Kolkata, formerly known as Calcutta, is the capital city of the Indian state of West Bengal, known for its rich history, cultural heritage, and intellectual legacy. For those pondering things to do in Kolkata, visiting the Victoria Memorial, a grand marble building dedicated to Queen Victoria, and exploring the Howrah Bridge, an iconic cantilever bridge over the Hooghly River, are top activities.
The city’s bustling New Market offers a chaotic yet charming shopping experience, with vendors selling everything from spices and textiles to handicrafts and jewelry. Nearby, the Indian Museum, one of the oldest and largest museums in India, provides a deep dive into the country’s history, art, and culture.
Beyond its historical and cultural attractions, Kolkata is also renowned for its literary scene, with numerous bookshops and the annual Kolkata Literary Meet attracting writers and readers from across the country. For those seeking the best places to visit in India, Kolkata’s blend of colonial architecture, intellectual pursuits, and vibrant street life makes it a captivating destination.
Table of Contents
Attractions & Things to Do in Kolkata, India
1. Victoria Memorial
The Victoria Memorial is a magnificent white marble edifice that stands as a fusion of British and Mughal architecture, dedicated to the memory of Queen Victoria. Now a museum, its galleries recount the history of Kolkata, complete with paintings, sculptures, and artifacts from the British era.
Travel Tip: Visit in the evening when the monument is beautifully lit up, and don’t miss the light and sound show that narrates the history of the city.
2. Howrah Bridge
Howrah Bridge, an iconic landmark of Kolkata, is a massive steel structure that spans the Hooghly River and is considered an engineering marvel. It’s one of the busiest bridges in the world and a symbol of Kolkata’s identity.
Travel Tip: For a picturesque view of the bridge, take a boat ride on the Hooghly River at sunset.
3. Indian Museum
The Indian Museum is the largest and oldest museum in India and boasts a vast collection that includes rare antiques, armor, ornaments, fossils, skeletons, mummies, and stunning Mughal paintings.
Travel Tip: The museum is quite extensive, so plan your visit according to the sections you’re most interested in, to make the best use of your time.
4. Dakshineswar Kali Temple
The Dakshineswar Kali Temple is a beautiful, serene sanctuary situated on the banks of the Hooghly River, dedicated to the goddess Kali. It is renowned for its association with Ramakrishna, a mystic of 19th Century Bengal.
Travel Tip: Try to visit early in the morning to avoid the crowds and to participate in the live aarti (prayer offering).
5. Park Street
Park Street is the food and entertainment hub of Kolkata, known for its vibrant atmosphere and colonial-era architecture. It’s lined with a plethora of restaurants, pubs, and cafes.
Travel Tip: Visit during Christmas or New Year’s when the street is festively decorated and has a carnival-like atmosphere.
6. Eden Gardens
Cricket is almost a religion in India, and Eden Gardens is one of the oldest and most iconic cricket grounds in the country. If you’re a sports fan, catching a live match here can be an electrifying experience.
Travel Tip: Check the cricket schedule in advance and book tickets early if there’s a match during your visit.
7. Sunderbans National Park
A bit further afield from Kolkata is the Sunderbans National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and a tiger reserve. It’s known for its mangrove forests and large tiger population.
Travel Tip: Plan an overnight stay to increase your chances of sighting wildlife, including the elusive Bengal tiger.
8. College Street
College Street is a book lover’s paradise with kilometers of sidewalks lined with book stalls, offering new and used books at bargain prices. It’s also home to the prestigious University of Calcutta and the iconic Indian Coffee House.
Travel Tip: Take time to browse through the collections; you might find rare books that are not available elsewhere.
9. New Market
New Market, also known as Hogg Market, is Kolkata’s historic and bustling bazaar, established in 1874. It’s a haven for shoppers looking for clothing, handicrafts, spices, and sweets, all under one roof.
Travel Tip: The market can get crowded, so keep an eye on your belongings and be prepared to haggle to get the best deals.
10. The Marble Palace
The Marble Palace in north Kolkata is a palatial nineteenth-century mansion, famous for its marble walls and floors, antiques, and sculptures from around the world. Accessible only by guided tours, it provides a glimpse into the opulent lifestyle of the city’s past zamindars (landowners).
Travel Tip: Photography is not allowed inside the mansion, so be sure to soak in the views with your eyes.
11. Belur Math
Belur Math is the headquarters of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission, founded by Swami Vivekananda. The temple is noted for its architecture that fuses Hindu, Christian, and Islamic motifs as a symbol of unity of all religions.
Travel Tip: Dress modestly when visiting and check the schedule for the evening aarti, a spiritual experience not to be missed.
12. Jorasanko Thakur Bari
Jorasanko Thakur Bari is the ancestral home of the Tagore family, including Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore. Now converted into a museum dedicated to the life and works of the Tagores, it’s a pilgrimage for lovers of Bengali literature and culture.
Travel Tip: Try to visit during Rabindra Jayanti, the annual celebration of Rabindranath Tagore’s birthday, for special performances and exhibitions.
13. Science City
Science City is the largest science centre in the Indian subcontinent, offering a dynamic and stimulating environment to learn about scientific principles through interactive exhibits.
Travel Tip: Don’t miss the Space Odyssey hall and the time machine for a fascinating educational experience.
14. Kalighat Kali Temple
One of the 51 Shakti Peethas, Kalighat Kali Temple is an ancient temple dedicated to the goddess Kali. It’s a site of intense religious significance and attracts thousands of pilgrims each year.
Travel Tip: The temple area is known for being very crowded, so keep personal belongings secure and be aware of the touts.
15. Eco Park
Eco Park is a vast, contemporary park in New Town, providing ample space for recreational activities, themed gardens, and water sports on a large lake.
Travel Tip: Rent a bicycle to explore the park’s expansive area comfortably and ensure you have enough time to enjoy all the activities on offer.
16. Birla Planetarium
The Birla Planetarium in Kolkata is one of the largest planetariums in Asia and a must-visit for astronomy enthusiasts. The sky show here provides an immersive experience of space and planets.
Travel Tip: Check the show timings in your preferred language as they vary throughout the day.
FAQ About Things to Do in Kolkata, India
What are the must-visit attractions in Kolkata?
Visitors should not miss the Victoria Memorial, Howrah Bridge, Indian Museum, and Dakshineswar Kali Temple when exploring Kolkata.
Can I explore the cultural heritage of Kolkata?
Absolutely! The Jorasanko Thakur Bari, the ancestral home of the Tagore family, and the Marble Palace are perfect for a deep dive into the city’s rich cultural history.
Is there an opportunity to see Bengal tigers near Kolkata?
While you won’t find Bengal tigers roaming close to Kolkata, a day trip to the Sundarbans National Park gives you the chance to see these magnificent creatures in the wild.
Are there any unique shopping experiences in Kolkata?
Yes, Kolkata is famous for its street markets. New Market and Gariahat Market offer a plethora of goods, from textiles to spices, at bargain prices.
What are some local foods I should try in Kolkata?
You must try Kolkata’s street food, including puchkas (a version of pani puri), kathi rolls, and sweets like roshogolla and sandesh.
Is Kolkata a good place for art lovers?
Definitely! Kolkata is known for its thriving art scene. The Academy of Fine Arts and the Kolkata Centre for Creativity are hubs for art enthusiasts.
What are some activities for nature lovers in Kolkata?
Nature lovers can visit the Botanical Gardens to see the wide range of flora, including the famous Great Banyan Tree, or take a boat ride on the Hooghly River.
Are there any important festivals in Kolkata I should know about?
Durga Puja is Kolkata’s most significant and celebrated festival, with the city transforming into a vibrant cultural spectacle of elaborate public pandals and processions.