Looking for some unique places to visit in Kolkata?
Often described as the cultural capital of India, there’s something about Kolkata that’s hard to describe, and incredibly special.
Perhaps it’s the crumbling, faded grandeur. The giant gnarled trees with snaking vines, pushing up through uneven pavements. Or maybe it’s the unique mix of old and new. Or the city’s huge wealth of culture and history.
Whatever it is, there’s something magical in the air here.
Kolkata is a must-see destination for any adventurous traveller. Many people pass through on their way up to the tranquil hill stations of north-east India, or the spectacular trekking paradise of the eastern Himalayas.
But it’s definitely worth spending at least a couple of days in the city, too.
In this post, I’ll share with you some of the best and most unique places to visit in Kolkata. From historical landmarks, to trendy neighbourhoods, to natural beauty, there’s something for everyone in this vibrant city.
Popular Places To Visit In Kolkata
There are so many unique places to visit in Kolkata, you could spend weeks here exploring them all. Here are some of the best-known spots.
One of the most popular tourist attractions in Kolkata is the Victoria Memorial, a large marble monument that was opened in 1921 and is dedicated to Queen Victoria.
The Victoria Memorial is located in the Maidan, an enormous central park that’s the biggest urban park in West Bengal and one of the largest in all of Asia. It’s surrounded by 64 acres of beautiful grounds and ornamental gardens which visitors can explore.
Calcutta was the former British capital of India, and this monument was built as a symbol of imperial power and opulence.
Inside the Victoria Memorial Hall, there’s a museum with exhibitions on the history of Kolkata and India under British rule, as well as several other galleries. It’s well worth a visit, and is filled with interesting artifacts and exhibits, including paintings, sculptures, and other memorabilia from the colonial period.
There’s a small but very reasonable entry fee of 20 rupees per person for Indian citizens and 200 rupees ($2.50 USD) for foreign tourists.
Opening hours: 10am-5pm, Monday-Sunday
Dakshineswar Kali Temple
Located on the banks of the Hooghly River north of the city centre, the Dakshineswar Kali Temple is one of the most important religious sites in Kolkata. The temple was built in 1855 and is dedicated to the goddess Kali.
It’s a popular place with Hindu pilgrims, many of whom travel from all over West Bengal and other parts of eastern India to come and worship here.
All visitors, Hindu and non-Hindu alike, are welcome and there’s usually somebody at the entrance who will be happy to explain about the history and significance of the temple.
The temple complex consists of a large central walled courtyard, the main temple itself, plus several shrines and other rooms.
Visitors can also enjoy views of the Hooghly from the complex, and there’s a ghat (a set of steps) leading down to the river where local people come to wash and bathe.
The Dakshineswar Kali Temple is very atmospheric, and one of the most unique places to visit in Kolkata.
Opening hours: 6am–12:30pm + 3pm–8:30pm, Mon-Sun
Another iconic landmark in Kolkata is the Howrah Bridge, which spans the Hooghly River and connects the city centre to the district of Howrah.
The bridge is one of the largest cantilever bridges in the world, as well as being one of the busiest, and is an impressive sight to behold. Amazingly, Howrah Bridge was built without using any nuts or bolts.
To get a good view of Howrah Bridge, you can take a boat ride underneath it, walk across it, or simply enjoy the views from either side. Also, if you take a taxi from central Kolkata to Howrah railway station (on the western bank of the Hooghly), you will almost certainly pass over the bridge.
At night, Howrah Bridge is lit up with brightly coloured lights, which change colour from time to time. This is also one of the best places to view the city’s illuminated skyline.
For a taste of old-world luxury, visit the Marble Palace, one of the most opulent homes in North Kolkata.
The Marble Palace was built in 1835 by Raja Rajendra Mullick, a prominent and wealthy merchant from West Bengal. Today, the palace is still owned by Mullick’s descendants and is one of the grandest and best-preserved houses of nineteenth-century Calcutta.
Built largely in Neoclassical style, and incorporating various features of traditional Bengali and Chinese architecture, the palace has marble floors and walls, and a number of ornate marble sculptures.
It now houses a museum containing Mullick’s large collection of art and sculpture, including portraits, statues, and paintings by various famous European artists. You can explore the many rooms and halls of the palace, and also enjoy the tranquil landscaped gardens.
The Marble Palace is a unique and fascinating place to visit in Kolkata, don’t miss it.
Opening hours: 10am-4pm, Tues-Weds + Fri-Sun (closed Mon + Thurs)
Kolkata Botanical Garden
For a perfect break from the hustle and bustle of the city, head to the Kolkata Botanical Garden, formally known as the Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Indian Botanic Garden.
It’s one of the largest botanical gardens in India, and is home to over 12,000 species of plants, flowers, and lush green trees.
The whole place is well landscaped and nicely maintained. It’s incredibly green and peaceful, with a number of small lakes, lawns, tropical plants and trees, including a giant banyan tree that is thought to be 250 years old.
On the shores of one of the larger lakes, you can hire little boats and potter around at your leisure.
A taxi from the city centre to the Kolkata Botanical Garden typically takes around 30-45 minutes, depending on traffic.
Opening hours: 5:30am–7:30am + 9am–4pm, Tues-Sun (closed Mondays)
Another popular tourist attraction in Kolkata is the Birla Planetarium, which is located on the edge of the Maidan, next to St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Opened in 1962, this enormous planetarium is the largest in Asia, and the second largest in the world. It has a large circular gallery with over 500 reclining seats, and a state-of-the-art 360-degree projection system.
Here you can watch incredible virtual-reality shows on a range of topics, including space exploration, the constellations, cosmic collisions, and phenomena such as nebulae and black holes. You can even take a guided virtual starship tour of our solar system.
Shows are conducted daily in English, Bengali and Hindi.
There is also a museum with exhibits on the history of astronomy and space exploration, detailed celestial models, as well as a space research laboratory.
The Birla Planetarium is a really fantastic and unique place to visit in Kolkata and offers a fascinating glimpse into the world of astronomy and the immense scale of the universe.
Opening hours: 12:30pm–6:30pm, Mon-Sat; 10:30am–6:30pm, Sunday
Park Street Area
One of the trendiest and liveliest places to visit in Kolkata is the Park Street area, which stretches from east of the Maidan to Park Circus 7 Point.
In this district you’ll find chic cafes, trendy bars, and upscale restaurants. It’s the perfect place to people watch and enjoy a meal or a drink while taking in the sights and sounds of the city.
The Park Street area is also home to some of Kolkata’s best nightlife, with buzzing live music venues, bars with DJs and a number of other fun places to hang out in the evening.
For food, you’re spoilt for choice here, with a huge range of options ranging from street food stalls selling kati rolls and chaat to fancy restaurants serving food from all over the world.
South Park Street Cemetery / South Park Cemetery
Near the eastern end of the Park Street area is the South Park Street Cemetery, a peaceful 18th-century Christian graveyard, containing the large, ornate tombs of many of the city’s former colonial rulers.
South Park Cemetery is open every day from 10am-5pm.
St Paul's Cathedral
Located next to the Birla Planetarium, St Paul’s Cathedral is the most important Christian church in Kolkata and the first Anglican cathedral in Asia. It’s also one of the most beautiful buildings in the city.
The cathedral was built in 1847 in Indo-Gothic style, with stained glass windows, intricate carvings, and Florentine Renaissance-style frescoes.
It’s a very large and impressive building, with the nave measuring 75 metres in length and 25 metres in width. The cathedral has a square tower, modelled on the 12th century Canterbury Cathedral in England, with a central spire that’s 61 metres tall.
Visitors can explore the inside of the cathedral, and even take a tour of the bell tower for stunning views of the city. The views of the Victoria Memorial that you get from up here are fantastic too.
Opening hours: 10am-6pm, Mon-Sun
Popular with budget travellers, Sudder Street is a narrow road in central Kolkata, close to the Indian Museum, that’s famous for its super-cheap hostels and budget hotels.
The street rose to fame on the hippie trail in the 1960s, and has been a well-known destination for backpackers ever since.
I first visited Sudder Street as a penniless backpacker in 2011, and stayed at the Hotel Maria, one of the better-known budget hostels in the city. I paid less than £4 GBP for my own room. The place was pretty grimy to say the least, though I’ve heard that it’s (slightly) nicer today.
As well as cheap accommodation, Sudder Street is famous for its second-hand bookshops and vinyl record sellers, plus vendors selling clothes, shawls, and a range of souvenirs.
Even if you don’t stay here, I’d still recommend checking out Sudder Street – it’s a very iconic place to visit in Kolkata.
And while you’re in the area, the Indian Museum is also worth a visit, especially if you’re interested in Indian art, archaeology and anthropology. It’s open from 10am–5pm every day except Monday.
Fort William is a large fort located on the Hooghly River’s eastern banks. It was built by the British East India Company to protect against attack from the French and Dutch.
It was named after King William III, otherwise known as William of Orange, and is one of the most famous historical places in Kolkata.
Fort William is the site of the infamous “Black Hole of Calcutta”, a tiny dungeon in which hundreds of British prisoners of war were held in conditions so cramped that many died from heat exhaustion and suffocation.
Today, Fort William is used by the Indian Army as a regional headquarters.
Sadly, visiting Fort William is not usually possible. You can usually only view the fort from the outside, due to it being a military facility. However, those interested in the history of Kolkata will still find this a fascinating place to see.
Opening hours: N/A
Eden Gardens is the name of a much-loved park just north of the Maidan and south of B.B.D. Bagh, the busiest commercial district in the city and Kolkata’s buzzing nerve centre.
It’s also the name of the enormous 19th-century cricket stadium located inside the park next to the Netaji Indoor Stadium, an indoor multi-purpose sports arena.
Eden Gardens park itself is peaceful and picturesque, home to a wide range of plant species, and is dotted with ornamental lakes, temples and shrines. It’s a great spot for a picnic on a sunny afternoon, and is popular with people of all ages.
The iconic Eden Gardens stadium is the oldest in India, and is often referred to as the home of Indian cricket. With a capacity of 66,000, it’s also the third-largest cricket stadium in the world and regularly hosts major Indian Premier League and international cricket matches.
For fans of cricket, this is a must-visit place in Kolkata!
I once got caught up in the enormous wave of fans leaving a match here. The atmosphere was really electric, like a giant carnival, with people singing, dancing and just having the best time. And India had actually lost the game.
Watching a match here is high up on my bucket list!
Another interesting historical site in Kolkata, the Mother House is a convent and the headquarters of the Missionaries of Charity. It’s famous as being Mother Teresa’s house, the place where she lived and worked, and is also where she was buried.
Mother Teresa was an Albanian-Indian nun who founded the Missionaries of Charity to look after orphaned street children and abandoned babies in the city. She died in 1997, aged 87, and was officially declared a saint by the Catholic church for her work.
Mother House is now a popular pilgrimage and tourist destination in Kolkata. There is an on-site museum with exhibits on Mother Teresa’s life and work, and a small chapel.
Opening hours: 8am-12pm + 3pm-6pm, Fri-Weds (closed Thursdays)
Less Visited & Off-The-Beaten-Track Places To Visit In Kolkata
As well as seeing the famous attractions in Kolkata, if you have time I recommend heading off the beaten track a little during your time here. This is a city unlike any other, and the longer you spend exploring the more it gets under your skin.
Here are some additional unique places to visit in Kolkata that are a little less well-known, but still definitely worth seeing.
Another unique place to visit in Kolkata is the city’s Chinatown, located in the neighbourhood of Tangra. This is particularly noteworthy as being the only Chinatown in India.
This area of Kolkata has had a Chinese population ever since the 18th century, when merchants from all over southern China established themselves here.
The streets are busy and vibrant, and mouthwatering aromas accompany you wherever you go. You’ll probably see Chinese residents selling spices, street food, homemade sauces, and other items.
Here you can explore narrow alleyways lined with Chinese restaurants, grocery shops and temples, and eat delicious authentic “Hakka”-style Chinese cuisine.
Science City, on the eastern edge of Kolkata, is a must-visit for anyone interested in science and technology.
The complex is the largest science centre in Asia, and one of the best science museums in the region. It has a number of interactive, hands-on exhibits on a range of topics including the evolution of life, emerging technologies, space, and physical geography.
There’s also an IMAX cinema, where you can watch amazing high-definition films, and a few theme park-style rides.
Science City is a great place to spend a day, and is fun and educational for people of all ages.
Opening hours: 10am–6pm, Mon-Tues + Thurs-Sat; 10am–7pm, Weds; 10am–8pm, Sun
Rabindra Sarobar is a large artificial lake located in South Kolkata. The lake is surrounded by over 100 acres of parks and gardens. It’s a great spot for a run, a walk or a picnic.
Previously known as Dhakuria Lake, it was initially constructed in the 1920s, and is a peaceful, green oasis amidst the urban sprawl. Some local residents also come here to watch the sunrise, meditate and pray.
On the north-western side of the lake is the Rabindra Sarobar Football Stadium, and in the north-east is Nazrul Mancha, an outdoor music venue.
On the south side there is the Durga Exhibition Museum, a gallery that houses artwork and a number of carvings and idols from previous annual Durga Puja festivals held in the city.
The parks and gardens surrounding the main lake also have a number of other sights and facilities, including a Japanese Buddhist temple, a swimming lake, cricket and archery training areas, a rowing club, and various playgrounds.
Rabindra Sarobar is popular with people who live in this part of the city, but very few tourists make it here. If you have the time, I think it’s well worth the effort to see a different side to the city.
Shahid Minar is a large monument on the northern edge of the Maidan. It was originally built in 1828 and named the Ochterlony Monument, to commerorate Sir David Ochterlony of the British East India Company.
However, in 1969 the monument was re-dedicated to honour those who died fighting for Indian independence. “Shaheed Minar” translates to “Tower of Martyrs”.
Mark Twain visited Shahid Minar during his time in India, and described it as the “cloud-kissing monument”. It is 48 metres tall and was designed and constructed with inspiration from traditional Turkish, Syrian and Egyptian architectural styles.
Best Places To Visit Near Kolkata
There are also several fantastic places to visit near Kolkata that make great day trips from the city. These are two of the most popular options.
Located about 90 kilometres south-east of Kolkata, the Sundarbans is the world’s largest mangrove forest. Covering an area of 10,000 square kilometres (3,900 square miles), these vast wetlands and tidal flats straddle the border between India and Bangladesh.
The whole area lies in the delta formed by the confluence of a number of rivers, which then flow into the Bay of Bengal. It’s an important habitat for hundreds of species of birds, fish, mammals and reptiles.
This is one of the best places in the world for seeing Bengal tigers in their natural habitat. Several companies offer safari tours, nature walks and boat trips, and if you’re lucky you might get to see one of these magnificent creatures up close.
Four sections of the Sundarbans are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including (on the Indian side) the Sundarbans National Park. This is the closest part of the forest to Kolkata and the easiest area to access from the city.
Can I stay in the Sundarbans?
Yes. You can either visit the Sundarbans National Park as a day trip from Kolkata, or spend the night in one of the various eco-lodges and guesthouses in the area.
This is an excellent homestay-style guesthouse located on the edge of the jungle. It has great facilities, a garden, swimming pool, sauna, restaurant, bar, 24-hour front desk, and is surrounded by lush green nature. Click here to book.
How to get to the Sundarbans
It is possible to travel independently to the Sundarbans, although it does take the best part of a day to get there.
First, you need to take a suburban train to Canning station, then a bus to one of the villages on the edge of the delta, such as Sonakhali (the most popular option), Nazat, Raidighi, or Namkhana. From there, you must then take a boat along the waterways and into the forest itself.
A much easier option would be to book a tour that includes transport to and from Kolkata. I don’t usually take tours, but in this case I think it makes sense and will save you a lot of time and effort.
Much closer to Kolkata, Nicco Park is an amusement park located on the eastern outskirts of the city.
The park features over 30 different rides and attractions, including a water park, and spreads over 40 acres. It’s been referred to as the “Disneyland of West Bengal”, and is a fun place to come if you fancy a day out of the city, especially if you have children.
From the top of some of the taller rides, you get fantastic views out over Kolkata and the surrounding area.
One thing I really like about Nicco Park is that it aims to offer an educational, as well as a fun, experience. Throughout the park there are boards displaying a range of educational content, and next to each ride there is an explanation of the science behind the rides.
There’s also a Solar Energy Village inside the park, which showcases the various uses of solar and other types of renewal energy.
Opening hours: 10:30am–7:30pm, Mon-Sun
Tours Of The Most Unique Places To Visit In Kolkata
Here are a few well-reviewed tours that will help you get the most out of your time in the city.
I recommend booking yourself onto one or two of these, and then spending the rest of your time in the city exploring by yourself.
- Street food tour – explore Kolkata’s narrow backstreets and taste some delicious, high-quality street food. (If that one’s fully booked, this similar tour is an excellent alternative.)
- Culture kaleidoscope walking tour – scratch under the surface and learn about Kolkata’s rich and vibrant mix of cultures, religions, and communities.
- Full-day sightseeing tour – this tour takes you to many of the places mentioned in this post, and would be perfect for those who only have a small amount of time to see the city.
- Raj heritage walking tour – perfect for those interested in the colonial history of Calcutta, the former capital of British India.
Final Thoughts On The Most Unique Places To Visit In Kolkata
Whenever I am in India, I always try to visit Kolkata. It’s an amazing, vibrant city with so many places to visit and so much to offer.
From historical landmarks to trendy neighbourhoods, there’s sure to be something that interests you in this fascinating destination.
Have you ever been to Kolkata? What’s your favourite place in the city?
Check out some of my other posts on India, including: