Kolkata is the capital of India’s West Bengal state, and was formerly the capital of India when it was under the British Raj in 1773. Today it’s a city with a traditional soul, colonial architecture, and many cultural festivals. Known as the City of Joy, Kolkata is vivid, hectic, brimming with street life, creativity, and the most incredible markets.
To be specific, there’s more to this vivacious city than just ‘rosogullas’ and bookstores. You will be shocked to discover the amount of fun and action hidden behind every street in this vibrant city. So, if you are someone whose mind is intimidated by the thoughts of exploring Kolkata, for you, here we will be discussing what to do as well as what not to miss when you visit the City of Joy. So, let’s get started…..
Witness the sculptural spectre at Kumortuli
The city is renowned for its sculpting expertise, which not only manufactures clay idols for various festivals but also regularly exports them. Kumortuli is a famous locality in Kolkata meaning potter locality (Kumor = potters and Tuli = locality), aged over 300 years and known for its traditional potters’ quarters. The place was formed by a bunch of potters who came to the area in search of a better livelihood.
In these narrow alleyways of old Kolkata, almost every home is a workshop for several talented potters who toil tirelessly to create clay idols. Since the year 1950, the locality has been in the business of sculpting high-quality idols of Hindu deities. Nowadays, around 150 families live here and earn a living by sculpting idols for various festivals.
Shop your heart out at New Market
If you are searching for things to do in Kolkata, then shopping at New Market is also among them. It is a covered shopping area with over 2000 shops selling anything from clothing to sweets, local food items to electronics and textiles, as well as spices, and has been serving the city for over 135 years.
Let your heavy pockets turn light while you run amok on a shopping spree till time is unhinged. For all those looking to buy beautiful designer apparel, footwear, wheeled luggage, and electronic gadgets in Kolkata, it is wise to seek the stalls of this place once. A few of the best things to purchase in Kolkata include sugary foods, jute craft products, books, terracotta structures, standard sarees, tea, paper masks, Dokra, and more.
Glance at the antiques of the Indian Museum
The Indian Museum is the largest and oldest museum in Kolkata as well as India and has rare collections of antiques, armor and ornaments, fossils, skeletons, mummies, and Mughal paintings. The foundation stone of the Indian Museum was laid down in the year 1814 and has been a center of multidisciplinary activities ever since.
Popularly known as ‘Jadughar’, it has the finest collection of contemporary paintings, sacred relics of Buddha, Egyptian mummies, and ancient sculptures. Fascinating isn’t? At this moment, the museum has 35 galleries which have been divided into six categories namely Art, Archaeology, Anthropology, Geology, Zoology, and Economic Botany. It’s a sure delight to visit the Indian Museum at least once when you visit Kolkata.
Seek grace at Kalighat and Dakshineswar Temples
Dakshineswar Temple and the Kalighat Temple are the two prominent Hindu temples in Kolkata. Dakshineswar lies on the eastern banks of the Hooghly river, while Kalighat is located near Hazra. Dedicated to Goddess Kali, Kalighat Mandir is of prime importance for the Bengali community given their deep reverence to Kali. It is one of the 51 Shakti Pithas.
Another shrine devoted to Goddess Kali, the Dakshineswar Temple has a special place in every Bengali’s heart because the sacred shrine played a vital role in the transformation of Gadadhar Chattopadhyay into Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa. Built in the early 19th century, unlike other Hindu temples, this one consists of nine spires and has been built in the classic Bengali architectural style of Navratna.
Recently the Kolkata metro has connected the two divine shrines in one line. A day visiting these two temples is among the most remarkable activities in Kolkata for those who wish to lose themselves in the essence of spirituality.
Relish on Bengali dishes in restaurants
West Bengal is famous for an array of things, and one of the most important of them is food. Equipped with all kinds of foods, Kolkata’s kitchens and street carts are known to offer marvels like the Telebhaja, Kathi rolls, Churmur, and Luchi Aloor Dum, which are unsurpassable specialties.
Besides these are the mouth-watering Rosogullas, Chomchom, and Rasamalai, the super tasty Sorshe Ilish and Chingri Macher Malai Curry, and but a few of the mouth-watering and tempting food of the highly illustrated and exquisite Bengali cuisine. If you are searching for offbeat food items in Kolkata, visit the famous Terreti Morning Market or Decker’s lane which are basically canyons on tasty dishes. These tasty dishes from Kolkata cuisine will have you coming back for more!
Feel the essence of the Kolkata Derby
Kolkata can also be called the ‘Mecca of Indian Football‘. Football is somewhat canonical to the city and is injected into the veins of Bengalis since birth. The Kolkata Derby, or the rivalry between the two biggest local clubs played between East Bengal and Mohun Bagan (now ATK Mohun Bagan), started over a century ago in 1920.
The tussle between East Bengal and Mohun Bagan is the oldest footballing rivalry in Asia and is one of the most fiercely contested and best-attended derbies in world football. The day of the derby match in Kolkata is like a pressure cooker ready to burst at any moment. Two sets of fans chanting in the stadium with their favorite club’s flags will certainly give you goosebumps. After the match ends, the winning side illuminates Kolkata with their colours while the other drowns in gloominess. This is the beauty of football in Kolkata.
Enjoy the grandeur of Durga Puja
Celebrated in the month of Ashvin (September – October), Durga puja is one of the most awaited festivals in India, especially in West Bengal, where it is celebrated with great fervour. The beautifully decorated idols of Goddess Durga are brought home or placed magnificently as decorated public pandals. The idol is then garnished with flowers, clothes, jewellery, red vermillion and various sweets are kept in front of the Goddess.
The five-day extravaganza consists of witnessing the beauty of stunning idols, brightly lit pandals, loud music, and more. Be it enclosed banquets, outdoor pandals, or community pujas, Durga Puja is incomplete without music and dance. Some famous pandals like the Ekdalia Evergreen, Bagbazar Sarbojonin, College Square, Mohammad Ali Park, Santosh Mitra Square, and Sobhabazar Rajbari are worth watching. Durga puja in Kolkata has been inscribed on the Intangible cultural heritage list of UNESCO in December 2021.
So, enjoy the festivities here, bring yourself joy, that’s what the city is itself!