Kolkata is the former capital of British-ruled India. The city, nicknamed as the ‘City of Joy’, is widely and fondly known for its rich cosmopolitan culture, legendary literary brilliance, artistic magnificence and imposing architectures. Claimed and acclaimed as the cultural and intellectual epicentre of India, the city welcomes travellers from other states and countries to explore its cultural and culinary richness.
The city landscape offers you a great opportunity to explore its historical places that truly encapsulate and epitomize the true essence of Eastern India. Here is a list of the top historical places in the beautiful city that is as bubbly as a young damsel:
The name is enough to drop a hint about its marvellous and majestic architecture. It is one of the biggest draws for the Kolkata-bound tourists from around the globe. The royal building, which was established by Rajendra Mallick in 1835, will leave you spellbound with its excruciating beauty. Located near Chorbagan in North Kolkata, the palace has some great and rare collection of masterpieces by many famous artists of international fame, including Reynolds, Rembrandt and Van Gough.
Never give a miss to the pool, serene garden and scenic lake. The palace also has a zoo with a variety of rare animals and birds.
Another must-visit historical place in Kolkata! The mighty edifice was established in 1696 on the eastern bank of the Hooghly River. After its coming into being, the fort became the first stronghold for the British in India. It took a decade to complete the fort but did not take long to realize that the architecture had a few loopholes. As a result, a new octagonal structure was established and Sir Robert Clive laid its foundation.
Named after King William III, the fort is spread over 70.9 acres of land and decorated with hundreds of magnificent arched windows overlooking lush green garden from five sides. The surface of the fort is meticulously done with marvellous stonework.
The fort has several entry points, namely Treasury Gate, St. Georges, Water Gate, Plassey Calcutta and Chowringhee, The fort features a huge arcade, Plassey Gate. Explore Fort William and listen to the throbbing heart of Kolkata’s rich history.
St. Paul's Cathedral
Popularly and widely known as the first Episcopal Church in Asia, this beautiful cathedral is one of the towering and teasing architectures in Kolkata. The church is 114 feet long, 81 feet wide and 247 feet tall. The structure, which was completed in 1847, is the seat of the Diocese in Kolkata.
The signature of Indo-Gothic style is clearly evident throughout the structure complete with colourful painted windows, towering spire and a cascading edifice in white. The cathedral dons a stunning look during Christmas and receives countless visitors.
The inside story of St. Paul's Cathedralis as majestic as its outstanding beauty. The huge nave with its stately chancel and altar along with beautiful paintings and carvings is a silent spectator of great events and moments of Christian history.
The Cathedral complex houses a library as well as several memorabilia of congregants of the bygone days. The library is a home to thousands of books, many of which are as old as the Cathedral’s foundation.
Formerly known as the Ochterlony Momument, the towering structure was built in 1828 to celebrate Major-general Sir David Ochterlony’s victory over the Marathas in 1804 as well as the Gurkhas in the Anglo-Nepalese War. He was the commander of the East India Company. Shaheed Minar is also dedicated to all those who sacrificed their lives during the India’s freedom movement.
The 48-metre high structure depicts a wonderful blend of Egyptian, Syrian and Turkish architecture style at its base, column and dome respectively. Don’t miss a visit to Shaheed Minar, one of the most inspiring and imposing historical places in Kolkata.
Victoria Memorial is undoubtedly one of the most visited and vibrant historical places that every Kolkatan is proud of. It is one of the hallmarks of Kolkata. A 16-foot tall bronze statue symbolizing victory is mounted at the top of Victoria Memorial. The illuminated memorial looks breath-taking at night. The sound and light show hosted in the evening are a must-watch for the travellers.
Another stunning remnant of the British Raj in India, the architecture was built by the Prince of Wales in 1906 to commemorate Queen Victoria’s 25 years of rule over India. Located at the heart of Kolkata, the white marbled ornate and opulent almost resembles the Victoria Memorial in London
The memorial is not only a great historical place but also an epitome of architectural grandeur inspired by both British and Mughal styles. Spreading over a vast area of 64 acres, the place houses numerous sculptures and statues and has a beautifully manicured and maintained garden to put your mind to some much-needed rest.
Calcutta Indian Museum, built in 1814, is the largest museum in India and ninth largest museum in the world. Seated at Chowringhee on the Jawaharlal Nehru Road, the museum is a must-visit spot for those eager to explore India’s rich and regal culture as diverse and glorious it could be.
Popularly called as ‘Jadughar’ (A Bengali word meaning ‘house of magic’), it boasts of the finest and most fascinating collection of coins, fossils, ornaments, armours, skeletons, Gandhara art, fabulous Mughal and modern paintings, Egyptian mummies, sacred relics of Buddha, ancient scriptures, a variety of unique stones and many more.
A visit to the museum will take you back to the age of great Mohenjodaro and Harappa civilization through the timeless and countless preserves of antique items used during that period. The museum also houses a library and a bookshop. It is a great place to introduce you to Kolkata’s glorious and glamorous past.
St John's Church
Considered one of the oldest churches in the ‘City of Joy’, St John’s Church was established during the British rule. The meticulously maintained church will take you on a tour of glorious past and architectural grandeurs. Its architecture exhibits a nice amalgamation of ancient features and breath-taking uniqueness.
St John's Church has tall features – a signature of the neoclassical architecture. The stained glass windows and color palette serve to heighten and brighten the unique characters of this brilliant and beautiful edifice. Tranquility in and around the building gives you a rare chance to reflect on your past, rest your present and rethink your future.
The royal structure was established on the land used as a graveyard once upon a time. That is why, the premise has a lot of tombs and memorials, each of which itself being a piece of history and art, which can comfort bereaved souls and inspire creative minds.
The church and its sprawling compound make a perfect destination for those willing to soak themselves into the divine power of the almighty and search for a spiritual gateway to serenity. A visit to St John’s Church is a blissful experience for anyone drawn to history and/or spirituality.
Lower circular Road Cemetery
Also known as South Park Street Cemetery, the 18th century compound with its numerous tombs and memorials is the fulcrum of Sandip Roy’s 2010 thriller film ‘Gorosthane Sabdhan’ (Stay Careful at Graveyard) based on Satyajit Roy’s story by the same title.
The South Park Street Cemetery is famously known as one of the most haunted places in the capital-city of West Bengal. Whether or not you believe in supernatural powers, this no-church cemetery is one of the earliest of its kind in the world. Declared as the heritage site in Kolkata, it is managed and maintained by the ASI (Archaeological Survey of India).
The unique charm of aesthetically beautiful tombs in the cemetery is a big draw for the tourists who come in a large number from around the globe. The architecture symbolizes a blend of Indo-Saracenic and Gothic styles, with its stones curved with miniature replicas. Some tombs have a mysterious vibe. Grave number 363 is one such tomb that is the last resting place of the woman who never wanted anyone to know her name.
If you are new to Kolkata, allow yourself to immerse into the melancholic charm that the cemetery offers. Whether you want to explore a heritage site or pay tribute to the unknown deceased, never give a miss to this cemetery.
The 19th century structure borrows its architectural style from Kedleston Hall. The house was once the residence of the viceroys of the British-ruled India. After India won freedom, the government shifted to New Delhi and Raj Bhavan became the seat of the Governor of West Bengal, a function that it is still fulfilling. Seated at the heart of Kolkata, Raj Bhavan is a three-storeyed structure with a large compound.
General Post Office
Undoubtedly one of the must-see points in Kolkata, General Post Office or GPO is seated in the B.B.D Bagh area. The building in white features an imposing structure and handles most of the inbound and outbound parcels and mails of the city.
St. James' Church
Built in 1862, it is considered one of the most elegant churches in Kolkata. The church is popularly known as twin church (Jora Girja in Bengali) due to its twin spires that dominate the city’s skyline.
It is a heritage building located at the junction of Hare Street and Strand Road. It was established between 1840 and 1844 and then city magistrate C.K. Robinson was the brain behind its architectural design. The structure was named after Sir Charles T. Metcalfe, the Governor-General of India, to honor him for his tremendous effort towards establishing a free press. Overlooking the Hooghly River on the West, the majestic building resembles ancient Greek temples.
Gwalior Monument or Ellenborough’s Folly is a 60-feet high octagonal cenotaph erected in 1847. The memorial was built by Lord Ellenborough, the Governor-General of India, in memory of the men and officers who lost their lives in the Gwalior War in 1843.
The single-storied white marble building houses a spiral staircase going up to a marble cenotaph on the upper floor. The cliff of the monument resembles a Mughal ‘chhatri’ or umbrella resting on 8 bronze pillars. A bronze dome, which was captured from the defeated Marathas, adorns the dome of the cenotaph.
The monument offers a generous and gorgeous view of the Howrah Bridge and Vidyasagar Setu. Entries are strictly restricted to maintain peace and somberness of the place.
James Prinsep Memorial
James Prinsep Memorial is seated on the banks of the Hooghly River. The magnificent structure of the memorial is a big draw for both the history and architecture buffs. The place receives footfalls of not only the tourists from far-flung lands but also the local visitors who love to soak themselves in its regal vibe.
With stately Howrah Bridge ruling the skyline in the background, taking a long walk on the bank of the river while breathing in cool air or watching sunrise or sunset will be an experience never to forget in life. .
Asiatic Society was established on 15th January, 1784 by civil servant Sir William Jones, to enhance and advance the cause of Oriental Research. The Society has a museum established in 1814. After the Indian Museum was built in 1814, the society handed a lion’s share of its precious collection to it.
Asiatic Society still has a significant collection of coins, sculptures, manuscripts, archival records and copper plate inscriptions. Furthermore, it boasts of housing some masterpeices including Thomas Daniell's A Ghat, Peter Paul Rubens’ Infant Christ, Guido Cagnacci's Cleopatra and Joshua Reynolds’ Cupid asleep on Cloud as well as a rock edict of Asoka.
Glorious Dead Cenotaph
The Glorious Dead Cenotaph is one of the major landmarks of Kolkata. Located in Kolkata Maidan just opposite to the Akashvani Bhawan, the structure was erected in 1924 in memory of the Anglo-Indian and British soldiers who sacrificed their lives in the First World War (1914-18).
Unlike regular tombs, a cenotaph is an empty monument built up in honour of a departed soul or a group of dead people whose bodies are buried elsewhere. The cenotaph in Kolkata, which was erected in the lines of the Cenotaph of Whitehall in London, was designed by architect Herbert William Palliser.
The Calcutta Cenotaph features two wraths on either side but no other ornamentation. Two bronze statues of British soldiers painted in black, holding bayoneted rifles at the reverse arms and head bowed are anchored as silent guards at the entrance of the cordoned area. These two statues were imported from England and unveiled by the Prince of Wales (Edward VIII) in 1921.
Vivekanada Setu, also known as Bally Bridge or Willington Bridge, is a robust construction to connect Kolkata to Howrah. It was inaugurated on 28th December, 1930 after its construction was ended on 12th December in the same year.
The multi-span street bridge was constructed to provide rail and road links between the busy Kolkata Port and its heartland. It is the second oldest bridge and one of the four bridges connecting Kolkata and Howrah.
Holy Rosary Cathedral
Holy Rosary Cathedral or the Cathedral of the Most Holy Rosary is also known as the Portuguese Church. Erected in 1799, the cathedral is also called the Murgihata Church.
The cathedral looks gorgeous with its ornamented pediment flanked by twin domed towers on its either side and an extended porch with arched entrance. The interior of the cathedral is adorned with brilliant sculptures that include 14 Stations of the Cross. There are beautiful figures of Madonna and Child just behind the altar.
Black Hole Monument (Holwell Monument)
The Black Hole of Kolkata was an infamous dungeon in Fort William and has an area of 14x18 square feet. It is where the British prisoners of war were held captive for three days by the troops of Siraj-ud-Dulah, the last Nawab of Bengal in June, 1756. As too many people were imprisoned overnight in the dungeon, 123 or 146 prisoners died of heat exhaustion and suffocation. The British built up a 15-metre high obelisk in memory of the dead soldiers
Job Charnock Samadhi
Job Charnok Samadhi is a lesser-known but must-visit point for the Kolkata-bound travellers. Located at the rear northwest corner of St John’s Church grounds, one can see a small gated cemetery partially paved with 18th century grave stones. A hollow thick-walled octagonal cenotaph is the major draw of this area. The inner wall of the cenotaph has Job Charnock’s grave.
Charnock is famously known as the founder of Kolkata. He breathed his last in 1693, only three years after this third visit to what would be famously known as Kolkata.
Mohor Kunja, also known as Citizen’s Park, is one of the famous public spots in Kolkata. Located on Cathedral Road opposite to Nandan and by the side of Victoria Memorial, the urban public park was opened as Citizen’s Park in 2007. Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya, then Mayor of Kolkata, renamed the park in memory of noted Rabindra Sangeet singer Kanika Bandopadhyay, who is fondly known as Mohor Di.
The park is known for its aesthetic elegance and musical fountains. It also serves as an open-air stage to host cultural events.
Kolkata, a city that is full of life and laughter, has several popular and off-beat travel spots. Write for us if you have any information and suggestion to share with our believed readers.