A visit to Kolkata never fails to fascinate and thrill at the same time. The city is a unique mix of history and culture keeping pace with the modern and trendy. On the one hand are the large colonial structures that remind us of a time when this city was the capital of British India and on the other, are the swanky high-rises and sprawling malls showcasing international brands. Caught up right in the middle is the rich culture of Bengal – the love of traditions, the year-long wait for Durga Puja, the best of street food, and a legacy of literary wealth.
This city is a treasure trove that takes years to explore and appreciate but if it is only a day that you have in Kolkata, here’s what you must do.
Stay at one of the top luxury hotels in Kolkata
The best way to kickstart your Kolkata experience is a stay at one of the best luxury hotels in town. While there are many to pick from, we recommend the The LaLiT Great Eastern Kolkata both for its proximity to the city’s central business area and for the olde-worlde charm of this hotel which was initially built in 1841. The modern upgrade ensures luxury while the colonial architecture and art collection lend it mystique you cannot afford to miss.
Light a candle at St Paul’s Cathedral
Start your day by paying a visit to the St. Paul’s Cathedral, the seat of the Diocese of Calcutta. The serenity of this cathedral vies for attention while the old Gothic revival architecture is absolutely fascinating. The cathedral has been one of the city’s most imposing landmarks since it opened in 1847. Attend a service here or light a candle before you get on with the rest of the day.
Visit the Victoria Memorial
Right next door is the Victoria Memorial – a sprawling white marble structure that was built in the memory of Queen Victoria in 1921. The memorial is a walk through the colonial history of the city and the architecture will cause a lot of admiration. Take a walk around the gravel filled path around the memorial and catch up on the artefacts on display. The white dome of the Victoria Memorial and the winged Angel of Victory on top of it are icons that have represented Kolkata through the ages.
Drive around the Maidan
A drive around the Maidan area or a traditional buggy ride should be on your list next. This open area is home to a number of sports clubs and defence installations. Driving down the Red Road you are likely to catch a glimpse of the iconic Fort William and of Writer’s Building. En route you will also find yourself enamoured by the colonial structures and the majestic Raj Bhavan which is now the official residence of the Governor of West Bengal.
Visit the Indian Museum
The Indian Museum in Kolkata is the oldest museum in the country. It is too vast to explore in an hour or so, but you are sure to love the 4000-year-old Egyptian Mummy that has been placed here since 1882. There is also an excellent display of Indian instruments from ancient times that you will love. The museum building itself (now maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India) is one of the finest specimens of British colonial architecture in the country.
Shop at New Market
New Market, despite the name is one of the oldest markets in Kolkata. It is the best place to enjoy your shopping. Kolkata is a shopper’s delight. From bric-a-brac to apparel to leather goods, New Market is the perfect place to find genuine goods at reasonable prices. While you are here do visit the quaint bakeries that have been here since the British times. Do look out for the great footwear shops, establishments set up by the descendants of Chinese migrants who came here over a century ago. Kolkata is also known for its fine cotton kurtas and sarees. New Market is perfect if you intend to shop for these.
Indulge in an authentic Bengali lunch
A trip to this grand old city does not end without a sumptuous Bengali lunch at one of the top restaurants in Kolkata. Aaheli, 6 Ballygunge Place, Oh! Calcutta, and Saptapadi are among the best that serve traditional Bengali dishes including the fabulous seafood and steamed fishes in rich gravies. Do not miss out on the wide range of desserts including rosogolla, mishit doi, patisapta, kheer kadam, and langcha that are served at these meals.
Go on a boat ride
One of the most beautiful experiences you will have in Kolkata is going for a boat ride across the Ganges (Hoogly). Hire a traditional boat with an oarsman and capture the beauty of the gorgeous river with your camera. The two majestic bridges across the Hoogly also make for great pictures. You may want to keep the ride for dusk when the bridges are all lit up.
Sample the great street food
Kolkata is undoubtedly a foodie’s paradise. Look out for the quaint food stalls by the street side that sell kachauris, kathi rolls, momos, singaras (a smaller crispier version of samosa), pastries, patties, puffs, luchi subzis, and radha pallavis apart from the wonderful traditional sweet shops that sell milk sweets such as sandesh.
Party in one of the night clubs of Park Street
The best dedication to a great day in Kolkata is to hit the party scene. Head to the Tantra or Roxy or the Myx and enjoy the live music, the electrifying ambience, and the fantastic cocktails. Once you step out, head straight to one of the great continental restaurants on Park Street. Flury’s, Mocambo, Peter Cat, and such restaurants are legendary eateries.
Kolkata is a delightful experience. One that must be savoured through every moment. If you have only a day to spend in this wonderful city, do pick up some great books and music on your way back.