If you’re an avid traveller and fond of arts, literature, and food, then you must visit Kolkata at least once in your lifetime. Also called the City of Joy, Kolkata is located on the eastern coast of India and is known for its brilliant architecture, art galleries, and cultural festivities. Here are a few key things you should know before you visit this intriguing city - from a local perspective.
Kolkata is the third largest metropolitan city in India by population and manages to incorporate diverse cultures, religions and practices. Kolkata is known for its arts, culture, food and festivals was the home of many famous people including Rabindranath Tagore, a Nobel laureate in the field of literature, and Mother Teresa, the great humanitarian.
The most common complaint of people here is that Kolkata is an under-developed city. People tend to gossip about it, although most people are happy to be living here. Kolkata is still the City of Joy, and it is considered the most peaceful city in India.
Due to its tropical climate, Kolkata is warm and humid all year round, so, the best time to visit Kolkata is during winter, from November to February. At this time of year, the city experiences cool and dry weather and the temperature can hover between 12-15 °C. This gives residents a welcome respite from the scorching heat & humidity of summer, when the temperature can rise to over 40 degrees Celsius in May. Also, think twice before visiting between June and September as the city experiences the southwest monsoon around that time of year.
There’s a huge range of food in Kolkata and here are some of our favourite, affordable options to eat (without compromising taste, of course). As a first-time traveller here, you can’t miss Khati rolls from Kasturi Restaurant, biryani from Arsalan, and the best spongy rasgulla from Chittaranjan Mishtanna Bhandar.
For authentic Bengali cuisine, head to 6, Ballygunge Place Thali for delicious food and a casual, friendly ambiance. Or, if you want to sample the delicacy of Kolkata fish, try Fish Kofta from the menu of Kasturi Restaurant. If you love north Indian food, you can try kebabs from Bombay Brasserie. There is also a local Chinatown and Tandoor Park also has great options for Chinese food.
Café Ekante, located near Eco Park Ekante Cottage, has some of the best Bengali and multi-cuisine foods in Kolkata. The restaurant itself is a floating boat on the lake of Eco Park and is perfect for a memorable evening in Kolkata.
Public transport in Kolkata is bliss, unlike many other states of India, and is easy for foreigners as well as locals. Most people in Kolkata use buses and autos for regular commutes as they are affordable and easily available. There is an extensive network of buses, but the local buses are very crowded so you may prefer to use the metro.
Auto-rickshaws are another good choice for travellers and very affordable. Sometimes foreigners can be charged more, so check the price you’re quoted with locals to make sure it’s fair. You will also find yellow ambassador taxis, that runs on a metered basis, however they are getting slowly replaced by the introduction of Uber and Ola. Or, if you have time, take a ride on the tram. It’s the slowest transport option in Kolkata, but the tickets are incredibly cheap.
There is a lot to see in Kolkata. The Victoria Memorial, a large, white building built in honour of Queen Victoria, is considered the pride of the city. Howrah Bridge is another popular attraction and is best experienced from a ferry ride. Taking the vintage tram is also a great way to see the city and is becoming more and more popular with visitors.
If you love exploring arts, then the Indian Museum should be on your top list. It is one of the oldest museums in the world and is known for its collections of stunning Mughal paintings, ornaments, armour, and mummies.
Many Kolkata residents have originally come from other districts of West Bengal or from places in India or other Asian countries. This means Kolkata is a multicultural city and you can see the diversity of cultures in the celebrations of the different festivals and events.
Some of our favourites are the celebration of Basant Panchami, a Spring festival in honour of the goddess Saraswati, Rath Yatra, a Hindu festival which originates in Odisha, and the celebrations for Christmas and New Year. We also have some large cultural events including the Kolkata International Cinema Festival (affiliated with FIAPF in Paris), the Calcutta Book Fair, the largest book fair in Asia.