Kolkata, still commonly referred to as Calcutta, is the capital of India’s eastern state of West Bengal. It’s now known for its gentle pace of life, but back in the 18th century, the city was British India’s most important trading post and the showpiece of colonial power.
In addition to its history, the gateway to eastern India is famous for its food. Bengali cuisine has evolved over time, but Kolkata still remains an ideal place to experience the cuisine characterized in part by mustard oil and fish.
There are many very good restaurants in the city, but if you want home cooked Bengali food, then that’s possible, too. Iti Misra is one of a number of home chefs that host lunches for visitors to the city: Cooking from her kitchen, Iti dishes out authentic Bengali cuisine and gives her guests a glimpse into local life.
Home to prominent intellectuals, Kolkata is regarded as an artistic and cultural capital of India. In northern Kolkata, the oldest part of the city, you’ll find the stately mansions of famous Kolkatans such as Nobel Prize-winning poet Rabindranath Tagore.
That area of the city is also home to the busy Kumartuli clay making quarter. There, potters mold lifelike religious idols for the city’s many festivals.
Running from north to south right through the city is Hooghly River. At roughly 160 miles long, it provides the city with a supply of water and serves as a major transport system for both people and cargo. It was through the river that the East India company sailed into the region and established its trade settlement.
The waterway also provides the perfect place to experience a Kolkatan sunset. You can hire a boat to take you out on the water where you can see the iconic Howrah Bridge and the newer Vidyasagar Bridge.
For the Bengali high society, evenings in Kolkata can be spent at one of the many old colonial private members clubs such as The Saturday Club, which was founded in 1875.
Reminders of Kolkata’s colonial past can be found on every corner, but it’s the combinations of that history and modern advances that make this friendly metropolis a unique Indian experience.