Calcutta, now Kolkata:   Job Charnock, chief of East India Company's factory at Hooghly, established a factory in Kalikata on 24 August 1690. This date is widely accepted as the foundation day of Calcutta.

Calcutta today is the largest and most populous city in India. She was the doyenne of British India and capital from 1772 to 1912. The headquarters of many large British companies and the most prestigious social clubs complimented the charm and grandeur of this majestic city. Rightfully called the cultural capital of India, Kolkata has spawned countless intellectuals in diverse fields such as literature, arts, cinema and academics; naturally the city ensures a full plate for the ones smitten by the romance of arts and culture. However, Kolkata is not just about grand architecture, culture and religion. The city also has a good measure of entertainment and fun by way of a nightlife, lively bars and pubs, an excellent shopping scene and legendary street food as well as many celebrated fine-dining establishments. A penchant for good food and fondness for lively debates on food, books, sports, politics, religion and cinema seem to be common interests of one and all. After all, Kolkata is the ‘City of Joy.’

Through the ages, Kolkata has inspired the best architecture from the British, and richly steeped in the religious traditions of the Goddesses Durga and Kali, Kolkata has some of the most deeply revered temples in the world. Some of her famous landmarks include:

Kalighat Temple
The name Calcutta is said to have been derived from the word Kalighat. This 350-year temple is dedicated to Goddess Kaali the presiding guardian deity of the city and one of the principal deities of Bengal. Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, the second priest in-charge of this temple, was the guru of Swami Vivekananda. Kalighat is regarded as one of the 52 Shakti Peethams of India, where various parts of Shakti's body are said to have fallen, in the course of Shiva's Rudra Tandava. The idol of Kali is made of black stone and it is decorated with gold and silver, and that of Lord Shiva is made in silver. Kalighat represents the site where the toes of the right foot fell. Kalighat Temple is located on the Kalighat by the side of Tolly’s Nullah on the banks of the river Hooghly (Bhagirathi).

Victoria Memorial
Loosely modeled on the Taj Mahal, the huge white marbled Victoria Memorial was built in the memory of Queen Victoria. Situated amidst beautiful gardens sprawling across an area of roughly 64 hectares, the monument has an Indo-Sarcenic revivalist architecture and completely bowls over the onlooker with its aesthetics.

Marble Palace Mansion
With marble floors and walls, the aptly named nineteenth-century era privately- owned Marble Palace Mansion is full of paintings by European and Indian artists, Victorian furniture, Western sculptures and other objects d’art. This three-storied building is a private property and the owner’s family still lives here!

Shaheed Minar
Named as the ‘cloud-kissing monument’ by Mark Twain, the 157 ft tall Shaheed Minar was built in 1828 in the memory of Major General Sir David Ochterlony but was later rededicated to the memory of the martyrs of the Indian freedom movement. Shaheed Minar has an Egyptian style foundation, a classical fluted column, a Syrian upper portion and a Turkish dome.

Metcalfe Hall
Built from 1840 to 1844, the heritage building of Metcalfe Hall is striking in its similarity to Greek temples. A majestic basement and as many as 30 Corinthian pillars support this captivating 2-floor monument. The ground floor serves as the annex building of the Asiatic Society and the upper is home to a museum of the Archaeological Survey of India.

Raja Ram Mohan Roy Memorial Museum
The Raja Ram Mohan Roy Memorial Museum was the home of the father of Bengal Renaissance, Raja Ram Mohan Roy, before it was turned into a museum. Well stocked with old writings, period furniture and other memorabilia, it offers fine glimpses into the gentleman’s mind.

Belur Math
Set attractively amid palms and manicured lawns, this religious centre spread over 40 acres is the headquarters of the Ramakrishna Mission, inspired by 19th-century Indian sage Ramakrishna Paramahansa who preached the unity of all religions. A dual-level museum charts Ramakrishna’s life and the travels of his great disciple Swami Vivekananda. The structure incorporates the architectural motifs of a Hindu temple, a Buddhist chaitya, a Christian church and an Islamic mosque. The windows and balconies are Islamic while the temple façade is Hindu. The significance of religious fraternity in one homogenous structure cannot be missed by the devotee.

Dakshineswar Kali Temple
Dedicated to Goddess Bhavatarini, a form of Goddess Kali, this beautiful and vibrant riverside Hindu temple complex was built by Rani Rasmoni, a pious lady from an aristocratic background. She purchased a huge plot of land beside the Hoogly river and established the Kali temple in 1855 in the traditional nava-ratna (9 spires) style of Bengal architecture, at the heart of which is a cream-and-red Kali Temple shaped like an Indian Sacré-Coeur. The site is where Shri Ramakrishna started his remarkable spiritual journey and where he was head priest, and his small room in the outer northwest corner of the temple precinct is now a place of special meditative reverence. Along with the main Kali temple, there are twelve temples of lord Shiva in his twelve different names. The temple construction follows the typical architectural pattern of Bengal.

Lord Sri Ramakrishna was the famous priest of this temple, after his elder brother. He resided here with his wife Sri Ma Sarada Devi and it was a place of gathering for his devotees. This place is not just a temple, but a place where a great spiritual revolution took place during the 19th Century.

The Indian Museum
A renowned scholar, sir William Jones, established the Asiatic society in Kolkata in 1784, with a view to promoting the growth of culture and art. It became an enriched gathering of reputed scholars who wanted to ensure the growth and preservation of the Indian culture. In 1808, The Indian Museum first took shape through the earnest efforts of the Asiatic society members. Now it is the biggest museum in India and also in the Asia-Pacific region. The museum has different segments of collections, to name, the Zoological, Archaeological, Geological, Anthropological, Art and Culture and a few more segments. Locally it is known as the ‘Jadughar’, and you need a whole day or even more than one days, to cover the entire Museum.

Fort William
It is one of the oldest historical tombs in Kolkata, dates back to the seventeenth Century. There are the old fort and the new fort; The East India Company built up the first fort in 1696. It was captured by the then Bengal ruler Siraj Ud Daulah; the company built a second fort in Maidan. The old fort was regained by the company in 1766. The fort was named after the King of England and Ireland, King William III. The brick and mortar fort is built in a geometric design. It has six gates including the Chowringhee and the Treasury gate. Presently it is owned by the Indian Army.

Howrah Bridge
Called Rabindra Setu, it is the gateway to Kolkata. With 8 vehicular ways and 2 footpaths, it is said to be the world’s busiest cantilever bridge. The mammoth structure is the sixth longest bridge of its type in the world and has become an integral symbol of Kolkata’s spirit.

South Park Cemetery
Opened in 1767 and used until the 1830s, the South Park Cemetery is an oasis of serenity in the heart of Kolkata’s bustle. The cemetery was closed in 1840 due to lack of burial space and is now a heritage site, preserved by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). The landscape is quaint and serene with tall shady trees and many beautiful flowers and bushes encircling the tombs. This 250 year old cemetery is the resting place of some 1600 British settlers in Kolkata where the last burial took place in 1931, stands out for its diversity of architecture: European Gothic, Classical Antiquity and Indo-Saracenic styles of opulent tombs and sarcophagi of various designs, some even resembling Hindu temples. Some of the most notable tombs are those of Rose Aylmer, William Jones , Henry Louis Derozio, Elizabeth Barwell and Major General Charles Hindoo Stuart. Spread across an area of eight acres, it is perhaps the largest 19th century Christian cemetery outside the US and Europe and is the oldest British colonial burial ground.

Mother’s Home
This houses Mother St. Teresa’s Mission and Mother House, including her tomb. Here experience the serenity of the place and learn about her religious and philanthropic work. A small adjacent museum room has her worn sandals and battered enamel dinner bowl on display. Her starkly simple living quarters are also preserved at an upper floor.

Judaism in Kolkata
Today, the city’s 12 million population boasts about 20 individuals of the Jewish faith, dwindled from a peak of more than 20,000 fifty years ago. Most of the population left India when the British receded in 1947, giving India her independence, and when Israel was born in 1948.

The founder of Calcutta Jew’s community was Shalom Aharon Ovadiah Ha Cohen, born in Aleppo in 1762 and left in 1789. He arrived in Surat in 1792 and established himself there, trading as far as Zanzibar. In 1798 he moved to Calcutta, and in 1805 he was joined by his nephew, Moses Simon Duek HaCohen, who married his eldest daughter Lunah. Soon the community was swelled by other traders and Baghdadis outnumbered those from Aleppo. The first generations of Calcutta Jews spoke Judeo-Arabic at home, but by the 1890s English was the language of choice. Cal Syn 3.jpg (7701 bytes)

Of the five synagogues, only two remain open for this meager population: Neveh Shalome Synagogue established in 1825, the first Synagogue in Calcutta and rebuilt in 1911 and the Magen David Synagogue, built by Mr. Elias David Joseph Esra to perpetuate the memory of his father, Mr. David Joseph Ezra who died in 1882. This is the largest Synagogue in the East and is magnificent in architecture and design. More information about the Jews in Kolkata.

The keeper of both these synagogues, the individual who is also the keeper of the sanctum sanctorum, where the Torahs are kept, is a Muslim. Only in India will you witnesses such a level of spiritual neighborliness between two religions which seem to optimize violence to those living in the West. And it could only be in India where Muslim children go to Jewish schools!

Sound and Light Show at the Victoria Memorial

Enjoy a momentous sunrise at the sprawling gardens here or witness a romantic sunset with a loved one to enjoy a Light and Sound Show in the evenings! See the statues of Lord Curzon, King Edward Statue and Queen Victoria come alive.

Countless effigies of deities are immersed in the holy river Hooghly during Kolkata’s colourful puja (offering or prayers). Most have been created in specialist kumar (potter-sculptor) workshops in this enthralling district, where craftsmen are busiest from August to October, creating straw frames, adding clay coatings and painting the divine features for the Durga and Kali festivals.

New Market
Marked by a distinctive red-brick clock tower, this huge warren of market halls dates back to 1874, but was substantially rebuilt after a fire in the 1980s. Seek out Nahoum Bakery, where little has changed since 1902 when its Jewish owners arrived from Baghdad. The little teak cash-desk here is 80 years old.

Howrah Bridge & Flower Market
Howrah Bridge is one of the most enduring symbols of the city of Kolkata. The sight of the rising sun in the backdrop of this majestic bridge is one, which photographers have tirelessly captured over the years. Walk beneath the east end of Howrah Bridge to Mulik Ghat – to watch the amazing profusion of colourful blooms and the hustle bustle of buyers and sellers at eastern India’s largest flower market.

Discover the Art of Kantha Embroidery
Discover the fascinating Kantha or ‘stitch painting’ embroidery with a visit to the elegant home of Mrs Shamlu Dudeja, who has helped to revive this rural craft that was on the verge of extinction. Through her efforts with SHE (Self Help Enterprise), Kantha is now a popular technique for modern designers, and women around the world. Calcutta Foundation headed by her also supports many welfare projects around the city and beneath her quiet elegance is a dynamic woman who has changed the lives of many in the city and beyond its boundaries in rural India.

Visit a Textile Factory
Rangeen is the weaving, dyeing and printing unit for Weavers Studio in Calcutta, famous for their high quality cotton and silk garments. You will have a chance to watch the artisans at work weaving at their looms, dyeing using diverse techniques such as tie and dye, batik, Japanese Shibori and African Adire, block printing and stenciling on fabric, as well as hand painting, mud and screen printing. The Resource Centre also has a textile library and museum with a collection of antique fabric from around the world. The history of the world's most popular natural dye - Indigo - weaves its story into the visit as well. Indigo has a huge connection with the history of Bengal, and is thought to have played a major role in the start of the struggle for a free India.

Weavers Studio
After the factory, visit Weavers Studio, where you can have a look at the finished products, as well as Weavers Studio for the Arts that the dynamic Darshan Shah set up to encourage young and upcoming talent by showcasing local culture and art ranging from ceramics, photography, sculpture, handicrafts, textiles and the performing arts.

Durga Puja Festival
Much as Carnival transforms Rio or New Orleans, Durga Puja brings Kolkata to a fever pitch of colourfully chaotic mayhem as the city’s biggest festival sets out to celebrate the maternal essence of the divine. For 5 days around October people venerate gaudily painted idols of the 10-armed mother goddess Durga and her entourage displayed in ornate and elaborately decorated pandals (temporary shrines) that dominate yards, block roads and fill little parks to capacity. At the festival’s climax, myriad Durga idols are thrown into the sacred Hooghly River amid singing, water- and colour- throwing, and fireworks.

An Afternoon at the Calcutta Races at the Royal Calcutta Turf Club
With its panoramic views of Victoria Memorial and the River Hooghly it is one of the oldest and grandest clubs in India and the ambience is positively 'Raj'. Guests are entertained by hosts closely associated with the Club and lunch and tea are served in a Member's Box. Betting before, and meeting the jockeys, trainers and horses after, is all a part of the glorious afternoon. Lunch is brought to the box itself, but is mainly ‘snacky’ in nature. (From noon to 5pm on specific days)

The Story of Tea
Visit a local tea connoisseur for a private tea tasting session. India is one of the largest producers and consumers of tea. Some of the best tea in the world comes from Darjeeling, the Himalayan region that is situated in the Northern part of the state of West Bengal. You will visit the office of a renowned tea connoisseur where you will learn all about the origins of Indian tea, the ever-growing nature of the tea industry in India, the processes and production steps taken to create this tea and of course an exclusive tea tasting session where you will sample some of the finest teas of this region.

Flurys at Park Street

Kolkata’s legendary tea room located on Park Street was established under the British Raj in 1927. It offers an old-world atmosphere and a glimpse of the Kolkata of another era with a lavish spread of luxurious cakes, indulgent pastries, rich puddings and, a special Flurys pride, some of the best single-origin chocolates outside of Europe. Just as stylish and chic today as it was 90 years ago, it is the perfect location to catch up over a traditional English cream tea or grab a refreshing break from the summer heat with an iced coffee with ice cream. Flurys is also the place to go in Kolkata for weekend brunch, serving its popular English breakfast all day.

Nahoum and Sons at New Market
A long-standing Kolkata icon, the bakery was first established by Nahoum Israel in 1902, an Iraqi-Jew who immigrated from Baghdad to Kolkata, during the British Raj. In the early half of the century, anywhere between 3,000 to 5,000 Jewish people sought refuge in this bustling city where they set up their own schools, synagogues and newspapers and brought with them traditional Jewish foods. Now, only a handful of Jewish people — an estimated 20-25 — remain, yet their influence is still evident in the city’s few Jewish bakeries, none more beloved than Nahoum and Sons confectionery. The Jewish baking tradition is carried on by Isaac, the brother of David Nahoum, and visitors to the city’s New Market area can find stacks of brownies and rum balls as well a rich selection of cakes, biscuits, pastries and breads fresh from the oven.

Nizam’s at New Market Area
The King of the Kathi Roll, Nizam’s claims to be the inventor of the famous kathi roll, which has become one of the must-try dishes in Kolkata. A true comfort food, Nizam’s kathi roll is a fried paratha packed with fried egg, spicy meats, onions and chillies, all of which is rolled up and served like a burrito. Such is the fame of Nizam’s kathi roll that celebrity chef-traveller Rick Stein has called the kathi roll ‘the perfect street food’.

Arsalan at Park Street
For many locals, Arsalan is the cure for a biryani craving as it is distinguished for its exquisite spread of various types of biryanis including mutton, Hyderabadi, chicken and lots more. In addition to this, other favourites include Arsalan’s chicken chaanp and its many kabab options.

Bhim Chandra Nag
Bengalis have a distinct love for sweets and the true specialty of West Bengal is sweets, confectioneries and desserts, many of which are made using sweetened chhena, or curdled milk. Nag’s is a legendary confectionery offering a wide variety of sweets like shôndesh (sandesh) to rôshogolla, laung lata, and mishti doi to name a few.

6 Ballygunge Place at Ballygunge
Housed in a hundred-year-old bungalow decorated with pictures of old Kolkata, ‘6 Ballygunje Place’ provides the perfect ambience for a multi- course Bengali meal. Featuring a menu that caters to every taste, from vegetarian to meat lovers, its highlights include the kasha mangsho, a traditional Bengali spicy mutton curry dish and the daabchingri, prawns cooked in mustard (a favourite amongst Bengalis) and cooked inside of a hollowed-out coconut.

Bohemian at Old Ballygunje
Chef Joy Banerjee’s restaurant is indeed bohemian, both in looks and in what it feeds you — free spirited in nature. Banerjee uses traditional Bengali ingredients to craft unconventional dishes, portraying a contemporary take on Bengali food. In each dish, the local ingredients take centre stage. The fusion menu at his restaurant includes the likes of Firangee Mutton Roast with Spinach and Coconut Jus, Cauliflower and Mustard Pudding with Coconut and Darjeeling Chillies, and a Chital Steak in the fish section. A must visit.

Kasturi at New Market
Situated in the New Market area and serving authentic Dhakai Bangladeshi cuisine, award- winning Kasturi is an inexpensive but delicious option, and although the décor is rather uninspiring, the food is what counts there.

Kewpie’s Kitchen at Elgin Road
With the ambience of a traditional Bengali home, Kewpie’s Kitchen is a true family affair headed by chef Rakhi Purnima Dasgupta which seeks to prepare authentic home-cooked Bengali food in an eclectic, relaxed dining environment. Using recipes passed down from her chef-mother Kewpie’s Kitchen serves traditional Bengali cuisine including the thali platter with a mix of small dishes served in terracotta pots. Although the service can be uneven, Kewpie’s Kitchen remains a great restaurant to experience authentic Bengali food and culture.

Oh! Calcutta at Elgin Road
Bengali cuisine is renowned for the abundance of fish, from freshwater catches including varieties of carp from the region’s fertile rivers, lakes and ponds of the Ganges Delta, to prawn and saltwater fish like ilish. Elegantly decorated with a fine-dining ambience, Oh! Calcutta is a wonderful place to start your Bengali culinary journey, serving the mainstays of traditional Bengali cuisine. Menu favourites include the smoked boneless hilsa and smoked bhekti, which is marinaded with mustard paste and green chillies then wrapped in banana leaf and steamed. Finish off your meal with some of Kolkata’s famous sweets, including mishti doi, a traditional Bengali sweetened yoghurt or the homemade date palm jaggery ice cream, which Oh! Calcutta patrons rave about for its excellent flavour.
Ganguram Sweets at Bou Bazaar
This venerable sweet shop set up in 1885 serves both traditional Bengali sweets and innovative variations based on old favourites. Serving Kolkata’s Favourite Mishti Doi as well as a huge variety of sandesh flavours including mango and strawberry, milk chamcham, rasmadhuri and kesharia rasmalai, Ganguram Sweets has built up a loyal following amongst Kolkatans. In particular, locals come here for their perfectly balanced mishtidoi, which is often cited as the best in Kolkata.

Bhojohori Manna at Star Theatre
This family restaurant attempts to endorse the old world with its concepts.The menu is handwritten on a whiteboard with the season, the weather conditions, and the celebrations and certainly the raw material obtainable on that specified day. The most famous dishes with amazing ingredients are mochar ghonto; sauce made typically from banana flowers curried with spices, mustard oil, and ghee. Jumbo Chingri Malaikari; prawns cooked in a skinny and flavorful coconut based curry sauce.

Suruchi Restaurant at Royd Street and AJC Bose Road junction
This eatery dishes out exclusive Bengali cuisine and has stuck to its roots, serves only lunch and is run by All Bengal’s Women Association. This all-women affair is managed and run entirely by women – from cooks to those who serve and do the billing as well. Suruchi endeavours to give one a taste of Bengal without all the excess pomp. The thalis come loaded with luchis and rice with an array of vegetable preparations. You can choose between a vegetarian, chicken, mutton or fish thali. The people of Bengal like to eat fish and you must try the muri-ghonto and hilsa fish in a mustard paste. (Open from 11 am - 3:30 pm)

Peter Cat at Park Street
A posh restaurant from the times of British Raj is famous for its sizzlers and Chelo kebab, and hard to miss. The menu comprises Indian, Mughlai and continental dishes. Piping hot sizzlers fly out of the kitchen with a hissing sound that never fails to turn heads. The Chelo kebab is a dish of buttery rich kebab served with poached egg.

Golden Joy Restaurant at Tangra
This restaurant finds place on the list of top restaurants in Kolkata. Authentic Chinese fare is dished out here and its almost always catering full to capacity, despite having seating coverage for around 450 people at a single sitting. Nothing is overdone here – the food, ambience and service rendered simple and yet out of the world. Try their chilli garlic pepper chicken and chicken wrapped in noodles and fried in a tempura batter. Their thick chicken and mushroom soup is a crowd favourite.

The Corner Courtyard at Hazra, Bhowanipore
A gorgeous colonial house that was last inhabited in 1904 has been converted into a boutique hotel. Sitting amidst all this prettiness is also a fairly contemporary restaurant. The global menu offers a jumble of flavours: you can dip Potato Wedges in Cheese Fondue with Sundried Tomatoes, or have Beet-flavoured Hummus, Honey glazed grilled Chicken paired with Bengali Mustard and even grilled Shrimps tossed in a Chocolate sauce. It is one of those places that you must visit to soak in the ambience yet come back having managed a light and cosmopolitan bite.

Spaghetti Kitchen at Elgin Road
Quality ingredients, freshly prepared Italian food, painstaking commitment and a knowledgeable and alert service staff are the reasons for its success. Signature dishes like Black Pepper Chicken, Al Aglio, mixed fried Seafood, all Vegetable Pizza and the rich Tiramisu are superb.

Eau Chew at Ganesh Chandra Avenue
This restaurant is run by 4th generation Huang family and specializes in excellent home cooked Hakka Chinese food. Meet Josephine and her son Joel who talk about the Chinese food and the history of Chinese culture during the settlement in India. Calcutta’s large Chinese community once thrived and made a substantial mark on the city. The first Chinese immigrant is said to have settled in the Hooghly district around the 17th century. In recent years, the community has shrunk in numbers although they have retained their influence over the city’s cuisine in a big way.

Cocktails & Dinner at Bomti’s
Bomti’s charming flat is located in one of the city’s most historic buildings. With his private collection of Bengali Art, and delicious home hosted Bengali meal with an Art Collector. A presentation and talk on The Story of India, culminating in the city of Calcutta as we know it today, rounds off the evening.

The Bengal Club
The Bengal Club, founded 187 years ago and is reckoned amongst the oldest clubs in the world along with famous London Clubs such as Oriental (1824), The Athenaeum (1824), and Oxford and Cambridge (1830), The Garrick (1831), The Carlton (1832) and The Reform (1837). Dine at the Club (dress code applies), starting with drinks and followed by a sit-down meal comprising Raj specialties like Mulligatawny Soup, Prawn Cocktail, Grilled Bekti and Baked Alaska.

Map of Calcutta.