The former capital of colonial British India and the country’s third-largest city is often overlooked in favour of metropolises such as Delhi or Mumbai. However, a visit to the West Bengal city of Kolkata (Anglicised as Calcutta pre-2001) reveals an engaging mix of cultures and cuisines – it’s the only city in India to have a Chinatown. Haggle your way through the sprawling New Market, marvel at the imposing colonial architecture of Victoria Memorial Hall Museum and the intricate nine-spired Bengal Dakshineswar Kali Temple, pay homage to Mother Teresa at Mother House and catch a game of cricket at Eden Gardens. Once you’re exhausted, rest your head at one of these welcoming Kolkata boutique hotels, all bookable with Culture Trip.
If you crave the cosiness of a cabin without setting sail, this floating hotel is for you. Snugly moored on the Hooghly River by the Strand Road, the floating property will charm you with rooms like the Heritage Cabin, featuring nautical duck egg tongue-and-groove, walls hung with historical city maps and dinky outside decks with potted palms. Dine al fresco by candlelight on smoked dried pork, koftas and lychee martinis on the Sky Deck overlooking the traffic-jammed, cantilevered Howrah Bridge, just a short walk away.
High up on the 20th floor of the Eco Centre, 15 minutes’ walk from Nalban Park, this hotel manages to be both homey and sleek, with rooms featuring dark green walls, wooden floors and hints of local heritage in fabrics and prints. Some overlook Nalban Lake, others the sprawling city, either way, you can admire the view with a room-service bento box. Naturally, there’s a sky bar for sipping mimosas with a side of pan-fried Dirty Mushrooms as a DJ entertains you. If you overdo it drinking and throwing shapes, wake up and immerse yourself in the infinity pool where you can pick out your sightseeing top ten as you front crawl.
This exquisite luxury hotel in Kolkata is the gift that keeps on giving. From the cooling courtyard with a narrow turquoise-tiled pool to the Loafers Cafe that peddles bagels, macaroons and Victorian-style cakes, there’s a space for every whim. The Swig is a fancy spot with velvet-and-gold seating for quaffing champagne and cigars (luckily there’s an outside space). Sleep in polished half-tester and four-poster beds set on shiny marble floors before nosing around New Market, Kolkata’s colonial-era hub where you can buy everything from clothes and jewellery to meat, 6.4km (4mi) away.
Smack in the middle of Kolkata’s Salt Lake City, or Bidhannagar district – part tech-hub, part leafy new town – this contemporary hotel offers cavernous rooms. Large windows flood the space with jet lag-busting light to wake you for a swim in the slender outdoor pool. Get your energy up again on fragrant mutton biryani at the glassy all-day restaurant. If you forget to pack a toothbrush, it’s a two-minute walk to the Salt Lake City Centre Mall.
From turmeric yellow to pistachio green, the colourful rooms at this bijou hotel will make your stomach rumble with their foodie shades. Luckily, Bengali cuisine is available at the onsite restaurant, from rotis filled with grilled kebabs to spiced vegetable dishes. The rooftop terrace means space to sip a sundowner as you look across the city spots you’ll visit tomorrow. Located on a quiet street, 8km (5mi) from the airport, this hotel is ideal for post-flight stays.
Pretty rooms with plenty of plants, pictures and tropical fruit bowls will make you feel right at this hybrid modern-colonial hotel in the business district. As you plan your day in Kolkata, nibble freshly-baked goodies in the onsite cafe. Tourist sights are within easy reach, from the Victoria Memorial, a 13-minute walk away, to the Indian Museum and Kalighat Kali Temple, around 30 minutes away. Reward all that walking with a tootsie-pleasing pedicure at the hotel’s spa followed by a reviving drink in the English-style pub.
Neutral rooms with plush, padded headboards are a soothing sight when you check into this city centre hotel, a 15-minute walk from Nicco Park, a solar-energy powered theme park. Once you’ve rested, join the crowds on thrill-seeking rides such as Moon Raker, Cyclone and Flying Saucer. Otherwise, take time out to sit on a bench in the hotel’s peaceful garden after your pastry-and-coffee-fuelled continental breakfast.
At this sleek hotel, the rooms and suites feature a red-and-black theme, sink-into easy chairs and pretty lattice screens. If you like the bold colour combination, you’ll love the rooftop pool clad in red mosaic tiles and the neon-lit sky bar. Blu, the coffee shop that never closes, mixes things up with – you guessed it – turquoise blue seating, where you can hunker down as you tuck into burgers, pizzas and Chinese-style noodles. If you want to eat out, you’re only a four-minute walk from Park Street, home to buzzy restaurants and shops.
A four-minute walk from the Indian Museum, this central stalwart has hosted A-listers from Patrick Swayze to Sting. Fan yourself in a wicker chair in the lobby lounge, where colonial-era columns, faded Persian rugs and chintz textiles hark to a bygone era. Clustered memorabilia and framed portraits of celebrity guests line every inch of the 1780s property, including the dining room where a cake-laden afternoon tea is served each day. Rooms offer a pared-back take on this decor, with framed prints livening up pale walls.
This is an updated version of an article originally by Sridevi Nambiar.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
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Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
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