Kolkata (the city of joy) is the capital of the West Bengal state of India. This beautiful metropolitan city is not only popular for its mishit dohi, roshogollas, the Victoria Memorial, and the Howrah Bridge, but also for its attractive nature.
One of the major economic cities in India, it was formerly known as Calcutta, during the British ruling era. The name Kolkata is derived from the word “Kolikata”. It was once the second most important city of the British Empire, after London, and it is now the second largest city in India, after Delhi. We often call it “the city of joy”, though very few people know that this beautiful cultural city is also known as “the city of palaces”, and “the city of processions”.
Here, in Kolkata, you will find the sixth longest cantilever bridge in the world, the “Howrah Bridge”, and the world’s first polo club, Calcutta Polo Club. And how can we forget about the second largest football stadium in the world, the Salt Lake Stadium, as well as the second largest planetarium in the world The Birla Planetarium? So let’s check out the top 10 attractions of Kolkata, as well as the history behind each one of them.
1. Victoria Memorial
This beautiful, large marble building of Kolkata, the Victoria Memorial was built in 1921. It is located on the banks of the River Hoogly, and it’s dedicated to the memory of Queen Victoria. Here you can admire the unique architectural blend of the Mughal and the British styles. Lord Curzon commissioned the construction of this fascinating memorial after the death of Queen Victoria.
There are a total of 25 galleries contained in this beautiful museum. Various antiquities and artifacts can be viewed inside. Since this is one of the most popular sites in Kolkata, you’ll find it crowded at all times. So before you come to this place, check out these tips:
- Address: Victoria Memorial Hall, 1, Queens Way, Kolkata, West Bengal 700071
- Entry fee (for the Garden): 4 Rs. per person, if you buy a daily ticket. Monthly ticket: 100 Rs. per person; and the yearly ticket: 1000 Rs.
- Hours of operation: open daily: 5:30am – 7:00pm
- Entry fee (for the Museum): 10 Rs for Indian citizens; 150 Rs for foreigners; the Victoria Memorial is free for school children up to 12 years (in uniform), and also for the Army personnel in uniform
- Hours of operation: 10:00am – 5:00pm; closed on Mondays
- Official website: http://www.victoriamemorial-cal.org/home/content/en
2. Howrah Bridge
One of the major National Landmarks in India – the Howrah Bridge is the sixth longest cantilever bridge in the world. It is also one of the busiest bridges, and is often recognized by the name Rabindra Setu, after the renowned Bengali literary figure, Rabindranath Tagore.
Over 1,000,000 vehicles, as well as an uncountable amount of pedestrians, can be catered to by this giant. It is 450 meters long, and without any pylon – it extends over the banks of the Hooghly River. So if you want to see this 20th century engineering marvel, then you have to visit the Howrah Bridge, at least once in your lifetime!
- Address: Howrah, West Bengal 700001
- Entry fee: free
- Hours of operation: 24/7
- Official website: http://howrahbridgekolkata.gov.in/
3. Kolkata Zoological Garden
Kolkata Zoological Garden, informally known as Alipore Zoo, or Kolkata Zoo, is the largest zoo in the country, and is the national zoo of India. It was established in 1876, and it hosts a wide variety of different species of animals. It used to include the popular Aldabra Giant Tortoise Adwaita, donated by Lord Clive, but at nearly 250 years of age, it expired in 2006.
Kolkata zoo is also home to a nursing center for the rescued animals. Numerous wounded creatures are brought here from Sundar ban and Garu mara, to receive a special treatment inside the center. Though the main aim of Kolkata zoo is the captive breeding. So when you are in Kolkata – you shouldn’t miss visiting this exciting place.
- Address: 2 No. Alipore Road, Kolkata, West Bengal 700027
- Entry fee: Visitors older than 5 (all days except – Saturday, Sunday and the Government Holidays): 25 Rs; visitors older than 5 (on Saturday, Sunday and the Government Holidays): 30 Rs; children younger than 5: 10 Rs; Aquarium’s fee is: 5 Rs
- Hours of operation: Zoo: 9:00am – 5:00pm; Aquarium: 10:30am – 5:00pm; closed on Thursdays. The ticket counter closes 30 minutes early.
- Official website: http://www.kolkatazoo.in/
4. Botanic Garden
The real name of the Kolkata Botanic Garden is the Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Indian Botanic Garden, and it was established in 1787. It is located on the west bank of the River Ganges, in Shibpur. The total span of this beautiful garden is 273 acres, and it was founded at the proposal of Colonel Alexander Kyd, by the Governor General Lord Cornwallis.
You will be amazed to know that this is the largest botanic garden in all of Asia, and the main attraction of this beauty is the 250 year old ‘Great Banyan Tree’, which is also known as Ficus Bengalhensis. Undoubtedly, this is one of the best attractions in Kolkata. For the last two centuries it has also been one of the main institutions for botanical and horticultural research in India.
- Address: Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Indian Botanic Garden; Shibpur, Howrah, West Bengal 711103
- Entry fee: 10 Rs for Indians; 100 Rs for foreigns
- Hours of operation: 10:00am – 5:00pm, closed on Mondays
- Official website: https://www.bgci.org/garden.php?id=53
5. Indian Museum
The largest, as well as the oldest museum in India – the Indian Museum, was established in 1814 by Dr. Nathaniel Wallich. He was a renowned botanist from Denmark. This is not only the largest museum in the country, but it is also the ninth oldest, established museum in the World.
The museum exhibits rare collections of Mughal paintings, a plethora of various antiquities, artifacts, mummies, fossils, skeletons, ornaments, and armor. It contains a total of 6 sections, which are divided into more than 60 galleries. In the year 1875, it has moved to a new building, which was designed by Walter B Grawille in the Italian architectural style. And in the year 1878, this museum was finally opened to the general public.
- Address: 27, Jawaharlal Nehru Rd, Colootola, New Market Area, Dharmatala, Taltala, Kolkata, West Bengal 700016
- Entry fee: 10 Rs for Indians; 500 Rs for foreigners
- Hours of operation: 10:00am – 5:00pm
- Official website: https://indianmuseumkolkata.org/
6. St. Paul’s Cathedral
The next attraction of Kolkata is the St. Paul’s Cathedral, which was once part of the Anglican Communion. It was designed by Major William Nairn Forbes on the basis of the Indo-Gothic architectural style. The building of this religious worship, was laid in 1839, while the construction of this amazing church was finished within 8 years.
Due to several massive earthquakes that took place around the area, this building was destroyed twice. In 1934 it was destroyed for the last time, and rebuilt once again from the sketches of the Bell Harry Tower of Canterbury’s Cathedral.
- Address: Kolkata, West Bengal 700071
- Entry fee: free
- Hours of operation: open all days of the week, except Sunday: 9:00am – 12:00pm, and 3:00pm – 6:00pm; Sundays: 7:30am – 6:00pm
7. Rabindra Bharati Museum, Jorasanko Thakurbari
The Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore’s ancestral house was built in 1975; it is also simply known as Thakur Bari. It is spread over 35,000 square meters, and has been now converted into a museum. Nowadays it is known as the Rabindrabharati University, which was first inaugurated by Jawaharlal Nehru, on the birth centenary of Tagore – May 8, 1962.
Maharishi Bhavan is also located on the same sight which is named after the poet’s father, Maharishi Debendranath Tagore. Rabindranath is highly recognized as “Kabi Guru” across the globe. He has written and painted a number of great literature and art works, among which the ‘Geetanjali’ won the prestigious Nobel Prize award.
This museum also preserves various pictures and paintings of Tagore and his family. Rabindranath Tagore has received a variety of gifts on different occasions, throughout his lifetime. Some old musical records of Rabindranath can also be found in here.
- Address: 259, Rabindra Sarani, Singhi Bagan, Jorasanko, Kolkata, West Bengal 700007
- Entry fee: adults: 10 Rs; students: 5 Rs; for light and sound show: 10 Rs; foreigners: 50 Rs
- Hours of operation: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday:
> 6:00 PM – 6:40 PM (Bengali) (light & sound show from November to January)
> 7:00 PM – 7:40 PM (English) (light & sound show from November to January)
> 7:00 PM – 7:40 PM (Bengali) (light & sound show from February to June)
> 8:00 PM – 8:40 PM (English) (light & sound show from February to June)
8. National Library
Even if you are not a bookworm, you still should visit the largest library in India, the National Library, which is located at the Belvedere Road in Alipore, in Kolkata. Here you will have a chance to take a peek inside one of the World’s rarest collection of books. It was founded during the time of the British Raj.
During that time, in the 1760s, numerous structures were built by Mir Jafar. One of these structures was the Belvedere House, which is now known as the National Library. Mir Jafar presented the building to the first Governor General of India, Lord Warren Hastings. Later on, Hastings sold it and this house became the official residence of the Lt Governor of Bengal. This beautiful building was also the official residence of a number of Lt Governors from 1854 to 1911.
- Address: Belvedere Road, Alipore, Kolkata, West Bengal 700027
- Entry fee: free
- Hours of operation: 10:00am – 6:00pm
- Official website: http://www.nationallibrary.gov.in/
9. Birla Temple
The World famous Birla Temple is also located in Kolkata. This beautiful temple is recognised for its pristine surroundings and its fabulous architecture. One of the most interesting facts about this colossal structure, is that it stands at 160ft above the ground.
The construction of this temple has begun in 1970, and it took over 26 years to complete it in full. In the year 1996, after its completion, the gate was finally opened to the general public, for the first time. Can you imagine what must be the total cost of this beautiful construction? Well, it was around 180 million Rs (or almost 3 million dollars)! This temple was built entirely in white Marble, and it is popularly known as the Lakshmi Narayan Mandir.
- Address: 29, Ashutosh Chowdhury Ave, Ballygunge, Opposite Ballygunge Post Office, Kolkata, West Bengal 700019
- Entry fee: free
- Hours of operation: open all days of the week: 5:00am – 11:30am, and 4:00pm – 9:00pm
10. Eco Park
One of the best picnic spots and recreational areas of Kolkata, is the Eco Tourism Park which is located at the New Town-Rajarhat. Serenity and the beautiful greenery are the key elements of this amazing natural site. Various recreational activities can also be found in this park, such as a large water park, an Ayurvedic spa, the Shishu Kendra, a children’s entertainment centre, and much more. There are numerous areas, designed under a different theme, such as:
- Wildflower Meadow
- Tropical Tree Garden
- Formal Garden
- Herb Garden
- Tropical Rain Forest
- Bamboo Forest
- Fruits Garden
- Rabi Aranya
- Mask Garden
- Tea Garden
- Address: Eco Tourism Park, Major Arterial Rd, Action Area II, Newtown, Kolkata, West Bengal 700156
- Entry fee: 20 Rs per person. Ticket counter closes at 6:30pm
- Hours of operation: Tuesday to Saturday: 12:00pm – 7:30pm; Sundays and holidays: 11:00am – 7:30pm; closed on Mondays
- Official address: http://www.ecoparknewtown.com/
The birthplace of the Bengali Renaissance in India is this wonderful “city of joy” – called Kolkata. It is also one of the best culturally developed cities in the country of India. All of these above-mentioned places are some of the best touristic sights that you can discover while in Kolkata. So don’t miss your chance to visit these fascinating attractions, and get to know this gem of a city, a little bit better.
Final Note: all prices are valid for 2017