Located in the vicinity of the Hooghly district, the city of Kolkata is the capital of West Bengal. It is also the place where the oldest port in the country is currently in operation and is also the third most populated metropolitan city just behind Mumbai and Delhi. It is a city recognized for being the center of the industrial revolution in India, as well as the birthplace of modern culture, the artistic movement, literature, and poetry, between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Kolkata was also the capital of India that remained under the control of the English and is considered as the nucleus of the Indian Independence Movement. The humble district of Kumartuli, in the north of Calcutta, is a place we should not overlook if we want to permeate with the essence of this city. Walking among the artists while molding their Durga for the Durga Puja festival is something that no one should miss if you visit this city.
Thanks to the mix of different cultures and the plethora of places of interest, Kolkata has become one of the top tourist destinations in India. Below I will talk a little about some of the most popular tourist attractions in Kolkata that certainly should not be missed.
1) Belur Math: Located on the west bank of the Hooghly River, the Belur Math Temple is home to the Ramakrishna Math and one of the most prestigious institutions in Calcutta. Founded by Swami Vivekananda, daily thousands of faithful come from all over the world to find peace, originating endless queues to access the inner enclosure. In spite of the overwhelming crowd, the visit to this temple is obligatory, since it presents a unique Hindu architecture, with Christian brushstrokes and Islamic motifs, as a symbol of the unity of all religions.
2) Victoria Memorial: After the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, Lord Curzon, Viceroy of India, proposed to build a large memorial in his memory, the Victoria Memorial Hall, the most important and known symbol of the British legacy in India. It took 15 years to build and was opened in 1921 by King George V. It is considered as the richest museum in the country, with paintings, sculptures, stamps, lithographs, as well as postcards and souvenirs from the different eras of British domination. Its gardens, full of lush flora, have numerous sculptures and monuments, lakes and a large expanse of flower beds where the most romantic take the opportunity to walk and woo their partners. Undoubtedly, it is the most western and quiet place of Calcutta.
3) Marble Palace: The Marble Palace is another place you should not miss. An authentic neo classical colonial jewel built entirely in marble. It remains the residence of the same Bengali family that raised it in 1835 and is one of the most elegant and best-preserved buildings in Calcutta in the nineteenth century. In its interior, you can find different spaces composed of 90 types of Italian marble pavements, an extensive collection of works of art – some of Rubens and Murillo – an enormous thematic garden and numerous porcelain figures, Japanese and Chinese.
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4) Howrah Bridge: It is a bridge overhang that is considered the sixth longest in the world. It also represents one of the most famous monuments of the city, initially named New Howrah Bridge as it was destined to replace the oldest pedestrian bridge of Hugli. It is considered one of the most traveled bridges in the world with 150 thousand vehicles daily. They do not allow you to photograph the bridge from the bridge. The bridge has become by its own merits in the symbol of the city.
5) Birla Mandir: The construction of this temple began in the year of 1970, and it took 26 years to finish. It is one of several Birla temples that are found distributed in different major cities of India. The temple is dedicated to Lord Krishna and his consort Radha; was built in carved white marble and its extension covers approximately 130 acres of land.
6) Jaldapara National Park: It is a sanctuary that is located near the Eastern Himalayan ridge, famous for being one of the primary habitats of the Indian rhinoceros of a horn. This forest reserve covers an area of 216.51 km2 and is also home to a great diversity of flora and fauna. In addition to this rare species of rhinoceros, in the sanctuary, there are also Bengal tigers, Indian elephants, wild boars and Bison of India.
7) Mullick Ghat Flower Market: Next to the river and before reaching the high iron bridge we find the flower market. If we decide to return to the urban life of the city, there is a place dedicated to all lovers of aromas and colors, the Flower Market of Mullick Ghat.
8) New Market: It’s a large shopping center, not only because of the numerous street vendors and small shops that are located throughout the city, but also because of his large bazaars and markets. The New Market is a labyrinth where you can find many articles at a right price, using the art of bargaining. It is ideal to buy souvenirs and high – quality products that are hard to find in the West, such as antiques, pashminas of Indian silk, ayurvedic creams or Himalayan salts. The best prices are in the outlets to the market.
9) Park Street: This Street is also known as the food street or the street that never sleeps because there are a lot of different restaurants and bars here. In fact, this area was one of the first places of nocturnal life during the time of the 70’s and 80’s. The street is, therefore, one of the main attractions of Kolkata, so it is visited by a large number of residents and tourists arriving from all over the world.
10) The Durga Puja Celebration: Durga Puja is a very artistic and colorful sacred festival of Calcutta that enjoys great prestige worldwide and is characterized by worshiping the goddess Durga, the mother of the universe and the personification of tender love.
This celebration takes place across the country, but its origin lies in the state of West Bengal, where the holidays reach gigantic proportions. It is the main festival of the Bengalis and is celebrated with a large fervor in Calcutta during the autumn months (September / October).