Calcutta (Kolkata)

Dramatic colonial architecture, streets bursting with the mass of humanity, India’s intellectual and cultural capital Calcutta will surprise you with its warmth and hospitality; it's a must for anyone who really wants to get to know India.

Once no more than a sleepy village on the Hugli River the arrival of the British in India meant by the late 19th century it was an enormous city, the capital of the Raj built on trade and its legacy lives on the Victoria Memorial, St Paul's Cathedral and the excellent India Museum, housing one of the world's finest collections of Indian art, as well plenty of photogenic crumbling old mansions. Over-crowding, poverty, and the on-going good works of Mother Teresa’s charities can be a baptism of fire for visitors, but the city is also noble, vibrant and creative - it’s acknowledged in India as a powerhouse of the arts.

In addition to the more ‘formal’ sights we recommend visiting the enormous wholesale flower markets, the idol-making workshops at Kumar Tuli where statues of Hindu gods are made from clay straight from the river and heading to Howrah Bridge (used by around a million people a day) for a wonderful view of the area and a love for the city that will hit you as hard as the heat and humidity.

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