In the east bank of the Hooghly, amidst the jungle of concrete walls, busy streets, sidewalks and boulevards, Kolkata is a city with a soul. It used to be the capital under British Raj from 1773-1911. Though after 1911, Delhi became the capital of India, Kolkata was and still is the cultural capital of the country. The city has certainly faced many ups and downs, but it never forgot to spread love and warmth. I guess that’s the most charming part of this place, you will never feel alone in this city, from the broad crowded streets and alluring footpaths to the dirty narrow alleys. People here are not very rich economically, but they will welcome you with their priceless smile anywhere you go. And you know what really got this city lit up with such extreme emotions? Well, I think it is life, and it is served intense and raw here.

Tumio bhebe dekho Kolkata
tumio hete dekho Kolkata,
jabe ki na jabe amar sathe

These are lines of a very famous Bengali song, which says, come, walk around the city with me and then decide for yourself, if you want another trip or not. So, let’s start the tour.

Sometimes, informally though, people call Kolkata “gareebo ka shahar”. You can’t but agree with this saying, once you visit the city of joy. You can be anywhere in the city, with very affordable prices, transportation is never a problem, may it be autos, buses, trams, local trains, metro trains, taxis, etc. So, I am not going to share anything regarding transportation, you can approach any random dada, he will definitely give you the needed instructions.

When you visit Kolkata, do whatever you want to do, see whatever you want to see, but one must not miss the basic, guess what? The food. Let’s start with the railway stations. Howrah and Sealdah are the two most busy railway stations in the city. Your train may reach in the midnight, but one doesn’t have to go hungry. You can treat your tummy with a hot plate of rice and fish or chicken curry. The price can be as low as thirty rupees. Chapatis can be a little inaccessible, as Bengalis live on rice.

Food and Kolkata! It’s impossible to write about food in Kolkata this shortly. But, I will try to cover the major foodie spots. In North Kolkata, just near Shobha Bazaar, a café with hundred years of legacy, named Mitro Café. The famous dishes are Brain Chop, Fish Kabiraji, Mutton Cutlet, Egg Devil. The next restaurant I am going to tell about is literally a heaven for foodies. ‘Golbari’ is in Shyam Bazaar. It is famous for its koshamangho, a sautéed mutton dish.

Arsalan Restaurant in Park Circus area is the unavoidable spot, if you are a biriyani lover. Kolkata biriyani is little different from the other two famous biriyanis i.e. Lucknowi biriyani and Hyderabadi biriyani. It is less spicy than Hyderabadi biryani and has got amazing pieces of potato along with onion. It is moderately priced but I can assure you, you would never regret. Kolkata never disappoints you, even in the cases of street foods. A takeaway roll corner named “Hot Kati Roll” is favourite to majority of the local people. Besides this, Park Street has lined up street food corners, affordable to every class of people. You can easily spot a rickshaw wala, and a clean shaved office going man holding an iPhone, eating at the same stall. During busy hours it can disappoint you though. For street food lovers, Decker’s lane is another heaven. Among all the stalls and restaurants, Chitto Babur Dokan is a famous one.

Bengalis and their perpetual love—roshogulla. How can I forget to talk about sweets? My all-time favourite K.C. Das which is in New Market area. It is famous for rasgulla, dorbesh, lalmohan, nobobarshika, lobongolotika, rosomalancha, etc. What I like most is the gurer roshogulla—a jaggery added rasgulla. When you have already reached New Market, are you thinking of coming back without shopping? I would suggest not to, because my friends don’t. It’s the love for shopaholics. One can get almost everything that too in unimaginable prices. I would add another suggestion for visiting New Market: learn bargaining.

There some more foodie spots that I must mention. One is Radhu Babu’s tea shop near the Lake Market area. Food lovers fancy the chicken and fish cutlet of this small but legendary shop. Secondly Bhojo Hori Manna. This restaurant is famous for its special prawn curry cooked in tender coconuts. Third and the last in my list would be the Tangra road. Hail! Chinese food lovers, this is absolutely your place (also famous for its leather industry).

This city is so crowded holding uncountable people that eventually you will feel isolated in all the chaos with your very own self embracing the charisma of this old city. The streets are not very clean, one can easily find a dirty heap of garbage here and there. You will find old buildings rotting to their death. North Kolkata is the oldest part of the city, carrying overpopulated slums, deep knitted houses, crowded bazaars. Southern part of the city is respectively young and includes upscale neighborhoods. Central Kolkata is the economic hub of this city.

The old colonial buildings epitomize its British lineage including Victoria Memorial, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Kolkata Town Hall and Calcutta High Court. Maidan is just in the centre of this city, a wide open green field, often called as ‘the lungs of the city’. The cultural capital of India is fiercely charged with energy. This place is the residing place for intellectuals and artists from all over the world. Kolkata has witnessed many movements and revolutions, both successful and unsuccessful in the course of time. Whether it is Bengali Renaissance or Naxalite Movement, this city has always poured enthusiasm to it. It is the birthplace of prominent literary figures like the first Asian Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, artists and musicians.

Bengali film industry, based on Tollygunge region of Kolkata, is famous for producing critically acclaimed and celebrated movies. Whenever you walk through the streets you’ll find out this poor city with a big heart. The middle class, self-made people actually run this city.

The city of joy smells of fresh sweat, with its freshness intact. This place itself is a colourful display of cultural coalition. Kolkata retains a feast of colonial-era architecture contrasting starkly with urban slums and dynamic New-town suburbs. The second largest city in India has still got the old world charm.

Northern Kolkata has always been a fascination to me, for here you will find narrow alleys, without proper footpaths sometimes, the buildings are standing for almost hundred years and sometimes even more, embracing the roots of Banyan trees inside their veins. The houses are mostly congested and these small localities here are called ‘para’. In the evenings you will find some gathering places in those paras where same aged people meet, chat for hours about almost every topic of this world, and not only its just a formal discussion for politics, rather it has become the social meeting place near or in a chayer dokan (tea shop) always run by some Lalu, Kalu, Raja or Lal da’s, where people sit for hours with cups of cha and the cigarettes emitting the smell of burning tobacco in the air, and as the time will flow someone will shout from the groups “aro ek cup kore cha diye jao” accompanied by the chaiwala’s “dicchi”, the city falls in sleep under the ages old stars with its heart wide open.