Explore one of India’s oldest cities and enjoy the faded glory of its grandiose colonial-era architecture, its vibrant arts scene, delicious food and friendly people. The chaotic yet civilised West Bengal capital is a wonderful place to wander, dine and soak in local culture.
In this extract from Lonely Planet India’s Best Escapes East & Northeast India we bring you some of the best hotels, restaurants, watering holes and shops in Kolkata.
Oberoi Grand: Passing through the courtyard gateway, you’re transported from chaotic Chowringhee Road into a regal oasis of calm that deserves every point on its five stars. Immaculate accommodation oozes atmosphere, the pool is ringed with palms and the staff anticipate your every need.
Location: 15 Chowringhee Rd
Park Hotel: Hosting much of the city’s nightlife, the Park is a top central choice for upmarket accommodation. Hidden on the 1st floor are an arty sitting space and three restaurants. The reception is accessed bizarrely from Park Street by walking through The Street, a cafe-deli.
Location: 17 Park St
Fairlawn Hotel: Taking guests since 1936, the Fairlawn is a characterful 1783 Raj-era home, fronted by tropical greenery. While not luxurious, most rooms are spacious and well equipped.
Location: 13 A Sudder St
Fire and Ice: Self-consciously handsome waiters sporting black shirts, red aprons and bandanas bring forth real Italian pastas and fresh-baked thin-crust pizzas that are Kolkata’s best.
Location: Kanak Bldg, Middleton St
Bhojohari Manna: Each Bhojohari Manna branch feels distinct and has a somewhat different menu, though all feature top-quality Bengali food. Our favourite, Branch 6, is comparatively spacious and has live traditional music some Saturdays.
Location: 18/1 Hindustan Rd
Arsalan: High ceilinged and modern without being fashion conscious. The main attractions are melt-in-the-mouth chicken tikkas and celebrated biryanis served with lemon, chilli, onion and mint chutney.
Location: 119A Ripon St
If You Like: Sweets
KC Das: This bustling Bengali sweet shop claims to have invented the rasgulla in 1868. Whether or not that’s true, the syrup-soaked balls of cottage cheese here are delicious, as is the mishti doi. Seating available.
Location: Lenin Sarani
Balaram Mullick & Radharaman Mullick: More than a hundred years old, this popular shop’s specialities include baked rasgulla, mango doi and chhanar payesh.
Location: Paddapukur Rd, Bhawanipur
Tantra: One of Kolkata’s top clubs. Contemporary sounds throb through the dance floor and the chill-out zone around a central island bar with an overhead observation bridge.
Location: Park Hotel, 17 Park St
Soho: Central Kolkata’s latest upper-market party address. Entrance is free except on Saturdays.
Location: Ideal Plaza, 11/1 Sarat Bose Rd
Someplace Else: Showcases local bands, predominantly rock-oriented, without a cover charge.
Location: Park Hotel, 17 Park St
If You Like: Bengal saris
Byloom: This relatively new and delightful little boutique houses a cosy cafe.
Adi Dhakeswari Bastralaya: Five minutes from Byloom, this swanky new branch has three floors stocked with traditional and contemporary saris.
RMCA Basak: This place is not about only good saris. Salesmanship is the USP.