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For other destinations and types of holiday, visit Kuoni
For other destinations and types of holiday, visit Kuoni 

Things to do in India

Walk Kolkata in the footsteps of the Raj

We don’t just offer dry information but allow you to experience Kolkata’s crazy people and its lovely neighbourhoods…

By Iftekhar Ahsan
Founder of Calcutta Walks

For the last 15 years, we’ve been doing this walk around Dalhousie Square originally known as Tank Square, named after this large spring-fed tank at the heart of Kolkata (formerly knows as Calcutta). We start outside a famous pub called the Wilson’s Pub – outside not inside! There’s a famous saying around here; when the Dutch first settled, they built a fort, when the Portuguese first settled, they built a church and when the British first settled they built a tavern.

We meet on Waterloo Street at around 8am where you’ll see people about to start their working day sipping chai and maybe a herd of goats passing by. Then we show you all the huge and beautiful Raj-era buildings in an area which the British referred to as the White Town. Forget about the rules prohibiting natives to access certain areas, they weren’t even comfortable venturing there at all. Of course, that has all changed but what we try to show are the remnants of that bygone era be they good or bad. One thing’s for certain though, the city became fancier and more picturesque– all the best performers technicians, bakers, authors, everyone was attracted to Kolkata, the second city of the empire.

As we stroll around the body of water, we talk about how the European women in search of suitable husbands would promenade there, parasols in hand in long flowing Victorian-era frocks, sweating profusely underneath but looking their best. It’s one of those magical moments when we see people getting dreamy eyed. After breaking for tea and toast, we continue with the stories of the Raj and see interesting places like the General Post Office, the Writer’s Buildings and St Andrew’s (Scottish) Church. Most of the old buildings even to this day still have their beautiful original cast iron work intact, some even built with steel beams from as far away as Glasgow.

There are so many vestiges of the British rule. Even pavements – many Indian cities don’t have these. The classic motorbike in India is the British-made Royal Enfield and it still sells like crazy. You’ll see them on the road next to hand-pulled rickshaws alongside the ferry, metro and taxi systems implemented by the British.

In Kolkata you can live your life as fast or as slow as you want. That’s unique. You don’t have to alter your existence to suit the city. On this tour, we always look for the fun and juicy bits because when you’re visiting a city, you want to interact with its personality. We don’t just offer dry information but allow you to experience its crazy people, its lovely neighbourhoods, quirks that allow Kolkata to be Kolkata.

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  • History
  • Trips to take

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Alfred & Iftekhar Ahsan

Born and brought up in Kolkata, Iftekhar’s inexplicable love for the city prompted him to rediscover the city’s dusty roads and crumbling buildings. While his ancestors were rangrez or cloth dyers in Rajasthan, Iftekhar broke out of the traditional family business in order to start his own. Iftekhar’s love for the city gave rise to Calcutta Walks, walking tours through the city’s heritage and cultural hotspots. His team call themselves ‘explorers’ who try to encourage people from around the world to experience the joys of their city.