan your Kolkata visit in such a way that you do not miss any of its worth going and incredible points of interest.