How to do Kolkata in 3 days

Imagine a place: chaotic, old, vibrant, super laid back, cheap and summery at all times of the year; a place, exactly opposite of Delhi in character. This would be a precise introduction to Kolkata. Economical and safe for tourists and travellers with abundant spots for history lovers and food connoisseurs- BONUS!

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Age old British time hand pulled rickshaws are still prevalent in Kolkata.

I had planned a fortnight of my solo trip around Kolkata and Andaman & Nicobar Islands in the festive month of December and I was so happy to be able to spend my Christmas in Kolkata. I flew out from cold Delhi to pleasant Kolkata and I have never loved a city I enjoyed as much. I stayed for three nights in Alipore(South Kolkata) with my very kind teacher from school (who I was meeting after 10 years) who hosted me rather glamorously. It is an hour away from Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport but close to all the places that I wanted to cover.
Kolkata, formerly called Calcutta is one of the oldest cities in India and was once a proud administrative centre for British India. The architecture of the city boasts naturally of the colonial times, adding hints of yellow and blue here and there. It is one of the cities that also still runs the age old trams. While in Kolkata, you needn’t worry about transportation: it is incredibly inexpensive and you will find one mode of transportation or the other EVERYWHERE.

Things to do in Kolkata:
If you are someone who gets easily enticed by history, geology and archaeology, do not miss the Indian Museum. It’s one of the oldest in India and has a collection curated for museum lovers. It also is a storehouse of some lovely rare artefacts and such so ebullient lovers of the museum, gear up and visit this iconic gem; you’ll probably spend a day going through it all.

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A student-made sculpture on display at the Indian Museum

Once you’re done with the museum, walk around and explore the little kiosks outside: some sell age old coins from all parts of India, the others: books, clothes, food and accessories. When you walk down further, you will find yourself outside the Government College of Art & Craft and the Geological Survey of India. You could also go take a peek if the security allows.
If you keep walking ahead, you will find yourself at Kyd Street’s crossing. It is a bustling market area with great food joints but it’s actually the Park Street that takes away the cake for me. Park Street is a good 100-150 m from the Kyd Street crossing. I was lucky to have witnessed the excitement with which Kolkata brings in Christmas. Park Street gets a beautiful festive makeover with fairy lights, christmas props and little trinkets all over the place.

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Park Street decorated extravagantly for Christmas.

The Kathi Rolls of Park Street are a delicacy and  you can grab a giant roll from one of the street side shops for less than 100 INR. Ross Street and Middleton Street also pop through Park Street and have gems to offer. This whole area must be explored on foot to see just how many cafes, stores, art galleries and bars are booming on every nook and corner.
Although I love exploring a place, not knowing where I’m going, I also always keep my Google maps handy.

The particular area around Victoria Memorial has more than just one place to visit so finding shortcuts to go from one place to the other becomes easier that way.

A 3 day Itinerary around Kolkata

Day 1: Visit the iconic Howrah Bridge that has been the lifeline of South Kolkata since 1942. {{If you’re a morning person}} Come dawn, the hardworking fellas around the Howrah Bridge set up a colourful flower market that undoubtedly sells out in about two hours.

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A man offering prayers alongside the holy river, Hooghly.

The chaotic region comes alive around 5:30 in the morning under the bridge and is an amazing place to start your day right with streaks of all kinds of colour everywhere you look!

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Howrah Bridge from the ghats of the Hooghly River.

Take the Howrah Jetty towards Babughat for 5 INR. Walk further and see through Netaji Subhash Indoor Stadium and Eden Gardens. Take a train from the Eden Gardens Station to Prinsep Ghat for 5 INR and admire the Prinsep Memorial under the overcast of the Second Hooghly Bridge.

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Prinsep Ghat Memorial and the Second Hooghly Bridge.

When you walk down a little further, you will come across George Gate; it is the entrance to the army base called Fort Williams. From there you could take a taxi for 70 INR to reach Victoria Memorial and marvel at one of the most beautiful World Heritage Sites of India.

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The stunning Victoria Memorial!

Furthermore, you could visit the St. Paul’s Cathedral which is right behind Victoria Memorial. Across the street from Victoria Memorial, is the Ronald Ross Memorial and Ronald Ross Laboratory where Ronald Ross, the scientist, made the groundbreaking discovery of the malarial parasite.

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Postcard perfect shot of the Victoria Memorial.

You could then head over to the Indian Museum and gape at the various departments that it’s known for. There are various known speakers that have sessions at the Museum every month. If you’re in town and lucky, go ahead and make the inner geek in you proud! After covering the Museum, you could either retire for the day, enjoy drinks at a great bar at Park Street or explore the old and the new marketplace of Dharamtala. If you’re a foodie, do not forget to try Puchka (avoid local vendors), Nolan Our Roshogulla, Chum Chum, Sondesh and their local delicacies. There is also a gorgeous Nizam’s outlet in Dharamtala for you to enjoy their delicacies in Bengali style.

Day 2: Should you be a Rabindranath Tagore enthusiast, might as well catch a metro to Girish Park and explore his neighbourhood called Rabindra Sarani.

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Thakur Bari: The house of Rabindranath Tagore, now a museum.

His house which was called the Thakur Bari has now been converted into a fantastic museum and is a must visit for every Tagore lover. The entry fee is 20 INR and the entire property is gorgeously underrated.

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The marvellous architecture at the Rabindra Sarani.

Strut along the age old neighbourhood glancing at amazing marble structures and don’t forget to visit the Marble Palace (the locals will guide you) for more marble art. Your day will be well spent marvelling at architecture of the colonial times and getting to know the heart of Kolkata. Do not forget to try the trams. That they’re still around is a miracle in itself. The tram line opened in 1873 as a horse drawn service (yes, the Calcutta Tramways Company owned a thousand horses especially for this!) and then one more in 1902, as the first electric tramcar in Asia.

Day 3: If you are a religious person or a temple enthusiast, do not miss the Dakineshwar Temple which is an hour away from Howrah Bridge, in decent traffic conditions.

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Howrah Station

There are a few more temples that you could pay a visit to, like the Birla Mandir, Kalighat Kali Temple, the ISKCON Sri Sri Radha Govinda Mandir, the Calcutta Jain Temple et al.

There are a couple more attractions to be seen in this gem of a city and I promise you can never have enough of it. You can also add The Science City, Tipu Sultan Mosque, Calcutta High Court, Mother’s Wax Museum to your list while visiting Kolkata.

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Explore the cafes in and around Park Street.

Should you have more time in your hands, you could plan a trip to Sunderbans National Park. A direct train from Kolkata does the job but making sure you book your tour packages for camping in advance is important. You could also take a one night trip to Bolpur, which houses the remnants of Tagore’s life at Shanti Niketan.

Tips to make the most of Kolkata:

Take it slow. You will enjoy Kolkata the most when you accept its slow paced laid back culture. Your happiness will know no bounds once you realise that the city is nothing like Delhi or Bombay. It’s more cultural, chilled and positive.

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Important morning errands around Howrah. 🙂

Walk. Walk as much as you can because this city has a surprise waiting for you on every corner of every alley. I am not hyperbolising; you will truly know what I mean once you explore it without expecting anything.

Use public transport. While you’re not walking, immerse in their metros(A/C & non A/C), hand pulled rickshaws, trains, jetties, the iconic yellow no refusal taxis and trams. The city’s transportation is very cheap and organised. Although, come dusk, it gets hard to find taxi but Ola and Uber are fully functional in case you seem to start thinking that public transport isn’t so safe in the evenings.

Be open to people. A majority of the people know Hindi and English so it shouldn’t come across as a surprise. You will mostly not have any problems with communication. Accept the people for who and what they are and you will only receive love in Kolkata.

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Winding alleys such as these are the spine of Kolkata.

Accommodation: There are a ton of luxury hotels from The Taj to The Oberoi but should you want to experiment and have a more authentic adventure, I suggest you try Airbnb. There are quite a few amazing retreats on Airbnb in Kolkata, from the ones with the colonial feels to the ones that will do you good for a night- all ranging between 800 INR to 5000 INR per night. As of hostels, there aren’t many in Kolkata but The Youth Hostel is highly recommended.

The city changed from Calcutta to Kolkata over the years but never lost that century old appeal that we still can’t find anywhere else. To know Kolkata was a delight and I want to keep going back to have that piece of peace that surprisingly can be experienced in this lovely city, even in the chaos.
Let me know if you want to know more. You can contact us at happyhippies@outlook.com or comment in the comments section below and we will get back to you.

Also, here is an ode to the timeless Kolkata. Hope you like it:

Love,
Srishti

6 thoughts on “How to do Kolkata in 3 days

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