- Not to be confused with Kozhikode, formerly Calicut, a city in southwestern India..
Kolkata (Bengali: কলকাতা, Hindi: कोलकाता) (formerly Calcutta) is the capital of West Bengal and one of the largest urban agglomerations in India. It is the largest city in Eastern India. Kolkata is an 'in your face' city that shocks and charms the unsuspecting visitor. Long known as the cultural capital of India and home to the so-called Bengal Renaissance, 'The City of Joy' (the sobriquet became more famous after the publication of a novel of the same name) continues to spawn generations of poets, writers, film directors and Nobel Prize winners. If your trip only allows for a visit of one or two of India's metropolitan cities, then definitely consider placing Kolkata on your itinerary. Kolkata is arguably one of the most socially, culturally and politically progressive cities in India. Love it or hate it, you definitely won't forget the 'City of Joy'.
The colonial district is still the central business and administrative area and is considered the heart of Kolkata. Made up of the northern part of Chowringhee, Park Street, Mirza Ghalib Street (Free School Street), B. B. D. Bagh (Dalhousie Square), Chandni Chowk, Burrabazar and Sudder Street.
The area consisting of the huge park and its surrounding neighbourhoods. Includes Fort William, Strand Road, Dufferin Road, Hooghly Bank and the southern part of Chowringhee.
|South Kolkata |
The posh and new part of the city. Covers Ballygunge, Gariahat, Bhowanipore, Alipore, Chetla, New Alipore, Rash Behari, Dhakuria etc. This entire region is within Kolkata district (KMC Area).
|Southern fringes |
The rapidly mushrooming localities to the south of the city. Includes Tollygunge, Taratala, Behala, Thakurpukur, Jadavpur, Kasba, Santoshpur, Baghajatin, Garia, Maheshtala, Rajpur Sonarpur, Baruipur, Joka, Pailan, Budge Budge, Narendrapur etc. This is a relatively newer part of the city where a lot of expansion is going on.
|North Kolkata |
The older area of the city, a fascinating district dominated by narrow little lanes and hundreds of century-old buildings. Includes Chitpur, Bagbazar, Belgachia, Shyambazar, Shobhabazar, Maniktala, Jorasanko and the College Street area. Also here is the Kolkata station. North Kolkata was known as Black Town during the British period as it was home to the native population.
|Northern fringes |
The large industrial area to the north of the city extends up to Naihati and Barasat. Includes Cossipore, Dum Dum, Belghoria, Khardaha, Panihati, Titagarh and Madhyamgram, where there are a number of factories, including jute, paper, cotton, ordnance and chemicals. The northern fringes are also the prime communication hub of Kolkata, having the airport, Metro Rail, Circular Rail, and overground rail.
|East Kolkata |
Rapidly developing, especially the IT sector, and home to several malls. Encompasses Salt Lake City (Bidhannagar), Chinar Park, Rajarhat, New Town, Lake Town and the EM Bypass. Many five-star hotels, theme parks, posh housing estates and technology parks are being built in this area.
A major industrial centre for the manufacturing of agricultural and industrial machinery, chemicals, castor oil, several jute products, matches, and numerous cotton-processing companies. Baranagar is very rich culturally, a good tourist attraction of Kolkata.
A cantonment town.
The name is derived from Kalikātā, the name of one of the three villages in the area before the arrival of the British. There has been much debate regarding the origin of Kalikātā itself. Some say the name derives from kālīkṣetra, meaning the "land of [the goddess] Kali". Others claim the name may have its origin in the indigenous term for a natural canal, khāl, followed by katta (which may mean dug). Another theory is that the place used to specialise in quicklime (kalicun) and coir rope (kātā).
The name was officially changed from Calcutta to Kolkata in 2001 by the then-left Government of West Bengal. However, the name "Calcutta" still survives in the names of institutions like Calcutta High Court, Royal Calcutta Golf Club, University of Calcutta etc.
Kolkata's history is intimately related to the British East India Company, which arrived in 1690, and to British India, of which Calcutta became the capital in 1772. Job Charnock was widely known as the founder of Calcutta. There were 3 villages named Sutanuti, Gobindapur and Kalikata. Later the village Kalikata became the city Kolkata. But some Indian historians have disputed this claim, arguing that Kolkata developed naturally over a period, centred on the ancient Kali temple at Kalighat and the port at Kidderpore.
Whatever its origins, Kolkata flowered as the capital of British India during the 19th century, the heyday of the Raj. The University of Calcutta, the first modern Indian university was founded here in 1857. Kolkata became the centre of Indian arts and literature, and the national movement for independence got its start here. However, with the transfer of the capital to Delhi in 1911, the pains of the partition of Bengal in 1947, a violent repressive and feudal state machinery operational for nearly the first two decades after independence, the ideologically motivated Maoist movement (the Naxalbari movement) in the 1970s, followed by the Marxist rule has shaped the city to its present form.
Kolkata has become the main business, commercial and financial hub of eastern India. The city's economic fortunes grew as the economic liberalisation in India during the early 1990s reached Kolkata during late 1990s. Kolkata is a multicultural and cosmopolitan city, with diversity from all over India as well as Europeans (including Germans, Armenians, and others) and other Asians (including Chinese, Sinhalese, and Tibetans). Kolkata is also notable for being home to India's largest Chinatown, which continues to be home to many ethnic Chinese residents whose families have lived in India for several generations.
In 1977, a "Left Front" coalition of the Communist and Marxist parties came to power and ruled the state for 34 years. This is reflected in street names and memorials in the city with names like Lenin Sarani and Ho Chi Minh Sarani. During this period, the various egalitarian approaches implemented at improving the living standards of the down-trodden has helped the city in bridging the wealth-gap and decreasing impoverishment.
Kolkata is fast developing into a modern infotech city with various private sector companies setting up shops here. The landscape of the city is also fast changing with flyovers, gardens and several new commercial establishments. Kolkata city has expanded into its suburbs, with Greater Kolkata stretching from Kalyani (in Nadia district) in north to Jaynagar Majilpur in south (in South 24 Parganas district).
The city's fortunes have looked up since the early 1990s, coinciding with the liberalisation of the Indian economy. Its economy has been amongst the fastest growing in the country. The New Metro city is characterised by popular spots such as multiplexes, theatres, clubs, pubs, coffee shops, and museums.
Kolkata is home to many industrial units, of large Indian corporations, whose product range is varied and includes engineering products, electronics, electrical equipment, cables, steel, leather, textiles, jewellery, frigates, automobiles, railway coaches and wagons.
Several industrial estates like Taratala, Uluberia, Dankuni, Kasba, and Howrah are spread throughout the urban agglomeration. A huge leather complex has come up at Bantala. An export processing zone has been set up in Falta. Specialised setups like the country's first Toy Park, and a Gem and Jewellery Park have also been established.
Kolkata is also starting to become a major hub for the IT (Information Technology) industry. With the formation of New Town and extension of Salt Lake's Sector-V, Kolkata is rapidly turning into a pro-IT city.
Kolkata is also famous for the film industry around Tollygunge, known as "Tollywood" (a blend of Tollygunge and Hollywood). From a beginning in the silent era in 1919 to the talking era in the 1930s and the golden days of the 1950s to the 70s has been a chequered history. It has seen renowned filmmakers like Satyajit Ray, Bimal Roy, Ritwik Ghatak and Mrinal Sen.
Kolkata is in the eastern part of India and is spread along the eastern banks of the Hooghly River.
The city of Kolkata is huge, stretching from the industrial suburbs in the north to the mushrooming area in the south, a distance of almost 70 km (43 mi). The Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) has an area of 185 km2 (71 sq mi).
The city can be roughly divided into two sections along Mother Teresa Sarani (which was known during the British rule as Park Street). North of Park Street is the more congested part of the city. South of Park Street is the slightly better planned section of the city. South Kolkata is better planned with wider roads and better equipped police force for keeping law & order. The better planning in South Kolkata is because it was built much later. The North is the real, old Kolkata and most of the oldest families and buildings are situated there. Over the past several years the city has expanded to the south and the east.
The old Central Business District (CBD) is where the seat of the Government of West Bengal is located, along with many other government offices. Several banks have their corporate or regional headquarters around the B. B. D. Bagh area (named after the revolutionaries Benoy Basu, Badal Gupta and Dinesh Gupta who forced entry into the Writers' Building, the epicentre of the British Raj government in Bengal). Many of Kolkata's older business groups have their main offices here. The area is a mix of multi-storeyed office blocks and colonial buildings.
The newer CBD is around the south of Park Street, Camac Street and Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Road. Several high-rise office blocks including some of Kolkata's tallest commercial buildings, like the Chatterjee International Centre, Tata Centre, Everest House, Industry House, CGO Building, are located here. An even-newer CBD is now being set up in the Rajarhat-New Town area, lying between Bidhannagar (Salt Lake) and the Airport.
Maidan (meaning open field) is between the river Hooghly and J. L. Nehru Road (or Chowringhee Road). It is said to be the lungs of Kolkata. The lush green meadow also houses Victoria Memorial, Eden Gardens, and several sporting clubs. Kolkatans simply love to stroll in the Maidan.
In an effort to relieve congestion in the main city, many government offices have shifted to high-rise office buildings lining Salt Lake City's Central Park.
The residential buildings are mainly low-rise and comprise of older colonial buildings and numerous new four-storied apartment blocks. 10- to 12-storey apartment blocks have come up in large numbers in South Kolkata. The city has relaxed its rules on high-rise construction and 20-storey buildings are becoming more common. The tallest residential towers of eastern India, the four 35-storey towers of South City, are on Prince Anwar Shah Road.
Heavy construction activity along the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass is changing the face of the city. Luxury hotels, a convention centre, speciality hospitals, condominium complexes, malls and multiplexes are coming up at a rapid pace. The city's expansion in the eastern side is spearheaded by the construction of a new satellite township called New Town adjacent to the well planned Salt Lake City. It is one of the largest planned urban developments in India. The neglected western side of the urban agglomeration has got a boost with the signing of an agreement with Ciputra, an Indonesian company to build the Kolkata West International City (KWIC). Another huge new township is in the proposal state in Dankuni.
Slums and dilapidated structures exist in many pockets of the city proper and house over 25% of the city's population (2001 census). Slum redevelopment schemes have helped improve living conditions by a small extent but there is huge scope for improvement in this area. Efforts to shift slum dwellers to newer developments have often met with resistance and failure because many of the slums are in prime areas of the city and the slum dwellers who are integrated in the social structure of the neighbourhood do not want to shift.
Many roads in Kolkata have two names in use: the old colonial name that is still commonly used by locals, and the official post-independence new name that you will see in maps and on road signs.
|Climate chart (explanation)|
Kolkata has three main seasons: summer, monsoon, and winter. Summer, from March–May, is hot and humid with temperatures touching 38-42°C. Monsoon starts in June and lasts till September or October. This is the time when heavy showers sometimes lead to waterlogging in a few areas. Winter is from November to February. This is the best season to visit the city, as the weather is very pleasant with temperatures ranging between 8 and 20°.
- 1 Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport (CCU IATA, Dum Dum Airport, Kolkata Airport, নেতাজি সুভাষচন্দ্র বসু আন্তর্জাতিক বিমানবন্দর), Jessore Road (about 18 km outside the city centre), ☏ , , , fax: , [email protected]. There is a prepaid taxi option (₹150-250). State-run air-conditioned buses are available to get into the city. Cheaper, and hassle free, and since you can hail a taxi anywhere in the city centre to take you to your final destination, you do not need to worry. However, in case you are arriving at the busy hours, it is better to get a prepaid taxi, which takes you directly to your destination. Moreover app based Cab services such as Ola and Uber are also available from the airport. The buses are parked outside the arrival gate at the domestic terminal. International travellers would have to walk down from their terminal for 800 m. As you come out of the international terminal, turn left and keep walking towards the domestic terminal. Do not be dissuaded by the taxi touts, who would try and make you believe that the buses do not run anymore.
Services on the airport, at the International Terminal: a newsagent, a duty free shop, a clothes outlet, a coffee shop and a music outlet. At the Domestic Terminal: a couple of handicraft shops, a newsagent, a medical outlet, a sweets stall, a florist. Passengers facilities: trolleys, telephone in security hold area, wheelchair, medical inspection room, child care room, assistance to physically challenged, inter-terminal bus service, airport post office.
- Wikivoyage has a guide to Rail travel in India
Kolkata is well connected by rail to almost all the big stations in India and also serves as the gateway to North-Eastern India. Also, there are two international trains from Bangladesh, the Maitree Express connects Kolkata with the capital Dhaka three times per week and the Bandhan Express runs from Khulna once per week. For train timings and tickets check with Indian Railways.
- 2 Howrah Junction railway station (হাওড়া জংশন রেলওয়ে স্টেশন) (Across the Hooghly river from the Esplanade district.). It is not in Kolkata but in the adjoining city of Howrah, on the west bank of the Hooghly River. Howrah is the largest railway complex in India with over 600 trains arriving per day. There are 26 platforms in Howrah station. Local trains of Eastern Railway arrives mainly at 1-9 platforms while South Eastern Railway local trains arrive at platforms 17-23, remaining platforms is used for long-distance trains. Platforms 17 to 26 are in New Complex, just south of the original building. For passengers it has an enormous covered waiting area between the main complex and the platforms. In addition there is a Yatri Niwas (railway's travellers' lodge) with dormitory, single room, and double room accommodation. The vehicular carriageways along the length of platforms allow passengers to be dropped near rail compartments — a facility unique among most major stations of the country. Directly facing Howrah are ferries (₹5) that can get you to other side of the river to either Babu Ghat or Fairlie Place in the Esplanade district from where you can arrange onward transportation with anything from taxis to public buses to rickshaws.
- 3 Sealdah railway station, Bepin Behari Ganguly Street, Sealdah. Handicapped/disabled access. There are 19 platforms. Never hire a taxi from the nearby taxi-stand as they ask higher fares for taxi. There are pre-paid taxis to enter the city. The pre-paid taxi stand just outside the station's main entrance. The counter is under a tin shed.
- 4 Kolkata railway station (Kolkata Chitpur Railway Terminus), Belgachia (Buses: K1 ( Kolkata Station -Ultadanga- New Town -unitech) at an interval of about ten minutes; 007 (Makrampur - Kolkata station via Tematha, Sonarpur station, Kamalgazi, Garia, Patuli, Hiland Park, Mukundapur, Kalikapur, Ruby Hospital, Science City, Chingrighata, E.M. Bypass, Ultadanga, Khanna, Shyambazar); JM2 (Malancha - Kolkata Station via Harinavi, Rajpur, Kamalgazi, Dhalai Bridge, Patuli, Hiland Park, Mukundapur, Kalikapur, Ruby Hospital, Science City, Chingrighata, E.M. Bypass, Ultadanga, Khanna, Shyambazar); if you reach near RG Kar Medical College and Hopital, which is only 8 to 10 minutes' walk, you get myriads of buses plying on different routes). It receives a number of trains which used to terminate at Sealdah station. The station is linked to the Sealdah-Ranaghat Line and is served by the Eastern Railway for trains to Bandel, Kalyani Simanta, Gede, Shantipur, Krishnanagar, Dankuni, Kolkata Airport, Bongaon, Hasnabad and others. The number of suburban trains is lower than long-distance trains. This station runs many long distance express trains including two pairs of Garibrath Express, and one long distance passenger train - Lalgola Passenger. The station also has an International train. The Maitree Express, provides a direct link between Kolkata and Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. There are five platforms, among them Platform 1 & 2 is used by only suburban trains, and Platform 3, 4 & 5 are used by long-distance trains. Services: There are waiting rooms and retiring rooms for use by passengers awaiting connecting trains. In addition there is a taxi stand and a bus station outside the station.
- 5 Santragachi railway station, Santragachi Station Rd, Santragachi, Howrah (there are taxi stands and bus stands, and a Volvo bus service to connect this area to Netaji Subhash Chandra International Airport). There are six platforms. Serves local trains to Amta, Mecheda, Panskura, Haldia, Contai, Midnapore and Kharagpur. A few trains originate from Santragachi station to Ajmer, Porbandar, and Nanded, and a Vivek Express running to Mangalore Central starting from Santragachi. Mostly all Howrah/Shalimar bound express/mail trains stop here.
- The Eastern Railway serves local trains to Hasnabad, Bongaon, Gede, Krishnanagar, Budge Budge, Canning, Diamond Harbour, Namkhana, Tarkeshwar, Katwa, Bardhaman and numerous intermediate stations and mail/express trains to Central, North and North-East India.
- The South Eastern Railway serves local trains to Amta, Mecheda, Panskura, Tamluk, Haldia, Contai, Midnapore and Kharagpur; and mail/express trains to Central, West and South India.
Kolkata is well served by buses from destinations both inside and outside India.
- From Bangladesh, there are numerous bus options between Kolkata and Bangladesh. The most common way is the regular comfortable a/c buses from Dhaka to Kolkata via the Haridaspur / Benapole border post. Private bus companies Shohagh, Green Line,Shyamoli and others operate daily bus services on this route. Govt. buses run under the label of the state govt. undertaken West Bengal Transport Corporation (WBTC) and the Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (BRTC). WBTC and BRTC operate buses from Kolkata every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday at 5:30AM and 8:30AM, and 12:30PM while from Dhaka they leave on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 7AM and 7:30AM. The normal journey time is around 12 hr with a one-way fare of 550 or 600-800 Bangladeshi takas. If you're only headed to Haridaspur the fare is ₹86 (2½ hours). The Shyamoli Paribahan ticket office is at 6/1 Marquis St (parallel to and one block south of Sudder Street, and just west of Mirza Ghalib St, next door to DHL), 2252 0693. Several travel agencies around this area also sell tickets for these buses, but at very inflated prices. At the border, it's best to change money on the Indian side, but count it carefully and double-check the maths on their calculator. On the Bangladesh side there are some bus stands just behind the border, or you can catch a flat-bed cycle-rickshaw for 5 Bangladeshi takas for the 2-km trip to the bus stand for onward travel, or you can walk, but expect the hopeful rickshaw-wallahs to follow you at least half way.
- From North-Eastern India via Bangladesh. Bus travel to some points in North-Eastern India is faster via Bangladesh (visas will be required for entry into Bangladesh as well as for re-entry into India). If you're heading to points in North -Eastern India (Tripura for example) beyond Bangladesh, then there is a regular bus service between Dhaka and Agartala, the capital of India's Tripura state. Two BRTC buses leave daily from Dhaka and connect with the Tripura Road Transport Corporation vehicles, running six days a week with a roundtrip fare of 600 Bangladeshi takas. There is only one halt at Ashuganj in Bangladesh during the journey. Call ☏ for schedule. Other entry points to North-Eastern India through Bangladesh are Hili, Chilahati / Haldibari and Banglaband border posts through Northern Bangladesh and Tamabil/Dawki border post for a route between Shillong (Meghalaya) and Sylhet in North-Eastern Bangladesh, and some others with lesser-known routes from north-eastern Indian regions. Although scheduled bus services to Shillong from Kolkata through Dhaka may not be available, you can get to those points via land routes going through Sylhet and then on to Tamabil/Dawki border outposts. Enquire at the Bus Service Counters for details.
- 6 Esplanade Bus Terminus, Rashmoni Avenue (Next to Esplanade metro station).
National highway numbers 12, 16 and 19, and the Grand Trunk Road radiate from the city providing links to most parts of the country.
Kolkata just wouldn't look the same without the plethora of yellow Ambassador taxis that ply on its roads. They're easily available, relatively cheap, and will use their meters, at least in theory.
However, Kolkata taxis sometimes refuse to go to some distant remote locations (like Behala, Bansdroni, Howrah) where they wouldn't get any passenger while returning. If they agree, they will demand high pay; be ready for such a situation. New taxis have been introduced, which are called "No Refusal Taxis", but sadly, these taxis are also no different. Some of the new taxis are air-conditioned; usually, these will also have a "Same Fare" sign on them. There is a 25% extra charge if you want the air-conditioner to be turned on in such taxis. In Kolkata, it is a crime for taxis to refuse a request to go to certain destinations, and they can be fined, but if you threaten the driver with a complaint to the police, they will simply ask you to complain.
Cars by app-based services such as Uber and Ola are easily available (round-the-clock), reasonably priced, comfortable and have been embraced by citizens.
Kolkata's Metro Rail is the oldest underground and elevated railway system in India. It is the fastest, cleanest, most reliable, least crowded (though still rather crowded) and most efficient of all the transportation Kolkata has to offer. Trains run every 6-15 min. They run from 7AM-9:45PM from Monday to Saturday and 10AM-9:45PM. on Sunday. Line 1 connects the North and South of the city, from Dakshineswar to New Garia. Line 2 connects the city from Salt Lake Sector-V to Sealdah. New Tourist Smart Cards shall be introduced, Card-I. valid for one day unlimited ride, Card-II. for three days. For more about these, read the conditions here.
Kolkata has the only tram service in all of India and the oldest surviving electric tram network in Asia. Though decommissioned in some parts of the city, electric trams are still one of the means of travelling between a few places within the city. Operated by WBTC since 2016, they move slowly on the laid tracks in traffic-jammed streets, but they are environment-friendly (no emissions on the street, only at the source of energy generation). The network includes 25 Tram Routes
The electrified suburban rail network of SER and ER is extensive and includes the Circular Rail. Depending on the route, 'local' trains can be extremely crowded.
It is less expensive to travel around by train as compared to private cabs or taxis. Men are advised not to sit in the ‘Ladies’ compartment.
The city has an extensive bus network (possibly the most exhaustive in the whole of India) and this is the cheapest, though not always the most comfortable means of transport. The routes are written all over the colourful buses in Bengali and also in English. The conductors call out their destinations to everyone he's passing and all you have to do is wave at the bus anywhere and it will stop, at times causing a small queue of other cars behind it.
Esplanade is a major bus terminus in Kolkata. Karunamoyee in Salt Lake City is another major bus depot. Some buses operate from the Babughat area in Kolkata as well.
Among the buses that ply the city streets, the deluxe buses run by JNNURM (Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission) and WBTC (West Bengal Transport Corporation) are probably the better option. Air-conditioned buses (Volvo) are also available to many destinations.
In Kolkata, there are shared auto-rickshaws, i.e. the auto-rickshaws don't ferry just a single person but four person at a time. The fare is not set by meters, as fares are fixed by the auto-rickshaw associations. Auto-rickshaws have a fixed route and a vehicle of that route travel in that particular route only.
However unlike taxis, they don't refuse passengers. The fare of an auto-rickshaw is much less than that of a taxi (for example, ₹7-10). Be prepared to give the exact fare as they are very reluctant to give change.
There are two types of rickshaws in Kolkata: human pulled rickshaws and cycle-rickshaws. However human-pulled rickshaws are confined to the Gariahat and Ballygunge region and take more fare than cycle-rickshaws.
The cycle-rickshaw is the most convenient mean of transport in Kolkata. It is very cheap and can accommodate two adults. The fare is not determined by meter by the respective rickshaw association. Unlike auto-rickshaws, they go to any place in a particular region.
However, after 10PM rickshaw drivers may demand an exorbitant fees, and the same goes for times during natural calamities such as heavy rainfall.
The river offers a less crowded but slow traffic medium. There are several points (popularly called Ghats and jetties) on the bank of the river from where you can board several regular routes of ferry services. Ferries can be fairly large launches to small improvised motorized boats. Even if you don't get any exotic manual boat like you get in Varanasi, the river transport of the city lets you go to several old spots near the bank in a hassle-free manner with an additional dash of the view of decadent river front of the city.
By rental car
Privately owned rental car places are available throughout the city. Rates depend on the make, model, size and comfort level of the car. Agreements are flexible, for example, cars can be rented even for couple of hours at an hourly rate. Most rental cars are accompanied with a driver from the rental agency.
Except in Maidan and newly developed areas, much of Kolkata is not so pedestrian-friendly. In the more tourist oriented areas, you'll be constantly accosted by beggars and touts. Crossing roads often involves wading across multiple lanes of heavy traffic. Try your best to move in a predictable straight line, so vehicles can weave around you. Better yet, latch onto a group of locals and cross in their shadow. If you really want to walk around, these places would be good:
- Walk along the Hooghly River. There is a good promenade near the Eden Gardens.
- Walk along the Chowringhee Road, which sets the pace as you unravel the rare beauty of this city. Across the road sweeps a huge, lush green, open parkland called the Maidan, centering around Fort William, the massive and impregnable British Citadel built in 1773. A rambling green ‘lung of Kolkata’, the area is a hub of diverse activities.
Being in West Bengal, the native language of the people of Kolkata is Bengali. However, most locals also speak English and some Hindi. Many shopkeepers and taxi drivers are able to communicate in broken English, and government offices will typically have English-speaking staff on duty. Although it is generally not a problem getting by with English, learning some Bengali will make your trip much smoother.
Kolkata is known for its numerous attractions — palaces, parks and museums — built during and after the 190 years of British rule in India. The most notable sites are the Victoria Memorial (a memorial hall dedicated to the memory of Queen Victoria), the Howrah Bridge (a cantilever bridge opened in 1943), Dakshineswar Kali Temple (a Hindu temple associated with Sri Ramakrishna), Science City (a massive science museum in East Kolkata) and the Indian Museum (one of the oldest museums in India).
Detailed listings of all sights in Kolkata can be found in the district articles.
Take a tram ride in Kolkata. The city has the only active tram service in India and has become an icon of Kolkata. They move slow on the laid tracks in traffic-jammed streets.
Several modern cinemas are dotted around the city, including INOX with several locations, Fame at Metropolis Mall in Highland Park, and RDB Adlabs at RDB Boulevard, Near Infinity Building in Salt Lake Sector-V, all showing Indian and American blockbusters.
Unlike most of cricket-obsessed India, football (soccer) reigns supreme in Kolkata, with the local clubs Mohun Bagan Athletic Club and East Bengal Club being the most successful in India. They contest the Kolkata Derby biannually, which is considered by many to be the oldest and most intense football rivalry in all of Asia.
Indian Premier League (IPL) is the main club cricket league in India. It is one of the world's most widely attended sporting events, and if you are in Kolkata during the season (April–May), consider watching the home team (Kolkata Knight Riders) play at Eden Gardens.
Kolkata Book Fair takes place from the last week of January to the first week of February. It is the largest book fair in Asia and is a significant event in the city.
Durga Puja, a festival honouring the Hindu goddess Durga, takes place in October. The biggest festival for Hindus in Bengal and Eastern India, Kolkata takes on an almost carnival-like ambience. Streets shut down for the construction of pandals, large stands that depict events from the Ramayana and crowds flock to the biggest and best ones. Durga Puja in Kolkata has been listed as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2022. A good time to visit, unless you have a fear of crowds.
Kolkata is a key centre of learning in India. The most famous universities and colleges in Kolkata are the Medical College and Hospital, Jadavpur University, the University of Calcutta, the Presidency University and Indian Institute of Management Calcutta. Apart from undergraduate, postgraduate and doctoral courses, there are several training and diploma-level institutes and polytechnics that cater to the growing demand for skill-based and vocational education.
Volunteering is a real option here with several opportunities.
- Brother Xavier's New Hope. Home for orphans of Kolkata's red light district. A much smaller mission than Mother Teresa's which one man built from the ground up. Brother Xavier and the children always need volunteers and funds.
- Mother Teresa's Mission accepts volunteers to help in its multiple projects around the city. Enquire at the motherhouse.
Traditionally Kolkata had certain shopping areas or districts. The New Market area was considered the core of fashionable marketing. That was the marketplace for the British and later patronised by the more sophisticated Indians. There were large markets in Burrabazar, Hatibagan-Shyambazar, Gariahat and Bhowanipore. There were several specialised markets: electrical goods at Chandni Chowk, jewellery at Bowbazar, books at College Street, fish at Maniktala, flowers at Jagannath Ghat, the Maidan market for sports goods and so on.
The malls are a more recent addition. The South City Mall, one of the biggest in the city, is in its southern fringes. The Quest Mall is another large shopping mall at Park Circus, an old neighbourhood in South Kolkata.There are large number of malls in East Kolkata and new malls are being added.
See district articles for specific listings.
Kolkata has old traditions about eating out. Wilson's Hotel (which later became the Great Eastern Hotel) is credited to have been the first western-style hotel/restaurant in Kolkata, serving what was then forbidden food for Indians, particularly Hindus. One could be treated as an out-caste if caught eating there, but the idea caught on and others followed. Many of the restaurants that line the streets in the Esplanade area have been around for more than a hundred years.
The joy of food in Kolkata is in its Indian foods. Nizam's (at 23-24 Hogg Street), close to New Market, is credited with the invention of the famous Kati Kebab roll and still serves up the best of the best. For Mughlai dishes, there are several places to eat in the Park Circus area and there are others all over the city.
Besides Bengali foods, Kolkata is also the home of Indian Chinese food. Chinese restaurants are everywhere so try the Indian variant of hot and sour soup and the famous Indian Chinese dish of chilli chicken. The best place to have Chinese is to visit Chinatown near Tangra, East Kolkata. It serves the best of the Chinese dishes and you will find plenty of large, small & medium restaurants. There are some restaurants serving Thai, Mediterranean or Italian food.
Kolkata also has many excellent vegetarian restaurants ranging from budget to expensive ones. There are two types: those serving North Indian and those serving South Indian food.
For those looking for vegetarian street foods, one can find ubiquitous jhal muri (somewhat similar to bhel puri of Mumbai) a concoction of puffed rice mixed with various spices, vegetables & other ingredients available at street vendors all over Kolkata.
Street vendors selling egg rolls/chicken rolls abound and their freshly prepared kati rolls are safe to eat. Mughlai Paratha (earlier it was a paratha stuffed with minced meat, but now the minced meat has been replaced by cheaper but tasty alternatives) is a Kolkata speciality. Fuchka, the Kolkata version of paani-puri, but very different from the ones found in Delhi, is available on the streets but be wary of the tamarind water. It never troubles the local people and outsiders can safely taste this delicacy as long as they don't take too much.
Earlier, the restaurants were standalone entities. A cluster of restaurants in a single mall is a comparatively new idea and has become popular.
(See district pages for restaurant listings.)
There are plenty of places to buy alcohol around the city. Kolkata has many pubs and bars, which are frequented by youngsters as well as its older residents. Some pubs have live concerts or DJs. They include:
- Someplace Else (The Park)
- Roxy (The Park)
- Aqua (The Park)
- The Myx (Park Street)
- Olypub (Park Street), famous for the beer and the beef steak
- Mocha (AJC Bose Road)
- Underground (HHI, AJC Bose Road)
- Nocturne (Theatre Road)
- Shisha Bar Stock Exchange, The Factory Outlet (22 Camac Street)
- Chili's (Quest Mall, South City Mall, Acropolis Mall Kasba)
- Cafe Mezzuna (Forum Mall Elgin Road, South City Mall)
- Hoppipola (Acropolis Mall)
- Afraa Lounge (City Centre Salt Lake)
- Fairlawns (Sudder Street)
- Big Ben (The Kenilworth, Little Russel Street)
All pubs are supposed to shut shop by midnight or 1AM. So go early if you want to enjoy yourself in the club.
Kolkata has long had a concentration of budget backpacker hotels in the Sudder Street area and many of these are colonial era gems, albeit decaying ones. Sudder Street is centrally located and is well connected by public transport. Both the major railway stations at Howrah and Sealdah have many hotels around them. Most of them might be only licensed to accommodate Indian citizens. Be sure to not walk with a local "friend" or guide, unless you want to have higher prices. There are some hotels in Gariahat. The growth of the IT Sector and hospital facilities in East Kolkata has led to development of hotels in that area.
British-era clubs such as Tollygunge Club, Calcutta Club (AJC Bose Rd), Saturday Club (Theatre Rd), and Bengal Club (Russel St) have lavish rooms for rent. However, they only accept bookings through members.
(See district pages for hotel listings.)
Kolkata is one of the safest metropolitan areas in India, and the people are friendly and helpful, unlike in most of India's other large cities. Violent crime in Kolkata is more or less like any other large Indian city. One noted problem is the drug dealers around Sudder Street. However, as the dealers obviously do not want to draw undue attention to their activity, they are not persistent and rarely a threat. There have been rare incidents of chain, bag and mobile snatching in railway stations and empty roads.
Visitors outside the city are often magnets for beggars, frauds and touts. In South Kolkata, beggars often knock at the glass windows of cars. It does little good to get angry or to say "No" loudly. The best response is to look unconcerned and ignore the behaviour. The more attention you pay to a beggar or a tout, positive or negative, the longer they will follow you hoping for a donation.
- Kolkata Airport, ☏ .
The Kolkata Police is a white-uniform police force serving the city. While most of the police officers are honest and helpful, you may find some officers who may be corrupt and unhelpful. For police assistance during an emergency dial 100. For non-emergencies, or to report a crime, visit the nearest police station.
- Lal Bazar, ☏ , , .
- Ballygunge, ☏ (2100), .
- Bhowanipore, ☏ , , .
- Dum Dum, ☏ .
- Maidan, ☏ (4551), .
- Park Street, ☏ , , .
- Howrah Junction, ☏ .
Kolkata has a number of medical colleges and hospitals. For individual hospital listings, please see the various district pages.
- 1 Medical College & Hospital, Kolkata (Government), 88 College St, ☏ .
- St. John's Ambulance, 5, Government Place, ☏ .
- Wochhardt Medical Centre, 2/7, Sarat Bose Road, ☏ .
The area code for Kolkata is "33" (prefix "+91", if you are calling from outside India). Phone numbers are eight digits long.
Public call booths can be found easily throughout the city from where local, national, and international calls can be made. Else local SIM card can be used for connectivity.
Mobile phone coverage is excellent with all major mobile service providers offering their services in the city. It might be a good idea to buy a cell phone and use one of those prepaid plans to get yourself connected while you are in the city.
All mobile numbers are 10 digits long and begin with a "9", "8" or "7". Do not dial the city prefix for mobile numbers. If you don't get through to a mobile number, try adding a "0" before you dial it.
Internet cafes are available in plenty and charges ₹10-25/hour. You need to show your identity card to use internet in those cafes. As a precaution, change your password after you use it at a cybercafe or do private/incognito browsing.
- 2 Bangladesh, Circus Ave (Just E of AJC Bose Rd), ☏ , , (After hours), fax: . Issues 15-day visas. Applications are received at window #4 M-F from 9-11AM, and visas are generally ready the next afternoon. Bring 3 passport photos. As of December 2018, there seems to be a new policy: the application should be first filled online as directed on their website. You can use the payed services of the stands in front of the High Commission to fill the forms for you, just bring one or two passport photos. Beware that at least in some cases, the Kolkata office can be reluctant to issue visa for non-Indians, and the process requires assertiveness and patience.
- 3 China, EC-72, Sector I, Salt Lake City, ☏ , fax: , [email protected]. M-F 10AM-12:30PM.
- 4 France, 26 Park Mansions, Park St.
- 5 Germany, 1 Hastings Park Rd, Alipore, ☏ , , , , fax: . The origins of the German consulate in Kolkata can be traced to before the existence of Germany itself, to the establishment of the consulate of the Kingdom of Hanover in 1851 and the Consulate of Prussia in 1854.
- 6 Italy, Alipore (3, Raja Santosh Road), ☏ , , fax: , [email protected]. M-F 10AM-noon.
- 7 Japan, 55, M. N. Sen Lane, Tollygunge, ☏ , fax: .
- 8 Netherlands, 5, Rameshwar Shaw Road, ☏ , , fax: , [email protected].
- 9 United Kingdom, 1A Ho Chi Minh Sarani, ☏ , (After hours), fax: .
- 10 United States, 5/1, Ho Chi Minh Sarani, ☏ , fax: , [email protected]. It is the oldest diplomatic post of the U.S. in India, and the second oldest in the world (the oldest being in London). Benjamin Joy was appointed the first American Consul to Kolkata by George Washington in 1792, upon the express recommendation of then- Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson. (Note that the ironic address was the result of a diplomatic snub by the then Marxist Bengal government during the period of the U.S. war in Indochina.)
Local newspapers can be handy and reliable sources for day to day updates about the city. The city has number of newspapers and other publication that list local happenings. English newspapers include The Times of India, The Asian Age, DNA, Indian Express, Hindustan Times and Free Press Journal. For the business updates, check Economic Times.
- Bishnupur — Famous for terracotta temples, clay sculptures and silk sarees.
- Darjeeling Hills — A mountainous region home to Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Mirik. When Darjeeling is your destination, you could travel the last 72 km (45 mi) by a combination of bus/train and the famous Darjeeling Himalayan Railway.
- Digha — A beach town in the southern part of the state. Buses from Esplanade Bus Station.
- Santiniketan — Famous for the Ashramik School, and university founded by Nobel Laureate poet Rabindranath Tagore, the town is also known for its handmade leather crafts and kantha stitch sarees.
- Sundarbans National Park — Part of the largest littoral mangrove in the world, and home to the famous Bengal Tigers.
- Bangladesh — Tickets for buses running to the border and Dhaka can be reserved at Shyamoli Yatri Paribahan, 6/1 Marquis St (parallel to and one block south of Sudder Street, and just west of Mirza Ghalib St, next door to DHL), ☏ . 2-3 buses per day leave this office on Tu, Th and Sa, usually at 5:30AM, 8:30AM and 12:30PM. The fare is ₹86 to the Haridaspur border post (about 2½ hr). All the way to Dhaka (with a bus change at the border) will cost ₹550 (about 12 hr). Beware that several travel agencies around this area also sell tickets for these buses, but at very inflated prices. At the border, it's best to change money on the Indian side, but count it carefully and double-check the maths on their calculator. On the Bangladesh side, there are some bus stands just behind the border, or you can catch a flat-bed cycle-rickshaw for Tk5 for the 2 km trip to the bus stand for onward travel, or you can walk, but expect the hopeful rickshaw-wallahs to follow you at least halfway.
- Bhutan — Tucked away in the corner of the bus station is a small Bhutan Government kiosk selling tickets for buses running to the Bhutanese border town of Phuentsholing. Buses depart Tu Th Sa at 9PM, and the 18-hr journey costs ₹300.