Kolkata, the capital city of the state of West Bengal, warrants no special introduction to tourists from across the globe. As a destination, there are a lot of tourist places in Kolkata that are especially talked about, famous and obviously commercialized.
In this piece, we decided not to chew the same gum and talk about great tourist places in Kolkata that are less talked about. For any tourist who wants to know and understand Kolkata at depth, these are a must in the bucket list.
Understanding The Common Tourist Places in Kolkata
The city has its own fair share of history and heritage. At the same time, the city has developed a lot like a modern-day metropolis. Architectural marvels, art galleries, and a very special, very warm cultural ambiance welcome you in the city.
If you plan to go on a shopping spree, you have more than enough options here. There are the lavish outlets and malls in South City, City Center, Forum or Quest area. For the budget options, the street markets in Gariahat or Hatibagan give you ample opportunities.
When you walk the roads in Kolkata, the hidden gems by the road can surprise you. From old buildings with ornate gate to theme parks- Kolkata offers a plethora of tourist spots.
West Bengal claims herself as “The Sweetest Part of India”. As a result, the sweetmeat shops spread across the capital will tempt you to come and relish the items. The festivals of the city have their own appeal too. Irrespective of religion, all the citizens take part and have a great time across the year. The nicknames- “The city of palaces” and “The city of Joy” describes the beauty and the spirit of the city perfectly.
The issue of too common, too seen, too hackneyed!
However, typical to the really famous travel destinations in the world, there comes a slight problem. When you come to Kolkata or search for tourist places in Kolkata, there are certain destinations that pop up.
The places like Victoria Memorial, Howrah Bridge or Maidan are quite symbolic with Kolkata and its visual representation in movies or tv shows set in the city backdrop. All of these destinations are quite well-known and tourist magnets.
While these points make up a vibrant side of the city, Kolkata is far more beyond the popular destinations. The city is the third-most populous metropolitan area in India, and the soul of the city lies with its residents.
If you wish to look into the heart of the city, you will need to go beyond the common points from tourist handbooks. A city of religious and cultural harmony, Kolkata can amaze you in every turn and twist of the road.
The Un Tourist Places in Kolkata, Holds the Key to Know the Real City of Joy
The city thrives not in the common destinations but in the untouched, un tourist places in Kolkata. Make no mistake, these parts are well-known to the inhabitants of the city. They flock here for years, even for generations in some places. When you want to feel the real vibe of the city, you will need to go to these places.
See for yourself how the city laughs and lives with the native flock full of joy and vitality.
If you love to know cities by its nerve, if you love to travel like locals, if you love to click pics of less clicked these are the places for you. So, if you have some time in the city and obviously the serious intent to know the city do not miss to visit these so-called un tourist places in Kolkata.
These are the places, where history unfolds, these are places where Kolkata lives and breathes. In short, these are places that make Kolkata what you know it for.
Here is our list of some un-tourist places which will make your Kolkata memory unforgettable.
# 1 khalasitola; The Heady cocktail
A small watering hole that withstood the test of time, Khalasitola is a part of Kolkata and its heritage. It is associated with a long history of intellectuals, artists and literary legends of Bengal, even the world. The place dates back to the early nineteenth century.
At that time, the “Khalasi” or dockyard workers used to frequently visit the bar. In 1918, it was re-initiated by an engineer, Mohito Saha. The place is still run by his family, keeping true to the tradition. The popular poison here was country liquor, and the place still serves them.
Why is this Place Famous?
Artists and legends like Ritwik Ghatak, Sunil Ganguly, Kamal Majumdar, and other Bengali artists used to hang in this place often. During the sixties, there was a rise in the Hungryalists movement in literature. The poets arranged reading sessions and distributed bulletin here.
Khalasitola has a history and legacy, which transcends the brand of a wine shop. When you reach the place, the unique ambiance will strike you.
After your eye gets adjusted with the squeaking chair and caged counters, you can see the efficiency and discipline of the place. Queues at the counters, neat and distinct service of food items to try, management and removal of chaos-makers, the place offers it all with a touch of legacy.
The place is at an old and central part of Kolkata, by the Maidan. The exact location is the intersection of Rafi Ahmed Kidwai-S.N. Bannerjee Road opposite the Lotus cinema bus stop. Take a bus or tram from the Esplanade area through the Maidan, and walk the rest of the way.
#2 Territy Bazar; Mini China in Kolkata
The city welcomes and hosts people from all across the world. Irrespective of country of origin and language, they have settled here and were integrated into urban life. Still, they retained their own culture without any trouble. Territy Bazar is a prime example of that inclusivity.
Kolkata’s very own little “China Town” is a hidden gem in terms of cultural assimilation and a heaven for those who crave oriental breakfast. The Chinese had settled here from the late eighteenth century.
Since then, they have played a significant role in Kolkata’s culinary journey. When you walk in the area for the first time, you have to walk through a busy market area, just like other parts of Kolkata. Then the slow transformation begins, with a change in building styles and the assortment of breakfast options.
The place runs 7 days a week, from 6:00 a.m to 7:30 a.m. But on Sundays, you will find more food varieties and more stock.
Through the bustle of the market, walk in here and find the Chinese people ready with their breakfast choices of fishball, soup, momo and Maggi. Here, you can find soups with both pork and fish, with sauce and other condiments.
The peeping hot preparations do not burn a hole in your pocket also. To reach the place, walk towards Poddar court from the central metro station.
On your left, you will find a small mosque. The wide lane by it organizes this magnificent breakfast fest.
This is surely one of the must-visit tourist places in Kolkata for the discerning traveler.
# 3 Chor Bazaar
If you wake up with a small tug in your belly to trade lightly on the other side of the law, or yearn for some value-for-money shopping, Chor Bazaar can be a unique experience. It can also pull you in with an array of antiques and other rare/unique commodities.
As the name suggests, the place primarily started as a market for stolen goods.
Since the old days, it has expanded and you can now find A to Z items here, at a throwaway price. Here lies the catch though, some of the items can really be stolen, where some are second-hand.
Unless you are really aware, you can end up with duplicate or defective items. Still, shopping at chor bazaar could be quite an enthralling experience. The Chandni market region in Kolkata is the most famous Chor Bazaar in Kolkata, which has flourished like a paradise of electrical and electronic gadgets.
What you get here?
The maze of lanes are lined with shops, and they offer various electronic goods and gadgets, from headphones to the latest smartphones.
For a first-timer, it can be quite mind-boggling with the calling from the shops, the price, and the items spread without much care.
You will find CCTV cameras, phones, phone covers, speakers, the latest LED TVs, all being sold in shops on pavements, or in big malls at a price that competes with the largest e-commerce platforms.
Another attraction here is the junkyard sale section, which is the ultimate example of recycling. Here the discarded electronics are dismantled, and the extracted parts are sold at a throwaway price.
If you wish to revive some ancient model of TV or PC you are attached with, and can not find the parts anywhere, come here before giving up hope. If you are lucky, when you are roaming the streets, you can stumble upon a jail-broken iPhone set at one-tenth of the price.
However, do not blame us if you find it to be an android running on Apple hardware.
Also, barring the big shops and malls, forget about anything called a warranty in here for the cheap goods. To reach the place, take any bus that goes to Chandni region, or take a metro to Chandni. You will have to walk the rest of the way for the shopping experience.
# 4 Dacres Lane; The ‘Delicious’ Walk
The ultimate and oldest food street of Kolkata, Dacres Lane or James Hickey Sarani serves history with its excellent food. The tale of the lane goes back to the colonial days. The dishes in the old food joints, like the unique chicken stew and loaves, still keep to that trend and quality without changing a bit.
What is Special Here?
Take a walk through the lane to see shops overflowing with office-going loyal customers. The small shops offer a quick service of fresh tasty food with a smile. The lane is located in the heart of the city and office-para of BBD Bagh region. As a result, the dainty tables are never empty and no food is wasted.
Bengali, Chinese, Tandoor, Toast, Khichdi-papad or Lassi- you can find all types of food and cuisine here throughout the day. The legendary shops like Chitto Babur Dokan, Apanjan, Hindu Hotel etc stay full to the brim during the lunch hours.
When the lights start to dim in the evening hours, the lights are lit in the local classic bars, for another set of frequent customers.
The famous chef Gordon Ramsey was wonderstruck when he visited the place for an episode of ‘Gordon’s Great Escape’. The place is exactly at the Esplanade more near the KC Das crossing, opposite Tipu Sultan Mosque.
From the KC DAS shop, walk towards Babughat. Take a right turn after a few meters, as your nose will guide you to this heaven for foodies.
# 5 Maidan Tent
Maidan, Or “Garer Math” which actually means a large open field, is a vast urban outdoor park in Kolkata, and its largest too. From Raj Bhawan in the north to the National Library in the south, this stretch of greenery acts as the lungs of the city.
The Maidan is a popular area for outdoor sports like Hockey, horse race, football, and cricket. International stadium like the Eden Gardens, various football club tents, Victoria Memorials, Kolkata racecourse, and Royal Kolkata Golf club, there are numerous landmarks spread across here.
The whole maidan area is under the direct control of the Indian Army. It has strategic importance too with the mighty Fort Williams. With the various clubs and sports associations, the need is there for delicious and healthy food.
The century-old club canteens serve the need perfectly, and the common people can try those out too. If you are lucky, you can get a glimpse of the local sports stars too, after their practice session.
The Calcutta Referee Association Club Canteen’s vegetable stew with soya chunks, carrots, papayas, onions and a piece of potato is to die for. In Central Excise Tent, the delicious, tender mutton stew small mutton pieces can offer you the ultimate foodgasm at a pocket pinch. Deepak Ghosh’s Stall is famous for the vegetable stew to the officegoers and maidan people.
If you visit Maidan on a cold winter morning, the breakfast in the Maidan tents is a must.
# 6 Sonagachi; Largest and Oldest Red Light Area in India
For the adult explorer, the Kolkata visit is incomplete without a glimpse of Sonagachi. The place is Kolkata’s biggest and one of the largest red-light areas of India. Sonagachi is located in North Kolkata near the intersection of Chittaranjan Avenue and Shobhabazar with Beadon Street.
To reach the place, Sovabazar Metro is the easiest option.
Why So Special?
The history of this place goes back to the colonial days. It was started by the British East India Company, to fulfill the needs of British soldiers who left their partners back home. The company used to bring local women, widows and sex workers from across the state here.
According to the legends and lore, the place was owned by Prince Dwarkanath Tagore, one of the earliest and wealthiest merchants in India.
The brothel business that started back in the day is still in full motion. The lanes stretch in every direction with houses, shops catering to the needs of sex workers and their customers.
In present times, the social and economic condition of the region has improved a lot with unionization and proper medication drives like the Gates Foundation’s HIV/AIDS prevention program Avahan.
Still, those who wish to partake in the pleasures of the place, are advised to use proper protection and settle the fees beforehand to avoid any trouble.
# 7 College Street and Coffee House; ‘The Great Indian’ Coffee House
Literature, education, culture, and books are deeply intertwined in the history of Kolkata. The college street area is the ultimate proof of this, with the special and unique charm of the city. The place is famous as ‘Boi-para’ or Book-zone locally.
It is one of the most important gathering centers of the literary crowd with colleges and universities scattered across the whole street. College street is the largest second-hand book market in the world and the largest book market in India.
Even at the age of digital books and shopping in e-commerce sites, book shopping in college street is the best it can get.
The big and small bookstores, selling points of the publishing houses that make up the street houses many rare books which can be found nowhere else in the world. The sellers can offer a hefty amount of discount on popular books too, throughout the year.
The University of Calcutta, Presidency University, and Calcutta Medical College are the jewels in here. While the alumni gather to their institutions for reminiscing memories, the most popular place of gathering is the coffee house.
The Indian Coffee house is deeply rooted in contemporary Bengal culture, music and lore. The Coffee Board started a coffee joint in 1942 in the heart of College Street. Since the inception, students and intellectuals alike gathered in here.
Cheap and unique infusion coffee, good side dishes were always the major attraction.
Besides, you can spend long hours here debating with your friends or the unknown individual from the next table over political or philosophical ideologies, without being asked to leave. The place has been immortalized in a song by the famous singer Manna Dey.
The India Coffee house is a part of the cultural nostalgia of Bengal. The place has a huge rush throughout the day.
If you are visiting the place in the evening, it will be hard for you to get a seat. The place is quite easy to find though. You may take any bus from the Sealdah station or Esplanade to reach the place.
The nearest metro station is Central. Walk along College Street and bargain over books. When you reach the heart of the street, look across the road from the well-lit Presidency University. Cross the road, and follow a narrow stair to feast your eyes and also the stomach in the ambiance of Indian Coffee House.
# 8 Mallick Ghat Flower Market; Largest Flower Market in Asia
There are numerous temples and houses across Kolkata where daily worship of the Gods takes place. A huge part of the flowers needed for this is sold and shipped from Mallick Ghat Flower Market. The place is located under the famous Howrah Bridge.
The markets wake up at the crack of the dawn, and fully functional from 5 a.m. The place is known as the biggest flower market in not only India but the whole of Asia. It was built by Ram Mohun Mallick in 1855. To see a large spread of various bright colored flowers with the first ray of sun is a visual treat itself.
To reach the place, take a bus from Sealdah station to here. You can walk in the market if you are coming from Howrah station. The nearest metro station in M G road.
# 9 Barabazar; The Real ‘Bada’ Bazaar of Colonial India
Back when Kolkata used to be the financial capital of the country, the Barabazar market flourished. Foreign goods and wholesale markets, these two were the primary selling points of the place, whose name literally means a big market.
What Sets it Apart?
Even in its diminished state, Barabazar is the ultimate paradise for a shopaholic. It is still the largest wholesale market in the country. In the British era, the place started as a yarn and textile market.
The merchants who did business here with the British East India company became millionaires overnight.
Everything under the sun was sold here, from English broadcloth, cashmere silk or ivory from Srilanka. Even after suffering a number of calamities and fires, the market in Barabazar is still going strong.
When you visit Barabazar, you will find that the place is divided into specialized areas like Dhotipatti, Fancypatti, Tulapatti, Chinipatti etc, and further divided into Katras.
The specified divisions deal with specific goods. From clothes to ornaments, everything is sold here in wholesale and retail. There is a huge crowd throughout the year.
During the festival times, the costumes and dress for idols, Puja items, designer earthen lamps, ladoos, and other items, gift items and other novelties are also sold.
For festival dress shopping in a budget, the whole city flocks to the streets of Barabazar at that time. The place lies in between two major stations, Howrah and Sealdah. You can take a bus from either of the places to reach here. The nearest metro station is Central.
Do try the street food here, when you take a break from your shopping spree.
# 10 Rabindra Sarovar Lake
An oasis of greenery in the southern part of Kolkata, Rabindra Sarobar is an artificial lake. The place was previously known as Dhakuria Lake. It was renamed to honor the son of the city, the great Nobel laureate poet Rabindranath Tagor.
Why Special Tourist Place in Kolkata?
The only Japanese Buddhist temple in Kolkata is located on the southern fringe of the Rabindra Sarovar. The place acts as a pollution remover and carbon sink for the whole south Kolkata. It is a famous morning and evening walk spot throughout the year.
In winter, many migratory birds come and spend for a few weeks to a month in the pristine lake water as a pit stop. You can take a gander in the lake and the surrounding area at any time of the year.
There is no entry fee, and thus family and friends often gather here for a short recess or picnic. Enjoy the scenic beauty in the well-maintained garden, or visit the only Japanese Buddhist temple of Kolkata on the southern fringe of the Rabindra Sarovar.
You can get down in the Tollygunge rail station or Rabindra Sarovar Metro Station to reach the place. Early morning or late evening is the best time to see the place. You can see the rowing boats or flock of a goose floating lazily in the calm water of the lake.
# 11 Princep Ghat
One of the classic Kolkata structure, which is well-known to the locals and often ignored by the tourists, Princep Ghat is one of the major points in our list. It is a beautiful ghat, that stands tall and proud, from the surrounding dull neighbors.
It is situated between the Water Gate and St. George’s Gate of Fort William beside the Hooghly River.
Why So Special?
The white monument is one of the finest pieces of British Architecture in Kolkata. With the turn of the river, it is now a bit away from it. Still, the sweet river breeze touches your cheek softly when you reach the place. The best time to see it is in the late afternoon.
After the sun sets, the mellow and subtle lights turn on which transforms the whole place in a fairyland.
The place was built in memory of James Princep, in 1843. He was an English scholar who founded the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal. He also deciphered the Kharosthi and Brahmi scripts of ancient India.
The Palladian style monument was designed by W. Fitzgerald. It is a favorite place for city couples and poets. A number of social and cultural events also take place across the popular monument from time to time.
The Metro station for Princep Ghat is Esplanade. From the opposite of Oberoi Grand, you can board a minibus to reach the place in five minutes. The landmark is Netaji Indoor Stadium. You could also walk down from Oberoi Grand to All India Radio, then take a left turn by the stadium to reach here.
# 12 Indian Botanical Garden
Even with all its glory, the roads and rush of a metropolitan city like Kolkata can feel a bit tiring from time to time. Your ears deserve a rest from all the cacophony, and the lungs can soak in the fresh river breeze in the Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Indian Botanical Garden near the city.
Botanical Garden is actually across the river from Kolkata, located in Shibpur in the twin city of Kolkata, i.e. Howrah. The verdure paradise is spread over 109 hectares and it has a collection of over 12,000 species of plants and trees from across the world. The origin of the garden dates back to 1787, by Robert Kyd, an officer of the East India Company.
Why a must-go tourist place in Kolkata?
Botanical Garden place housed commercial plants, spices, etc. back then. It also played a very important part of introducing tea plantation in India from China. Even after facing a few years of negligence, the place now is well-maintained and boasts an amazing collection. The most famous one attraction this garden is the Banyan tree, which is known as the biggest one and the second largest canopy in the world.
The prop roots are so thick that you cannot find the main trunk and it looks like a mini-forest. Among other exotic collections, there is a rare water lily, Victoria Amazonica. The leaves are so big that it can hold a child easily while floating on the water. It is also a home of a number of resident and migratory birds, as well as butterflies.
Visit the place in the early morning for a morning stroll, or take your time and spend the whole day in here. The sculptures here even are blended with green, and they can remind you of the Goddess of Life, Te Fiti from Moana. In recent times, there was another unique development with the changing climate.
The river salinity rose, and Mangrove returned to Kolkata naturally after centuries in the Hooghly River in here, with a Mangrove project for more than one-kilometer stretch. The place is open from sunrise to sunset and closed on public holidays. To go to the place, reach Howrah station from your location. You can find a number of buses starting from there to Indian Botanical Garden easily.
# 13 Behala Flying Club
Kolkata has a very good aerial connectivity with the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport, but it has a lesser-known civil counterpart in the Behala region. The Behala Flying Club or BFC has a very bright future ahead as the Airports Authority of India is planning to convert to a fully functional airport soon.
The place, located at the southern fringe of Kolkata, also has a functional flying training institute. If you wish to experience the bird’s-eye view of the city, take an early morning ride to the place in the cab, or come from the nearest metro stations i.e. Kalighat/ Rabindra Sarovar. Under private operators, Behala Flying Club offers helicopter ride over the city.
The joyride takes place on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday at 4 p.m. and 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday at 12 p.m., 1 p.m., 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. at a cost of INR 1700 per person. There are other special rides organized from this place also, like Malda and Gangasagar. Also, if you wish to see the Bay of Bengal from the city within an hour, there is the most popular ride to Digha.
The romantic joyride costs INR 2000 per person one way, and the flights are on Saturday generally. To see the sea as well as the aerial city view, you may have to plan and book in advance.
Concluding Thoughts; Tourist and Un Tourist Places in Kolkata
Here we tried to present not so common tourist places in Kolkata, which never got the celebrity value from the tourist. However, these are the places make the city of joy what it is today. So, if you feel you want to see kolkata and touch the soul to understand in its totality, these are the places you should never miss.
We hope with time and with increasing interest to travel like locals, these unknown, uncelebrated places of Kolkata will gain its due importance among the travelers across the world.
If you feel we are missing out on something, or if you feel like contributing to making it much bigger and detailed work on such un tourist places in Kolkata, feel free to let us know. We would love to integrate your piece with due credit in this very article.
You may like to know about the short distance tours from Kolkata too.