48 Hours in Kolkata: The Ultimate Itinerary

Kolkata Esplanade

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Visiting Kolkata for the weekend and wondering how to spend your time? This comprehensive two-day itinerary covers the city's Bengali heritage, as well as many iconic attractions and hot new restaurants. Kolkata is one of those cities best explored on foot to soak in the sights, so do wear comfortable shoes. Let's get started!

01 of 06

Day 1: Morning

Kolkata flower market.

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8 a.m.: Begin by acquainting yourself with Kolkata's British heritage. The British founded the city in 1690 as a trading post and later developed it as their capital. Many impressive historic buildings are located in the B.B.D. Bagh neighborhood, which was the central business district known as Dalhousie Square under British rule. Wandering through it is a comfortable way to ease yourself into the city and admire the various architectural styles. There are 55 landmark heritage buildings dating from 1695 and 1947 in the precinct. Notable ones include the General Post Office, Writer's Building, Treasury Office, Reserve Bank of India, Raj Bhavan, Stephen House, the Great Eastern Hotel, the Town Hall, the High Court, Saint Andrew's church, and Saint John’s church. Go on a guided walking tour, such as the one conducted by Calcutta Walks, to learn about the detailed history behind each building.

10 a.m.: Take a taxi to the Indian Coffee House to recharge with a snack and coffee. This café harks back to the time of India's independence movement in the early 1940s, when it was a popular meeting place for freedom fighters, social activists, revolutionaries, and bohemians. It remains a sought-after hangout spot for college students and intellectuals.

11 a.m.: Head over to the iconic Howrah Bridge; spanning the Hooghly River, it connects Kolkata with Howrah on the other side. This huge, busy, steel bridge was constructed during World War II and is regarded as an engineering marvel. It's fascinating to walk over it, or simply watch the constant stream of traffic.

Below the Howrah Bridge, at Mallik Ghat on the left side, you'll find Kolkata's famous flower market. It's been there since the mid 19th century and is one of the biggest such markets in Asia. The market is teeming with life and color, but do be aware it may be overwhelming if you're not used to crowds.

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02 of 06

Day 1: Afternoon

Babu Ghat, Kolkata.

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12:30 p.m.: Have lunch at an authentic Bengali cuisine restaurant. Depending on your budget, try Aaheli at the Peerless Inn for fine dining or Bhojohori Manna for a casual bite. You'll especially love the cuisine if you're a fan of seafood.

2 p.m.: Browse the shops in New Market, or check out one of Kolkata's museums nearby. The Indian Museum is not only the oldest museum in the country, it's also among the oldest in the world. Its three floors are filled with a diverse assortment of exhibits showcasing the cultural history of India from prehistoric to Mughal times.

4 p.m.: Cross the Maidan and stroll along the Hoogly River waterfront from Babu Ghat to Prinsep Ghat. This stretch is paved and well-maintained, and provides a captivating glimpse of daily life. Named after eminent British scholar James Prinsep, Prinsep Ghat features a white 19th-century Palladian-style porch in memory of him. If you're feeling hungry, grab something to eat from the street food stalls that line the promenade. Relax on the lawn at Prinsep Ghat for a while and enjoy the scenery.

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03 of 06

Day 1: Evening

Silhouette of Vidyasagar Setu bridge at twilight with a wooden boat on Hoogly river.


5:30 p.m.: Hire one of the traditional wooden boats at Prinsep Ghat for a quintessential sunset ride on the Hooghly River. You'll need to negotiate the fare. Expect to pay 400 to 500 rupees ($5.50 to $7) for 45 minutes to an hour.

7:30 p.m.: After getting ready back at your hotel, spend the evening along Park Street—the hub of dining and nightlife in Kolkata. The street is lined with restaurants. Some are nostalgic old favorites that have been around for decades, such as Mocambo for sizzlers, Trincas for continental baked dishes, or Peter Cat for Chelo kebabs. Chic new restaurants include Spice Klub, which serves up contemporary takes on Indian food and Pa Pa Ya, which offers a variety of Pan-Asian dishes. Barbecue Nation is a reliable choice for grills.

9:30 p.m.: The Park Hotel is the focal point of entertainment on Park Street. Take your pick from two bars, a pub, and a nightclub. Other options for live gigs are the Hard Rock Cafe, The Lords and Barrons (a popular new pub), and Trincas for classic retro hits.

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04 of 06

Day 2: Morning

Dakshineswar Kali Temple, Kolkata

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6 a.m.: If you didn't party on last night, try getting up early to enjoy the legendary Chinese breakfast at Tiretti Bazaar in Kolkata's Old Chinatown district. Chinese immigrants started arriving in the late 18th century and are an important part of the city's fabric. Members of the community serve up fresh delicacies at their roadside stalls from around 5:30 a.m. to 8 a.m. Sample yummy steamed momos, handmade sausages, stuffed buns, pork rolls, and fish ball soup.

7:30 a.m.: Take a taxi about 35 minutes north to Dakshineswar Kali temple, located by the Hooghly River. This magnificent 19th-century temple is dedicated to Kali, the presiding deity of Kolkata, and is where saint Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa served as chief priest before going on to found Belur Math. His disciple, global spiritual leader Swami Vivekananda, also received his initiation at the temple. The divine energy feels especially strong early in the morning when the grounds are peaceful.

10 a.m.: Continue to explore the city's culture by visiting the native Bengali quarters of Kolkata. This district, encompassing Bagbazar and Sovabazar, was home to Bengali aristocracy. To get there, take a taxi 20 minutes south to Mayer Ghat and walk down Chitpur Street/Rabindra Sarani, said to be the oldest street in Kolkata. Keep an eye out for street art near Bagbazar Ghat. After a kilometer (0.6 miles), turn left onto Raja Naba Krishna Street and follow it about 500 meters (0.3 miles) to the 18th-century Sovabazar Rajbari, the old palace of the local royal family.

It's also worth taking a short detour to the Kumartuli potter's colony, especially from June to January when idols are made for various festivals. If you'd like to go on a guided walking tour, The Ganges Walk's Sunati Trails is a recommended option.

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05 of 06

Day 2: Afternoon

Victoria Memoria, Kolkata.

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12 p.m.: From Sovabazar Rajbari, head to either Mitra Cafe or Arsalan for lunch. The former has been in business for more than a century and is one of Kolkata's oldest restaurants. It's a simple and inexpensive "cabin cafe" that offers quick Bengali bites, including fish and chicken kabiraji cutlets. Alternatively, Arsalan is suitable for a longer meal in an air-conditioned setting. Serving north Indian Mughlai cuisine, the restaurant is also renowned for its distinctive Kolkata-style biryani.

1 p.m.: Take a taxi 20 minutes south to Victoria Memorial Hall. This imposing white marble relic of the British Raj has been turned into a museum amid expansive landscaped grounds that are an attraction in themselves (and an ideal spot to rest post lunch). The museum's recently revamped galleries showcase the history of British rule in India and include paintings, rare photographs, manuscripts, textiles, and armor. One gallery is dedicated to the development of the city as the British capital.

4 p.m.: After exploring the museum for a few hours, freshen up with English high tea. There are a few options to choose from, the most central of which is the Elgin Fairlawn Hotel. Built in 1783, this characterful hotel was recently given a facelift; high tea is served every afternoon in its dining room. The luxury Taj Bengal hotel puts on a fine spread of sandwiches, cakes, teas, and coffees in its Promenade Lounge. Meanwhile, hip and contemporary Karma Kettle is a specialty tea company and one of India's finest tea blenders. Its leafy tea room offers Indian (Burra Sahib) as well as English (Gora Saheb) high tea. Pick up some tantalizing Indian teas while you're there—they make great gifts!

Alternatively, if you're interested in the humanitarian work of Mother Teresa, visit the Mother House to see where she lived.

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06 of 06

Day 3: Evening

New Market area, Kolkata.

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6 p.m.: Calcutta Walks' Bengali cooking experience is a must-do for foodies who'd like to learn the art of Bengali cooking. You'll be guided through a market to become familiar with the ingredients before participating in a cooking demonstration, led by a Bengali housewife or by the owner of one of the best restaurants in Kolkata. Finish off with authentic Bengali sweets.

Those who prefer the arts to cooking can check out the exhibitions at the Academy of Fine Arts, which features works by up-and-coming local artists. Or, check out Harrington Street Arts Center (open until 8 p.m.) for contemporary Indian and international works.

8 p.m.: Head over to Camac Street for dinner. This entertainment precinct has trendy new restaurants and bars such as Scrapyard for craft beers, The Fatty Bao for Asian, and SAZ - American Brazzerie for gourmet grills and burgers. Nearby, Gabbar's Bar and Kitchen has a Bollywood theme, and specializes in molecular gastronomy and cocktails.

Article Sources
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  1. World Monuments Fund, Dalhousie Square.