Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) is a city of contrasts and contradictions, and one which has a lasting impact on its visitors. It is India's third-largest city, and home to some of the country's holiest temples and finest colonial structures.
Victoria Memorial, Kolkata © Cacahuate
As the 'Cultural Capital of India', Kolkata is said to have the biggest concentration of artists, writers and publishers in the country. Although it is the centre of Bengali culture, Kolkata is also a diverse city, with a diverse mixture of languages spoken among its 14 million inhabitants. Kolkata was home to two Nobel Laureates: Mother Teresa, whose humble home can still be visited; and writer Rabindranath Tagore. The city also accommodates sports fans, with Eden Gardens, the city's temple to cricket and the second-largest cricket stadium in the world; and Saltlake Stadium, one of the world's largest football venues, with an impressive crowd capacity of 120,000.
From 1772 to 1912 Kolkata was the capital of the British Raj, a legacy evident in its superb colonial architecture - highlighted by the enormous Victoria Memorial - and well-planned infrastructure. The latter half of the 20th century, however, saw Kolkata enter a period of decline, with rampant poverty and economic stagnation. It was only in the 1980s, under India's first democratically-elected Marxist administration, that the city turned the corner.
Today, visitors making the journey to this eastern corner of the country will find a city that has rediscovered its pride and cultural identity, offering a Bengali welcome warm enough to seduce even the most jaded traveller.