Kolkata’s city center lies about 17 kilometers (10.5 miles) away from the airport, and traffic can make this distance seem longer than it is. So, if you have less than three hours, it is advisable that you spend your layover at the airport. It boasts of a range of dining and shopping experiences, so you will find plenty of options to keep yourself occupied. You can grab some tea at The Tea Shop or indulge in a biryani at Biryani Bhai before you’re all set to depart for your next destination.
With five hours to spare, you can confidently step out of the airport to soak in whatever is possible of Kolkata. Get a prepaid taxi and visit the city’s historic north, making a strategic stop at the Rabindra Bharati Museum, the ancestral home of Rabindranath Tagore—a unique pioneer of Bengali and modern Indian literature, as well as the first non-European Nobel Laureate.
If you would rather be walking around in the city, then have your cab drop you off at Kumortuli—the city’s historic artisans’ colony and an unimaginably charming neighborhood featuring narrow lanes lined with sculptors hard at work on terracotta statues.
Kolkata is a city of many fascinating and vibrant markets. Take your pick among them for a unique yet thorough experience of one facet of this rich and complex city. Teretti Bazaar, or Kolkata’s Chinatown, is a fantastic site to visit—being the only Chinatown of its kind in India. Besides gorging on delicious Indo-Chinese street food and shopping for souvenirs, you can also soak in the Chinese immigrant population’s unique cultural contributions to this cosmopolitan city.
With 12 hours to spend, you should definitely plan to hit up a few of the city’s top 10 attractions. You can head down to stroll through historic Park Street for prime people-watching opportunities, making sure to stop at Flury’s—the city’s long-cherished tearoom dating to 1927–for tea and biscuits. The Maidan, Kolkata’s largest and most known public open space is just a short walk away, and worth visiting for the wide variety of historic monuments it hosts, including the 158-foot-high (48 meters) Shaheed Minar and the stunning Victoria Memorial. If you are in the mood to shop, you can hit up the famous New Market, built in 1874 and home to over 2,000 shops trading in all sorts of items.