Kolkata formally known at Calcutta also referred as “The City of Joy”, is the capital city of West Bengal. Places to visit in Kolkata, India, encompass Museums, Gardens and Architecturally Stunning Buildings. Many of the buildings bear the essence of English architecture as they were mainly constructed during the British rule.
The city is a rich repository of culture and heritage. On a visit to Kolkata one may come across various places that would reflect the silhouettes of History. From the old lanes of Kolkata to the bustling Esplanade one would never miss the experience of feeling the pulse of the city. One may see & explore the Indian Museum and walk down the path of history or get mesmerized in the beauty of the Marble Palace.
When it comes to naming the best places to visit in Kolkata, The City of Joy cannot be left behind. The list of tourist attractions is in exhaustive and includes:
Kalighat Kali Temple
A popular religious attraction of Kolkata, Kalighat Kali Temple is considered as one of the 52 Shakti Peethas (places where the various parts of Sati’s body are believed to have fallen, in the course of Shiva’s RudraTandava) of India. Kalighat is said to be the site where the toes of the right foot of Sati fell. In earlier years, the image of the deity was incomplete as only the face was constructed. Later on over the years, the hands (made of gold and silver), the tongue and jewellery were added to the idol of goddess Kali. The temple receives a huge number of devotees especially on auspicious occasions like Kali Puja, PoilaBoishakh, Durga Puja and the Bengali New Year day.
Dakshineshwar Kali Temple
A temple that resides in the heart of every single Bengali and is highly revered for being the sanctum sanctorum of Goddess Kali along with the place-of-stay of one of the greatest mystics and yogis of all times, RamkrishnaParamhansa and his consort and spiritual companion, MaaSarada Devi. The Dakhineswar Kali Temple with the untiring efforts of Rani Rashmoni was the result of a dream that the Rani had seen before undertaking a pilgrimage to Benaras (now Varanasi).
The large temple complex has a series of 12 mandirs dedicated to Lord Shiva, a Radha-Krishna Temple, bathing ghat, Rani Rashmoni’s shrine, Nahavat-Khana, a chamber on the north-western part of the complex where Ramkrishna resided along with the main Kali Temple. With the traditional ‘Nava-ratna’-styled Bengali architecture, the three-storey temple stands on a high platform with a fleet of stairs. Overlooking the Hooghly River and the Belur Math across, the Dakshineshwar Kali Temple stands tall with its historical association with some of the greatest names to have resided in the ‘City of Joy’, Kolkata.
Smeared with shops and vendors selling variety of items, Esplanade is one of the popular places to see in Kolkata. From Books to Garments one would be taken through a unique ride of sight and sound. One may check out the Antique shop or explore the handicrafts sold on the streets of Esplanade. The place also has some of the finest Restaurants and Food Joints.
Park Street is another Great Place to visit as the place has its own charm. One of the major attractions of this place is the Asiatic Society. The street is also filled with host of hang-out joints and restaurants. From shops selling electronic goods to book stores the area has a lot to offer. On a visit to Kolkata during the Christmas one must witness the festive decoration of Park Street during that time of the year. Park Street is famous all over India for its vibrant night life.
Indian Museum is a wonderful place for art &artefact lovers in Kolkata that one may see & explore. It is the largest museum in India and was founded in 1814. Dr. Nathaniel Wallich was the founder curator of the museum. At present it has more than sixty galleries dedicated to Geology, Archaeology, Zoology, Anthropology, Art and Botany. The place is funded by the Department of Culture, Government of India. Popular exhibits are the skeleton of dinosaurs, painting on illustrated palm-leaves, collection of meteorites, miniature paintings, Ashoka Pillar, Buddhist Stupa, other remaining of the ancient civilizations and many more rare collections. This museum is the ninth oldest regular museum in the world.
The Asiatic Society in Kolkata started functioning from the year 1784. The Indian museum first came into existence within the building of Asiatic Society. The museum was later shifted to a separate building and is still situated there. Initiated by Sir William Jones, the Asiatic Society is home to a rich repository of Relic that represents different eras of time. The library inside the building consists of Rare Manuscripts and Books, which are written in most of the languages around the world. Original Painting, Manuscripts, Engraving, Asokan Rock Edict and Coins are some of the things one may explore while on a visit to the place.
A perpetual notion one carries from Kolkata is the immaculate white Victoria memorial bounded by verdant greenery and broad roads. It is dedicated to Queen Victoria and bids an insight into the rich history of India starting from the arrival of British and till the Independence era. Inside the memorial there is a museum where you can see the dresses of the queen as well as different kinds of weapons used during that era. There are various other things as well that you can see and explore inside it. The structure of the memorial is just amazing and very attractive to look at. The chariot ride in front of the Victoria Memorial gives an awesome experience to all. The fountain show in front of the memorial is just awesome and gives immense pleasure to the visitors.
The Church “St. Paul’s Cathedral” was built in the year 1847 and had an essence of Indo-Gothic architecture. The structure was damaged in an earthquake and was rebuilt in 1938. The new structure is a replica of the Bell Harry Tower. The church also contains collection of antique books and paintings. One would get mesmerized by the inner grandeur that contains intricate artwork on wall, mosaic panels, mural painting and Florentine frescoes. The surrounding of the cathedral also presents one with a calm ambience.
One of the popular places to visit in Kolkata, India, is the Marble Palace. The stunning beauty of the white marbles would leave one mesmerized. The palace was built by RajendraMullik in 1855.Jagannath Temple is also located in the premises but it remains accessible to the family members. The place also harbours a small zoo, lawns and other attractions. The architecture is neoclassical and also has signs of Chinese pavilion. The palace has paintings of both Indian and European Artists. Two famous painting of Ruben is also present in the house. The paintings are ‘The Marriage of St. Catherine’ and ‘The Martyrdom of St. Sebastian’. It also has paintings of John Opie, Sir Joshua Reynold, Murillo and Titan. It is also home to a collection of Rare Clocks, Urns, Mirrors and other exquisite objects.
Eden Gardens Cricket Stadium
The Eden Garden Cricket Stadium was built in 1864 and is the second largest stadium in the world behind Melbourne Cricket Ground in Australia. The stadium in the recent years has undergone renovation work. This cricket stadium has been host to a number of great cricket games that have made mark in the history of cricket. The first ODI was played in the year 1987 and the first test match was played in 1934. The test match was against Douglas Jardine’s MCC. The ground is home to The Bengal Cricket.
It is one of the oldest botanical gardens in India. The place is located around 8 kilometres from the Calcutta City. One of the major attractions of this garden is the famous Giant Banyan Tree, which is said to be around 2 centuries old. Botanical Garden was developed by the East India Company in the year 1787. The place has a variety of plants, palms and orchids that would take you close to nature. One would also come across rare trees and plants. The place has a library where one would get a huge collection of botany books. In the year 1793 William Roxburgh, a botanist, brought plants from all over the country and formed herbarium. This herbarium is now The Central National Herbarium of Botanical Survey of India.
Approximately 30 minutes from Kolkata, Belur Math that is located on the right bank of River Hoogly is a temple that is notable for exhibiting Hindu, Christian and Islamic motifs as a symbol of unity of all religions. It was founded by Swami Vivekananda who was a chief disciple of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. The Sri Ramkrishna Temple resembles a temple, a mosque, a church if seen from different positions and the Swami Vivekananda Temple stands on the spot where Swami Vivekananda’s mortal remains were cremated in 1902. It also houses several other temples dedicated to Sarada Devi and Swami Brahmananda respectively. In addition the museum exhibits the artifacts used by Ramakrishna and Sarada Devi, Swami Vivekananda and some of his disciples. Nonetheless one of the major places to visit in Kolkata near to Belur Math is the Dakhineswar Temple that is dedicated to Goddess Kali.
Popularly known as the ‘Jorasanko Thakurbari’, Rabindranath Tagore’s ancestral house is now a museum dedicated to the life and works of the Nobel Laureate. Built in 1785, the Jorasanko Thakur Bari is spread over 35000 square meters. Today the building houses RabindraBharati University, inaugurated by Jawaharlal Nehru on Tagore’s birth centenary, 8 May 1962. Within the complex is Maharishi Bhavan, named after the poet’s father, Maharishi Debendranath Tagore, where, as the plaque outside reads, “Rabindranath was born breathed his last here.” Today this house is a museum that has three galleries dedicated to Tagore, members of his family and the Bengal Renaissance. The galleries provide glimpses of intimate family photographs, live size portraits and Tagore’s evolution as a poet philosopher.
Unparalleled in talent, the Tagore family has produced stalwarts in the world of art and literature. The greatest among them was Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore. Also fondly known as ‘Kavi guru’, meaning the poet of poets – he was greatness personified in the field of art and literature. His most commendable work, ‘Geetanjali’ meaning offering of poems, had won him the prestigious Nobel Prize award. Tagore has always been a source of inspiration for the contemporary poets, writers and art lovers.
The museum has also preserved works of other eminent members of this illustrious family like MaharshiDevendranath Tagore, Jyotirindranath, Abanindranath and Dinendranath Tagore. It has also preserved the clippings of Tagore and a number of pictures and paintings of him and the entire family. The gifts received by him on different occasions are also present in the RabindraBharati Museum. The museum also has a section that stores old musical records. The Museum also includes possessions and information of the other great personalities of the 19th and 20th Century, who excelled in the field of Literature.
New Market(S S Hogg Market)
Shopping in the city of joy has forever been synonymous with New Market (S S Hogg Market), a Victorian Gothic shopping arcade which came into existence during the colonial era and still enjoys widespread patronage today. A heritage site in its own right, New Market is comprised of a wide labyrinth of stalls, selling every conceivable item that you can imagine. Amid the bustling chaos of shoppers and vendors you will find an incredible array of goods ranging from fashionable apparel, electronic gadgets and confection to shoes, saris, exotic flower arrangements and rare cheeses. The USP of New Market is its cheap and affordable prices, which can be further reduced depending upon your bargaining skills. Shoppers can take their pick from over 2000 stalls that are grouped in blocks according to the goods being sold. Hence, navigating your way through the numerous rows and stalls is never a problem. And if you find yourself lost in the maze of shops, help is always at hand in the form of coolies who also double as guides. New Market was constructed in 1874 by the Calcutta Corporation and catered exclusively to Kolkata’s British residents. Then in 1903, it was rechristened as Sir Stuart Hogg Market and later just Hogg Market. However, the name “New Market”, eventually proved to be its most enduring moniker and the name has stuck ever since. Some of the notable shops that have continued to exist since the early 1900’s include the iconic Jewish confectioners Nahoum& Sons, who are renowned for their delectable rich plum cakes, brownies, macaroons, pastries and marzipans. For resplendent saris and other Indian finery head to the Bombay Silk House, Dayaram& Co and Ghanashyam. New Market is located on Lindsay Street and remains open from 10 am to 8 pm on weekdays and until 2:30pm on Saturdays. It remains closed on Sundays; although you might spot a few shops open if you are lucky.