Kolkata is a city stuck in time. The phrase one often hears from both the city’s harshest critics and those who can’t get enough of it. If you look purely at its trademark yellow ambassador taxis, those Victorian Gothic structures in North Calcutta and the many Rajbaris, the first impression is that of a city clinging on to a nostalgic past, to a time when things moved unhurriedly at their own pace, when the rivalry of Satyajit Ray and Mrinal Sen made headlines.
But Kolkata has survived it all. And while at it, has managed to retain all the elements that made it so irresistible to the British and now to a new India as well.
Kolkata travel guide: What’s new and cool in the Eastern city
Where to Stay
The usual suspects always work. Such as The Oberoi Grand with its stately rooms; ITC Sonar with its super diverse menu that gives traditional Bengali dishes a contemporary spin; and The LaLiT Great Eastern which is also in proximity to the New Market area and Victoria Memorial in Kolkata.
However, if you want to go for the old world charm, go for the colonial-era clubs in Kolkata that also provide accommodation. The food and accommodations are surprisingly easier on the pocket compared to the contemporary luxury hotels. Tollygunge Club spread over five acres is replete with multi-cuisine restaurants and a golf club; The Calcutta Club, established in 1907 after the nearby Bengal Club only admitted whites, is also a great option. If you’re planning on going full royal, go for The Rajbari Bawali, a short drive outside the main city of Kolkata with its history dating back to almost a century and also the location where Netflix’s Bulbbul was almost entirely shot.
Where To Eat and Drink
There are some iconic places in Kolkata that you simply can’t miss if this is your first time in the city – and demand repeat visits if you’ve been there before. Head for a quick shot of espresso at the iconic Flurys with their walnut cake; and if you want to try traditional breakfast dishes by Kolkata’s Muslim community, a constellation of restaurants at Park Circus is your home. While these may not be the most luxurious of the places, you can’t miss the Dal Ghosht at Zeeshan — and that’s the breakfast too. The famous Chinese breakfast at the Chinatown of Kolkata — the Tiretti Bazaar is quite an experience too, you’ll see Chinese vendors selling everything from fishball soup to the choicest dimsums. But you need to reach there at 5 AM to get the best of the lot.The lunch and dinner counterpart is another Chinatown in the Tangra area of Kolkata, particularly the famous Beijing restaurant. Go for a swig of beer and the most inventive cocktails at The Biker’s Cafe which is just a 20 minute drive. For the most authentic Bengali lunch, Kewpie’s is your best bet — almost like an aesthetic cousin of the Parsi cafés of Mumbai. Head to 6 Ballygunge Place for the best of Bengali seafood, particularly the pabda macher jhal jhol and Sylheti shorshe ilish.You can also head to the Connaught Place of Kolkata — Park Street. The newest addition to the nightlife scene there is Ølterra with its range of craft beers. While the Kolkata branch of Pa Pa Ya is famous for its Asian pizzas, and those meaty cheung funs with crispy edges. Don’t miss out on the popular chello kebabs at both Peter Cat and The Bar-B-Q on Park Street.
Check out the Flower Market under Howrah bridge first thing in the morning for your Insta grids. Cover all the galleries and museums on the first day itself. And no, they’re not all the same. Although the Victoria Memorial is the Mecca of Calcutta, its best portions (Victoria’s clothes, her correspondences etc) are closed to the public. Unless you want photos of the facade and gardens for your ‘gram, you could skip it.
Head instead to the nearby Indian Museum which has everything from skeletons of the elephant used in the Grand Delhi Durbar of 1911, two actual mummies from Egypt, an entire section dedicated to stones and minerals, and a beautiful section dedicated to textiles. Do sign up for the heritage walks organised by the National Museum too — the old Jewish quarter at Armenian Street is a feast for the senses, or for that matter any street in North Kolkata.
Prominent art galleries in Kolkata include the Birla Academy of Art and Culture which attracts hundreds of visitors almost daily, as well as Experimenter, CIMA and Emami.
Before you go on a shopping spree at Camac Street (the updated Park Street of Kolkata and its central business district), or Quest Mall, don’t forget to check out the Sabyasachi Flagship Store, which is closed on Sunday. With its sheer maximalism and impressive use of mirrors, you’ll be hurled into a new world altogether. And yes, you can visit it even if you’re not getting married.
Even if you’re not in the remotest bit interested in pottery, the Potter’s Hub at Kumortoli, Kolkata is an experience in itself — the centre where almost all the Durga idols are carefully crafted.
Source : GQ India