Kolkata has been rightly described as ‘The city of many moods and many memories.’ It is a city that gives you a different feel every time you visit it. And needless to say, you want to keep coming back. Amidst all the chaos, you find that the beauty of the ‘laid-back city’ still succeeds in captivating you.If you’re looking for a city that is clean and green or even high-tech like Mumbai or Delhi for that matter, then Kolkata may not be the right one to visit. However, if you’re searching for a city you will associate with more than any other city in the country, it is Kolkata right there for you!
Being India’s first city during the British rule, Kolkata is deep-rooted in its (very) rich history which dates back to 1686 when the East India Company planned to expand further. Three small villages (Gobindapur, SutanutiandKalikata) were bought/leasedby the British to make way for one big city and Calcutta, named after the third occupied village Kalikata, was formed.
Following the many battles that were fought to drive away the British (The Black Hole Tragedy) and the subsequent recapturing (The Battle of Plassey), a lot of Calcutta’s wealth was drained. This ultimately led to straining of Bengal’s economy. It was only after the Nationalist anti-partition movements led by Shri RabindraNath Tagore that nationalism in the city reached its peak. And it was in 2001, Calcutta was officially renamed Kolkata.
As of today, the modern Kolkata is popular for being the financial, industrial and business hub of India.
How to Reach
Kolkata, the cultural capital of India, is easily accessible by all modes of transport – whether plane, train, bus or car.
If you’re reaching Kolkata by plane, then NetajiSubhas Chandra Bose International Airport, roughly 20 km from the city center, will be your main entryway. You can easily catch a Volvo bus or a prepaid taxi to reach the city center and head to your destination, wherever that is.
One of the best things about Kolkata is that it serves as the gateway to North-East India, with two international trains (that run weekly) connecting Dhaka and Khulna in Bangladesh. There are also a number of trains that connect Kolkata to major cities in India. You might have to check with Indian Railways about the exact arrival timings though.
Best Time to Visit
Since Kolkata is situated on the eastern coast of India, it experiences to atypical tropical climate that can be both wet and dry. Summers, monsoon and winters are the three predominant seasonsin the city, like most other cities in India. And since summers in India can be quite hot and humid, it is recommended only to visit Kolkata either during monsoon (which can be quite a sight) or winters. Between July to September and October to March are the perfect months to visit this soulful city.
Clothes to Be Carried
Well, the clothes to be carried when you plan to travel to Kolkata depend entirely on the kind of season you’re going in. For summers, pack light but don’t forget to carry the essential items with you aka sunscreens and sun shades. No matter the kind of clothes you carry, keep in mind that it can get extremely hot in summers and humid in monsoon. As for winters, both light and heavy woolens would be apt.
Places to Visit
It goes without saying that Kolkata impresses one and all kinds of travelers to the city. There is absolutely no dearth of places to visit. Now whether you are someone who likes to calmly marvel at the architectural masterpieces or one who looks out for adrenalin pumping adventure, Kolkata has a lot to offer in terms of sights to see and activities to indulge in.
- Howrah Bridge – The 2300-foot cantilever road bridge is a sight to see and it definitely tops the list when anyone even mentions Kolkata. And it also happens to be one of the finest engineering examples in India. If you take a ferry ride from the Howrah station, you’ll get to have a look at the full view of this majestic piece.
- Science City – It is a one-of-a-kind science museum with some of the most stimulating and engaging exhibits. The museum is not only an attractive spot for residents but also for travelers and tourists alike. If you do happen to visit it, don’t forget to check out their Space Theatre and the Aquarium which houses over a 1000 fish species from across the globe.
- Victoria Memorial – Victoria Memorial is one of the most magnificent white marble buildings there are in Kolkata. Built between 1906 and 1921, it was conceptualized by the then Viceroy of India, Lord Curzon in order to commemorate Queen Victoria. It is truly an architectural gem and you only have to witness it with your own eyes to believe its beauty.
- PrinsepGhat – If you are a nature lover, then you should have PrinsepGhat on your must-visit list in Kolkata. One of the oldest recreational spots, PrinsepGhat is located on the banks of the river Hooghly and was built in the memory of famous orientalist James Prinsep. While you’re there, don’t forget to take a boat ride on the River and witness landscaped gardens, fountains and just nature’s beauty.
- St. Paul’s Cathedral–Just across the road from Victoria Memorial is this beautiful Church of North India renowned for its Gothic architecture. The architecture inside is absolutely worth to marvel at.Do keep in mind that you have to maintain absolute silence when visiting this calm and divine Cathedral though.
- Sundarbans – Who hasn’t heard of Sunderbans, the largest mangrove forest and the natural wonder of the world that it is. What’s great about this National Forest Reserve is that it is shared by two countries - Bangladesh and India and it can be visited from either of the countries. Although nerve-wracking, the experience of witnessing the Royal Bengal Tiger amidst the thick mangrove trees is an experience like no other. If you want to witness the Sunderbans in its absolute beauty, head there in the months of October to February.
- Santiniketan – Popularly known as RabindraNath’s abode, Santiniketan is a small town in Bolpur district of West Bengal, about 180 km from Kolkata. The town now comprises of Visva Bharti University, set up RabindraNath Tagore himself. Any visit to Kolkata is truly incomplete without at least a short trip to one of the most visited places.
- Mandarmani - One of the largest and fastest developing seaside resort village of Mandarmani is about a 4.5-5 hours drive from the city of Kolkata. Because it is still in its developmental stages, it is less crowded and cleaner than most other places of interest around. You’ll get to wet your toes andyou could even indulge in seaside activities like motorsports paragliding…
- Shankarpur – Another great destination about 185 kilometers from Kolkata is Shankarpur - a beautiful beach town. It is popular for its scenic beauty and pristine surroundings. Although there may not really be any luxury hotels for you to stay at, you could choose from some of the best guest houses available. Enjoy the calmness and serenity of the beach in the months of October to April, which is the ideal time to visit.
- Tajpur–Located in PurbaMedinipur, on the shores of Bay of Bengal, Tajpur is ideally situated between Mandarmani and Shankarpur. What makes Tajpur different from the other getaway spots is the fact that it is home to millions of red crabs that you’ll find hiding in the sands. A great place if you’re looking for a good time with friends and/or family.
- Murshidabad – One of the most fertile districts in West Bengal, Murshidabad is situated on the banks of the river Ganges. While you’re there, don’t forget to visit one of its most significant tourist attractions - Hazarduari Palace.
- Henry’s Island – An island with white sand on the beach and surrounded by thick mangrove trees, Henry’s Island is an ideal getaway. It is a must visit if you’re looking for serene and pristine surroundings.
Kolkata is a city that does not only grow on you but also change your life. It’s a city of joy, culture, heritage, literature, art… a city where people are not really running the mad race of life but living with a purpose. Kolkata stands in stark contrast to most other cities in India. And both the old and the new generations take pride in being a part of this great, old, culturally rooted city.
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