Kolkata a.k.a. The city of joy has an unmatched personality and boasts a unique stature of rich history, culture, art, and marvelous architecture. As I’d like to put– it is where the British intricacies and Indian austerity meet. Having served as the capital of colonial India, Kolkata has a visible British influence. While North Kolkata still conjures the picture of the ‘Old Calcutta’, there are also many chic neighborhoods starkly contrasting with the antiquated city. I mean you can walk into a mall and shop all high-end luxury fashion right from Calvin Klein to Gucci or enjoy a meal at Yauatcha! That’s what I am talking about. Kolkata has a certain character to itself that can only be experienced once you are in the city yourself.
With its royal charm and a fast pace of life, Kolkata is a delightful place to visit. The city’s dynamic nature makes it the perfect destination for solo travelers. Kolkata is a city which has witnessed so many eras and has a perfect balance of the old and the new. The rich culture and urban nuances together make the Kolkata we know today – a city flourishing with its ever growing love for art, culture, literature, and food.
There are so many things to do and places to visit in Kolkata. Once you enter the city you can’t help but notice the chaotic traffic, the sea of people and their love for food and the yellow taxis of course. Kolkata has plenty of historic, cultural, and architectural sites that can keep you occupied for as long as you stay in the city and not to mention it’s a photographers’ paradise. So let me take you through the most instagrammable photo spots around Kolkata.
Victoria Memorial is undoubtedly one of the most iconic and popular places of attraction in Kolkata. It was built in commemoration of Queen Victoria and provides a peek into yesteryear’s Calcutta. Nestled in lush green lawns, this opulent memorial made of white marble surely fancies many travelers. The architecture is stunning and looks absolutely marvelous. It has a starkly visible blend of Mughal and British architecture along with Egyptian, Islamic, Venetian, and Deccani elements. I did not have time to go inside but waking up early in the morning and even admiring this beauty from outside, with no tourists around, was surely worth the effort. There are spectacularly photogenic views across the memorial and I couldn’t help but capture it from so many angles. The entrance is from the north or south gates with a ticket priced at INR 20 to just enter the outer complex.
St. Paul’s Cathedral
St. Paul’s Cathedral is one of Kolkata’s most beautiful churches known for its Gothic style architecture. Though the construction of the church was initiated in 1839, the structure was completed only by 1847. It’s the largest cathedral in Kolkata and also the first one that was built in the overseas territory of the British Empire. An easy walk from Victoria Memorial led me here early in the morning but unfortunately, I could not go inside as the church opens only by 10 A.M. But if you are not pressed for time, I highly recommend that you stop by here and give yourself a chance to admire this beauty.
The Howrah Bridge is one of Kolkata’s most remarkable offerings, and shouldn’t be missed if you are in the city. You can actually explore the bridge by foot, and also visit the nearby places of attraction like the vibrant Mullick Ghat Flower Market. I left early in the morning from my hotel to visit the bridge but unfortunately was greeted with heavy showers and had to retreat to the Howrah Railway Station instead. Howrah Bridge has been constructed without any nuts and bolts and is believed to be one of the busiest bridges globally. Even though I wasn’t able to click the photos I wanted to get here, a drive across the bridge on a rainy day was so gratifying to my senses that I was willing to let go of my primary reason for coming here.
Kolkata’s bazaars are alive with the buzz of daily life. These ever thronged bazaars consist of many narrow lanes lined with tiny shops selling all local temptations. In its colourful bustling bazaars, you can see its well-preserved heritage and cultural ethnicity. Kolkata never ceases to surprise its visitors with the diversity it carries. Explore the famous ShyamBazaar and College Street of Kolkata and you’ll find a wide variety of fabrics, handicrafts, books, and souvenirs. College Street has numerous lanes lined with stalls selling all kinds of books. Right on College Street is also the famous Indian Coffee House. While you won’t get the best food or coffee here, it’s just nice to sit and soak in the vibe of the place. Come here at any given point in time the restaurant is swarmed with people, drinking cold coffee and eating chowmein (another thing that people of Kolkata love). The city is soaked in the colors of the old and the new.
You know you have arrived in Kolkata once you see the streets bustling with bright yellow ambassadors. Right from when I was planning my trip to Kolkata I was the most excited to take a ride in the yellow taxi. Well, aren’t we all fond of all things old and classic? These taxis run on meter and charge INR 16/km. When you don’t like waiting for a cab, hop onto the taxi, for they are numerous in number and easy to spot. Riding in the ambassador felt like sinking in peace on an old couch that instantly brings back so many memories. Slide down the window and revel the cityscape that’s unapologetically charming.
Prinsep Ghat was built in 1841 on the banks of the Hooghly river and has been named after James Princep. There’s no better way to spend a pleasant evening in Kolkata than at the Princep ghat, sailing into a picture perfect sunset and watching the bustling city pass by. It’s one of the best spots in the city to enjoy a stunning sunset preferably on a boat. The entire setting unequivocally makes for postcard perfect photos.
Kumortuli or the potter’s colony is a fascinating destination for the artistically inclined. Tucked inside North Kolkata, Kumortuli is a maze of lanes where skilled artisans make clay idols depicting Hindu gods and goddesses with sheer dexterity and precision. It is incredible to see how these craftsmen create glorious idols out of mere clay from scratch before being painted in beautiful, jewel-bright colors. Any photographer’s paradise, Kumortuli offers a rendezvous with the rich artistic culture of Kolkata. While walking along the dingy lanes, you will come across rows and rows of clay effigies and if you want to really see the best of it, you should come here during the month of Durga Puja, when the artisans start preparing idols for the festivities. While people stand in awe appreciating the beauty of these idols, for these artisans it’s a tradition they rejoice and take pride in.
Streets and old houses
Okay, may I just say that exploring the streets of this vibrant city has to be my favorite of all the things I did in Kolkata? These narrow lanes narrate so many stories and never fail to intrigue. Parked at a random street corner, you can spot the yellow ambassador or a hand pulled rickshaw that has been there since the colonial era. Urban slums adjacent to plush neighborhoods is a common sight in Kolkata. The city’s admiration for art, culture, and literature will leave you spellbound. To experience the true soul of Kolkata, I highly recommend that you save a day to explore the labyrinths of North Kolkata. Navigating your way through the streets is a delightful experience in itself. Like I always say the streets are where the city lives! If you're looking for an immersive and authentic experience, this is it. Head out to Shyambazar or Shobhabazar to see Kolkata’s heritage houses that it so proudly dons. It’s unique to the city and adds a certain character to it. However, over the decades these houses have seen their downfall and are in a dilapidated condition now. But in my opinion, they only add to Kolkata’s old-world charm and reflect the unique architectural ethos of the city.
Cafes of Kolkata
Kolkata is home to some of the cutest cafes that are perfect to relax, get your caffeine fix and enjoy hearty meals. Not to mention all the cafes have beautiful interiors with minimalist decor and are a treat for all aesthetic lovers like myself. Step into any cafe and you’re sure to get many gram-worthy photo opportunities. Some of my favorite cafes were:
Sienna Cafe - It has the coolest interior and the ambience here very appealing.
This place is perfect for health-conscious people and I loved the Avocado tortilla salad and hazelnut cappuccino here. It’s tucked inside the Park Street opposite a petrol pump.
The Daily - I feel so bummed that I could not visit this cafe even though I had planned to. It’s located on Satyen Dutta Road. They seem to have some of the best food dishes on their menu and the interiors look just out of Pinterest.
Artsy Coffee and Culture - This adorable cafe is on the AJC Bose Road and is a treat for the aesthetic lovers. Right outside the cafe is this pretty window collage wall that I instantly fell in love with. Do try the avocado toast and chickpea salad here.