Travel · West Bengal

Kolkata: the quintessential charm of the City of Joy

On my first visit to the second largest city of India, I quickly realized that Kolkata has a charm like none other.  The cultural and intellectual capital of India presents an eclectic mix of the old and the new with art, culture, cricket, football and festivity ingrained deeply into the ethos of the city. Located on the east bank of the river Hooghly, the city is multifarious in the true sense of the term.

While I had just over two days to explore the city, the spirit of the metro had me truly captivated.  Here are some of my favorite moments and captures from this engaging city.

Heritage Buildings:

Also nicknamed the “City of Palaces”, this erstwhile capital of British India has a plethora of colonial buildings that incorporate Gothic, Neo-Classical, Oriental and Islamic styles of architecture.  Heritage structures like the Writers’ building, GPO, Insurance Building, High Court, Governors’ house and Town hall have truly stood the test and stand tall giving the city its unique character.


I was fascinated by the ubiquitous green and sometimes maroon elongated shuttered windows that dominated most buildings and houses of the colonial era.  Many of the old buildings in various parts of the city, however, are dilapidated and disintegrating with an urgent need of restoration.

Iconic Bridges and Ghats:

A drive on the Howrah bridge (renamed Rabindra Setu now) which is a cantilever bridge over the Hooghly River as well as the Vidyasagar Setu (famously called the Second Hooghly Bridge) is a must do.  A boat ride over the Hooghly River from the Princep Ghat, which is a distributary of the Ganges while watching the sun go down was a great experience.  You can also watch fishermen prepare their nets for the next session of fishing.

Bridges and Ghats

The yellow taxis and multiple forms of public transport

One of the famous symbols of the city is the trademark yellow taxi that successfully coexists with the more ‘modern’ Olas and Ubers.  Apart from the efficient Kolkata Metro, I found a multitude of buses, trams and rickshaws (though, sadly,  some of them are hand pulled even today).


Bengali cuisine:

While you can spend days on a gastronomical journey in the city, I particularly looked for sampling the typical Bengali fare.  Needless to say it was delectable and offered a great spread even for a vegetarian like me.  The characteristic light colored, almost whitish puris (unleavened deep-fried Indian bread), the Kancha Aamer Chutney (sweet raw mango side dish) and the refreshing mishti doi (sweetened curd) were my favorites.

Bengali cuisine

Omnipresent street food:

Most streets in the city are teeming with vendors and hawkers selling street food.  All are equally busy with loads of people making a beeline for them. From hot tea to jalebis in the morning to puris and Phuchka and samosas, the options seem endless.

Street food

Exclusively Kolkata:

From taking a stroll down Park street to savoring the chocolates at Flurry’s, visiting the flower market at Mallik Ghat to the idol makers in Kumartuli, the city had many memorable experiences to offer.  A visit to Jorasanko Thakur Bari, the ancestral home of Rabindranath Tagore and the Kalighat temple were some of my favorites.


Unfortunately, it was the peak of summer when we visited the city and certainly not the best season to visit.  But I would definitely love to visit again to relive the wonderful memories and experience new ones when the weather is kinder.

P.S: Special thanks to my blogger friend Subhadip Mukherjee for his invaluable inputs that helped me plan this trip.

34 thoughts on “Kolkata: the quintessential charm of the City of Joy

  1. What an amazing city to visit, thanks for such an informative post. I’d love to see those old colonial buildings and the street food looks delicious, especially the puris!

  2. The best thing about such cities is that they have got something for everyone. Can you recommend a reasonable hotel for staying in Kolkata?

    1. Very true Mohsin. Actually the hotel we stayed was not good at all; it was quite opposite of the review and pics we saw on the net.
      But The Park had some good deals, Bawa Walson was also one of our choices. But after our experience, I am not really sure of what you get unless you actually check in!

  3. You’ve laid it down so well Rashmi.. your article is a must read for anyone who’s visiting Kolkata for the first time!.
    I’ve heard plenty about the place from my parents…they absolutely love it there…I’m eager to visit!!

  4. I think my ancestors, i am not so sure, but i think someone somewhere was from India and it has always made me curious about how India is. When i come across such posts i feel really grateful towards the people who shared it. This Intel is really broad and quite educative. Your writing and this mix got this post to be tremendous! Enjoyed my read to the very last line, Cheers! – Cezane

  5. I hope you write many more posts on Kol. I had similar thoughts when I spent a good ten days there in the winter of 2014. A charming old city trying hard not to lose its essential flavour!

  6. Beautiful piece on the city of joy and you have an uncanny style of presenting a place which tempts readers like me to go and explore… enjoyed the virtual tour with you…

  7. Lovely post Rashmi! You really captured the essence of Kolkata here and I am surprised that you could enjoy the place during summers as it gets really humid. I truly love Kolkata, it truly has some soul!

    1. Thanks a ton Anupriya for your kind words. The compliment coming from a Bengali (I hope my assumption is correct) makes it all the more special!
      The weather was quite harsh but nevertheless the indomitable spirit of the city did rub on to my a bit as well! But I hope to visit the city again in December.

  8. I’ve always wanted to visit Kolkata. The nearest we got was way back in 2009. We stopped for an hour at the airport. The food looks divine. Had a couple of good Bengali friends and have been lucky to sample some of their specialities! 🙂

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