Kolkata travel guide

Kolkata Tourism | Kolkata Guide

You're Going to Love Kolkata

Situated on the ancient banks of the river Hooghly, Kolkata is undoubtedly the cultural hub of India and the state of Bengal. From beautiful British Raj-era architecture and monuments to year-long festivals and plays and booming multiplexes for a heavy dose of food and entertainment, travelers can enjoy many aspects of the city.

Top 5 Reasons to Visit Kolkata

1. Stunning Architecture

As the former capital under British rule, there is still a distinct English mark on the beautiful buildings and parks in Kolkata. Check out the Victoria Memorial, close to the colonial district.

2. A Walker's Paradise

The city is perfect for strolling along the river banks, crossing the Howrah Bridge, and getting lost in the sprawling Maidan parks.

3. A Vibrant Arts Scene

Visitors can take advantage of locally produced plays in open squares or poetry readings at Barista Coffee Shops. Spend an afternoon in the Indian Museum.

4. Delight Your Foodie Palate

A range of Indian, Chinese, Malay, Thai, and English food come together in Kolkata for a blend that's all its own. Hakka cuisine includes dishes like "Chili Chicken" that are not to be missed.

5. Bargain Hunters' Haven

Nobody does a good bargain on crafts, traditional Indian wear, and trinkets like Kolkatans. Shop around for antiques or rare books.

What to do in Kolkata

1. Academy of Fine Arts: A Modern Hub of Art & Culture

The Academy of Fine Arts in Kolkata is much beloved theater and venue for historical Bengali and Indian plays, traditional performances, dances, art exhibitions, and sculptures. The academy is a celebration of the various Indian art forms and plays written by the famous Rabindranath Tagore, amongst many other luminous artists. Any traveler who cherishes art and culture cannot miss a visit to this historical venue. The Academy also offers classes for acting groups and events that provide an outlet for budding and emerging local talent. Spend an evening here taking in a play or, just after the noon hour, stroll through the galleries to view spectacular Indian paintings.

2. Alipur Zoo: From Private Menagerie to Public Zoological Gardens

When it was first established in the 1800s, the Alipur Zoo was a private menagerie meant for the British. But today, it is one of Kolkata's primary attractions, especially during the cool winter months. The Alipur Zoo is known for its focus on "megafauna" or particularly large animals, including Bengal tigers, African and Asiatic lions, jaguars, hippos, and the one-horned Indian rhino, as well as giraffes. There are also a number of endangered and threatened species of birds cultivated and cared for at the zoo, including large parrots, crested serpent eagles, and game birds like golden pheasants.

3. Birla Planetarium: Take a Look "Out There"

The imposing Birla Planetarium is Kolkata's pride and Indian's proof that the country leads Asia with its focus on space science. The Birla Planetarium is the largest of its kind in Asia and the second largest in the world. This impressive building has an astronomy gallery with a vast collection of art work dedicated to paintings and models of outer space and celestial bodies, an electronics lab for design, and, of course, an astronomical observatory. The observatory itself is fitted with a Celestron C-14 Telescope and visitors can enjoy various guided tours that are run by the Birla Planetarium from 12pm - 7pm.

4. Botanical Gardens: A Not-So-Secret Garden

The Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Indian Botanic Garden is also known as a Calcutta Botanical Garden. And you don't have to be a botanist to enjoy its serene beauty: the Gardens are home to some of the most interesting and rare plant species. Besides its collection of over 12,000 species of orchids, bamboos, and palms spread over 109 hectares, the Gardens are home to The Great Banyan, which measures 1082.68 ft in circumference. Somewhere on the grounds is also the abandoned but beautiful Roxburgh Monument, which was home to the Gardens' first superintendent.

5. Dakshineswar Kali Temple: Devotees and a Deity

The Dakshineswar Temple is for devotees of Kali, the formidable female goddess in Hindi scripture and mythology. The beautiful temple is an architectural marvel, with no less than nine spires and three-storeys facing the brilliant sunset on the banks of the river Hoogly. Besides the long hallways and sacred temple rooms, there are also quiet inner sanctums where religious ceremonies take place.

1. Academy of Fine Arts: A Modern Hub of Art & Culture

The Academy of Fine Arts in Kolkata is much beloved theater and venue for historical Bengali and Indian plays, traditional performances, dances, art exhibitions, and sculptures. The academy is a celebration of the various Indian art forms and plays written by the famous Rabindranath Tagore, amongst many other luminous artists. Any traveler who cherishes art and culture cannot miss a visit to this historical venue. The Academy also offers classes for acting groups and events that provide an outlet for budding and emerging local talent. Spend an evening here taking in a play or, just after the noon hour, stroll through the galleries to view spectacular Indian paintings.

2. Alipur Zoo: From Private Menagerie to Public Zoological Gardens

When it was first established in the 1800s, the Alipur Zoo was a private menagerie meant for the British. But today, it is one of Kolkata's primary attractions, especially during the cool winter months. The Alipur Zoo is known for its focus on "megafauna" or particularly large animals, including Bengal tigers, African and Asiatic lions, jaguars, hippos, and the one-horned Indian rhino, as well as giraffes. There are also a number of endangered and threatened species of birds cultivated and cared for at the zoo, including large parrots, crested serpent eagles, and game birds like golden pheasants.

3. Birla Planetarium: Take a Look "Out There"

The imposing Birla Planetarium is Kolkata's pride and Indian's proof that the country leads Asia with its focus on space science. The Birla Planetarium is the largest of its kind in Asia and the second largest in the world. This impressive building has an astronomy gallery with a vast collection of art work dedicated to paintings and models of outer space and celestial bodies, an electronics lab for design, and, of course, an astronomical observatory. The observatory itself is fitted with a Celestron C-14 Telescope and visitors can enjoy various guided tours that are run by the Birla Planetarium from 12pm - 7pm.

4. Botanical Gardens: A Not-So-Secret Garden

The Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Indian Botanic Garden is also known as a Calcutta Botanical Garden. And you don't have to be a botanist to enjoy its serene beauty: the Gardens are home to some of the most interesting and rare plant species. Besides its collection of over 12,000 species of orchids, bamboos, and palms spread over 109 hectares, the Gardens are home to The Great Banyan, which measures 1082.68 ft in circumference. Somewhere on the grounds is also the abandoned but beautiful Roxburgh Monument, which was home to the Gardens' first superintendent.

5. Dakshineswar Kali Temple: Devotees and a Deity

The Dakshineswar Temple is for devotees of Kali, the formidable female goddess in Hindi scripture and mythology. The beautiful temple is an architectural marvel, with no less than nine spires and three-storeys facing the brilliant sunset on the banks of the river Hoogly. Besides the long hallways and sacred temple rooms, there are also quiet inner sanctums where religious ceremonies take place.

Where to Eat in Kolkata

A Kolkata specialty is Mughlai Paratha, a paratha stuffed with minced meat, which you can bite into on Chowringhee Road for ₹150. Street food in Kolkata is the true delicacy.

When to visit Kolkata

Kolkata in January
Estimated hotel price
$18
1 night at 3-star hotel
Kolkata in January
Estimated hotel price
$18
1 night at 3-star hotel

Like the west coast, Kolkata's summer months begin in April and end in June, when the monsoon takes over until mid-September. The winter months are from October to March; this is definitely the best time to visit.

Data provided by weatherbase
Temperatures
Temperatures
Average
Celcius (°C)
Data provided by weatherbase

How to Get to Kolkata

Plane

The Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport (CCU) is Kolkata's main line to India, Southeast Asia, and Europe. To get to the city center, 12.5 miles away, it's best to hail a taxi for ₹150-250.

Train

Getting in to Kolkata via train will take you to either the Howrah terminal or the Sealdah station. Howrah station connects to the ferry service.

Car

There are several roads in to the city. If you're coming in from Deulti, for example, get on NH 117 in Hastings or take the NH 6.

Bus

You can book journeys into Kolkata with private bus companies such as Shohagh and Shyamoli. There are also government-run buses from Monday to Friday offering a round trip between Esplanade Bus Station and Dhaka for ₹600.

Airports near Kolkata

Airlines serving Kolkata

United Airlines
Good (2,459 reviews)
KLM
Good (290 reviews)
Air France
Good (291 reviews)
Turkish Airlines
Good (1,071 reviews)
British Airways
Good (936 reviews)
Qatar Airways
Good (926 reviews)
Air Canada
Good (626 reviews)
Emirates
Excellent (659 reviews)
Singapore Airlines
Good (153 reviews)
Thai Airways
Good (38 reviews)
ANA
Excellent (100 reviews)
Air India
Okay (637 reviews)
SAUDIA
Good (112 reviews)
IndiGo
Good (55 reviews)
Vistara
Excellent (52 reviews)
flydubai
Good (35 reviews)
FlexFlight
Excellent (1 reviews)
Air New Zealand
Excellent (35 reviews)
Batik Air
Mediocre (1 reviews)
SpiceJet
Good (13 reviews)
Show more

Where to stay in Kolkata

In the heart of the city center is Hotel Aston International, a good mid-range option. You can also check into boutique hotel Housez 43. For a budget-friendly option, check out Roland Hotel.

Popular neighbourhoods in Kolkata

South Kolkata - this is a beautiful and upscale neighborhood in Kolkata, featuring big malls like South City and a vast joggers' park with a lake.

Esplanade - in the heart of Kolkata's colonial district, you can feast your eyes on the heritage buildings of the colonial era and enjoy the streets filled with food stalls and hand-pulled rickshaws.

Maidan - close to the Esplanade are the "lungs" of Kolkata. Open green spaces, parks, and gardens make up this neighborhood.

Where to stay in popular areas of Kolkata

Most booked hotels in Kolkata

The Oberoi Grand Kolkata
Excellent (9.2, Excellent reviews)
$127+
Taj Bengal
Excellent (8.9, Excellent reviews)
$126+
ITC Sonar, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Kolkata
Excellent (8.3, Excellent reviews)
$101+
Hyatt Regency Kolkata
Good (7.7, Good reviews)
$100+
The Claridale Ballygunge
Good (7, Good reviews)
$78+
The Park Kolkata
Good (6.6, Good reviews)
$97+
See all hotels

How to Get Around Kolkata

Public Transportation

The public transport system in Kolkata encompasses the railway, bus, and tram. Services run every 10-15 minutes and more frequently during rush hour. Tickets go for ₹5-20.

Taxi

The traditional yellow cabs are cheap, or use the red taxis if you prefer digital payment. The fare is ₹25 for the first 1.2 miles and ₹7 per mile thereafter.

Car

You can choose to book a private rental or do a self-driving rental from Carzonrent or EasyCabs for ₹1,726 per day.

The Cost of Living in Kolkata

Shopping Streets

Don't miss the South City Mall at Lake Gardens. Or visit Gariahat, Kolkata's main shopping district with a market as well as Indian and global brands.

Groceries and Other

Expect to pay around ₹47 for a quart of milk and ₹62 for a dozen eggs.

Cheap meal
$4.29
A pair of jeans
$50.79
Single public transport ticket
$0.22
Cappuccino
$1.99