Kolkata: The City of Paradoxes “City of Palaces”, “City of Joy”, “City of the Aged”, “Dying City”: the paradoxical nature of Kolkata’s allure and culture is peculiar. It is perhaps best captured by its tendency to invite such vastly contradictory monikers that encapsulate the juxtapositions of this capricious city. But no amount of catchy title-phrasing can do justice to the sprawling, bustling metropolis, filled to the brim, bursting with the unexpected and where every corner is nourishment for a painter’s canvas or a photographer’s lens. If your trip to or across India leaves you with too short a time to visit too many metro cities, choose Kolkata. You won’t be disappointed. Once known as the capital of British India, Kolkata has become a melting pot of cultures not only from all across India but from all around the world. The unique intermingling of disparate communities took place due to Kolkata’s importance as a port city during British rule, and was sustained afterwards as entire linguistic, ethnical, national and religious communities made the city their home. The city houses, as part of its 4.5 million inhabitants, Chinese, Jewish, Zoroastrian, Armenian, Tibetan and Greek communities, apart from citizens of every other state in India. All of them have left their mark on the very soul of the city, visible today in its architecture, cuisine, cultural practices, celebrations and even the language. Every beautiful city in the world is a living museum: a breathtaking collection of artwork we barely notice in our day to day lives, but perhaps Kolkata is even more so. With its eclectic mixture of influences and heritage, the city, apart from being the gateway to the spell-binding beauty of Eastern India, is a sheer tourist’s delight. Hold on for dear life as we plunge headfirst into the lives and times and must-visit spots of this beautiful, unpredictable, whimsical city. History Kolkata’s ancient heritage has its roots in its present-day form as a part of three villages called Sutanuti, Govindapur and Kalikata, all situated on the eastern side of the Hooghly River, years before India was to be become a British colony. All of them, one a fishing community and the other a weavers’ hamlet, were part of an enormous “jagirdari” or estate owned by the then-ruling Mughals. Once under the reign of the Sabarna Roy Choudhuri family of zamindars, or landowners who were a part of the existing nobility, the villages were then transferred to the administration of the East India Company on its arrival at the Hooghly shores. These three would go on to be integrated into today’s Kolkata, with the name taken from the last of the villages. Purported to have been “discovered” by Job Charnock, an administrator of the English East India Company, around 1690, the actual area where Kolkata is situated has been proved to be inhabited for over two millennia. The archaeological site where these findings have been made, Chandrakutegarh, is in itself a highly interesting location to visit. Within little over a dozen years, the British had turned these hamlets into a fortified base for their trading operations. Thus came into existence Fort William, the enormous fortress situated on the eastern side of the Hooghly along present-day Red Road. The fort was site of a bloody battle between the Nawab Siraj ud-Daulah, possibly the best-loved ruler of the city, and the British forces in 1756. By 1765, the city had become a bastion of British rule in India, and soon became a Presidency City, along with Madras (present-day Chennai) and Bombay (now known as Mumbai), two of India’s current metro cities. By the dawn of the 19th century, Kolkata, or Calcutta as it was then called, had become a thriving city, filled with grand buildings, resident zamindars along every other road and huge public buildings that stand to this day. The city developed rapidly, becoming not only the administrative capital of British India but one of its commercial hubs as well. In fact, the opium trade that informed the Opium Wars between China and Britain, and led to the capture and development of Afghanistan, was carried out from its ports- a fact that illustrates the rich, complicated and often bizarre history of the city. Initially a racially divided town- the weight of imperialistic high-handedness is indeed difficult to escape- the unique intermingling of cultures in Calcutta soon led to the rise of the “babu” class, a certain section of Western-educated, fashionable, upper-class and urbane Indians, a class which Bengal is identified with to this day. On the one hand, members of this class were bureaucrats in British India, and more often than not Anglophiles, being more John Bull than Indian; on the other, it is this class that gave rise to the Bengal Renaissance that triggered massive social reform and upheaval in urban and eventually rural India. Due to this multi-cultural coalescence, Calcutta became the centre of literary, artistic, theatrical and eventually, much, much later, film movements, giving birth to an identity of the city as the cultural and artistic capital of India. This is also the development in thought and intellectual achievement that eventually led to Calcutta becoming a centre of nationalism in 20th century India. The 1905 Bengal Partition Movement was a landmark in the history of Kolkata. It has filtered through the cultural psyche of the city; you can see its remnants in the names of places that recount the heroes and martyrs of the movement, in the state holidays and the still-enduring temper of political and ideological resistance that is very much a part of the student culture of Bengal. The movement cost the city its place as the British capital, however, and as the Independence movement progressed, it became the centre of political radicalism. As the world entered the cataclysmic Second World War, Calcutta, too, could not remain undisturbed: the city spotted an influx of immigrants from all over the world, including Armenians and Jews who flocked to Calcutta, joining the already-existing international community of Chinese businessmen and Parsis that form only a part of the incredibly ethnically and religiously diverse population of present-day Kolkata. The city was bombed by the Japanese on several occasions; a famine took the lives of millions in 1943, and by 1946, the secular history of the city was severely damaged due to the violent communal clashes that witnessed the deaths of over 4000 people. The partition was a scar on the psyche of the city: millions of its inhabitants moved to the newly-created East Pakistan, while millions more moved in, and the history of Calcutta, its proud tradition of tolerance and unity, would never be the same again. Kolkata has never been a city to stand still. Post-Independence, repeated upheavals created the crest-and-trough dynamic of the city that characterises so much of its history. The 1960s and 1970s were trying times for a city weary with time and violence; famously, in 1985, the City of Palaces was referred to as a “Dying City” by then-Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. There is no doubt that the economic stagnation that warped Kolkata’s growth for decades left the city in tatters: Kolkata has some of the highest number of homless households in the country. A walk through the city’s streets, whether in lower-income areas or otherwise, can come as a shock to many. So is that, then, the future of Kolkata: a decaying city falling to pieces, being held together by pride and sheer defiance? Or is a new Kolkata arising out of what has been dubbed the “ashes” of what the city once was, and could have been? Perhaps the answer is neither. Perhaps the answer simply is that the dormant spirit of Kolkata had simply been slumbering, and has now woken, struggling to lift itself, but struggling nonetheless. And perhaps that is what is so peculiar about the city of Kolkata, so strangely captivating: it is a city that never stops moving, never stops trying to define and redefine itself through the new that is born in every corner and the old that still survives. And this is precisely what makes the city an enduring attraction for tourist, scholars, artists, writers and students alike. Geography The vast urban centre and suburbs of Kolkata sit sprawling along a north-south axis on the east bank of the Hooghly River with the lower part of the Ganges Delta in eastern India. The metropolis is spread over almost 2,000 kilometres, and incorporates within itself external districts of West Bengal as well, some of which spill over across the Hooghly. The east-west dimension is narrower, being encircled within the Hooghly in the west to the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass in the east. Easier to categorise are the generally recognised divisions of North, South and Central Kolkata, each area being home to a unique, if somewhat heterogeneous cultures. North Kolkatais the oldest section of the city; the three villages were all situated along the areas of Shova Bazar and Bagh Bazar in this very area. It is common to walk through its characteristically narrow lanes and find structures that are around 200 years old, some as well maintained as they were in their heyday, some in disrepair and some in ruins. However, this is the bastion of the truly “Bengali”, babu culture of Kolkata: the palatial houses lent Kolkata its nickname, the City of Palaces; the black-and-white chequered floors, stained-glass windows with wooden blinds and the thriving sense of stormy political discussion, hand-pulled rickshaws, strains of the songs by Tagore and afternoon tea are all instantly identifiable as quintessentially Bengali. The Chitpur, Cossipur and Dum Dum areas, the latter being the location of the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International airport, are some of the city’s busiest and most crowded, a magic place where luxury cars, hand-pulled carts, trams and buses all jostle for space in the narrow streets. Then there is Shyambazar, with its enormous 5-point crossing with a statue of Bengal’s most beloved revolutionary leader, Netaji, towering majestically over the city. The south, on the other hand, is a different story. Developed largely after Independence, it features a more urban, sophisticated, quieter vibe. The upscale clubs of Kolkata, such as the Tolly, the Rotary and the Bengal clubs are all situated here, as are numerous malls, including the luxury Quest Mall and South City, a popular hangout destination for the youth. The southern borders of the city are ever-expanding into areas such as New Town, and the IT hub of Sector 5, and merging with the east, as a parallel township, complete with its own posh areas of 5-star hotels, theme parks and housing estates, grow up around Kolkata in Salt Lake. The sometimes opposing forces of the north and south meet in central Kolkata, geographically and culturally, in addition to its own, strange juxtaposition of the old and the new. It hosts the city’s business district, and a large number of administrative offices, as well as being the area of the city most often frequented by national and international tourists. The location is a surprising mix of business, the relaxing, the educational and the entertaining, housing libraries (including the British Council and the American Library), art galleries, upscale restaurants and hotels, tourist destinations such as Princep Ghat on the Hooghly and the grand Victoria Memorial, and most of the city’s offices. A walk through one of the intricately connected roads can take you from the well-beloved New Market that shoppers throng to, to the Writers’ Building, once the seat of the Government of West Bengal. The districts of Esplanade and Maidan are situated here. The city is a gateway to most of the states of Eastern India, and is indeed both the largest and most populous city in that area. It connects India to the rest of Bengal, Sikkim and all the difficult-to-access north-eastern states, and is therefore not only a travel destination but also a base to explore the cultural and natural splendour of these other states. Much of West Bengal’s own unparalleled natural riches, such as the Sunderbans Gangetic Delta, the vast, hilly terrains of the Purulia and Bankura district and the tranquil beauty of the Himalayan foot hills in North Bengal are all reached via this city. Kolkata itself, although under attack from the urban menace of population and pollution, is home to treasures of natural beauty, one of which is the East Kolkata Wetlands, bordering the Salt Lake area of the city, which has been declared to be an area of “international importance.” The Hooghly River, the Dhakuria Lake, the Botanical Gardens on the eastern fringes of the city and the vast Maidan area are only a few of the oases of natural beauty dotted throughout the city. Climate Kolkata has a humid, tropical, wet and dry climate. The city experiences quite extreme changes in temperature, with the mercury varying greatly not only from month to month but within the day itself. The annual mean temperature is 26.8 °C (80.2 °F), but this means very little as the mercury, far from hovering anywhere around it, has ranges of up to ten degrees in difference in daytime and night time temperatures. The monthly mean temperatures vary from 19–30 °C (66–86 °F). Summers, lasting from March to June are hot and humid. The temperature hovers in the mid-thirties range on the Celsius scale but can go up to 40 degrees in May and June, the former being the hottest month in which temperatures can soar from 27 to 37 °C (81–99 °F). While travelling in these conditions can be sweltering, especially for those not used to the weather of the sub-continent, a unique natural phenomenon of the city of this time is the kal baisakhi, called the norwester in English. Often, in April and May, the city experiences violent thunderstorms, with wind speeds reaching up to 90 km per hour, and severe cyclonic rainfall. The beauty of these storms is indescribable: the Bengal rural landscapes are awash with the sway of nature that is frightening and exhilarating at the same time. The dusty gusts and hail that they are accompanied by bring cool relief from the heat, and these storms are fond memories for many of those who live or grow up in Kolkata. The rainy season, or the monsoon, follows from mid-June to September. The rains are long, arduous and heavy; July and August see the worst of it, with almost 1300 mm of rainfall and hot, humid, sticky weather. Winter in the city lasts for about two-and-a-half months, from mid-November to mid-February, with the mercury dipping to 9–11 °C (48–52 °F) in December. January, however, is the coldest month and can experience temperatures anywhere between 12–23 °C (54–73 °F). Winter is definitely the best time to visit Kolkata, as the city with its love of festivities gears up to celebrate Christmas, New Year and other festivals. The weather is very pleasant, with clear, sunny days predominating. Health Warning Pollution is a major risk factor in Kolkata. Smog and haze are common occurrences. Tourists are advised to carry masks with them, or buy them in medical centres in Kolkata. Time Zone Kolkata falls under the GMT+5:30 time zone. Language The native language of Kolkata is Bengali, although Hindi is frequently heard and many people can communicate in broken English. The use of English is widespread and almost the norm in the more sophisticated areas and venues in the city. It is always a good idea to learn a little basic Bengali beforehand, or to have a trusted guide with you. Stay Connected Kolkata has excellent cell phone and telephone services. Most major network providers will let you take a temporary local card and create an account. Public phone booths for national (Kolkata’s code is 033) and international calls (India’s code: +91) are available. Internet cafes are spread in their hundreds all over the city; they all require you to show identity proof. Most hotels and malls have WiFi hot spots. How to Get There By air: The Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport (also known as the Dum Dum Airport, after the area of the city it is located in), is situated on Jessore Road on the eastern fringes of the city, at a distance of about 18 km from Central Kolkata. The airport is connected to all major cities in India, including the other metros of New Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai and Bangalore, as well as smaller cities in India. Internationally, it is a major hub for air traffic, not only in the Indian subcontinent but the entirety of South East Asia, including Bhutan, China, Singapore, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. It can be reached, directly as well as indirectly, from over a hundred major cities all across the globe, with services from dozens of different major service providers from Europe and Asia. These include: Lufthansa, Etihad, Emirates, Thai Airways and Singapore Airlines. The airport is well-connected by road to all parts of the city, with air-conditioned Volvo bus services, prepaid Ola and MERU taxis (AC, again) as well as the ordinary yellow taxis of Kolkata. The fare can be anywhere between 150-250 INR, depending on the distance, for taxis, and up to 60 INR for the buses. The routes are specified in charts available at counters; enquiry always helps, if you are not sure of your destination, or of the route. There are taxi stands outside both terminals, and the buses are parked outside the arrival gate at the domestic terminal, about 800 metres to the left of the international terminal’s arrival gate. The company taxi cabs and the buses are the best way to avoid the frankly rather alarming taxi touts, who may try to persuade you that the buses are not operable any more, that the taxi cabs don’t know the routes or charge too much, and other equally apocalyptic warnings. Ignoring is the best option here. The airport is also connected by the underground Metro rail services from Dum Dum. A new rail link has opened up that connects the airport to the Circular Rail Station, from the airport’s very own “Biman Bandar” station. By rail: Kolkata is well connected by rail to almost all the major stations in India in all corners of the country. It is a major junction in both Eastern India and West Bengal for intra-state connections. It is also a major gateway to North-Eastern India. Howrah Station is the major long-distance railway station for the city. Situated across the Hooghly in the adjoining city of Howrah, it is linked to the city by the majestic Howrah Bridge, one of the city’s most recognisable landmarks. With 26 platforms, it is one of the busiest railway stations in terms of daily traffic as well as number of trains connected. There are two complexes within the station premises; platforms 17 to 26 are in the more modern New Complex. A covered waiting area, as well as waiting and retiring rooms, is available in the complex. A Yatri Niwas (Travellers’ Lodge) with dormitory, single room and double rooms are available as well for short-term stays. The station provides the facility of vehicular carriageways that allow passengers to disembark from their modes of transportation near the actual rail compartments. One can be ferried across the Hooghly for 5 INR to Babu Ghat, which is connected to the central part of the city by literally dozens of bus routes, yellow taxis and even the quintessentially Kolkatan hand-pulled rickshaw. The station is also connected to the city directly by Volvo bus routes, a safe and comfortable mode of travel, if somewhat more expensive, and again, enquiring at the counter, or observing the routes displayed on the digital boards of the bus will help you find your destination’s route. Yellow cabs are plentiful. Both pre-paid and post-paid services are available; the former is a better option, as it reduces the chances of unseemly haggling, but beware of touts and overpriced metres. The best option is to consult the charts available at counters. Sealdah Railway station handles local trains, as well as a large number of long-distance trains. A huge number of buses and taxis ply between this station, situated in the heart of Kolkata, bordering the northern parts of the city, and Central Kolkata. Pre-paid taxis are the best option; the rates are fixed and the touts are politer! The pre-paid taxi stand is situated outside the station's main entrance, not the one within the complex. Kolkata Railway station came into operation about ten years ago. It is very well-maintained and accommodates both local and long-distance trains, rerouted from Sealdah. Uniquely, it is also one of the terminals for the international Maitree Express, a train that runs between Kolkata and Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. It is also connected to the Kolkata Airport. Waiting rooms and retiring rooms are available for use by passengers. The station is very well connected via numerous bus routes to the central part of the city. A taxi-stand is also functioning. Santragachi Railway station is situated in the twin-city of Howrah. Trains from Ajmer in Rajasthan, Porbandar in Gujarat and Nanded in Maharashtra terminate here, as well as a Vivek Express to Mangalore Central station. Shalimar Railway station: A comparatively smaller station handling fewer trains. The Eastern Railway and South Eastern Railway provide train services to and from Central, North, North-East, West and South India between them. They also cover most of West Bengal. Exact routes and train timings maybe checked on the Indian Railways official website. By bus The most important bus stop in the city, that serves intrastate, interstate as well as international passengers, is the Esplanade bus stop, situated in the district of the same name at the centre of the city. There are many options for the route between Kolkata and Bangladesh, with private bus companies, as well as the Road Transport Corporations of both countries offering services. The most common route is the one from Dhaka to Kolkata that passes through the Haridaspur / Benapole border post. The journey typically lasts for twelve hours. For fares and timetables, it is best to check the concerned government websites. Please note the visas are required, as would be for travel via plane or rail. It is also important to be careful of inflated prices, touts of transportation mediums as well as the current exchange rates for INR- Bangladesh currency. One can also travel to or from north-eastern India via Bangladesh as bus travel to and from some points is faster as well as more convenient that way. Visas are required for both entering the neighbouring country as well as re-entry to India. How to Get Around By Road: Taxis: Kolkata has a variety of taxis plying on its roads: its familiar yellow Ambassador taxi cabs which are practically an institution in the city, white and blue “No Refusal” taxis and air-conditioned “Same Fare” taxis. They each come with their own conditions, however: the first kind may refuse you, the second kind is not supposed to but may do so anyway and the third kind actually charges 25% extra if you use the air conditioning! Choose the one that seems like the best compromise. There are also app-based taxis like Ola Cabs, Meru Cabs and Uber available. One needs to download the apps for these to work. These are quite safe and dependable. By Rail: Kolkata’s Metro rail has a single route in the city, on its north-south axis, from Dum Dum to New Garia. Trains run every six minutes on weekdays, from 7 AM to 9:45 PM and 15 minutes on Sundays, from 10 AM- 9:45 PM. This is certainly the fastest, cleanest, least crowded (except in peak hours!) and most smoothly functioning of all the modes of transportation available in Kolkata. Special tourist smart cards are available; please enquire at counters for details. The Calcutta Tramways is the only one of its kind in the country. Many of the routes have now been decommissioned, but the trams still thrive in North Kolkata, the oldest of Kolkata’s several districts. It’s a leisurely way of travelling through the city, but as they are electrified, they are the most eco-friendly choice, and are so quintessentially Kolkatan that at least one ride is an absolute must for every tourist. The network includes 21 Routes across the city, going to Tollygunge, Ballygunge, Shyambazar and Park Circus. An extensive and electrified suburban rail network connects various parts of the city and includes the Circular Railway that circumnavigates the city. They can be quite crowded, depending on the route and the timings. Please be advised that all the train services, except the trams, have special “Ladies’” sections where men are discouraged from occupying seats. By bus: The buses of Kolkata add to the madness that goes on in its streets. The bus network in the city, including private blue-and-yellow buses, inter-connecting shuttles of the Calcutta Tramways Company, air-conditioned Volvo routes, JNNURM, Calcutta State Transport Corporation, red-and-yellow “mini” buses as well as West Bengal Surface Transport Corporation buses is, to say the least, extensive! Practically every part of the city is accessible through them. The buses are certainly the cheapest mode available, if not always the most comfortable or the most comprehensive to an outsider. The routes are written along the sides, with the terminal points in large lettering. Conductors constantly yell out the routes, although it can be a while before you get used to understanding them! They are usually quite friendly, though: just flag one down and hop on and the conductor as well as the passengers can help you out. By auto-rickshaw: (They’re a kind of tuk-tuk thing, if you don’t know what they are.) Kolkata features point-to-point auto rickshaw services along fixed routes, which one must share with up to 4 other passengers. Prices, much cheaper than taxis although higher than buses, are determined by length of routes. Exact change is preferred by the drivers. By rickshaw: Hand-pulled and cycle rickshaws operate in virtually all parts of the city. Each association of rickshaws has a certain region which they limit themselves to, areas outside that being covered by other associations. Prices are fixed by individual associations and can vary from place to place as well as by weather conditions and time of night, albeit not very significantly. The rickshaws can carry two adults at a time. By ferry: A slow ride on the Hooghly might just be the tonic you need. The river is quite easily the lifeline of Kolkata; it lends to the city much of its unique history and culture. Points called Ghats are established on the banks from where you can find services for routes to places on both sides of the bank in large boats called launches to small motorized vessels. Hiring a car: A rather expensive but completely hassle-free method of travel, this arrangement allows one to have great flexibility in terms of time and place of travel. Services are prepaid and prices are negotiable. They can vary depending on the kind of car hired, as well as the length of time it is hired for. Rental agencies, available in conjunction with hotels, can provide you with cars as well as drivers. Safety Kolkata is generally quite a safe city; however, having a local tour guide who can spot trouble easily is a great option. One must beware of pickpockets in crowded areas: a very common nuisance in the city. The safety of women, especially foreigners, is an important issue. Asking or accepting lifts from strangers is to be strictly avoided. Areas in the vicinity of hotels like ITC, or in or around Park Street, are quite secure for foreign tourists. Air pollution is a major problem. Carry masks in the luggage, if possible. List of Consulates: Bangladesh: Circus Avenue. Phone: +91 33 2290 5208, +91 33 2290 5209. United Kingdom: 1A Ho Chi Minh Sarani. Phone: +91 33 2288 5173/ 76. United States: 5/1, Ho Chi Minh Sarani. Phone: +91 33 3984 2400. Can be reached on Facebook. France, 26 Park Mansions, Park Street. Germany, 1 Hastings Park Rd, Alipore. Phone: +91 33 2479 1141/2, +91 33 2479 2150. China, EC-72, Sector I, Salt Lake City. Phone: +91 33 4004 8169. Japan: 55, M. N. Sen Lane, Tollygunge. Italy: 3, Raja Santosh Road, Alipore. Phone: +91 33 2479 2414/26. Greece: 21 Camac Street. Please be sure to enquire at the websites of all the listed consulates, in case the number or the address has changed. Where to Stay and Dine Kolkata has a large number of excellent hotels. Here is a list of some of them, arranged location-wise: Esplanade: Esplanade Chambers: The place to go to when on a budget, the hotel premises are clean, quiet and neat. Breakfast is complementary and rates for both singles and doubles are around 1K INR. Astoria Hotel: One of Kolkata’s oldest hotels, it provides clean and spacious rooms at reasonable rates. The service quality is excellent. Bawa Watson Spa'o'tel: Located on Sudder Street, a place known for the many backpackers’ dens, this is a new hotel that has established its reputation as one of the best in amenities and services. One is guaranteed a luxurious stay. Fairlawn Hotel: Another colonial-era establishment, it is known for its beer garden. A very charming and elegant spot for a comfortable stay. Oberoi Grand Hotel: The Grand is, quite fittingly, one of Kolkata’s grandest, and certainly its oldest luxury hotel. Situated across an entire block, the hotel is a luxurious retreat from the busy environs of its location. The glamorous hotel is one of the nation’s best and busiest and guarantees a great stay. Maidan: Casa Fortuna Hotel: a comparatively newer, but very elegant establishment. The Senator: founded by one of Kolkata’s oldest business magnate groups, this is an extremely comfortable temporary residence. The Park Hotel: Situated right next to Oxford Bookstore, its elegant and traditional ambience sets the tone for the regularly well-rated service and amenities. Peerless Inn: Another up-market destination on Park Street. South Kolkata: The Best Inn: A very reasonably-priced location, the inn has well-maintained air-conditioned rooms with internet connectivity and well-rated services. It charges around 2000 INR for single rooms, and up to 3000 INR for double. The Red Carpet: A comfortable establishment in a quiet and safe neighbourhood, the hotel is a good mid-range stayover destination. Park Prime: Earlier known as the Chrome Hotel, it is very centrally located and is one of the best in the city. Bodhi Tree Boutique Guesthouse: A quiet and understated place, but has a very commendable service quality. Hotel Hindustan International: An upscale hotel with good facilities and great service. Hotel Taj Bengal: One of Kolkata’s most luxurious hotels, it is part of the famous Taj Group and has the ambience, staffing and services to match. North Kolkata Ashoka Hotel: Situated close to Sealdah station, it is a mid-range hotel that is suitable for backpackers and travelers on a budget. Mahabodhi Society of India: One of the cheapest, safest and most unique places to stay in Kolkata. There are dormitory style rooms in the guest house, which is a part of a Buddhist monastery. An oasis of calm amidst the chaos of the city. East Kolkata Alcove Guest House & Service Apartment, and NIPS Serviced Apartments: Both provide facilities for both long and short stays for those who are in the city to work. The rooms are spacious, fully air-conditioned and possess wifi connectivity. They also provide complementary breakfasts. Situated near the IT Sector, they are very well connected to other parts of the city while staying apart from the noise, bustle and pollution. The cost is also lower than most hotels. Check their websites for details! NRI Residency is a similar accommodation, but located farther away. Harry Guest House: A small, homely and very comfortable guesthouse at reasonable rates. Hotel The Sojourn: upscale hotel in Salt Lake City, suitable for mid-range budgets. Hyatt Regency: another of the very best, it is an extremely modern hotel with very stylish interiors and extremely high-quality services. ITC Sonar Bangla: One of the highest-quality hotels owned by the ITC group, frequently used by dignitaries and foreign officials. Swissotel: A five-star luxury hotel situated near the airport, it is the home of Sky Lounge, voted to be one of the country’s best. Howrah: Fortune Park Panchwati: A resort-style hotel situated in quiet rural surroundings. Very upscale. Kolkata has countless excellent restaurants serving national and international cuisine. The city has a long tradition of enjoying food and celebrating it. Many renowned hotels here date from the early 20th century. Here are some of the best restaurants in the city, arranged location-wise: Esplanade Blue Sky Café: The place to go to on a budget, the café provides Indian and Western food at reasonable prices. The service is quite good. Nizam's: A century-old eatery in Calcutta, it put “Mughlai” food on the map and created Kolkata’s love story with biriyani and Kathi rolls. Still going as strong as ever, it is nothing short of an institution in Kolkata. Flury's: Another eatery one identifies with Kolkata’s unique history, Flury’s is an upscale bakery situated on Park Street. It serves breakfast as well as meals, at slightly higher prices. The services are quick and efficient, the food is outstanding and the ambience is a fusion of the modern with Colonial Kolkata. It is very popular with foreign tourists. Gangaur: Named after a festival in Rajasthan, it serves excellent Rajasthani cuisine (which is completely vegetarian). An age-old, reputed institution. Sub-Zero: Ice cream parlour situated right next to Gangaur. Delectable fare! Oasis: Traditional upscale restaurant with Western cuisine. KFC: The international brand has wound its way through many places in Kolkata, including Park Street. McDonald’s: A similar story to KFC. The quality of service and food are both very good. Kwality: Known for its North-Indian food, especially the tandoori items. Yet another institution of Park Street. The impeccably uniformed waiters are an iconic symbol of Kolkata’s tryst with food! Mocambo: You should know that most of the restaurants listed here are institutions of Kolkata that have been around for years! Mocambo is no exception. Well-rounded menu at extremely reasonable prices amidst an upscale atmosphere. Peter Cat: An extremely popular eating-out destination in the city, especially in the run-up to Christmas, it is famed for its “chello kebabs”, a home invention. It serves Indian, Continental and an ecelectic mixture of both. Trinca’s: Bar and restaurant on Park Street. Very established institution. Moulin Rouge: a restaurant that is NOT the night club in Paris, but is extremely nice none the less. Waldorf: Very established Chinese restaurant. Aheli, in Peerless Inn Hotel: The restaurant creates an authentic Bengali “babu” atmosphere with its cuisine and servicing style. Excellent ambience. Ban Thai, Oberoi Grand: Very exclusive Thai restaurant, acknowledged as the best in the country. Drinks are served as well. Please not that it is open only for dinner on weekdays, from 7PM to 11:30PM, but it is open for lunch as well, from 12:30PM to 3PM, on the weekends. Rallis: Apart from various kinds of snacks, it is very well known for its milk shakes! Cha Bar: A tea/coffee/snack bar in a bookstore: it’s a match made in geek heaven. The décor is excellent and the food is just as good. Fairlawn Beer Garden: A famously whimsical place that serves only beer! Olypub: Yet another institution of Park Street, it is very reasonable and hence popular with students. Streetlife: Situated in the Park Hotel, it is an upscale bar with great food and an even better vibe. South Kolkata: Food courts of malls like Quest, Forum, South City and Hiland Park: They have excellent, premier restaurants as part of their food courts, as well as separately. These include, for South City: Mainland China Restaurant, Flame & Grill, Zara The Tapas Bar and Restaurant, Benjarong, Sarson and Subway. Quest has outlets for Chili’s, Bombay Brasserie, Smoke House Deli and Yautcha Kolkata. Ta’am: Situated next to Deshapriya Park, an area home to many tiny indie cafes with a casual atmosphere, this is a premier Indian restaurant. Don Giovanni's: Sumptuous Italian food in an elegant ambience. Bhojohari Manna: Traditional Bengali food, sweets and drinks with innovative twists. 6 Ballygunge Place nearby is a more posh restaurant that serves similar cuisine. Mirch Masala: Punjabi food! Mamma Mia! Gelato outlet, one of several in the city, appropriately situated right next to a Baskin Robin’s. Banana Leaf: A truly South Indian restaurant that preserves the original flavour of southern cuisine. Tamarind: Another South Indian restaurant, but one that serves non-vegetarian fare! Dishes from Coorg, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Jimmy's Kitchen: Excellent Chinese food! Shiraz Golden Restaurant: Mughlai food in Kolkata fashion. Hatari: A comparatively new restaurant that has already established its reputation as one of the best Indian food fare in the city. North Kolkata: The area has traditional cuisine in tiny little shops that are filled with surprising flavours! Allen Kitchen: founded in the 19th century, it serves rich Afghan fried fare. Ghazab: posh restaurant that serves North Indian food. Sutanuti Junction: Serves both continental and Indian fare. Madras Tiffin: Tiny place that serves delectable South Indian fare! All the last three places are located within ten feet of each other. Golbari: Very reasonably priced place known for its outrageously delicious Kosha Mangsho (a meat preparation). Mitra Café: Almost a hundred years old, the café has been recently renovated to provide quintessential Kolkatan street food. Indian Coffee House: a place that has had a romance with North Kolkata, with poems and songs dedicated to it! Situated right opposite Presidency University, it is a favourite haunt of students and intellectuals and still preserves an atmosphere of pre-Independence Kolkata. Very reasonably priced. Paramount Juice Shop: The shop that has been serving Students of Presidency University for over fifty years, it serves delicious, freshly squeezed juices at very reasonable prices. Chinese Breakfast: One must be an early riser to have breakfast here, an area near Poddar Court. Small Chinese stalls sell steamed and fried momos in soups, noodles in gravy and other selected fare. An unparalleled street food experience. East Kolkata: The outlets here are mostly extremely upmarket. China Town: The area has a number of glamorous restaurants as well as unusual street food! Oudh 1590: Upmarket restaurant that serves scrumptious and quite reasonably priced Mughlai fare. The restaurant has a historical theme and recreates the atmosphere very successfully. City Centre I in Salt Lake has a number of glamorous restaurants including Afraa Deli, Copper Chimney and Haka. City Centre II in Newtown has the following restaurants: Masseka, The Orient and Zion Lounge. Mani Square houses Khandani Rajdhani and Machan for Indian cuisine, The Shack for Goan-Portuguese food and Mio Amore for an Italian and Mediterranean palate. Axis Mall and Hiland Park mall have a good selection as well. Silver Spring Arcade houses Mainland China, Masque, Oh! Calcutta and Sigree. Charnock's: a landmark of Salt Lake City, it serves multi-ethnic cuisine amidst an elegant atmosphere of Bengali “babu” culture. Howrah Avni Riverside Mall has a premium food court, with Mainland China, Machan and others. Urban Kadai: Mouth-watering North Indian street food. Wow! Momo: an vast array of Tibetan fare. Chunky’s: A great café serving Italian cuisine. Places to Visit So what kind of magic awaits the wary traveller in the City of Joy? The sprawling metropolis hides, within its crowded belly of buildings and alleyways, jewels of surprise and excitement. Central Kolkata is jam-packed with sites if interest, but the north and the south are no less prolific. Here are some of the sites that are a must-visit for anyone visiting this city, with a city-wide overview, and arranged further district-wise. Esplanade: The area that is considered the heart of Kolkata is more-or less a well-preserved colonial monument, illustrating perfectly Kolkata’s peculiarly unique juxtaposition of the modern and the antique. Along with being the central business district of Kolkata, it is also filled with Raj-era memories, housing within itself the New Market and the area around it that is a bargain-shopper and collector’s heaven, the massive Writer’s Building (incidentally said to be haunted), the equally sprawling Grand Hotel that takes up an entire street front, as well as the Shaheed Minar (once known as the Ochterlony Monument), the Indian Museum, the race course and the enormous British fortified citadel of Fort William. How to Get to Esplanade Kolkata : If you’re staying in that area, then we imagine just popping out of your hotel and going for a walk will suffice. If you’re not, however, here are a few ways to get to Esplanade: By road: Esplanade is the hub of bus routes in the city. Being such a centrally located area, it has buses literally from all over the city, as well as the state, passing through or terminating their routes there. Most buses in the city carry placards in their front mirrors, or writing on the side, advertising their routes; alternately, you can just ask the conductors. Look for buses that state “Esplanade” or “Babughat” on the sides: these are the two important bus stops in the area. The Babughat bus stop has intra-state as well as local routes, while the Esplanade bus stop has inter-state and international routes from Bhutan and Bangladesh as well. By rail: Local train (EMU) is yet another option, albeit not a recommended one for foreign travellers unused to crowds! Babu ghat and Eden Garden are the nearby stations; the latter, incidentally, is named after the international cricket grounds of Eden Gardens situated nearby. Circular rail is another option; the BBD Bagh (or Dalhousie) station and the Strand Road station are available as well. The underground Metro rail service is the third and perhaps the most comfortable option for travellers. Trains run every 5-7 minutes on weekdays and every 10-15 minutes on weekends. The minimum price is 5 INR. Services are available from 6:45AM to 10:45PM from Monday to Saturday and 2PM to 9:45PM on Sunday. The area has its own station, Esplanade. Additionally, the Chandni Chowk and Central (situated close to the Calcutta Medical College and College Square areas) stations also open to areas close by, while the Park Street station opens to Mother Teresa Sarani above ground, once again situated close to the area. It is to be noted that there is only one metro route which runs along the city from north to south, although more are being built. Thus, to reach your destination, you may need to change to other modes of transport anyway, although considering how compact this particular district is, a short walk should be enough in this case. How to Get Around: Walk, walk, walk. The entire stretch between the Esplanade and Park Street stations is one long, wide footpath; it opens on to Park Street at one end and the entrance to New Market and Hogg Market at the other. The Indian Museum is situated in between. It is a beautiful, shadowed stretch, some under the vast portico of the Grand Hotel, filled with tiny little book shops and rather larger hawker’s stalls. It is unapologetically, unfailingly noisy: all the charm of Kolkata without most of the annoyance. Soak in the spirit! Otherwise, you may take a ferry from Babu Ghat or Fairlie ghat to head out elsewhere. Places to See: BBD Bagh: The Benoy-Badal-Dinesh Bagh, initially named the Dalhousie Square, is truly the heartland of Kolkata, having existed since the days preceding the British Raj as “Dihi Kolkata”. The large tank in the centre of the square, known as Lal Dighi (literally, red pond) has seen history striding through the city, from the days when Dalhousie square was the centre of the White Town in British Calcutta, to the time it was renamed after three martyrs of the Indian Freedom Struggle. Throughout it all, it has remained the administrative centre of Kolkata. B.B.D. Bagh has often been considered to be one of the most significant, concentrated zones of typical British colonial architecture in the world. The famous Writers’ Building, with its iconic red-brick façade, once the seat of government, borders the square, as do numerous other buildings housing hundreds of enterprises. The square is noisy, busy and crowded; it is a place to be immersed in the everyday atmosphere of city dwellers going about their business. The square is steeped in history and is one of the city’s iconic landmarks. Writer's Building, Lions Range. The 150-metre front of this iconic building stretches from one end of the northern bank of Lal Dighi, to the other. The West Bengal government’s administrative and bureaucratic departments are housed here. A statue of Minerva, the Roman Goddess of Wisdom, stands tall on the central pediments, while four clusters of sculptures grace the terrace. Each cluster has a presiding deity from the classical pantheon of divinity associated with it and are named accordingly; thus, the one named “Agriculture” has Demeter, the one called “Justice” has Zeus with his scales, the one called “Commerce” is dedicated to Hermes while Athena presides over “Science”. Each statue has by its side a European and an Indian who follow the represented path. The building also has a 128-foot long veranda lined with Ionic columns of more than thirty feet. The building is therefore as important an artistic landmark in the city as it is a monument of marked political significance. General Post Office: The imposing General Post Office is located to the west of the square, and is renowned for its imposing white-marble façade, with an enormous clock mounted on top. A fine example of the Colonial era architecture in Kolkata (having been built in 1868), its tall pillars, built in the Ionic-Corinthian style, inspire quite as much awe as the vast sweep of stairs leading up to its doors, and its high, doomed ceiling, more than 220 feet high. The building is also home to a museum with a collection of artefacts, stamps and information about the India postal system: a philatelist’s heaven. The Raj Bhavan (Once called the Government house, the Bhavan is the current residence of the Governor of the state. The building was modelled on Keddleston Hall situated in Derbyshire, England: the seat of the Curzon family. The massive building, one of the finest achievements of colonial architecture and grandest shows of colonial power, was built in a Neoclassical style modified with Baroque tendencies. The building itself covers an area of almost 84,000 sq. ft. and is surrounded by lawns stretching for 27 acres, with 6 gates in total, topped with sculptures of lions and sphinxes. One of the large halls, situated by curved corridors, within the wings of the house is the Banquet Hall, with rows of Doric pillars, serpentine chandeliers and black mahogany tables that have been graced by the likes of Queen Elizabeth. The Bhavan is also a museum in itself, carrying great works of sculpture and art. Entry to the Bhavan is sadly restricted; however, the area itself is more than worth a visit, if only for the scenic photo opportunities! Town Hall: To the west of Raj Bhavan stands the Town Hall. Another fine example of colonial artistry, the building was built in the Roman Doric style. The library is of note; it contains some extremely rare and valuable books not to be found anywhere else in the world. Used for social gatherings by Europeans in pre-Independence days, the town is now used for official gatherings and functions, having been restored to the height of its glory. Assembly House: Known in Bengali as the Bidhan Sabha Bhaban, it is the seat of the state legislature. Kolkata High Court. It is the oldest High Court in India, initially housed at Fort William. The building is identical to its inspiration: the Cloth Hall at Ypres in Belgium, complete wth its neo-Gothic style. St Andrew’s Church. The only Scottish church in Kolkata, it is also frequently referred to as the Kirk. The building, situated next to the tank in the B B D Bagh Square, has a main pedestal that rises to almost seven feet above ground level. The building has been built in the Grecian style, but is dominated by a standard steeple. The building has two porches, in the north and the south, supported by Doric pillars. The floor is of white marble. The church today is run by the Jesuits. St Andrew’s has been holding its bicentenary celebration since 2014. St. John's Church. Built in 1787, this church was one of the first buildings constructed by Europeans in British India. Its rich heritage is further heightened by the fact that it was modeled on the famous St Martin-in-the-Fields Church in London’s Trafalgar Square. Its beautiful stained glass windows are as famous and pleasing to the eye as the paintings it houses. The churchyard is also home to the tomb of Job Charnock, the man who was said to have “founded” Kolkata. St. John's Church, incredibly, is the third-oldest church of Kolkata, although it is the oldest Anglican Church of the eastern metropolis. Shaheed Minar: As with many landmarks of Kolkata, this 48-meter-high monument has undergone a name change. Formerly known as the Ochterlony Monument, the Shaheed Minar towers into the skyline of the city. The monument is so organically a part of the heritage of Kolkata that when its original intent- to honour the memory of a man who quashed Indian freedom movements- was repurposed for its current use- a dedication to the martyrs of the Freedom Movement- there was universal acceptance. Visitors are allowed to ascend to the very top of the Minar which provides a breathtaking panoramic view of the city and the river. The monument is a curious mixture of Egyptian, Syrian and Turkish architectural styles that is of interest to any architecture lover. In popular culture, the Monument has intricate ties with vocal, peaceful political movements that congregate in the surroundings. Indian Museum: Founded by the Asiatic Society of Bengal in 1814, the oldest and largest museum is India was also the first such museum in the continent! It has six sections, Art, Zoology, Economic Botany, Anthropology, Archaeology and Geology, organized into thirty five galleries. Its vast, rare collection includes the urn that is said to have contained the ashes of the Buddha, the three-lion symbol known as the Ashoka-pillar that became the official emblem of Independent India, a massive skeleton of an elephant, and Egyptian mummy, complete with sarcophagus! The museum remains closed on Mondays and has an entry fee of 10INR for Indians and 150INR for foreigners. Mother Teresa’s tomb at the Mother House, in Ripon Street: The world has paid obeisance to the global figure of peace, charity and service, Mother Teresa, whose mortal remains were laid to rest at this location. The House is also home to the endeavours of the Missionaries of Charity, an order formed by Mother Teresa in 1950. Nirmal Hriday, a hospice centre, Shanti Nagar, a home for those suffering from leprosy and Nirmala Shishu Bhavan, the orphanage and adoption centre are all located here. The homes regularly allow volunteers to work as part of the Charity. Do contact the "Mother House" at 54A, Lower Circular Road, Calcutta 700 014 to learn more about how you can help. South Park Street Cemetery: Located on Mother Teresa Street (formerly known as Park Street), the cemetery, like many cemeteries around the world, is said to be severely haunted! It is also purported to be the largest Christian cemetery outside Europe and North America and is certainly one of the earliest non-Church cemeteries in the world, dating back to 1768 at least. The final resting place for early British traders and settlers, the imposing tombs located in the cemetery are large, intricate and extremely grand, incorporating many Classical touches, a Gothic flavour and the Indo-Saracenic style. One of the oldest graves is numbered 363 and has an anonymous dedication, which has made it of immense interest to historians. The fact that Death truly levels all seems to be etched into the very epitaphs that honour a number of strange professions, ranging from cattle-breeder and jail-keeper to surgeon and post-master! Magen David Synagogue: This, along with Beth El Synagogue, is one of two operating worshipping places for the now-dwindling Jewish community in the city. Kolkata once had a thriving Jewish culture, with traders from Baghdad, Syria and beyond regularly settling in the city. Eventually, they established five separate synagogues in the city, of which the aforementioned two are still standing. The synagogue does not provide services anymore; however, it is extremely well maintained and of great historical interest. Its signature black-and-white marble floor supports beautiful, narrow, Gothic stained-glass windows and intricately decorated floral pillars brought in from France. The altar, behind the Rabbi’s podium, contains an Apse or a semi-circular dome onto which gleaming stars have been embedded to represent the heavens, while opposite it a large circular stained-glass window, glitters. The Jewish confectioner Nahoum's in New Market, in itself an erstwhile stronghold of the once-strong Armenian community in Kolkata, is a must-visit for most Kolkatans on Christmas Day. The unusual taste of their bakery products is as well known as its century-old history! It is this shop that one must acquire a permission slip from to visit the synagogue. Curzon Park and Millennium Park: The former is quite close to the Esplanade metro station, and the latter is close to the former! A clean, beautiful, well-maintained breathing space in the heart of the city, Millennium Park fronts the Hooghly. Take a detour here for a leisurely walk in the afternoon to clear your head. Maidan: The district of Maidan sits right next to Esplanade, the no-man’s land between the two being the entire Park Street area. It is named after the open green land of the 400 hectare park that sits like an emerald eye in the heart of Kolkata and is the largest urban park in India. The park borders the Hooghly in the west to the posh Chowringhee and Park Street in the east, and from the magnificent Victoria memorial in the south to the governor’s domain, the Raj Bhavan, and the sprawling Eden Gardens in the north. A Kolkatan’s favourite destination for an early morning jog, the area that is called the Lungs of Kolkata is famed for its hazy early winter mornings, accompanied by the tinkling sound of a tram making its way from Fort William across the park. The commanding Red Road cuts through the area, leading to Fort William, and further. There is perhaps nothing quite as therapeutic as a lush green parkland in the midst of concrete jungle, and a walk through Maidan proves to be just that. How to Get There: By rail: The Maidan area is accessible through its own, eponymous metro station, as well as the Park Street and Rabindra Sadan Metro stations. It can also be reached by disembarking at the Circular railway station of Eden Gardens, or the Princep Ghat Railway Station that is situated along the Kolkata Riverfront area of Fort William. By road: Numerous bus routes, all featuring the words “Park Street” as one of the stoppages, are available, as are yellow taxis and cab apps such as Ola and Meru. By water: The Babu Ghat jetty is situated close by. Places to See: Maidan. Initially intended to be a parade ground for British forces, the park that is Kolkata’s pride and joy sprawls over 5 square kilometres, giving shelter to favourite picnic spots, statues, scores of trees and the bastions of the Bengali’s favourite sport, football. The three titans of Kolkata Football, Mohan Bagan, East Bengal and Mohammedan Sporting clubs are all based here. Their legendary rivalry notwithstanding, they share the Maidan with many other clubs as well as athletes who practice there. It is indeed a sight to behold, these rows of dedicated doyens of sport, training for victory, ranked along in bright track suits on early winter mornings. The world-famous Eden Gardens, an international cricketing destination, tower over the horizon nearby. The Kolkata racecourse is also within walking distance, as is the Brigade Parade Ground, home to many a political movement. Fort William: The original Fort William, built in 1696, was destroyed in 1756, and the current structure was then constructed in its place in the shape of an irregular octagonal star. Named after William the Third, the fort and its premises occupy an area of over 70 hectares, standing where the village of Gobindapur once stood. The fort is the Eastern Headquarters of the Indian Army and is heavily guarded. Civilian entry is restricted. The Glorious Dead Cenotaph. One of the statues at Maidan, it deserves a special mention, as it commemorates the thousands of British and Commonwealth soldiers who lost their lives in the First World War. Much like the Amar Jawan (Immortal Soldier) statue in New Delhi, the cenotaph features the figure of a soldier in funeral vigil position, mourning his comrades. It is a must-visit if only to bear in mind the more solemn side of the human race, and the tragedies we make for ourselves. Burmese Pavilion. A temple located in the north corner of the Eden Gardens, the Burmese Pavilion was brought from Proem in present-day Myanmar. It is built in the style of Chinese pagodas, with towering lions at the entrance and a delicately curving carved multi-terraced roof. It is situated in the middle of a lake, making the quiet temple a blessed pool of calmness in the chaotic city. The city’s Town Hall is situated quite close by, incidentally. Vidyasagar Setu. This bridge, along with its more famous companion, the Howrah Bridge (known formally as Rabindra Setu), is one of the most iconic additions to the Kolkata skyline. The Bridge spans across the Hooghly River, covering a distance of 823 metres- the longest cable-stayed bridge in India and one amongst the longest in the continent. The beautiful twin-fanned bridge is a popular spot for photography enthusiasts, and is a gateway to the eastern suburbs of Howrah. Outram Ghat: “Ghat” refers to a little jetty-like spot in the river bank that has steps leading down to the water. It is used by many to take a dip in the waters of the Hooghly, or to meditate, or simply to visit and hang out! It is a phenomenon unique to India and is perhaps best observed at places like Varanasi and Hardwar in the north of India. However, Kolkata is not too far behind: Outram Ghat and the surrounding area have been transformed into a weekend hotspot, with restaurants, clubs and a long river-front promenade. Other ghats are situated nearby and among them Princep Ghat has a wonderful pillared terrace to wander around in. The romance and beauty of this area can only be experienced and not explained. Perhaps, on the last night of your tour in the City of Joy, you can say goodbye to Kolkata by viewing its best here at Outram Ghat! Victoria Memorial. Initially conceived of as a monument to the British Colonial Empire and its policy of imperialism, this memorial has been adopted by the city as one of its most beloved landmarks. A breathtakingly beautiful structure, the domed building made of white marble houses a museum consisting of 25 galleries in two floors. The collection includes a vast and eclectic number of memorabilia from the heydays of the Raj, an imposing Durbar Hall and a collection of oil and watercolour paintings of the city. The garden and the museum are both accessible on the payment of a small fee. The Memorial hosts a Light and Sound performance, illustrating the history of the city, in the evening. Timings vary seasonally, so it is best to enquire at the office about them M.P. Birla Planetarium. The Birla Planetarium is the largest planetarium in Asia, and the second largest in the world. The single-storied domed structure bears a striking resemblance to the Buddhist Stupa at Sanchi. The Planetarium has an electronics laboratory the designs and manufactures premium scientific equipment, but of more interest is the selection of paintings of famous astronomers, accompanied by their astronomic models. Most importantly, the Planetarium has an astronomical observatory, equipped with a telescope that is in great demand in the city of Kolkata, where star gazing is frequently hampered due to the air and light pollution from the city. It also hold regular educational talks within the planetarium, with the most attractive perhaps being the show for children, where images in the simulation of the universe are projected onto the underside of the dome. A wonderful educational experience for the family, it is one of the most child-friendly locations of the city, along with Jawaharlal Nehru Children’s Museum situated close by. St. Paul's Cathedral. For most Kolkatans, Christmas and indeed winter is incomplete without a visit to St. Paul’s. Truly an iconic heritage site of Kolkata, it is the largest Anglican church in the city. The present cathedral was built in 1934, on the site of the original (built in 1847) and is open to public all year round, within fixed daily timings. Constructed in the newly developed Indo-Gothic style, the magnificent building is an architectural accomplishment in itself. The midnight mass held here at Christmas is not an event to be missed. The Maidan area is the location of a whole host of cultural sites where one can learn more about global, as well as local art and culture. The Academy of Fine Arts with its phenomenal art exhibitions by prominent national and international artists, the Nandan Cinema centre which is the home of national and international art-house films, and film festivals in the city, the Rabindra Sadan Theatre and Cultural Centre are all located within walking distance of the Planetarium. Do not miss this walk: it is an opportunity to delve into the cultural psyche of this city, with its peculiar rooted-in-global-outlook tendencies. South Kolkata: Way down away from the wearisome, endearing bustle of North and Central Kolkata sits this locality, greener, quieter and friendlier than the rest of the city. Centralised at the huge multi-way traffic junction of Gariahat, the district covers the posh Ballygunge area, home to art galleries, restaurants and hotels with oyster shells, as well as the older Bhawanipore, with its colleges, temples and gurudwaras, Alipore and New Alipore, home to both the Zoo and the National Library (yes, the irony hits us all) as well as the huge Rash Behari Avenue, stretching from Gariahat at one end to the Kalighat metro station at the other, bordered by parks, eateries, movie theatres and street shopping as well as high-end shopping destinations. How to Get There: By road: South Kolkata, especially the Gariahat and Rashbehari junctions, is very well connected to all parts of the city by bus routes, the cheapest and most convenient option. The fare can vary from below Rs 10 to above Rs 30, depending on the distance and the type of Bus: usually, the blue and yellow private buses are the cheapest, while the air conditioned Volvos are the most expensive. Unlike the Esplanade and Maidan areas, this part of the city is also extremely well connected by point to point tuk tuk, or, as we call them, auto rickshaw routes: three-wheeled vehicles that can accommodate up to four passengers each, and charge them individually as well as distance wise. As always, yellow-taxis are an ever-available option, although a far more expensive one. By rail: The Metro Rail stations of Kalighat, Netaji Bhavan, Jatin Das Park, Ravindra Sarovar and Tollygunge are all in this area. Additionally, the suburban railway system (the EMU local trains) has stations at Ballygunge,Dhakuria, Lake Gardens and Tollygunge. The aboveground circular railway has stations at Remount Road and Khidirpur, although the latter is a far-flung corner of the city. Places to See: Birla Temple. The grand marble building is an impressive addition to the posh southern district, filled with schools and official buildings as well as fashionable residences. The temple is open to public from 9 am to 11 am and from 5:30PM to 9:30 pm. The temple is easily one of the most opulent as well as grandiloquent worshipping centres in the city; additionally, Queen’s Park, the lane it is situated on, is a wonderfully quiet, leafy area- a rarity in Kolkata! The Calcutta School of Music and the CIMA Art Gallery are both situated in this very area and are more than worth dropping into, as is the Birla Academy of Art and Culture located a short drive away. Kalighat Temple: A must visit for everyone who believes in the Hindu Shakti tradition, the Kalighat temple is over two hundred years old. The deity in the temple, Goddess Kali, represents the simultaneous forces of creation and destruction and is considered the patron deity of the city, much as Athena was for Athens. It is an important site culturally as well as historically and is truly one of the quintessentially Kolkatan destinations. Birla Industrial & Technological Museum. A favourite haunt of children for various activities, from building science projects to taking part in trekking camps and karate classes, the museum is a versatile educational destination to spend an afternoon in. An additional advantage is its closeness to the Max Mueller Bhavan, which is an epicentre for discussions and various kinds of socially-conscious activities that are performed in conjunction with the German consulate in Kolkata. Rabindra Sarovar. A beautiful lake that plays host to annual regatta events, it is surrounded by quiet streets filled with trees, popularly called Lovers’ Lane. There are many restaurants, and an open-air theatre nearby, but the real charm of the place is in simply walking silently through the trees, observing the peace and quiet filled with the birdsong of a winter afternoon. Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture. Kolkata’s well-known spiritual tradition dwells in this building that houses the legacy of one of its greatest men, Swami Vivekananda. Those who come to this country looking for spiritual succour may find what they need here; the library has an extensive collection of Vedic literature. National Library. Situated directly opposite the Alipore Zoo (the irony is incisive), this vast, stately building, located in a large park, houses one of the largest archives in the country, as well as the world, with over a million books documented in its catalogue. Its underground vaults have a collection of incredibly rare books and it has a mind-boggling array of subjects, ranging from the history of the Wiccan religion to the literature of medieval Europe. The library operates seven days a week and is a treasure-trove for bibliophiles and knowledge-lovers. The Alipore Zoological Gardens: Often referred to simply as the Alipore Zoo, these are India's oldest zoological park and have been open to the public since 1876. The park covers almost 47 acres of land and contains many rare and endangered species of animals from across the planet, some through on-site captive breeding projects. The zoo also has an immensely popular reptile house, and the lakes turn into homes for migratory Siberian birds every winter. Drop in to spend some time with the furry and scaly friends with whom we share our beautiful planet! Horticultural Garden: This one’s for the flower lovers: the garden boasts an enviable collection of exotic flowers and plants that are exhibited in winter. North Kolkata The oldest area of the city is its own whimsical, eclectic little- or not so little- world! North Kolkata is a fascinating place, dominated by a maze-like network of lanes and by-lanes, all lined with century-old buildings leaning against one-another, ever young. The areas are bursting with history: with the history of the freedom struggle and the cultural movements that propelled the Bengali Renaissance. It includes Barabazar, Chitpur Road, Bagbazar, Belgachhia, Shyambazar, Shobhabazar, Maniktala, Jorasanko and the College Street area. Also situated here are the Sealdah station, one of the largest train hubs in India, and the newly built Kolkata station. Get in: By road: There are dozens of bus routes available to this part of the city, especially as the 5-point crossing at Shyambazar is a hub for land routes. Taxis are a great, if slow and expensive option. Beware of the rush-hour traffic! By rail: Metro stations situated in North Kolkata are: Mahatma Gandhi Road, Girish Park, Shovabazar Sutanuti, Shyambazar and Belgachia. This is certainly the fastest way to reach this part of the city; however, due to the limited route, one often needs to use other transportation methods to reach the desired destination. The aboveground circular railway services are available at the following stations: Kolkata, Baghbazar, Shovabazar Ahiritola and the largest base, Sealdah. How to Get Around Hand-pulled rickshaws are a specialty of North Kolkata. Try a ride in one of these! Places to See: The area around Mahatma Gandhi Station is known as College Street- a rather self-explanatory name! The educational institutions in this area include the Bose Institute (a research institute for the sciences), the Medical College (first of its kind in Asia) and the two hundred year old Presidency University. College Street is also an absolute heaven for book-lovers: the quarter is filled with literally hundreds of book stalls, large, small and medium, old and new, that sell and rent second-hand books as well as new ones. Coffee House is a must. Shovabazar Rajbari: This building has stood witness to over two hundred and fifty years of history. Known as the Rajbari or the Royal Palace, it was built by the fabulously wealthy Raja Nabakrishna Deb around 1757. The Durga Puja held in the massive building dates to the same era and is one of the best-known “home” pujas in Kolkata. Star Theatre. Datta Ancestral Home - Birthplace of Swami Vivekananda. This one’s for the purely spiritual. The Datta Home is a pilgrimage for those who have been inspired by one of India’s brightest, Swami Vivekananda. It is partly a museum and partly a learning centre for languages, as well as meditation, now. Jorasanko Thakur Bari: Now referred to as the Rabindra Bharati Museum, the palatial house was once owned by the Tagores, a wealthy Bengali family who were one of the foremost representatives of the Bengal Renaissance. Their most famous son is the Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore, beloved by generations of Bengali, national and international readers. Tagore was a true “Renaissance Man”, being an artist, dramatist, lyricist, composer, poet, educator, philosopher and author of over a dozen novels and short story collections for adults and children- each! “Gitanjali”, his work of international renown, made him the first non-Westerner to win the Nobel Prize, and brought him into contact with W B Yeats and Albert Einstein, to name only two. Genius attracts genius, eh? The museum houses many of the originals of Tagore’s painting, photographs, manuscripts and articles of use, as well as providing visitors with a detailed biography. A rather Old Curiosity Shop for the literature lover, and a lover of the fusion of acting locally while thinking globally- a favourite philosophy of Tagore’s. Marble Palace: Built in 1835, the regal Marble Palace was, and continues to be, the residence of the Mullick family. Raja Rajendra Mullick, a wealthy Bengali landowner with a penchant for collecting artwork, had this mansion constructed primarily in the Neo-classical style, with a typically eclectic fusion inspired from traditional Bengali house layouts and Chinese architecture, entirely in white marble. The three-story building has a massive front with tall Corinthian pillars and intricately ornamented balconies. The vast estate also contains wide-spread lawns, a lake, a menagerie and a rock garden, as well as an astonishingly large and varied collection of art objects with seemingly little connection to each other. This includes paintings by Titan, Sir Joshua Reynolds and Rubens, enormous chandeliers and ornately carved mirrors, sculpture and furniture of Indian and Western origin dating back to the Victorian era and busts of royals! Please bear in mind that the Marble Palace is still a private residence and photography is thus restricted here, as is access to many parts of the building. One needs to acquire a special permit from the West Bengal Tourism Information Bureau at B B D Bagh to visit it. But there is no doubt that this is one palatial mansion in Calcutta that is truly worth a visit. Raja Ram Mohan Roy Memorial Museum. Raja Ram Mohan Roy was another stalwart of the Bengal Renaissance. He was a linguist, philosopher, author and, most significantly, a tireless reformer who worked for women’s rights throughout his life. He went on to establish the Brahmo Samaj, an offshoot of Hinduism that takes the religion back to the Vedas and aims at cutting out meaningless rituals and middlemen in worship: a virtual Martin Luther. The museum documents his tumultuous life through sketches, paintings, recreated photographs and excerpts from his writings. It has done an excellent job of preserving the atmosphere of 19th century Bengal’s upper class households, and can thus give us a glimpse into the life of a truly great man, as well as the paradigm-altering era he was born in. Kumar Tuli: An extremely unusual tourist destination, but one well worth a visit is this tiny, rather dingy locality in North Kolkata. Kumar Tuli is the place where the idols for all of Kolkata’s major Bengali Hindu festivals, including and especially Durga Puja, are built. The narrow alleyway that is central to this area is a plethora of photo opportunities, filled with the strange, the unexpected and sometimes the frightening! Many of the idols are larger than life, and extraordinarily beautiful: the love and artistry that goes into making them is astounding. The art of building the idols is one that many fear is being lost; as prices rise, traditional methods fail and more and more generations of artisans choose to move away from the job. But the cottage industry of the area has managed to survive for two centuries; now sending idols made of thermocol abroad, not the least because it is literally the only place in the world where the art of making typically Bengali idols still survives. Visit this unique place to learn more about the culture and traditions of this ancient art. Dakshineswar Kali Temple. The temple is situated right on the Ganges, with a complex containing three main temples and numerous others. It is an extremely calming place; the cool halls are ideal for meditation. The temple’s erstwhile priest was Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa, the guru of Swami Vivekananda. An excursion in winter can be soothing as well as educational. Parashnath Jain Temple: Situated very close to the Belgachia metro station, this is a large temple complex consisting of four separate worshipping centres, along with a garden. It is an important pilgrimage centre for followers of Jainism, and is dedicated to Mahaveer, the 24th Jain Tirthankara, or incarnation. The temple complex is very beautiful decorated with mosaics and grand architecture. East Kolkata East Kolkata is a vast, still developing area that has numerous well-planned townships, the headquarters of major IT companies and many amusement parks. It is also the site of several of Kolkata’s bet hotels, including the ITC Sonar Bangla. How to Get There: By Road: Multiple bus routes are available. However, as the area is large and sparsely inhabited, taxis are the best option. There are no rail connections available presently. Cycle rickshaws are commonly available for short distances. Kolkata’s signature point-to-point auto rickshaw services are available as well, but they can be infrequent sometimes. Places to See: China Town: The only one of its kind in India, Kolkata’s Chinatown has an ancient history dating back to almost two centuries, when the first Chinese immigrants, members of the Hakka community, arrived. The population increased steadily as the Chinese, makers and dealers of leather goods, carpentry items, tailored clothes and, significantly, opium, supplied the needs of a thriving market. The population reached an all-time high of 20,000 after the First World War as political upheavals in China destabilised the country. Now, only 2,000 or so Chinese remain, but they continue to preserve their traditions and language, a major reason why Chinatown still maintains its unique atmosphere. The area is home to many authentic Chinese eateries and the traditional flavour of a Chinese market can still be found here. The Eastern Bypass area is home to multiple industrial and theme parks, including the Eco Park at Newtown, the Aquatica Water Park, Nalban Nature Park (a beautiful picnic spot), Nicco Park that contains theme rides and Science City, India’s largest scientific museum complex. The latter holds many shows of various kinds that combine education with entertainment- an absolute must-visit! The Kolkata Book Fair at Milan Mela: The largest book fair in the world in terms of attendance, this fair is testament to Bengal’s enduring legacy of love for literature. The fair is held in December or January every year and is a huge event for Kolkatans and non-Kolkatans alike. The literary fest held during the fair brings writers, filmmakers, thespians and others of international renown to the city, and the 2015 event was described by guest author Joe Dunthorne as the “Glastonbury” (music festival) for books! Howrah This suburb of Kolkata, situated on the west bank of the Hooghly, is a city unto itself, but is often grouped within Kolkata. How to Get There: By Rail: Howrah station functions as the main transportation hub for the city. One must cross over into the main district using the Howrah Bridge, or the ferry services at the ghat nearby. By Road: Many bus routes are available from all over Kolkata. Taxis are convenient. By Water: Ferries are available from numerous ghats, such as Babu Ghat, Fairlie Ghat and Bagh Bazar Ghat. How to Get Around: Auto rickshaws and cycle rickshaws are aplenty. Places to See: Four separate bridges connect Howrah and Kolkata, of which the most important is the majestic Howrah Bridge, officially known as the Rabindra Setu- a cantilever suspension bridge. Over 2300 feet long, it is one of Kolkata’s most iconic landmarks and is the busiest bridge in the world, seeing close to two million footfalls per day! The area around it is just as fascinating: there are vast bazaars, ramshackle shops, “one—night seedy hotels” and the daily bustle of hundreds of thousands of people from all over India going about their business. The already-discussed Vidyasagar Setu, The Nivedita Setu and the Vivekananda Setu complete this quatrain. The latter is an almost 2900 feet long rail and road bridge. Belur Math: Established by Swami Vivekananda, the Math sits directly opposite the previously-mentioned Dakshineshwar Temple that is on the eastern bank of the river. The area is filled with history; the Math premises are large and relaxing and just such a place where a world-weary traveller may rest. Bus routes are available from the station. The Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Indian Botanic Garden: Established and maintained by the Botanical Survey of India in 1786, the vast garden is situated in Shibpur. The grounds contain an enormous banyan tree, spread over several acres, said to be at least a hundred years old. The quiet, leafy premises of the park are a welcome change from the hot and dusty environs of the city. Santragachi Jheel: This large lake is the temporary winter home of a large number of migratory birds, such as the North American Saras Crane, Comb Duck and Cotton Pygmy Goose, especially since the area around Alipore Zoo has become more and more congested. The lake is remarkable for the conservation efforts that have been undertaken here by the local residents, in co-operation with the Forest Department of West Bengal. And with this, we come to an end of the sight-seeing locales in and around the city. Do you think you’ll discover some new ones- a secret nook, a hidden cranny that we haven’t found? Let us know! Shop Kolkata, by tradition and long-established hegemony, had specific shopping districts that were concentrated in areas. Customers had to travel there for shopping, and this was always a great event, especially before festivals, that amounted to a family outing. Yet another unique cultural flavour of the city, this practice has persisted and indeed thrived to this day. Age-old shopping destinations like the sophisticated New Market, the bargain-hunters’ paradise of Gariahat, Hatibagan and Shyambazar, and the vast open-air markets of Burrabazar are as big a crowd-puller as ever. They attract many students determined to pursue high fashion at street prices, as well as other casual shoppers. Specialised areas include College Street for books and other stationery or paper materials, electronics at Chandni Chowk, jewellery at Bow Bazar, and so on for everything from fish, flowers and vegetables to sports products and more. Nowadays, these areas are facing stiff competition from the urban malls coming up. These are extremely popular, and include South City Mall in South Kolkata, City Centre-I and Mani Square at Salt Lake, Avni Mall on the river front across the Hooghly and Quest, the luxury brand outlet. More information about these is listed area-wise below. Esplanade Chowringhee: This is the main Esplanade area and includes Chowringhee Square, Chandni Chowk and Bow Bazaar. All of these areas are commercial hubs and consist of a bewildering maze of meandering streets that contain shops that sell pretty much everything, from computer hardware to clothes, Indian and foreign, as well as painting supplies and fashion accessories, at a range of prices. New Market: A vast open-air market spread over two streets and the entire block in between, New Market is one of the institutions of Kolkata, an absolutely mandatory destination for anyone looking to truly experience Kolkata. The market situated inside the vast red-brick building on the block is called Hogg Market, after Sir Stuart Hogg, the Chairman of Calcutta Corporation in the British era. The market bursts to the seams during festivities, and Christmas is undeniably the best time to visit it. The baked goods from Jewish Bakery Nahoum’s is a staple for every Kolkatan, Christian or not, during Christmas. The city that loves to celebrate perhaps presents its conundrums the best at New Market, were history and harmony unites communities as disparate as Armenians, Muslims, Zoroastrians, Christians and Jews in comfortable appreciation of one another. Moreover, the delight of haggling at the top of one’s voice is really rather delicious, if somewhat nerve-racking: please do bargain, unless you want to be robbed! The market is open from 10:30AM to 7:30PM from Monday to Friday and on Saturdays, till 2:30PM. It is closed on Sundays. Free School Street, now called Mirza Ghalib Street: Another place that is absolutely unique to Kolkata, the street is famous for its second-hand bookstores and record shops. It is a fascinating place to simply get lost in on a winter afternoon, rummaging through old dusty books or LPs to find the kinds of gems that childhood memories are made of. The Eagle store, nearby, is a great place to hunt for films from India and across the world, especially those labelled “art house films”: a cinephile’s paradise. Park Street: The absolute ‘it’ destination of Kolkata, the very name is synonymous with the concept of festive joy. Now called Mother Teresa Sarani, Park Street is famous for the best two things in life- fashion and food! Bakeries like the Kolkata institution Flury’s and Au Bon Pain, restaurants like Trinca’s, Mocambo and Peter Cat as well as more casual eateries like Bar-B-Q, KFC and McDonald’s line the long street, which is beautifully lit up during Christmas and New Year’s evenings. There is almost no other experience so quintessentially Kolkatan as welcoming the New Year at Park Street with thousands of others, all celebrating. Oxford Book Store: Situated on Park Street, the large, well-organized bookstore has sections for various topics as well as national and international writers. The upper storey has a chai bar and a foyer where regular discussions on interesting topics are held. Drop in! Maidan Shoppers' City: A mall on Lord Sinha Road with a variety of outlets including book stores, coffee bars, designer boutiques and a multiplex. A similar and bigger market is the Vardaan Market nearby. Metro Plaza: The mall has both local goods and imported designer wear from Bangkok and the like. Pantaloons and Westside Departmental Stores: Both have excellent designer wear collections for men, women and children as well as stationery, music, games and lifestyle sections. South Kolkata Dakhshinapan Shopping Complex, Dhakuria: An excellent place to buy authentic Indian handicrafts, with government emporiums for furniture, clothes and accessories. It is very reasonably priced and the quality is assuredly good. It is open from Tuesdays to Saturdays, 11 AM to 7:30 PM, and on Mondays after 2 PM. The Forum: It is six floors of branded goods with a great mixture of restaurants that include Oh! Calcutta for a delectable selection of Bengali fare, Ar-Han-Thai for Thai cuisine and Spaghetti Kitchen for Italian. It also has free WiFi thrown in, to boot! Gariahat: An enormous area filled with hawkers for a terrifying yet uplifting street shopping experience. There are branded malls situated a little further out on either side, including West Side near Ballygunge station and Spencer’s on Rashbehari Avenue, but the true Gariahat experience can only be found in the immediate vicinity of the large intersection. Quest, the luxury mall, is situated in the Ballygunge area as well and has a number of high-end stores, including outlets for Gucci and Prada as well as upmarket restaurants such as Chili’s. South City Mall: Situated on Prince Anwar Shah Road, its opulent food court is a popular hangout joint for youngsters. The three-storied mall has Starmark bookstore, Pantaloons, Shopper’s Stop and other premium destinations. Hiland Park Metropolis Mall a short drive away is of a similar nature. North Kolkata Hatibagan market: The Gariahat of the North, filled mainly with stores for ethnic wear, as well as street styles. Burrabazar: Once known as Sutanuti Hat, it is the oldest wholesale market in Kolkata where one can find almost anything one can need at cheaper prices and in bulk. It is a fascinating, if somewhat tiring exercise just to walk around here and observe the daily workings of the under-circle of city life. Manicktala market: A wholesale market for fish, it provides another insight into the underbelly of what keeps the metropolis functioning every day, from households to upscale eateries and hotel kitchens. Mullick Ghat: Situated at the base of the Howrah Bridge, it is Kolkata’s wholesale flower market, from where every home, wedding celebration, temple, business and hotel is supplied with their daily quota of fragrant freshness. Eastern Suburbs Axis Mall and City Centre II: both situated at New Town: upscale malls with branded outlets and great cuisine options. City Centre I: located at Salt Lake, an open-air mall structured in the pattern of an amphitheatre. It has a number of delis such as Afraa’s, numerous other eateries and a wide selection of branded clothing outlets, as well as a multiplex. Mani Square: Vast mall, the ultimate shopping and relaxation destination in the city. Howrah: Howrah Maidan: A typical “haat”, which is a traditional Bengali open-air market, now found mostly in villages. The atmosphere is intoxicating and one must visit it if only to observe the bustle of the local market. The the jangles of bangle sellers, haggling of fruit sellers and cries of pot sellers all mingle with the aroma of freshly fried foodstuff to create a unique sensory experience. Avani Riverside Mall: a commercial mall along the lines of Mani Square. Go Further: Kolkata is the gateway to other destinations, national and international. Here are a few you can visit from here: One can access all of India’s North East from Kolkata: seven states’ worth of untapped reservoirs of dazzling natural and cultural beauty, in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, Nagaland, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur, as well as the tiny Himalayan state of Sikkim. The region contains magnificent hill ranges, vast rivers like the Brahmaputra and natural reserves like Kaziranga National Park, all home to hundreds of tribes, some urban and some carrying on the traditional way of life. Please check the political situation of the states before visiting them; it can be quite volatile. Bhutan: the tiny Himalayan country that is the only one in the world to have a Gross National Happiness Index! It is a beautiful country filled with Buddhist monasteries, colourful local culture and the beauty of the Himalayas. Other parts of West Bengal: all of the state’s cultural and natural wealth can be accessed from here, including the magnificent Sunderbans. The largest mangrove forest in the world, situated in the Ganges delta and home to the Royal Bengal Tiger, the unique ecosystem of the place has led to the formation of co-dependent, if somewhat fragile compromises between man and nature: a way of life that is increasingly under threat due to urban development, loss of habitat and rising global temperatures. The North of Bengal has a rare beauty of its own; destinations include the hill stations Kalimpong and Darjeeling, the later world-famous for its prized tea. The central districts of Bengal are no less beautiful: places like Bishnupur, Birbhum, Purulia and Bolpur, with their rugged red-soiled beauty and unique handicrafts industry, deserve an entire section of their own. Work Kolkata, like many cities, has a broken side to it. Within its sprawling arms, it shelters people who need help, in the form of money, education and food. Perhaps your stay in the city can also help some of them. There are many organizations in the city that allow volunteer work. Here are only a few. If you are interested in knowing more, please do check websites like Rainbow Voluntours that connect people with such opportunities. Missionaries of Charity: Mother Teresa’s charitable organization regularly accepts volunteers. Enquire at their UK website or at the field office in Kolkata. CRY: The acronym expands to Child Relief and You. It looks exclusively after the education, health and welfare of underprivileged children. Enquire at their website. CINI Asha, a non-governmental organization that has ties to many educational institutions in the city, does similar work and accepts volunteers as well. Calcutta Rescue: Organization for helping the underprivileged of the city. Enquire at their website. Hope Foundation: The UK-based organization provides many opportunities for volunteering. The website lists all the necessary information. Kolkata is a fascinating city. It is beautiful and confusing and frightening and infuriating all at the same time. It may even be shocking to some. But ask any Kolkatan, and they will tell you: there is no place like it on earth. And a Kolkatan is not just those who stay in the city: it is every person who has been here, and carried away a part of the City of Joy in their hearts.