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 party scene is intimate but thriving, with venues staying open later than in other Indian cities — up to 4 a.m. on Saturdays and 2 a.m. on other nights.
Many of the top nightlife options can be found in and around Park Street, where The Park Hotel is the focal point. This buzzing luxury hotel offers something for everyone — a nightclub, two bars (one with a swimming pool), pub with live music, two restaurants (one open 24 hours), and a deli. Camac Street (renamed Abanindranath Thakur Sarani) runs off Park Street, and is another nightlife hub where there are multiple trendy bars and restaurants. In the northeastern part of the city, the new Salt Lake Sector V development has many new nightlife venues as well. The type of music varies depending on the venue and night of the week, so check beforehand if you'd prefer a certain genre.
Heading out after dark in Kolkata has become easier 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.
Kolkata has a fantastic range of bars including slick cocktail bars, rooftop bars with skyline views, informal bars that draw a fun young crowd, and craft breweries. Many serve food and are open throughout the day. DJs spin later in the night.
- 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. Top DJs rock the crowd on the dancefloor at the back, while there's a small chill-out area upstairs. The bar gets super crowded on weekends and attracts a glamorous young crowd. Doors open at 6 p.m. Arrive early because the door policy can be tough and inconsistent.
- Aqua: Perfect 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. It's open 24 hours.
- Monkey Bar: On the ninth floor of Camac Street's Fort Knox complex, this friendly bar has a captivating view of the city's skyline, including Victoria Memorial 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. Opening hours are from noon daily.
- The GRID: A gastro-brew pub in Topsia, The GRID draws a 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 72,290 Lego toy pieces).
- M Bar & Kitchen: This lounge bar on Park Street has contemporary decor, a well-stocked bar, and a European menu. It turns into a hot party destination on Friday and Saturday nights. Resident DJs play a mix of Bollywood and commercial music.
- Shisha Bar Stock Exchange: Swanky Shisha with ghetto-style interiors on Camac Street was Kolkata'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, especially when the DJ blasts Bollywood music. Opening hours are from 3 p.m. daily.
- Scrapyard: Also on Camac Street, this new rustic-chic bar and taproom will please beer-lovers with its craft brews. Opening hours are from 1 p.m. daily.
- Black Sky Bar: The sleek open-air bar at Aauris hotel in the Park Street area offers cocktails and grills with a view of the city lights and traffic below. Doors open at 7 p.m.
- The Anchorage Bar: For something different, enjoy a sundown cocktail at this bar on a boat. It's located aboard at the Floatel Hotel on Strand Road in BBD Bagh.
Kolkata's nightclubs remain open after most bars have closed, and hence don't really start happening until midnight. If you arrive by 10 p.m., you may avoid paying a hefty cover charge though.
- Tantra: 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. Doors open at 7 p.m. Mondays closed.
- UG Reincarnated: In the basement of Hotel Hindustan International on AJC Bose Road, another long-running Kolkata nightclub that's managed to withstand the test of time by reinventing itself. The music is mostly Hip Hop and Bollywood. Doors open at 7 p.m.
- Phoenix: If you'd prefer a cool underground party scene with renowned DJs mixing techno tracks, head to this club at The Astor heritage hotel on Shakespeare Sarani in the Park Street area.
- Nocturne: A favorite of Kolkata's young party crowd on Shakespeare Sarani. 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, carbon dioxide cannons producing clouds of icy fog, and crazy LED screens and lighting. Doors open at 6 p.m.
- Gold: The classiest nightclub in Kolkata at the JW Marriott hotel, with an interior that dazzles like gold. Signature cocktails will get you into the party mood. Unlimited beverage packages are available early, and there's free shots for the ladies. The music is diverse and fresh, with constantly rotating acts ranging from hip hop to electronic. Open Fridays-Sundays only, from 7 p.m.
Live Music and Other Performances
The live music scene in Kolkata has really taken off in recent years. On Park Street, Someplace Else Pub at the Park Hotel used to be the mecca for live band performances but it often hosts electronic music acts and DJs late in the night these days. Kolkata now has a Hard Rock Cafe on Park Street that holds regular live gigs. The Lords and Barrons has different bands and singers performing most nights. Notably, nostalgic Trincas has kept the live music scene alive on Park Street since 1961.
Jam House, the first dedicated music lounge in Kolkata, organizes live acts every night of the week. It's located on AJC Bose Road.
Top Cat, on Topsia Road, is a new large capacity music venue that hosts live music gigs of all genres from metal to jazz.
Rabindra Sadan cultural center and theater, near the Academy of Fine Arts on AJC Bose Road, is the place to go for traditional music and dance performances.
If you want to get your giggles on in Kolkata, Kalkutta Komedians is a standup comedy group that hosts various events in English such as open mic nights on Saturdays 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.
In addition, Top Cat has started a comedy club called Top Cat Retired Comedy Club.
Restaurants are generally open until around 11 p.m. in Kolkata. Those who are out later on the town and want to grab a bite to eat can either head to a 24-hour cafe at a luxury hotel, or one of the city's legendary dhabas (roadside eateries).
Centrally located 24-hour luxury options include The Bridge at The Park Hotel and Blu Bistro & Bar at Aauris on Shakespeare Sarani for global cuisine, and Alfresco at the The Lalit Great Eastern in BBD Bagh for local food. Further out, try Waterside Cafe at the Hyatt Regency in Salt Lake or Eden Pavillion at the ITC Sonar near Science City.
Balwant Singh's Eating House is a popular 24-hour budget eatery in Bhowanipore for vegetarian Punjabi cuisine. If you'd prefer to satisfy your appetite with a meat dish, head to Jai Hind Dhaba on Sarat Bose Road in Bhowanipore or Sharma Dhaba on Ballygunge Circular Road.
Kolkata has a plethora of religious and cultural celebrations throughout the year, but mostly during October to March when the weather is most comfortable. Highlights include:
- The city's biggest and most important festival, Durga Puja, comes to town for a week in late September or early October, with dates determined according to the Hindu lunar calendar. Throughout the night, people visit colorful themed pandals (displays or temporary shrines) with elaborately-decorated statues in honor of the Mother Goddess, Durga. Here's how to best experience Durga Puja in Kolkata.
- Kali Puja honors Kolkata's fearsome patron Goddess Kali usually in October or November —on the same day as Diwali, the festival of lights. Night rituals take place at Kalighat and Dakshineswar Kali temples. Pandals, with decorative displays of the goddess, are also erected and worshiped across the city similar to Durga Puja.
- The Kolkata International Film Festival is held over several days, usually in November, each year. It's one of India's oldest film festivals and features international, national, documentary, children's and other new films.
- Kolkata is one of the best places to enjoy Christmas in India with a special Christmas Festival along Park Street.
- Kolkata's Chinese community celebrates Chinese New Year with energetic lion dancing.
Tips for Going Out in Kolkata
- Taxis or rideshare apps such as Uber or Ola are the most convenient way of getting around. If taking a taxi, watch out for scams such as sped-up meters. Nighttime WBTC buses (which run later) are another option for budget travelers.
- 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.
- English is widely spoken in Kolkata, especially in nightlife venues. If you understand a bit of the local language, Bengali, chances are you'll enjoy your trip more and deepen cultural connections.
- If you're caught drinking in public, you may be fined, and if the police feel you are creating a nuisance, you may face varying jail time. The legal drinking age is 21 years in West Bengal and Kolkata. On "dry days" such as major national festivals or special religious occasions, most states prohibit the sale of alcohol. However, alcohol may be available at five-star hotels on those days.
- Fridays, Saturdays, and Wednesdays are the main party nights. Free or discounted drinks are often served to ladies on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Many bars have happy hours early on weeknights as well.
- Western attire is worn at bars and clubs in Kolkata, and it's common to see ladies in short dresses and tight tops. It's a good idea to carry a shawl to throw over at other times though, for example while traveling to and from venues, because local dress standards are more conservative.
- Door policies vary. Some are more exclusive than others but well-dressed foreigners will rarely have a problem getting in.
- Monsoon season rain, mainly from June through September, can cause havoc in the city. Flooding and difficulties getting transport do make going out avoidable at times then.