British architecture, fresh flowers, Bengali sweets and colourful festivals are some of the things you’ll find in Kolkata’s bustling streets. From famous tourist places in Kolkata to the best picnic spot, Kolkata is fascinating and colourful. Don’t miss these 10 places to visit in Kolkata.
Best places to visit in Kolkata for photography
1- Malik Ghat Flower Market
The Kolkata flower market. is one of the best places to visit in Kolkata to get photos of the locals.Marigolds in the form of Mala garlands, gladiolas, dahlias, roses and sunflowers form part of an eye-catching kaleidoscope of colour at Kolkata’s Malik Ghat Flower Market.
Believe it or not, this market is one of the most famous places in Kolkata frequented by both visitors and locals. And there’s no doubt it’s one of the best places to visit in Kolkata to take photographs.
Situated below the Howrah Bridge – one of only two bridges that crosses the wide Hooghly River – it’s a wholesale market where the shopkeepers go to stock up on fresh flowers from the countryside.
Jostle your way through the crowds, honking trucks and men balancing large baskets of flowers on their heads. Of all the tourist places in Kolkata, this market is one of the most colourful.
Men and women cut, arrange and sell colourful blooms while the older workers weave blossoms into long garlands for religious offerings under the shade of faded wooden shacks with rusty metal roofs.
It’s just like a scene from the movies!
2- The streets of Kolkata
Looking for that interesting Kolkata photo? Jump into an infamous Ambassador taxi and participate in the frenetic traffic mayhem across the Howrah Bridge during rush hour as you tour places to visit in Kolkata.
Vehicles stream across the bridge over the Hoogly River, which flows through Kolkata. The river is West Bengal’s main tributary of the Ganges.
In the 15th and 16th centuries, the Hoogly River attracted lots of European (Dutch, French, Portuguese and British) traders.
The hand-pulled rickshaw is on the verge of extinction as the government has plans to replace them with battery operated ones.
A ride in a rickshaw through the old town is an unforgettable experience. There’s also the rickety old tram system, which is one of Kolkata’s quintessential transport experiences.
At the other end of the scale, Kolkata has a very modern underground Metro that you can use to visit most of the popular places to visit in Kolkata.
Places to visit in Kolkata for culture
3- Pareshnath Jain temple
Located in the old part of Kolkata, Pareshnath Jain temple was built in 1867 by Ray Badridas Bahadur, a wealthy art connoisseur.
The temple has an impressive collection of mirrors, coloured stones and glass mosaics. Inside, there is an eternal lamp which burns with ghee and is never extinguished.
Pareshnath Jain temple has lovely gardens with statues and fountains. This spot is a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of the city traffic and one of the most serene places to visit in Kolkata.
If you’re not familiar with Jainism, you’ll be interested to learn it’s one of the oldest religions of India. And the religion has played a part in shaping Kolkata’s culture.
Jainism is a religion based on cosmic laws that do not condone the idea of a superhuman God as a creator of the universe.
Wander around the streets of Kumartuli, the artisans’ quarter where temple statues and wedding finery are created in a warren of tiny workshops.
Visit between September and October, when potters are busy creating idols for the Durga Puja festival. Durga Puja epitomizes Kolkata as the City of Joy when the worship of the goddess Durga takes place.
Brightly illuminated makeshift structures – often shaped like famous monuments such as the White House or Taj Mahal – are installed with images of the 10-armed deity.
Presents are exchanged and there’s plenty of eating.
The biggest event is on the last day when the crowds head down to the river to watch the larger-than-life images being immersed in the river.
Best picnic spot in Kolkata
5- Kolkata maidan
Stroll through one of the largest city parks in the world, the Kolkata Maidan (also known as the Brigade Parade Ground). What used to be a parade ground during the British rule is now a green space in the city.
For the locals, it’s a popular picnic spot in Kolkata where men and ladies in saris relax on the grass. And one of the most popular places to visit in Kolkata for couples who are looking for a romantic spot.
At 400ha and three kilometres in length, from north to south, the Maidan is larger than New York’s Central Park.
At one end there’s the Victoria Memorial, which is an impressive historical building built for Queen Victoria in white marble from the same source used to build the Taj Mahal.
There’s a large outdoor statue of the royal and a museum with 24 galleries that hold a collection of fascinating Raj memorabilia, including the piano Queen Victoria played as a child.
The capital of Great Britain’s Indian empire from 1772 to 1912, the name Calcutta was officially changed to Kolkata in January 2001.
Monuments of Kolkata
6- St John’s church
Established in 1787, St John’s was one of the first buildings built by the East India Company. This was after Kolkata became the capital of British India.
Like many British churches in India, it is modelled after James Gibbs’ St Martin-in the-Fields in London.
It has a stained glass panel of The Last Supper where the artist painted the 12 disciples with faces of famous British personalities who lived in Calcutta at the time.
Near the church, you will find the mausoleum of Job Charnock, the English merchant credited with founding Calcutta in 1690.
Best place to visit in Kolkata for shopping
7- Jawaharlal Nehru Road
One of the things to do in Kolkata is to go shopping. Now known as Jawaharlal Nehru Road, Chowringee was a fashionable promenade during the Raj.
At one end is the five-star Oberoi Grand Hotel (15, Jawaharlal Nehru Road, Kolkata, tel: +91 33 2249 2323), Kolkata’s most elegant hotel.
Behind the Oberoi Grand is the busy shopping area of New Market with its warren of shops that sell an assortment of interesting souvenirs like carpets, fine jewellery, bronze statues and pashmina scarves.
Places to visit in Kolkata for local food
8- Kolkata sweet shops
There are lots of place to visit Kolkata for local food but none as fun as Kolkata’s sweet shops. Kolkata has a vast number of mishtir dokan (sweetshops) that sell distinctive pastel pyramids of milky Bengali specialties that will make your mouth water.
Taste rasgulla (cream cheese flavoured with rosewater and sticky syrup). Wrap your lips around the round Lady Keni (named after Lord Canning’s wife), sandesh (dry sweetened curds formed into diamond shapes and topped with edible silver), nadu (grated coconut stir fried with sugar and shaped into a ball) and pitha (Bengali pancakes made from powdered rice or flour).
You’ll find local sweet shops all over the city.
Another way to experience local food is to go to a langar. Read more about langars in India here.
Famous places in Kolkata
9- Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity
Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity (Motherhouse, Missionaries of Charity, 54A, Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Road, Calcutta 700 016, tel: + 91 033 2447115) is an eye-opener and one of the most famous places in Kolkata.
When the Albanian nun Mother Teresa (1910 – 1997) set up the order of the Missionaries of Charity, little did she know that it would become one of the symbols of the city.
Her coffin resides at Motherhouse, which also has a small museum set up in her honour. If you feel like giving a child a cuddle, head next door to the orphanage.
You’ll find no shortage of overseas volunteers willing to sacrifice some of their time (often several months at a go) playing and caring for these underprivileged children.
Places to visit near Kolkata
10- Sunderbans tiger reserve
If you’re a wildlife lover, of all the places to visit near Kolkata, you may want to try Sunderbans. Sunderbans Tiger Reserve (www.india-wildlife-tours.com), the world’s largest delta and mangrove swamp, is a World Heritage Site formed by the merging of three rivers – the Ganges, the Brahmaputra and the Meghna.
This wildlife sanctuary is part of Project Tiger – an Indian Government initiative to save this rapidly dying species – and is spread over a series of densely forested islands and saline water channels that hide spotted deer, wild pigs, monkeys, herons, kingfishers, white-bellied eagles and of course Royal Bengal tigers.
Cruise through the mangroves on a boat and if you’re lucky you may get a glimpse of one of these majestic animals.