Almost exactly two years ago, I thoroughly enjoyed finding some of the most interesting places to visit in Kolkata. My colleague and I took in the sights and sounds of Kolkata while sipping tasty street chai. I barely scratched the surface, but one thing’s for sure. There’s so much to do in the Cultural Capital of India!
I visited Kolkata for a couple of weeks as part of a work assignment. I’m far from an expert on the city. However, I enjoyed the brief chance to get out and explore. Before we dive into some interested places to visit in Kolkata, let me share some of the things I’ve learned about the City of Joy.
First things first: Is it “Calcutta” or “Kolkata”? No matter where I’m going, I always try to learn about local context and culture. The city’s name officially changed from Calcutta to Kolkata in 2001 to reflect the Bengali pronunciation (“Kolikata”). This distinction may seem small to a visitor, but it’s an important recognition of independence and self determination for India.
Did you know that India has the world’s second-highest population at over 1.3 billion and is about one-third the size of Canada? Kolkata has a population of 4.5 million—a tad higher than the entire province of Alberta (It’s true!). Kolkata is the capital of the state of West Bengal and is the former capital is British India from 1772 to 1911.
Victoria Memorial Museum
History was never my favourite subject in school, but now I relish opportunities to learn different parts of the past in different places. The remnants of history are everywhere, and it’s much more interesting to see with your own eyes (for me, at least!).
The Victoria Memorial is a must-see to learn more about the British colonial history in India. Construction of this architecturally-impressive structure started in 1906 and finished in 1921. This building commemorated Queen Victoria’s 25-year reign in India. Today, it’s a popular tourist attraction. Can you see the resemblance to the Taj Mahal? They’re both made from Makrana marble.
Mullick Ghat Flower Market—One of Asia’s Largest
The Mullick Ghat Flower Market is one of the largest in all of Asia. It’s also one of the oldest running flower markets in India beginning in 1855.
This flower market is a bustling place with many vendors and different types of stunning local flowers. I’m glad that my colleague brought me on this early morning tour. The market is next to the Howrah Bridge stretching over the Hooghly River. I’d recommend an early start to catch the action.
Howrah Bridge is an impressive structure in Kolkata. Currently the sixth largest cantilever bridge in the world, Howrah carries more than 100,000 vehicles and 150,000 pedestrians every day.
After walking through the flower market, we made out way down toward the river for a better view. I’m generally not enthralled by bridges, but Howrah is a mesmerizing sight.
The Mother House
My home-base was very close to The Mother House. So, one afternoon I walked over for a visit. This had been home to Mother Teresa and her sisters since 1953, and remains an inspiration for locals and visitors alike. Born in Albania, Mother Teresa’s radical compassion made her name one of the most famous in the world.
I don’t know about you, but I didn’t grow up knowing much about Mother Teresa. The inside of The Mother House was still and quiet, with one or two sisters walking about. As I looked at the display of Mother Teresa’s personal belongings and walked upstairs to find her humble dwellings, I gained a deeper admiration for her example of humility.
Founded in 1948, the Order of the Missionaries cares for the sick and vulnerable in the city.
Hooghly River Sunset Cruise
Kolkata is about 154 kilometres upstream from the Bay of Bengal. This location was selected for trade and defence advantages. The Ganga River (known as the Ganges in British India) is one of the most revered waterways in the world. And Hooghly flows out of it.
One evening, we booked a cruise on the Hooghly with Vivida Cruises. I loved the chance to spend some time on the water. Another beautiful way to experience the city.
Other Things To Do In Kolkata
Kolkata is one of the only cities in the world that still provides hand-pulled rickshaw rides. I didn’t do the hand-pulled ride, but we used the cycle rickshaws to get around in the city. This is just one of those things that you gotta do in Kolkata!
There are many ways to get around the city. You can flashback to the 1950’s in a yellow Ambassador taxi. Or stick to modern times in an Uber. If you opt for a cab, just make sure the metre is running or negotiate a price beforehand. Uber has become one of the best transportation options in the city; it’s affordable and user-friendly. There are even marked Uber pick-ups at the airport.
Taking the train in India is an absolute must. My colleagues and I journeyed over 575 kilometres from Kolkata to Siliguri in the north. The overnight train was a very new experience, with seats that converted into three-tiered bunk beds. In fact, India has one of the world’s longest rail networks covering over 67,368 kilometres. Hop on… at least once!
Well, there you have it. These are just some worthwhile stops in Kolkata. There are certainly many more! Travel is some of the best education. I love reflecting on these experiences from time to time. That’s especially true these days while travel restrictions are in place during the pandemic.
Have you travelled to the Cultural Capital of India? What are some of your favourite places to visit in Kolkata? Leave a comment below; I’d love to hear from you.
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