India’s cultural capital is a shock to most tourists, and not always in a good way. Kolkata has its fair share of confronting poverty, crumbling colonial architecture and street kids desperate to sell sympathetic visitors a ‘bargain’. But amidst teeming streets thick with the flavour of human life are some of India’s brightest gems.
South Kolkata is the city’s fanciest quarter and one of the least congested. Equally ritzy are the five-star hotels, theme parks and Bengali gentry housing estates of fast-developing East Kolkata. Further up meanwhile, North Kolkata’s narrow lanes and centuries-old buildings are an ode to romantic dilapidation. The Esplanade is the clogged artery of Kolkata’s fast-beating heart, where the bustling human life flows faster than the nearby River Ganges.
Kolkata’s top 10
- National Library The 250-year-old former vice regal residence is now full of bookshelves and reading rooms, but you’ll probably spend more time ogling the palatial interior
- Saheed Minar This massive 48m (157ft) high column celebrates the martyrs of the freedom struggle
- Nicco Park Spread over 40 acres, the ‘Disneyland of Kolkata’ is a feast for the eyes of nature freaks and adrenaline junkies alike
- Writer’s BuildingThis massive heritage site has been home to all shades of political opinion. Whatever yours is, you’re bound to appreciate its grand red façade.
- Marble Palace The eclectic and bizarre mix of magnificent sculptures and shoddy maintenance is everything a 19th century Kolkata mansion should be
- Birla Planetarium The informative shows explaining the intricate world of planets and galaxies are sure to fascinate
- Eden Gardens More for cricket fans than nature freaks, the gargantuan Eden Gardens is the oldest stadium in India and one of the finest in the world
- Howrah Bridge The best-known landmark in Kolkata is best viewed from a distance, when the pretty lights mask its dirtiness
- Victoria Memorial Modelled on the Taj Mahal, this early 20thcentury structure has its status as one of Kolkata’s top tourist attractions to thank for its well-maintained anatomy
- Fort William You’ll have to get permission to enter this majestic former British fortress, constructed in 1781 and still a picturesque site on the banks of the Hooghly. Its predecessor was the site of the infamous Black Hole of Calcutta