Kolkata (formerly Calcutta)—the capital of the state of West Bengal in India and one of the most populated cities in the country—has come of age to be the cultural center of India. The city has an intimate but thriving party scene, and unlike other Indian cities, Kolkata has no curfew, so people are out and about late into the night. Many of the top nightlife options can be found in and around Park Street, where the Park Hotel is the focal point. The hotel offers something for everyone, with various venues inside, though some have a high cover charge and require membership for certain events. This vibrant city with friendly people is referred to by many as the "City of Joy" and the "Festival City," offering an abundance of colorful religious and cultural festivals to check out. Visitors and locals will also find great spots for live music, comedy clubs, and many authentic Bengali and other types of cuisine at restaurants open late into the night.
It's getting easier to head out after dark as the city increases late-night transportation options. And overall, safety is not an issue—though like anywhere, visitors should be careful and avoid putting themselves in dangerous situations. Also, before planning your trip or night out, it's good to know about monsoon season from June through September; Kolkata is one of the cities receiving the most rain in the country during the season.
Kolkata has many different types of bars. Some are enticing with amazing skyline views and DJs playing varieties of Indian Bollywood and other music. Others have pools to lounge by and international food to share with loved ones. You'll also find great craft breweries around the city.
- Roxy: Renowned for its classy cocktails, this cavernous bar inside the Park Hotel has a retro-glam look reminiscent of the swinging 60s, resplendent with velvet and metal. DJs spin downstairs, while there's a small chill-out area upstairs. The bar gets super crowded on weekends and attracts a fashionable young crowd. The door policy is said to be inconsistently challenging.
- Aqua: The place to head for alfresco fun in Kolkata. This groovy lounge bar also inside the Park Hotel really transforms itself post-sunset for a sexy poolside experience, with international cuisine and DJs spinning groovy tunes.
- Monkey Bar: This bar boasts a ninth floor location with a captivating view of the city's skyline, including the Victoria Memorial museum in the distance. Exposed-brick interiors are in keeping with the chain's quirky style. The great fusion food and inventive signature cocktails make this more than a fun place to party on weekends.
- The GRID: A gastro-brew pub with a central location, the GRID draws a huge crowd of beer-loving party people. The property sprawls across 10,000 square feet of an industrial parking lot and has seven of its own craft beers on tap, plus cocktails, tasty food, and the longest bar in Kolkata (an astonishing 92 foot-long bar made of Lego toy pieces).
- M Bar & Kitchen: This venue has contemporary decor, a well-stocked bar, and a European menu. The lounge bar with an international vibe turns into a hot party destination on Friday and Saturday nights. Resident DJs play all kinds of music from Bollywood to techno. Dress to impress, because the door policy is tough.
- Shisha Bar Stock Exchange: Swanky Shisha with ghetto-style interiors was the city's first bar that started pricing drinks according to demand—the concept works in a similar way to the stock market. Drinking games and DJs keep the young college student crowd entertained. The door policy is informal, so be aware that the atmosphere can get a bit unruly late in the night.
Whether you are seeking a place to mingle with celebrities and listen to electronic dance music or a lounge with finger food and hookahs (water pipes used to smoke flavored tobacco), there is something for everyone looking to party in Kolkata.
- Tantra: This is one of the oldest nightclubs in Kolkata, which opened in 1999 and has remained popular over time. Spread over two levels inside the Park Hotel, Tantra has two bars, a massive dance floor, and plenty of space to hang out. International events, celebrities, and fashion shows all contribute to its success. The music is commercial and consists mostly of Bollywood, hip hop, and electronic dance tunes.
- Phoenix Bar/Club: In the basement of Kolkata's iconic The Astor luxury heritage hotel, this venue is an ideal place to experience Kolkata's cool party scene while enjoying a stunning light installation above the dance floor. You'll hear DJs spinning techno, and live music from underground to Pink Floyd to blues.
- Club Boudoir: The Kolkata branch of Dubai's legendary glamorous venue inspired by the French lounge concept, Club Boudoir is a huge 6,000 square foot nightclub—one of the biggest in the city, with a 35 foot-long bar. Special events and live performances are frequently held.
- Nocturne: This venue is one of the favorites with Kolkata's young party crowd. A lot is packed into its 3,000 square feet of space. The basement has a relaxed smoking lounge with hookahs. Partying takes place on the level above with a dance floor, top-notch sound system, Co2 cannons producing clouds of icy fog, and crazy LED screens and lighting.
- The Myx: A rocking open-air penthouse nightclub that's a mix of everything (food, drinks, and music), The Myx is owned by one of Kolkata's veteran DJs. Level one consists of a huge bar and dance floor, while the mezzanine level is a lounge bar with a separate smoking area. People love the top notch sound system and the diverse music performed by India's best DJs.
Kolkata offers multiple options for those interested in live music. To enjoy a real British pub atmosphere, the place to be for live entertainment is Someplace Else Pub inside the popular Park Hotel. Each day, there's a different act by some of the city's top musicians and newcomers, and sometimes international artists. The venue features various genres of music, including jazz, rock, blues, and more. PPT, or Perfect Place in Town, has live music and DJs, food from Italian to Continental to North Indian, and an outdoor terrace with a great riverside view. Trincas Restaurant has North Indian, Chinese, and Continental cuisine in a fancy atmosphere with live music, including jam sessions on Sunday afternoons, soft rock shows, and more. Daily evening performances are held at the Rabindra Sadan cultural center and theater in Kolkata, located near the Academy of Fine Arts.
There are some good places to get your giggles on while traveling or living in Kolkata. Kalkutta Komedians, the city's first standup comedy group and the only one performing in English, hosts various fun events such as open mics on Saturday nights at the gastropub Aqua Java Chinar Park and on the third Sunday night of each month at Cafe Plot 15. Or have a blast at the group's "Everything Entertaining" event, which includes dance, music, poetry, and magic—along with comedy—on the first Sunday afternoon of each month.
Kolkata has several restaurants for those who are out on the town late. For a taste of flavorful Indian food, carnivores and vegetarians can head to Peshawri in the ITC Sonar hotel, 6 Ballygunge Place near Patah Bhavan School, or Oasis Restaurant near Park Plaza Hotel (which also serves Chinese food). East Asian food lovers can try Pan Asian in the ITC Sonar hotel, which serves specialties from Japan, China, Mongolia, Korea, Singapore, Thailand, and additional countries. To fulfill cravings for some Italian food and wine, head to La Cucina in the Hyatt Regency Hotel.
Kolkata has a plethora of religious and cultural festivals throughout the year. The capital is typically very hot in the summers, but between October and March when it cools down is an ideal time to check out some of the festivals that hit the city.
- Usually in late September or early October, Bengal’s largest carnival Durga Puja comes to town, with dates planned according to the lunar calendar. Day or night, look for colorful pandals (displays or temporary shrines) with individually-decorated statues in celebration of the goddess Durga. Taking a Durga Puja festival tour is a great way to experience all the festivities.
- Kali Puja honors the goddess Kali usually in October or November—on the same day as Diwali, the festival of lights. The night rituals of Kali Puja entail celebrants wearing special clothing, using red hibiscus flowers, lighting candles, and more.
- Since it came to life in 1995, the Kolkata International Film Festival has occurred each November over several days and nights. The country's biggest such event features international, national, documentary, children's, and other new films every year.
Tips for Going Out in Kolkata
- When you are out for a night in Kolkata, you can use taxis or rideshare apps like Uber or Ola. If taking a taxi, watch out for scams such as sped-up taxi meters. Some nighttime WBTC trams and buses (which run later) are another option.
- In India, baksheesh or tips are typically optional, but the average amount is about 10 percent, including at restaurants and bars. If you would like to tip a taxi driver, just round off the fare.
- The majority of the population speaks Bengali or Hindi in West Bengal. If you understand a bit of the local language, chances are you'll enjoy your trip more and deepen cultural connections. However, most locals speak English fluently.
- If you are caught drinking in public, you may be fined, and if the police feel you are creating a nuisance, there is likely a three-month stay in jail. The legal drinking age varies in different states of India; it's generally 21 years, which is the case for West Bengal. On "dry days" such as major national festivals or special religious occasions, most states prohibit the sale of alcohol, though five-star hotels may serve alcohol on those days.
- Fridays, Saturdays, and Wednesdays are the nights with the most partying in India. You can usually find free or discounted drinks for ladies at bars and clubs.
- Before you go, review the rules of a given establishment for a better chance of getting in the door with the expected attire. Some nightclubs have strict dress codes while others are more open to skimpy clothing. Traditional locals don't always approve of alternative or sexy clothing or lifestyles, so dressing more on the conservative side can make your stay smoother.