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A Solo Traveler’s Guide to Kolkata

Picture of Sridevi Nambiar
Updated: 3 March 2017
With rich history, stunning architecture, plenty of cultural institutions, and vibrant flea markets, Kolkata is a delightful place to visit. The city’s dynamic crowds and busy nature make it the perfect destination for solo travelers. Here is our comprehensive guide to Kolkata for solo vacationers—from where to stay and eat to tips on health and safety.

Neighborhood Guide

At 1480 kilometers squared, Kolkata is the second largest city in India in terms of area covered. The city is divided into numerous neighborhoods and sub-areas, some of which date to the colonial era, whereas others are recent additions to this continually expanding city. Regardless, the bulk of attractions in the city are concentrated in the four broad areas mapped below.

North Kolkata

With narrow lanes, century-old buildings, and a quiet residential feel, this is the oldest part of Kolkata. Roughly extending north of what is known as the BBD Bagh area, historic North Kolkata includes several sub-neighborhoods including Bagbazar, Belgachhia, Shyam Bazaar, Shobha Bazaar, Maniktala, and Jorasanko. Key attractions include the famous College Street area, the potters’ colony of Kumortoli, Rabindranath Tagore’s ancestral home, and the irreplaceable Howrah Bridge.

Central Kolkata

The bulk of historic institutions are concentrated in what is broadly called Central Kolkata. The area also houses a bulk of the city’s (as well as the state’s) government buildings and used to be its prime financial hub, until the development of neighborhoods in East Kolkata. The area broadly comprises BBD Bagh, Esplanade, Entally and the Maidan. Some of the city’s most dynamic roads, such as Chowringhee Road, Park Street, Shakespeare Sarani, and Camac Street are part of Central Kolkata.

South Kolkata

With new and luxurious residential neighborhoods, eateries, and commercial institutions, as well as a fair share of historic institutions and sites, South Kolkata stands apart from the rest of the city in its own ways. The area comprises a range of smaller neighborhoods such as Gariahat, Dhakuria, Ballygunge, Bhawanipur, Alipore, New Alipore, Rash Behari, Kalighat, and Tollygunge.

East Kolkata

This dynamic, rapidly developing area serves as Kolkata’s prime business area today; it is home to the city’s fast growing IT sector. Composed of Salt Lake City (Bidhan Nagar), Rajar Hat (New Town), Lake Town, and the E.M. Bypass, the area’s infrastructure is very recent and catered to suit the city’s burgeoning young professional crowd.

Where to Stay

Taj Bengal

If you are willing to splurge, the Taj Bengal is one of the most luxurious places you can stay at while in Kolkata. Located in Alipore in plush South Kolkata, the hotel is within comfortable distance from all key attractions in the city. The five-star hotel houses a fantastic spa, super luxurious rooms, and also offers excellent dining options, including a poolside grill as well as North Indian, Mediterranean, and Chinese cuisine restaurants.

Price: Luxury

Address and Phone Number:

34B, Belvedere Road, Alipore, Kolkata, +033 6612 3939

Когда параллельные реальности пересекаются… Во время бранча за соседнем столом сидела пара…в возрасте Каждый раз они поднимали бокал и "чокались" со мной! 🍷 Потом джентльмен пригласил меня к столику… Питер и Ашайя. Познакомились в 1967 году в Лондоне, будучи коллегами, через два месяца он сделал ей предложение. Она отказалась. Через два месяца он предпринял вторую попытку и она согласилась. Англичанин из Лондона и индианка из Калькутты. Через год будет 50 лет совместной жизни!!!!!!! Есть один сын. Ему 45 и он не хочет жениться… они хотят внуков Живут на Пхукете. Квартира в Калькутте Они не счастливы из-за сына. Они так сказали. Официант. Равин. Каждый день дорога на работу занимает 6 часов. Туда-обратно. Работает в ресторане 10 лет. Жена и 3 детей. Рабочий день 10 часов. Он счастлив. Он так сказал. А я мостик между ними Я счастлива Я не говорила Но. Они так думают. Питер, Ашайя и Равин…

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The Corner Courtyard

Offering a selection of themed rooms that ooze color and character, The Corner Courtyard is where you should be headed if you are seeking to make your Kolkata stay quirky and unique. Housed in a recently renovated historic house which had last been inhabited in 1904, the Corner Courtyard weaves Kolkata’s rich history and culture into every detail of its lush décor.

Price: Moderate

Address and Phone Number:

92B, Sarat Bose Rd, Hazra, Bhowanipore, Kolkata, +099 039 90597

Broadway Hotel

The Broadway Hotel has been a landmark in Kolkata since it was founded in 1937. The hotel oozes old world charm with mid-20th-century style furnishings, vintage décor, and large, airy rooms. With rooms costing from $14–$26 (INR 980–1795), the hotel’s free Wi-Fi, 24-hour check-in, and well-stocked bar and restaurant make it a great deal. However, do check with the reception desk prior to confirming your room if you seek air conditioning and hot water.

Price: Budget

Address and Phone Number:

27A, Ganesh Chandra Avenue, Dharmatala, Bowbazar, Kolkata, +033 2236 3930

The hotel window view! #webstagram #bestoftheday #travelingram #nighttime #citylife

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Where to Eat and Drink

Kasturi

Kasturi is among the best restaurants to head to in Kolkata for a traditional, simple, and affordable Bengali meal. Traditional fish curry paired with warm rice at this small restaurant with modest décor and friendly service, is a unique Kolkata experience that you must have at least once.

Address and Phone Number:

7 A Mushtaq Ahmed Street, Kolkata, +083 349 22225

This is what they showed me when I asked for the menu at #Kasturi #Kolkata! #fish #catchoftheday #kolkata

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Olypub

This legendary pub, founded in 1947, is loved by Kolkatans of all ages for its low-key, no-frills setting, its friendly service, and its cheap beer and delicious food. The endearingly laid-back pub also happens to offer some of the best steaks in town. Always bustling with crowds, this is an excellent spot for solo travelers to grab a beer and soak in the city’s charm.

Address and Phone Number:

21 Mother Teresa Sarani, Park Street, Kolkata, +033 6452 0472

With old friends 🙂

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Peter Cat

Peter Cat has remained one of the city’s most popular restaurants for as long as it has existed, which is a testament to its incredibly delicious food, reasonable pricing, and excellent service. The menu will delight seafood lovers, meat lovers, and vegetarians alike, as will the bar menu. If you are wondering what to try, their Chelo Kebab has a cult-like following among foodies well outside of Kolkata.

Address and Phone Number:

18A, Park Street, Opposite KFC, Kolkata, +033 2412 5680

Chelow Kabab ❤

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Nizam’s Restaurant

As the supposed place of origin of the now world-famous kathi roll, this legendary restaurant is a must-visit for anyone who loves Mughlai or North Indian food. Offering delicious meaty kebabs, buttery paranthas, and hearty rolls at very affordable prices and with friendly service, Nizam’s is the perfect spot for solo travelers looking to refuel before heading back into the vibrant streets of Central Kolkata.

Address and Phone Number:

24, Hogg Street, New Market, Kolkata, +098 361 94669

What to Do

Colonial Era Monuments

If historical monuments interest you, then there are few better places to be at than Kolkata. From the strikingly beautiful and pristine white Shaheed Minar to the iconic Victoria Memorial, there are multiple colonial-era monuments and buildings you can visit to take a peek into yesteryear’s Calcutta. Literature fans may be delighted to visit the ancestral home of Rabindranath Tagore in Northern Kolkata.

Vibrant Markets

Kolkata is home to numerous historic and vibrant markets selling all sorts of items, from flowers to spare machine parts. As our guide to the city’s top markets indicates, these are perfect spots for you to not just browse till you stumble open odd and eccentric items, but also to observe and experience the dynamism of this very complex city. The Flower Market at Mallick Ghat is one of the largest in the world, while the used books market at College Street is the second largest of its kind in the world. The New Market, Kolkata’s most popular market, is about 150 years old and has over 2000 stores, selling everything from textiles to local cheeses.

New market #Kolkata

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Historic Religious Sites

Kolkata also houses a strikingly diverse collection of historic religious sites. The iconic Kalighat Kali Temple, built in 1809, to which Kolkata owes its name, is among the most popular Hindu temples in the country. The Armenian Church of the Holy Nazareth, established in 1724, is a key attraction in the city not just for being one of its oldest churches, but also for serving as a symbol of the historic local Armenian population. Kolkata is also home to several historic Chinese temples, mostly concentrated around the city’s Old Chinatown or Teretti Bazaar. The Beth El Synagogue, built in 1856 and the Nakhoda Mosque, built in 1926, are other religious institutions that draw followers and tourists with their intricate architectures and deep cultural significance.

#2nd Visit

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Getting From the Airport

Kolkata’s Netaji Subash Chandra Bose International Airport is about 17 kilometers outside the city’s center, to which it is well connected via cabs, buses, and trains. A cab may be your most convenient option—particularly if you’re carrying luggage—and can be hired at the prepaid taxi counter at the airport. Fare to the city will likely cost you up to $7 (Rs. 500). There are multiple buses that travel from the airport to the city, at costs from $00.30 (Rs. 20) to $1.50 (Rs. 100). While the airport does have a train station, the nearby Dum Dum Junction station, which is accessible by cab, has more frequent train departures to the city, making it a better option.

Getting Around

Kolkata has multiple public transport options, from a vibrant underground railway system called the Metro, to cabs and rickshaws. Cabs are a convenient and reasonable option to get around unless you are looking to experience the city’s Metro.

Safety

From pickpockets to scammers, the city has its fair share of elements you need to be wary of. Make sure to secure your belongings—from your wallet to your passport—while in public, and always stay alert and be aware of your surroundings. Stick to where the crowds are, and avoid wandering into deserted areas—particularly at night.

Health

As tempting as the city’s street food may be, travelers ought to indulge with much caution. It is not uncommon for vendors to use impure water or prepare dishes in unsanitary conditions—and depending on your gut’s tolerance, you may be inviting trouble.