Simultaneously noble and squalid, cultured, and desperate, Kolkata is a daily festival of human existence. And it’s all played out before your very eyes on teeming streets where not an inch of space is wasted.

By its old spelling, Calcutta, India’s second-biggest city conjures up images of human suffering to most Westerners. But Bengalis have long been infuriated by one-sided depictions of their vibrant capital. Kolkata is locally regarded as the intellectual and cultural capital of the nation. Several of India’s great 19th- and 20th-century heroes were Kolkatans, including guru-philosopher Ramakrishna, Nobel Prize-winning poet Rabindranath Tagore and celebrated film director Satyajit Ray. Dozens of venues showcase Bengali dance, poetry, art, music, film, and theatre. And while poverty certainly remains in-your-face, the dapper Bengali gentry continues to frequent grand old gentlemen’s clubs, back horses at the Calcutta Racetrack, and play soothing rounds of golf at some of India’s finest courses.

As the former capital of British India, Kolkata retains a feast of dramatic colonial architecture, with more than a few fine buildings in photogenic states of semi-collapse. The city still has many slums but is also developing dynamic new-town suburbs, a rash of air-conditioned shopping malls, and some of the best restaurants in India. This is a fabulous place to sample the mild, fruity tang of Bengali cuisine and share the city’s passion for sweets. Friendlier than India’s other mega-cities, Kolkata is really a city you ‘feel’ more than just visit. But don’t come between May and September unless you’re prepared for a very serious drenching.

Tourist Attractions: Howrah Bridge: Also known as the Rabindra Setu, this cantilever bridge is an engineering marvel. It was built in 1943 and is 97 meters (295 ft) high and 705 meters (2,150 ft) long. It connects Calcutta to its twin city – Howrah. Howrah is an important industrial area and also serves as the railroad terminus of Calcutta. From dawn to dusk the Howrah Bridge hums with activity which makes it the world’s busiest bridge.

Belur Math: Belur Math is an area of Howrah, West Bengal, India. It is the location of the Ramakrishna Temple, the headquarters of the Ramakrishna Mission.

Victoria Memorial: The white marble building at the Southern end of Calcutta’s Maidan continues to be the city’s pride and joy. The Victoria Memorial, with its formal gardens and watercourses, was conceived by Lord Curzon to commemorate the British Empire at its peak. Other colonial monuments within the city have either been obliterated with time or have been renamed or demolished. But the popularity of the “VM” seems to endure forever.

Indian Airlines connects Calcutta with all the major cities of India. It is also connected with Europe & South East Asia by direct flights. Regular cheap flights to Calcutta are available all year long, with airlines like British Airways, Virgin Airlines, and Air India offering frequent cheap tickets to Calcutta, there is no dearth of flights in the city. With increasing options available for cheap air travel, flight tickets to Calcutta have now not only become affordable but also a preferred choice for all.

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