As well as housing a string of historical must-sees, the sprawling Indian city of Kolkata—formerly known as Calcutta—has plenty more up its sleeve, from river cruises and ambient temples to literary quarters, hectic markets, and gritty backstreets. Here are our tips for discovering West Bengal’s multifaceted capital in two jam-packed days.
Day 1: Hit the Sights and Nighttime Scene
Morning: Begin by exploring Kolkata’s top landmarks, from the Victorian buildings from its time as the British Raj capital to recently built attractions. Take a half- or full-day tour of must-sees such as the Victoria Memorial and Writer’s Building, visit the Parshwanath Jain Temple, and view the Howrah Bridge across the River Hooghly.
Afternoon: With the star sights covered, experience the “real” Kolkata: the poorer neighborhoods synonymous with the city. Guided slum tours take in areas normally overlooked by visitors, while tours of the Mother House—once the headquarters of the charity-giving Catholic nun Mother Teresa—reveal how her care for Kolkata’s poor continues today.
Night: Now’s the time to unwind and discover the city’s culinary scene and nighttime buzz. Head out on a guided evening food walk to sample local snacks and Bengali dishes in the popular haunts of Park Street and College Street. Be sure to arrive hungry—most tours include generous tastings.
Day 2: Backstreets, Bazaars, and Culture
Morning: Go off-grid today and lose yourself in Kolkata’s hectic markets. Choose a tour that incorporates the maze-like New Market, Burra Bazaar (Burrabazar), and flower market. Some market-tour options also cover sights missed by standard itineraries, such as Princep Ghat and a Hooghly ferry ride, to give you a wider take on the city.
Afternoon: Explore Kolkata’s multifaith heritage with a tour of its eclectic religious sites, including the Hindu Dakshineswar Kali temple and Nakhoda Mosque. Alternatively, a guided walk along bookstall-lined College Street showcases Kolkata’s literary leanings, while a tour of Black Town—historically home to wealthy Bengali residents—spotlights its mansions and courtyards.
Night: Conclude your Kolkata stay with a sundown River Hooghly cruise: passing temples, markets, ghats—flights of steps leading to the river—and the Howrah Bridge, all illuminated by the sunset. For another memorable finale, book a dining experience at a local’s home and savor a home-cooked meal as you chat about Kolkata life.