Kolkata, the capital city of West Bengal, is known for its diverse history. This is evident in its food, architecture, culture and people. So much to take in at this one city can be mind boggling but fortunately we have for you a list of the thing Kolkata is best known for; take a look!
1. Bengali Food
With some of the most delicious veg and non-veg preparations, along with a plethora delectable desserts, the eastern state of west Bengal has an abundance of variety in its cuisine that is capable of satisfying even the most fastidious of palates. Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal is probably the best place in the region to sample all these treats as the number of restaurants here are as plentiful as the dishes they serve.
2. Love of Literature
Home to the world’s first non-euro Nobel Prize laureate, Rabindranath Tagore, the city of Kolkata’s love for literature is historic and deep rooted in the region. Host to a number of events dedicated to the art, this city is a great place to visit during the Kolkata Book Fair and International Literary Festival. Authors and intellectuals from all over the world flock here during January every year to experience this feast for the mind.
Although every state, district and maybe even city has its own version of this festive dish, the debate of which is best has long been fought mainly between the Hyderabadis and the Bengalis; the main difference being that Bengal likes potato in its Biryani and in Hyderabad they do not. When in Kolkata, be sure to try the local favorite, Mutton Biryani; whether at Arsalan, Taste of Kolkata or any other places, be sure you get a restaurant recommendation before passing your verdict.
4. Street Food
Street food and bustling city’s just go hand in hand and Kolkata is no less a bustling city than any other and as such has no shortage of road side food kiosks, carts, stalls and stands. From the local egg roll and puchka to the momos and chow mein influenced from the East, dosa from the South and Tikka rolls from the North, even Vadapav from the West, there is a cardinal direction culinary adventure awaiting anyone visiting Kolkata.
Operating on the streets of Kolkata since 1902, the tram service is not only one of the last remaining in the country but also the oldest in Asia. With over a hundred cars running all over the city everyday, the tram is one of the best and cheapest ways to get around or take a tour of Kolkata. Depots in Belgachia, Rajabazar, Park Circus, Gariahat, Tollygunge, Kalighat and Khidirpur make access convenient too.
6. Eden Gardens
Established over a 150 years ago, the Eden Garden Stadium in Kolkata is not only a landmark but considered a historic and heritage site. Host to some of the biggest cricket tournaments in the world and scores of local and national level games, the place is regularly filled with an audience of over a lakh and close to a lakh and a half on days the local team, KKR are playing. Tickets are available online for all games so be sure to catch one the next time you’re in town.
As much as cricket is adored all over the Nation, football too has its fans and in Kolkata it seems that the youth have taken to this sport as fondly. With many turf grounds opening around and some major football coaching facilities cropping up, like Kolkata Football Academy, the sport is now getting more attention than ever in the city and seeing major events being organized here as well. Even the local public and high school tournaments are great fun and exciting to attend.
8. Bengali Cinema
West Bengal is renowned for its culture and heritage; this extends even to its cinema. With a historic theatrical and cinematic past, be sure to visit one of the local cinemas such as RDB in Salt Lake to catch not only new Bollywood and Hollywood films but also the Bengali classics that are screened here regularly. A number of plays and festivals celebrating local and international cinema are held here too every year at historic venues like Nandikar.
Kolkata has seen so much diversity over the centuries and coming from such an advanced civilization, it can only be expected that remnants of artifacts and relics are beautiful and abundant in this region. For an amazing insight to the glorious and sometimes turbulent history of this amazing city, head down to one of the numerous museums dedicated to educating the general population on Kolkata’s past, as well as science, nature and the arts, such as the magnificent Indian Museum of Kolkata.
10. Hand Pulled Rickshaw
Another great way to explore the city is by rickshaw; not the tuk tuk, enclosed, petrol ones that are too fast and noisy to catch even a glimpse of anything but rather one that is manually driven by local rickshaw cart pullers, willing to transport you anywhere within a couple kilometers. A fun and exciting manner to get around, this hand pulled means of transport within the city is must for visitors and the pullers are always willing to let you have a go at it too!
11. Kolkata Metro
The first in the country and over 30 years in service, the Kolkata Metro network covers most of the main areas and provides superb access around the city. Transporting over half a million commuters daily, this has become one of the fastest and most hassle free way to transverse West Bengals capital. Getting a pass at the station is simple so if you are visiting be sure to download the app and save yourself some time.
12. Park Street
One of the most buzzing and happening places in Kolkata, Park Street has it all; from shopping, restaurants and hotels to museums, parks and heritage sites, the place has become a hot spot for those looking to just get out and do something spontaneous. The area, an up market locality is also famous for its nightlife; a large number of clubs, pubs and bars have cropped up over the last few decades making it a great area to experience the local social culture.
13. Colonial Structures
Having such a culturally diverse past, Kolkata till today remains one of India’s most historic and cosmopolitan places. Evidence of colonial rule is still seen all over the city and the magnificent structures are not only marked heritage sites but also well looked after by the local authorities. A tour of the most popular and amazing colonial structures here will definitely take you to places such as Victoria Memorial, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Marble Palace, Kolkata Town Hall, Calcutta High Court and Belvedere Estate, but keep your eyes open while you travel as there are many beauties scattered all over the city too.
14. City Parks
With so much natural beauty all around, Kolkata too has managed to maintain a fair bit of greenery within the city. Numerous parks and gardens are open to the public and the general population seems to be naturally inclined to spend time relaxing at these places. Spend a lazy day at one of the many parks and gardens in Kolkata such as Maidan, Millennium Park, New Town Eco Park, Mohor Kunja, Central Park and others.
15. China Town
Kolkata’s proximity to China is not only geographical but also has a lot of cultural cross overs. With so many ethnic Chinese Indians in the eastern part of west Bengal, it is obvious that the area has its own China Town; originally meant to cater to the thousands of Chinese origin people living in the city, the place has now become a shopping and eating hot spot for even more locals than the dwindling original population running these businesses.
The Hooghly River and its tributaries run across the West Bengal state and has been a source of water and transport in the region for decades. Four bridges have been built over this time in order to facilitate easy crossing. The Howrah Bridge, the largest of them all is a sight to behold; spanning over 1500 feet and servicing more than 100,000 vehicles and 150,000 people daily this suspension bridge has become a life line in Kolkata. Apart from Howrah, other bridges in the city such as Vivekanand, Vidyasagar and Nivedita are all worth visiting.
17. IIM Calcutta
The first to be established, IIM Kolkata has a long and rich heritage in education and excellence. With the alumni being some of the most important people on the planet, this is probably one of the hardest institutions to get into in the world; though taking a tour around the campus is a good experience all the same and a must if you happen to be in the Joka area.
18. Religious Structures
Being such a cosmopolitan city and having been ruled by various peoples in the historic past, Kolkata is not just abundant with magnificent and ancient temples but has its fair share of other religious sites to visit too. If you happen to be touring this capital of West Bengal, be sure to include some of the well known and most popular religious places such as the Kalighat Kali Temple, Dakshineswar Temple, Magen David Synagogue, Saint John’s Church, Saint Paul’s Cathedral, Nakhoda Mosque, Belur Math and Pareshnath Jain Temple.
19. Bengali Sweets
In a class of their own, Bengali Sweets or Mishti as it is called locally, deserve a special mention. We are all familiar with the usual dangerously delicious rasgulla, sandesh and gulab jamun but in Kolkata you can find things you have never seen before and probably cannot pronounce either making them even more elusive back home. Places such as Mouchak and Balaram Mullick and Radharaman Mullick are definitely serving some of the best Kheer Kadam, Pantua and Mishti Doi amongst other delights.
20. Lal Paar Sari
A typical Lal Paar Sari, worn by women in Bengal is made of silk and has a red border. These expensive items of clothing are usually worn at functions and festivals but are available throughout the year. If you happen to be on the lookout for a sari, then be sure to practice your bargaining skill before you go shopping. Expensive as they are, shop keepers expect you to spend a little while haggling before settling on a price.
21. Terracotta Items
A lot of the state, like most rural areas, depend not only on agriculture to sustain themselves but also on manufacturing traditional handicrafts. Clay pots, statues, idols and much more, all locally made by hand are great gifts and mementos to take back if you are visiting. Kolkata, known for its terracotta handicraft works has many festivals and exhibitions every year showcasing and selling some beautiful pieces.
22. Jute Handicrafts
Another style of handicrafts Kolkata specializes in is made from jute, a fiber plant specifically grown for this purpose. From baskets to hats, decorative pieces and even furniture, you will be sure to find something you want to take home with you. Priced rather reasonably, shopping areas in Kolkata such as Park Street and even local markets stock items made from this environmentally friendly and versatile material.
23. Royal Calcutta Golf Club
Located in the posh Tollygunge area of the city, the Royal Calcutta Golf Club is almost a century old institution. If you happen to be a player then head here for a round on the greens or take a lesson from one of the professional trainers at the course. With a fine dining restaurant and beautiful property, its worth going down to the RCGC just for a meal or a drink.
24. Kolkata Knight Riders
Representing Kolkata in the Indian Premier League, KKR is obviously the team with the biggest fan base in the city. Everywhere you go during IPL season you will find team KKR flags being flown, team KKR jerseys being worn and team KKR allegiance being sworn. If you do happen to be in the city during a match, be sure to get a ticket and experience the madness this city has for the game.
25. Fish Delicacies
If there is one non veg thing Bengalis love to eat it has got to be fish and as such warrants special mention. So many feasts and celebrations are enjoyed around good food and in Kolkata there is no shortage of great restaurants to try some local delicacies like Bengali Doi Machi, Macher Jhal, Shorshe Mach and many more.
So be sure to explore this fascinating city and keep your eyes peeled for even more exciting and unusual things as you travel through Kolkata.