Top 10 Kolkata Tourist Attractions & Places to Visit

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If India was the crown jewel of the colonial British Empire, then Kolkata was its most glittering gem. The capital of the pre independent India, the seat of Bengal Renaissance and home to some of the most acclaimed writers, thinkers, philosophers and scientists in the world- Kolkata has not been given its just due in the modern world. After the capital was shifted to New Delhi, Kolkata was rendered a forgotten historical city, charming but insignificant. It is regarded as one of the major metro cities of India, but not high on the list of places that people die to see. It lacks the obvious glamour of Mumbai, the ruthless power of Delhi and the newness of Bangalore.
What kolkata is, is an unique jumble of charm, history, intellect, decadence, culture, modernity and that inherently obscure nonentity that is so hard to put into words put palpable even to the stranger who puts his foot for the first time in the city. Step into Kolkata to be engulfed into old world charm juxtaposed with modern encumbrances of pop culture and joviality. The list here is not exactly a definitive tourist guide to Kolkata. It tells you to check out places that will get you the real Kolkata experience. To start off, first take a…
10. Tram Ride
Tram Ride1 Top 10 Kolkata Tourist Attractions & Places to Visit
Kolkata was the first city in India to have constructed the subway, way back in the seventies. Even today it is the only city in which the subway is underground. All other metros who have caught on to the trend have constructed them above ground, more along the lines of a local train. It is thus especially surprising to learn that a city which embraced modernity long before it was so in vogue has fiercely held on to the oldest form of rail transportation in the country, even the subcontinent- the Tram. These ancient vehicles travel in the slowest speed imaginable, hold up traffic and in general cause a lot of inconvenience. Despite all the negatives, the Kolkatans have loyally held on to this reminder of the late nineteenth early twentieth century marvel.
That is why the number ten item on this list is not a specific destination but rather an all-encompassing tram ride. Hop onto one and be sure to get a window seat. Look out the window as you trudge along to get a glimpse into the heart of this marvellous city. This is the best way to embark on your exploration. You will see colonial British buildings and monuments jostling for space with classic Mughal architecture and Zamindari bungalows being elbowed out by offending skyscrapers. Hand pulled rickshaws and luxury cars travelling on the same road, breathtakingly beautiful parks adjacent to littered streets and sewages, centuries old standalone shops selling the most authentic regalia with sweeping shopping malls across the street- the mystery of the city lies in its odd pairings. Take them all in while you sip cool coconut water inside a tram that has been going down this very road for the past hundred and fifty years.
9. Priya Cinema
Priya Cinema 300x156 Top 10 Kolkata Tourist Attractions & Places to Visit
Priya Cinema is an iconic movie theatre that has become synonymous with the city to those who frequent it. In a world where personality barren multiplexes have taken over the movie watching experience, this theatre is all about showing off the love of cinema. Located at the heart of the city, this theatre is also a favourite of Bengali cinema celebs who come here for the same reason the regular people do- to have a quality movie watching time. The ground floor walls are decked with pictures of famous people from around the world who have stopped in on this theatre during a journey to the city, as well as the local crème de la crème of society. There is a 1920’s vintage car on display as movie goers enter the theatre. The first and second floor walls are covered with montaged tributes to the immortal greats of Bengal cinema, especially Satyajit Ray. Original posters of Ray’s movies are immaculately framed. The throne that was used in the sets of “Heerak Rajar Deshe” is lovingly displayed. Above the movie screen is the longest model of the Kolkata skyline. If these attractions weren’t enough, the place has the best popcorn in town. Plonk yourself down a soft cushioned sofa in the dress circle with a tub of butter chat popcorn to have the ultimate old school movie watching experience.
8. College Street
College Street Top 10 Kolkata Tourist Attractions & Places to Visit
It is a well-known, and often parodied fact, that Kolkatans love their literature. For centuries, the city has produced works of international importance and is home to great writers of the past and present. When you visit College Street you’ll understand the level of this obsession. College Street is called Boi Para locally which means Book Street. It remains very literal to its nomenclature. Piles and piles of books line the streets, as far as the eye can see. Hawkers put their wares on the footpath while shopkeepers keep stock of their shelves which house every single book ever written. My aunt, a mathematics professor at Rani Birla College, had found a rare old manuscript while hunting for some theorem books at an old hawker’s stall. The book was later valued to worth millions and is now housed in the college’s library. She had acquired it for twenty rupees, less than half an American dollar. The street is also home to the prestigious Presidency College, the first institution of higher education in the country. That apart it has the Indian Coffee House, India’s oldest café. The waiters still dress in their regal uniform from days of the Raj and food here is ridiculously cheap and delicious. Drop in here in the afternoon and you will find groups of college students passionately and voraciously engaged in intellectual debates. They are always happy to include more members if you want to wholeheartedly experience the Kolkata student culture.
7. Eden Gardens
Eden Gardens Top 10 Kolkata Tourist Attractions & Places to Visit
Eden Gardens, the second largest cricket stadium in the world, is also home to the Bengal Cricket team and the Kolkata Knight Riders. This iconic stadium is the largest cricket stadium in the country and is commonly proclaimed to be to Cricket what Colosseum is to Rome. The stadium was established in 1864 and hosted its first test match in January 1934. It has a seating capacity of a massive 90,000 people. Several World Cups have been played at Eden and some of the most legendary games in the sport of cricket have made history right here.
6. Victoria Memorial
Victoria Memorial Top 10 Kolkata Tourist Attractions & Places to Visit

Anyone remotely familiar with the city of Kolkata has hear about Victoria Memorial. The foundation stone of this stunning monument was laid in 1906, but it was finally completed in 1921. As the name suggests, it was created to serve as a fitting memorial to the then Empress of the British Empire, Queen Victoria. Upon Victoria’s death in 1901 Lord Curzon, the Viceroy of the country, set the project in motion. The President of the British Institute of Architects Sir William Emerson then set about designing and creating the building. Set in a beautiful garden area of 64 acres, Victoria Memorial is an aesthetic delight to the eyes. The inside is a museum that houses some very rare paintings, statues and manuscripts from across the world. Standing in the centre of the building and looking up at the classical dome high beyond imagination is an awe inspiring experience. Spend enough time exploring the gardens at length as well. They rival the monument in their beauty and splendour. Right across the street from Victoria Memorial is Maidan. Literally translated it means field, but don’t be deceived by the common christening. Built by resident the resident British to be like London’s Hyde Park, Maidan is a majestic but simple place to sit and observe the sights and sounds of the city.
5. National Library
National Library Top 10 Kolkata Tourist Attractions & Places to Visit
Having read the College Street expo, you wouldn’t be really surprised to know that Kolkata is home to the National Library of India. Founded in 1836, Prince Dwarkanath Tagore was its first proprietor. Books were very expensive in those days so poor students had free use of the library facilities. Much hasn’t changed today, since everyone can access the vast and rare collection of the library for very little money. Though the collection of the books here are impressive to say the least, the rare book collections are out of this world. Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee had donated his personal library of 80,000 books to the National Library before his death. The library has its fair share of intrigue as well. In 2010 a hidden chamber was discovered in the basement of the main building and given rise to much speculation about the torture methods of Warren Hastings and other British generals who might have been based here. Several haunted legends also do the rounds as people have sworn to have witnessed ghosts on several occasions. There are famous stories to back these sightings as well. The main library is housed in a beautiful 200 year old heritage bungalow while newer collections are housed in swanky state of the art buildings. The place is surrounded by gardens and greenery that will urge you to lose yourself to nature and simply relax.
4. Belur Math
Belur Math Top 10 Kolkata Tourist Attractions & Places to Visit
Belur Math is a religious epicentre whose focus is more on spirituality rather than pedestrian notions of religion. If you have stumbled into India a la Elizabeth Gilbert, then this is the best place you can find to pray. It was founded by Swami Vivekananda who built it on the principles of philosophy taught imparted to him by his guru Ramkrishna Paramhamsa. The temple architecture infuses symbols of Hinduism, Christianity and Islam to portray the importance of unity and equality. Set along the banks of the serene Ganga, the atmosphere of the place will touch your soul. After you are done praying, hire a boat for a few hundred rupees and sail down the mystic river in a haze of contemplations. You will experience peace like never before.
3. Science City
Science City Top 10 Kolkata Tourist Attractions & Places to Visit
In case you get the impression that Kolkata is only about the arts and literature please visit Science City to dispel the notion. Conceptualized in 1997, Science City is the largest science centre in the subcontinent. You’ll need to devote an entire day to grasp all the carefully researched marvels of the place. Whether or not you are a science buff, this place promises intelligent entertainment. The Maritime Centre is not for nautical enthusiasts alone. For truly knee jerking fun visit the Space Odyssey and have a go at the Time Machine. The 3-D Vision Theatre and The Magic Mirrors are special attractions too. Finish up your tour with games played at the Dynamotion Hall, Earth Exploration Hall and The Evolution Park. The lifelike graphics and miracles of science will hold you spellbound for sure.
2. New Market
New Market Top 10 Kolkata Tourist Attractions & Places to Visit
Kolkata is a premier shopping destination and if you had enough time to only visit one place for all your shopping needs, let it be New Market. Formally Christened Sir Stuart Hogg Market, New Market is a huge spread of everything that you could possibly dream of buying. A dazzling combination of flea market and high street, the shops sell colonial antiques, rare coins, unusual jewellery, arts, crafts, music, a variety of clothes, lip smacking food and so on. Specially check out the array of small shops selling burnished silver jewellery, semi-precious stone pieces and pearls. The prices are cheap beyond measure. Chamba Lama, run by a loveable Tibetan matriarch, will leave you spellbound. Gilded mirrors, burnished antiques, olden hookahs, mind boggling jewellery and art deco pieces are in galore here. This shop is a favourite of the locals too. It is a guarantee that whatever you pick up in New Market will be unique only to this corner of the world. Splurge on something special and let it be a sweet reminder of the wonderfully charming city you once visited.
1. Rabindranath Tagore’s House
Rabindranath Tagores House Top 10 Kolkata Tourist Attractions & Places to Visit
Rabindranath Tagore, the poet Laureate of India, holds a special place in the hearts of the people of Bengal because he was one of their own. Though he is famous worldwide for Gitanjali, the book that made him the first non-European to win a Nobel Prize, there is so much more to the life and works of the Bard that tourists can glean from a visit to the great man’s childhood home. Rabindranath Tagore was not the only genius to be born into that distinguished family. It boasted of great men and women whose achievements have made significant impact in the shaping of modern Indian culture and economy. The house where they all lived and worked is a present day testimony to all this. It is a place of pride for Kolkatans who are inspired by the poet and his philosophies of life.  Built in eighteenth century, the house is now a heritage museum and part of the estate of the World University that Tagore had set up in his lifetime. Be assured, the visit to this sacred place of culture will be your experience of a lifetime.

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