The City of Joy, Kolkata
With a culturally rich history, being the colonial capital and home to some of the world’s most influential people, my experience in the city was nothing but Inspiring. From spending two hours in Tagore House to marvelling the architecture of St Paul’s Cathedral, the serenity of Mother House and being transported to the Renaissance at the Marble Palace. Here is a list of top 10 mainstream places you need to visit in Kolkata and why.
1. Mother House – Housing Mother Teressa’s tomb, her private quarters and a small museum, the serenity and kindness of the sisters fills your heart with warmth and love. The museum also houses the life history of Mother Teressa and the copy of the Nobel Prize for peace.
Why? It was one of the most humbling experiences and a reminder of the importance of giving back to the society in our own ways.
Entry fee – Free; Shut during lunch time.
2. Indian Museum – India’s oldest and largest museum located at Park Street houses artifacts, fossils, and paintings from across the world. Their textile section is absolutely gorgeous reminding me much of The Crafts Museum in Delhi and the Egyptian section with the mummy is precious.
Why? Besides being the second largest museum, the colonial structure itself is absolutely inspiring. You also get a beautiful view of the city from the Mask gallery section of the museum.
Entry fee – INR 20 for Indian nationals; Shut on National holidays
3. James Princep Ghat – This is where you can spot the two different bridges – the iconic Howrah Bridge and the Vidyasagar Setu. The area has been beautified resembling a much smaller version of the Marine Drive, however, the main attractions remain the two bridges.
Why? A boat ride here at Sunset gives you the picture perfect view of the two bridges.
It costs 400 INR for 30minutes and can seat up to 6 people.
4. St Paul’s Cathedral – Again, housing a lot of oldest and iconic buildings, St. Paul’s is a stunning Cathedral with stained glass windows, long aisles and a beautiful garden area. The church is still functioning and hosts weekly Sunday mass.
Why? If you are a history buff and have taken any art history and appreciation class, all the columns and arches will come back to you.
Entry fee – Free
5. Victoria Memorial – The only real relic of the Queen’s Raj on the country, the Victoria Memorial built, upon the death of the ruling monarch. With a statue of the Curzon on the rear end (the Viceroy who commissioned the Memorial) and a Marble statue of the queen on the front, the white marble structure is one of the grandest in the city. But it also houses the rich history of Bengal through the freedom movement up until the colonial capital was shifted to New Delhi. Thanks to popular movies like The King’s Speech and Victoria and Abdul, the names are much more familiar now than they would have been from history books, the 12 paintings depicting the Queen’s life are absolutely breathtaking. Finished with HUGE grounds, this would be an ideal outing place in winter, carrying an umbrella in summer is strongly recommended.
Why? The vivid history of Bengal, European paintings and huge grounds.
Entry fee – 20INR for Indian Nationals; the museum is shut on Mondays
6. Netaji House – The family house of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, the perfectly preserved living quarters of Netaji and his family, including the restored car which Netaji used in the Great Escape. Incidentally, I had watched the much-acclaimed series Bose: Dead or Alive just a month before I went here, everything was so much relatable. The Great escape, the house arrest, the letters and the formation of the Indian National Army.
Why? It was once the house of the country’s most loved leader, the mystery around whose death still remains unsolved. And if you have seen Rajkumar Rao as Bose, you will not need any reason to go here.
Entry fee – 20INR; Shut on Mondays
7. Tagore House – I was actually advised against visiting this one, citing that Shantiniketan is the real deal. But I am so glad I went here. This was one of the most inspiring experiences. Of course, there were perfectly preserved rooms and a life history of the Nobel Laurette. It also houses all the books and paintings he made over his life. The most exciting part of the museum remains the galleries inspired by the different countries Tagore visited through his lifetime.
Why? Personally one of the most inspiring experiences, the works of such a great artist left me absolutely in awe. And not to mention, this is a short insight into Tagore’s world, if you like me can’t take a trip to Shantiniketan. The soothing Rabindra music in the backdrop adds multi folds to the whole experience.
Entry fee – 30 INR + 50 INR (for Camera)
8. Marble Palace – Not a very popular destination because of its location, this is notoriously close to Tagore House. Previously a Royal home, a part is still a residence and the other half has been turned into a museum displaying a sprawling Private Collection. From replicas of Venuses, The Last Supper, to gigantic, ornate mirrors and ballrooms that would transport you back 200 years.
Entry fee – The entry is free but one needs to take prior permission to visit.
9. Park Street – It cannot get more colonial than Park Street. If like me, you are from Delhi, you will get major Connaught Place feels only with a lot more disciplined traffic. Housing the best of restaurants and eateries, Park Street has the Iconic Flury’s, Peter Cat and newer additions of Mamagoto and Barbeque Nation. No trip to Kolkata is complete without tons of strolls along this road.
10. Armenian Church – One of the only Armenian churches of the country, Kolkata still has a small Armenian population and the country’s only Armenian Church. Located in Chinatown, again the only one in the country, the Armenian church illustrates the history of how Armenians came to India. Chinatown is more like a wholesale market, crowded but you can find really interesting things here. Check out Chinatown for the breakfast hawkers market they have every morning till 10 AM
Entry fee – Free
There are a lot of Temples if you are interested, one that I couldn’t visit is a floating market that is a recent addition to the city.
Check out the space for top 10 hogging destinations in Kolkata.