13 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Kolkata

Jul 22, 2021

As one of the world's most historic cities, Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) is often referred to as "the ancient" (of the 200 million people who live in India, only some six million people call it home). A true living masterpiece that takes its design and cultural heritage from the Mogul era, the city embodies a rich mix of urban culture and India's traditional elegance.

Kolkata is peppered with a wide array of interesting historical sites, including the old ghettos, colonial structures, bustling markets, and prominent landmarks, including the iconic Victoria Memorial Hall and the Elephant Point lighthouse. While today's Kolkata offers modern conveniences and a healthy dose of nightlife, it's also home to unique cultural celebrations that tie it directly to its rich heritage, such as the Bishwa Ijtema, an annual communal pilgrimage to a medieval monument.

It's easy to get around Kolkata as the city is easy to navigate, making it a great base from which to explore. Our guide to the best places to visit in Kolkata will help you maximize your time and see all the city has to offer.

Get inspired with our list of the best places to visit in Kolkata, India.

Victoria Memorial

Photo of Victoria Memorial, Kolkata
Victoria Memorial, Kolkata: en.wikipedia.org

Just as London's Palace of Westminster or Washington DC's Capitol is the very symbol of the British or American state, so too is the Victoria Memorial an emblem of the Presidency. The monument, on the banks of the Hooghly River, was built by the British in recognition of Queen Victoria's fifty-five-year rule of India. The large building features the statues of several of the queen's great-grandchildren and is topped by a gilded statue of Victoria herself, which is guarded by bronze statues of her four-footed pets. Just below the palace is one of the world's best aquariums. Originally a British imperial showcase, it was designed by architect Charles Alfred Frere.

Howrah Bridge

Photo of Howrah Bridge
Howrah Bridge: en.wikipedia.org

Howrah Bridge is one of the major bridges across the River Hooghly. Built in 1897, it is the second-longest all-wooden bridge in the world and one of the longest non-suspension bridges in India. Known for its lack of driving lanes, the bridge is an important piece of infrastructure, enabling fast and easy passage between Kolkata and Howrah, the main railway station in eastern India. Why not take a stroll along the Howrah bridge, where you can see the backdrop of the Kolkata skyline, or visit the waterfront market, where spices and fresh produce are sold.

Birla Planetarium

Photo of Birla Planetarium, Kolkata
Birla Planetarium, Kolkata: en.wikipedia.org

In Kolkata, built for the Science Olympiad, Birla Planetarium has one of the best vistas in the city. The best vantage point is the rooftop of the building, reached by a long and steep escalator, from where you can watch the sun rise and set over the busy city below, a contrast that's rare in Kolkata. The observatory has excellent educational displays on astronomy, optics and physics, and offers regular events on topics ranging from star parties to "Mars walks." The planetarium itself is one of the best in the country, offering 3D movie and laser-light show in a variety of languages, educational films on astronomy and planetology, a theater, and an observatory.

Science City

Photo of Science City Kolkata
Science City Kolkata: en.wikipedia.org

This educational theme park near Kolkata is themed after Kolkata's scientific achievements, focusing on the life and culture of the Bengali people. Visitors can stroll among a fully-realized India, both ancient and modern, visiting the Bengal Zoological Park, exploring Kolkata's museums, touring a vast re-creation of the caves where the monks of Sangha were once based, and seeing modern research projects from a new hospital to a prototype electric train.

St. Paul's Cathedral

Photo of St. Paul's Cathedral, Kolkata
St. Paul's Cathedral, Kolkata: en.wikipedia.org

St. Paul's Cathedral, built in the 17th century, stands at the heart of the city of Kolkata. The Cathedral is an impressive sight. The red sandstone building with its lovely classical portico and dominating domes features intricate carvings of gold-covered angels and scenes of Indians, ships, the Good Shepherd, various saints, and local flora. The Cathedral is home to the Fergusson Gallery which houses about a dozen large oil paintings from the 1700s to 1800s. Outside, is the open space called the Cathedral Square where the locals and travelers hang out. Be sure to visit the Raj Bhavan or the elegant Kolkata Municipal Buildings, both of which were damaged by the 1757 earthquake.

Indian Museum

Photo of Indian Museum, Kolkata
Indian Museum, Kolkata: en.wikipedia.org

Covered in the Hindu culture for at least 2,000 years, Kolkata, the Calcutta, has a diversity of architecture, religion, art and culture. The old part of the city is protected by a stone wall and has many historical monuments including old buildings, a water tank, an old monument and a very popular Gurdwara (Sikh temple) called Shri Ganesh Mandir and an important Hindu temple, the Bowbazar Temple. The neighborhood of Salt Lake is surrounded by a medieval fort and many historic buildings, mainly used for selling sari and Indian-style spices. It is estimated that the city is home to more than 18 different cultures. On the top of the list of activities are the popular carnival celebrations that take place annually throughout the spring in the Old Ballygunge area. St. Paul's Cathedral is one of the oldest Christian places of worship in Kolkata, built in 1677. It's believed that the first churches in India were built in 16th century Bengal and were constructed in Persian style. If you want to travel to places of historical and spiritual value, don't forget to visit the following sites: Humayun's Tomb, Queens Garden (near the Victoria Memorial Hall), Brabourne Museum, the Victoria Memorial Hall, Writers' Building, University of Calcutta, Clay College, the magnificent Jorasanko Thakur Bari, the New Market, the oldest modern market in Asia.

Fort William

Photo of Fort William, India
Fort William, India: en.wikipedia.org

Fort William, one of India's oldest forts, lies on a hill overlooking the picturesque Hooghly River at the border of Kolkata and West Bengal. The ruins of the fort are still intact, and with a museum on site it is possible to learn all about its history. Visitors can also climb inside the massive granite walls, walk along the old ramparts and enjoy the sweeping views over the city. The Hooghly River is a beautiful stretch of water, perfect for sightseeing and kayaking. At the river's confluence with the Ganges, right across the street from Fort William, is the city's famous Jorasanko Thakur Bari, where royalty is supposedly buried. The river is also the setting for a local film festival in January.

New Market

Photo of New Market, Kolkata
New Market, Kolkata: en.wikipedia.org

Kolkata's New Market is more than just a market; it is one of the finest shopping malls in Asia. Owned by the Indian company Novo-Giacometti, it is a glass-fronted building with a kilometer-long shopfront area, covering a whole block in the heart of the city, is an exciting complex of shops. Beyond the glamour of the exterior are dozens of large departments offering everything from new products to cheaper re-branded goods. Stores, food stands, souvenir stands, and restaurants offer a bewildering choice for those unfamiliar with the stalls, and any kind of shopping trip here can be a fairly lengthy experience, with anywhere from 10 to 15 stores selling in a single locale.

Baidyanath Temple

Photo of Kalighat Kali Temple
Kalighat Kali Temple: en.wikipedia.org

One of the oldest surviving temples in Kolkata (formerly known as Calcutta), the Baidyanath Temple (also called the Baidyanath Dham or the Konnagar Baba Mandir), located outside of the city, dates back to the 18th century. It was established in 1733 in memory of the Kshatriya King (Arjuna's son) Baidyanath Chaitanya (1644-1730). It is dedicated to the goddess Durga. Highlights of a visit include the three-and-a-half story north tower, which has 34 ornately carved stairs leading to a pavilion. The main temple contains a number of shrines. The most interesting are the 19th century Kali temple and the Ramjanmbhumi, a shrine dedicated to Lord Ram.

Howrah Train Station

Photo of Howrah railway station
Howrah railway station: en.wikipedia.org

Bounded by the Hooghly River, Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal, India, is well known for its nightlife, history and sights such as the Victoria Memorial. The European feel of Kolkata is largely a product of the late 19th and early 20th centuries when a number of Europeans settled in the city. One such community was that of the Rajya Sabha (Royal Bengal Club) who had their own clubhouse called the Rajyasthanee Bangla Sahib in the Maidan. Today the area around the station houses the city's premier attractions including the Memorial, Writers' Building, etc. In the evening Kolkata offers a wide range of performances and concerts for visitors. The area is also one of the few in India where pubs and night clubs can be found.

Trinity Church

Photo of Amherst Street (Kolkata)
Amherst Street (Kolkata): en.wikipedia.org

Dating to 1542, Trinity Church is one of the oldest churches in Kolkata. The church was heavily damaged during the Bengal Famine in 1770 and was rebuilt. It still retains some of its previous structure. But today, it is no longer used for religious purposes but for a time capsule with many historical objects which can be seen during a visit. The East India Company maintained a lock-up here for more than a century. From there they were sent to England where they were stored in the British Museum.

Kolkata

Photo of Kolkata
Kolkata: en.wikipedia.org

Kolkata, or Calcutta, lies on the River Hooghly on the banks of the Ganges, and is known for its great architecture and classic English tea-houses. Also known as the City of Palaces, it is home to a vast collection of monuments from throughout history, and once belonged to the British Raj, making it one of India's most-visited cities. Popular attractions in the city include the Victoria Memorial and the National Museum. The British Museum of East and West, one of the world's finest, is also located here.

Read more 👉  Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Kolkata

Sunderbans Tiger Reserve

Photo of Sundarbans National Park
Sundarbans National Park: en.wikipedia.org

The Sunderbans Tiger Reserve is a large network of protected areas in West Bengal, India. Covering an area of 2,223 square kilometers, the park contains both a shallow mangrove forest and a small peninsula, or bandar, with some jungle. This part of the park is the most popular and is reserved for wildlife viewing and less dense forest walking. On a visit to the park, you can expect to see mainly spotted deer, swan-necked storks, king vultures, tigers, pythons, and a variety of wild waterfowl. Visitors are limited to 500 daily, with a combination of walking trails, boat trips, canoes, and jungle treks. To do the park justice, stay at the Park View Resort, which has spacious rooms with balconies and great views over the reserve.