I had a fellow blogger and friend visit Kolkata last year. In my course of hosting Kathleen, I explored a part of the city, I now live in, as a tourist. This is always a surreal experience for me.

Firstly, backyard travel is a rare practice in today’s travel culture. Secondly, a fellow traveller can introduce different aspects of our own city with their new perspective. It is a strange fulfilment to observe or realise features that we may have missed in our every day interactions. And I’m always happy to have someone else introduce me to such moments.

This is a guide for all those—locals and travellers—who want to explore Kolkata’s prime and lesser known attractions.

Read: Top 5 Cocktails Bars in Kolkata

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Victoria Memorial on a bright day.

Must See

Victoria Memorial

This landmark is a marble edifice built to commemorate Queen Victoria’s 1901 diamond jubilee. The imposing structure is surrounded by gardens on all sides.

Even though the beauty of this place is insurmountable, it was the museum and the galleries inside that fascinated me. The exhibition in the Calcutta Gallery is dedicated to the history of the city with chronological images and text. This is a must see exhibition for all.

Entry fee: ₹20.
Hours: 1000hrs-1700hrs (Monday closed)
Getting there: Queens Way, Kolkata. (Map)

Birla Planetarian

The introverted white dome of Birla Planetarium lies in the neighbourhood of Victoria Memorial. This planetarium is a delight for science lovers and has regular shows. These shows are multi-lingual and very informative. The planetarium also houses an astronomy gallery (equally captivating) and observatory. The geek in me loves this place!

Entry fee: ₹40.
Hours: 1200hrs-1830hrs
Getting there: Jawaharlal Nehru Road, Kolkata. (Map)

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The caretaker at Neveh Shalome Synagogue.

St. Paul’s Cathedral

Cross the busy Cathedral Road from Victoria Memorial Hall and you’re at St. Paul’s Cathedral. The cornerstone of this cathedral is believed to have been laid in 1839 but the structure was recreated, after two natural calamities that the city suffered.

While the interior peace and decor of the cathedral is spectacular, my interest lays with its Gothic exterior architecture. The stout tower and the long base create beautiful geometric contrasts.

Entry fee: Free.
Hours: 1000hrs-1800hrs.
Getting there: Cathedral Road, Kolkata. (Map)

Neveh Shalome Synagogue

It is imperative that I lose my way while visiting the recluse Neven Shalome Synagogue. It is hidden away behind on the busy  Brabourne Road, behind the many shops that crowd this road.

Dating back to 1831, this synagogue was the first in Calcutta. What we see now is the rebuilt and a modest structure of the original. It was pulled down to build its spectacular neighbour, Magen David Synagogue. However, the silence, the striking green interiors and the simplicity of the space are very charming.

Entry fee: Free.
Hours: Limited to the availability of the caretaker.
Getting there: At the intersection of Brabourne Road and Indra Kumar Karnani Street, Kolkata. (Map)

Read: Photo Story: Walking Through the Heart of Kolkata

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The Magen David Synagogue.

Magen David Synagogue

Adjacent to Neveh Shalome Synagogue lies the incredible Magen David Synagogue. The first thing that appealed to me about this prayer hall were the very attractive stain glass windows and the high chandeliers. The symmetry of this place is worth gawking at.

Dating back to 1883, this synagogue was built by Elias David Ezra for his father. While the exterior of the synagogue is made of the signature red brick of Calcutta, the interiors are spectacularly done with intricate floral motifs, arched galleries and chequered floor. It is easy to be smitten by the beauty of this space.

Entry fee: Free.
Hours: Limited to the availability of the caretaker.
Getting there: Synagogue Street, Kolkata. (Map)

Armenian Church of the Holy Nazareth

Also known as the Armenian Church, this is perhaps the oldest church in Calcutta. It was built in 1724 though the architecture does not exemplify its age. Decorated with a number of paintings and frescos, the interior of the church still bears some striking features. The marble floor and altar are incredibly beautiful. Photography is not permitted here.

The church is surrounded by numerous gravestones.

Entry fee: Free.
Hours: 0900hrs-1600hrs
Getting there: Armenian StreetKolkata. (Map)

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The ambience of Indian Coffee House.

Must Eat

Indian Coffee House

Buzzing with people’s chatter, the Indian Coffee House is an iconic cafe in the city. Satyajit Ray, Aparna Sen and Amartya Sen are believed to have been regular visitors here.

Located opposite Presidency College, this cafe sees a large number of college students, tourists and locals, who stop here for a coffee or a quick bite. While I found nothing exceptional in the food or the coffee, it was worth my time just to experience the much talked about space.

Cost: ₹150 for two.
Hours: 0900hrs-2100hrs
Getting there: Bankim Chatterjee Street, College Street, Kolkata. (Map)

Nahoum’s bakes

Nahoum and Sons bakery has been around forever. This legendary bakery opened its doors more than 100 years ago and is known for selling the best bakes.

The bakery is within Kolkata’s New Market (which is not new at all) and I remember running across it as a child. I also remember the delicious rum ball and fruitcakes. Inherently, I have a taste for neither. But here, I cannot seem to resist any of their bakes.

Hours: 0900hrs-2000hrs
Getting there:  Hogg Market, New Market, Kolkata. (Map)

Churmur on Park Street

Churmur is the lost cousin of puchka. Needless to say that everyone who visits Kolkata should definitely devour the street food. But one must not ignore churmur.

Crushed puchka or puri is mixed with the same ingredients but served on a leaf plate. It is like a puchka as a chaat. My favourite chumur-wala is on Park Street, right in front of Allahabad Bank/Savera Sarees, a little ahead of Park Street Police Station.

Cost: ₹30.
Getting there: In front of Savera Sarees, Park Street, Kolkata. (Map)

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My own churmur.

Read: Solo Destination: Darjeeling, Bengal

What are your favourite Calcutta moments?

This is Part 1 of the guide. More coming up soon.

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Amrita Das

Amrita is a freelance travel writer and professional travel blogger. She has been contributing to some of the top publications in India and internationally. She propagates female solo travel and shares her experiences from off-beat, culture and adventure travel through her writing.

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9 thoughts on “A Quick Guide to Kolkata, Bengal

  1. So much throwback from the time I was exploring Kolkata :D Of course, I missed a few – reckon I will add it for the next time I am there.

    1. Yes please add them and we need more time to chat, the next time you’re here :)

  2. Yes, Kathleen told me about this trip. :)
    Nice list, I haven’t covered it all so my next trip will have them.

    That photo of churmur is yum. :)

    1. And please let me know the next time you’re here. It has been long since we met :)

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