Kolkata has journeyed through times in a glorious manner, without losing its character and connection to literature, art and architecture. This former capital of India is considered the cultural and intellectual hub of India and dazzles you with the accumulated power of its historic and artistic heritage. There’s nothing which brings this fact home to a visitor more than this list of things to see in Kolkata, the City of Joy.
Things to See in Kolkata
1. Victoria Memorial
Built in 1921, this remarkable monument should be listed as a must see item on a visitor’s list. Set in a landscaped garden, it displays age old artefacts and paintings from all over the world. Its walls are adorned with the photographs of British monarchs and all the eminent persons who contributed to building modern-day India. The Hall houses the paintings of many artists, both Indian and European, who used watercolours and oil paints. Visit the collections of stamps, lithographs, rare books, arms and armour.
- Location: Queen’s Way
2. Marble Palace
This 19th century edifice was built by a Bengali merchant and collector, Raja Rajendra Mullick, whose descendants still reside here. With walls and floors made of marble, this palatial building has architectural features like fluted Corinthian pillars, ornamented verandahs, sloping roofs and features like a lake and rock garden and manicured lawns. There’s a small zoo in the premises, and notable among the paintings are work by Rubens and Sir Joshua Reynolds.
- Location: Muktaram Babu Street
3. Jorasanko Thakur Bari
This ancestral home of Rabindranath Tagore (Thakur) at Jorasanko is preserved to look the way it did in his lifetime. Tagore, affectionately known as Gurudev, was a polymath who shaped art, music and literature. His highly acclaimed, sensitive poetry won him the Nobel Prize in Literature, making him the first non-European to do so.
- Location: Jorasanko
3. National Library
Book lovers will have found a haven at this library which has a collection of books, numbering over 2.2 million books and is considered to be India’s largest library by volume. Originally started in 1836, this museum is situated in a 30-acre campus which is full of trees and flowering plants, which complements the architectural majesty of the arches and pillars which go to form the impressive façade of this heritage building.
- Location: Alipore
4. B.B.D. Bagh
Formerly Dalhousie Square, this is located in the business district of Kolkata and the seat of power of the state government. Named after the three young men Binoy, Badal and Dinesh, who laid their lives down to protect other Indians from the brutality of Col. N.S. Simpson, this park pays homage to the selfless and valiant efforts of youth who rejected the path of Ahimsa in their efforts to serve the nation.
- Location: Lal Dighi
5. Writers’ Building
Originally used by the writers of the British Raj, this is the seat of the state’s assembly today. Graced with a statue of Minerva on the top of the building, this heritage building is under renovation. Don’t miss the statues of Binoy, Badal and Dinesh who shot dead an oppressive and brutal British Inspector General of Prisons, Col. N.S. Simpson during the Indian Independence movement here in 1930, as a suicide mission.
- Location: B.B.D. Bagh
6. Nehru Children’s Museum
Established in 1972 and opened on Pandit Jawaharlal’s birthday, this museum is a treasure trove of unique exhibits which are calculated to touch the minds of children and educate them through entertainment. Don’t miss the gallery for dolls from around the world at this sprawling museum, or the clay models representing India’s epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata.
- Location: Lala Lajpat Rai Road
7. Nakhoda Masjid
A fine specimen of Indo-Saracenic architecture, this magnificent mosque is complemented by exquisite interiors and exquisite interiors. The main entrance is made of red sandstone and the three domes present a contrast by being coloured green. The minars stand 50 metres high while the minarets are 30 metres in height. The marbled floors and multi-coloured glass chandeliers and mirrored halls enhance the beauty of this mosque which can accommodate 10000 people at prayer.
- Location: Bow Barracks
8. Tipu Sultan Mosque
Built over 180 years ago, this mosque is of significant religious importance and boasts of impressive Islamic architecture. Built by Tipu Sultan’s youngest son, Prince Ghulam Mohammed, in 1832; this mosque features 16 domes and four towering minarets. It can accommodate up to 1000 people at prayers and allows people of all religions and sections to enter its premises.
- Location: Bow Bazaar
9. Swami Vivekananda’s Ancestral Home
One of the prominent landmarks of Kolkata, this 18th century building was renovated and turned into a museum and cultural centre by the Ramakrishna Mission. The library here has nearly six thousand books and the meditation hall and cultural centre draw visitors, along with students of spoken English and computer programming who get trained at the coaching centres here.
- Location: Vivekananda Road
10. Fort William
Built on the Eastern Bank of the beautiful Hooghly river, in about 71 acres, this Fort was originally built in 1696. Named after King William III, this fort had two floors, projecting wings and an internal guardroom which is today infamous as the Black Hole of Calcutta. The Indian Army owns this place today as the headquarters of the Eastern Command, which can house up to 10000 personnel.
- Location: Khidirpur Road
11. Belur Math
The Belur Math was constructed in honour of Ramakrishna Paramhansa, and functions as the International Headquarters of the Ramakrishna Mission’s activities. This was designed entirely by Swami Vivekananda, and this is also the place where he breathed his last. A monument beside the river Hooghly commemorates his memory and his old room is turned into a museum, where his personal effects, and those of Sri Ramakrihna Paramhansa and his wife Sharada Devi, are displayed to visitors.
- Location: Belur
12. Birla Planetarium
Designed to look like the Buddhist Stupa at Sanchi, this Planetarium, locally known as Taramandal, is a place which must be visited. Visit here to see their collection of beautiful paintings, celestial modes, sophisticated telescope and electronics laboratory. Be enlightened by the various projects which deal with astronomic, astrophysical and mythical facts and topics related to stars and planets.
- Location: Jawaharlal Nehru Road
13. Kalighat Kali
One of the 51 Shakti Peethas on the Earth, this temple is one of the things to see at Kolkata and a sacred site which is dedicated to Goddess Kali for over 200 years. Enhanced by the proximity of Adi Ganga river, this temple attracts countless devotees, some of whom offer animal sacrifices at the Harkath Tala. People visiting the Kalighat Kali also visit the ancient temple of Nakhuleshwar Mahadev, which stands opposite to this temple.
- Location: Kalighat
14. Dakshineswar Kali
Legend has it that the Rani of Janbazar was asked to build this temple at Dakshineswar by Goddess Kali herself. The temple is large, spread over an area of 25 acres and houses the main temple to Kali as well as 12 temples to Lord Shiva and a prayer hall. Built in the Navaratna style, this beautiful temple offers the additional attraction of taking a dip in the River Ganga, which flows by its side. This is where Ramakrishna Paramahansa achieved enlightenment.
- Location: Dakshineswar
15. Howrah Bridge
Known for being the world’s busiest cantilever bridge, with over 100,000 vehicles and 150,000 pedestrians, the Howrah bridge was commissioned in 1943. Built over the Hooghly river, it connects Kolkata and Howrah and has been renamed Rabindra Setu in 1965. A completely riveted structure, it uses no nuts and bolts and is divided into 8 lanes with two footpaths on either side. Definitely a place to see.
- Location: Dhakuria
16. South Park Street Cemetery
Established during the British Raj, this cemetery is one of the oldest non-church cemeteries on Earth and worthy of a visit. It served people from 1767 to 1830 but is currently under the protection of the Archaeological Survey of India, as an important heritage site. The memorials are Gothic or Indo- Saracenic in style and the tombs are graced with classical details and sculptures.
- Location: Park Street
17. Science City Complex
One of the recent additions to the attractions of Kolkata, this science and amusement park sets out to make a difference from the get-go. Visitors can either walk in or, fly in on a ropeway, taking in sights not just of the park but a large part of the city itself. Interested in dinosaurs, evolution, space and time? Your questions will be answered here, and more! If you’re looking for what to see in Kolkata, head to the Science City Complex.
- Location: J.B.S. Haldane Avenue
18. Acharya JC Bose Botanical Garden
If you’re looking for what to see, this old botanical garden, which was founded in 1786, is spread over an area of 109 hectares. The garden has a huge collection of plant species, numbering over 12000 and is a place of interest to visit, and must be seen if you love plants or just enjoy the greenery. Do visit the Great Banyan tree spread over an area of 330 metres and its orchids and water lilies.
- Location: Shibpur
Visit this area in Kolkata, which is replete with history and attracts many visitors with its entertainment centres and shopping centres. Once an isolated village surrounded by a jungle, where tigers roamed free, this area is today totally urbanised and actually earns Kolkata its nickname of ‘City of Palaces’. The Jawaharlal Nehru Road in Chowringhee is lined with skyscrapers and imposing offices and marketplaces.
This is a really short list of important things to see in Kolkata and we could practically go on talking about many more things, given the time. Do add the important places listed here, to your itinerary when visiting Kolkata and do write in to let us know how they met your expectations and the names of other places which you would love to recommend to other visitors to this historic city as must-see places.