Kolkata (Calcutta)

A vast expanse of green in the heart of the city's brick-and-mortar matrix, the Maidan is where Kolkata's residents congregate for walks, spirited cricket and football matches, family outings, dates, tonga (horse-drawn carriage) rides and general idling. The grounds are flanked by the Victoria Memorial and St Paul's Cathedral to the south and the Hooghly riverbanks to the west. A tram line cuts through the greens, and hopping onto one of the carriages for a slow ride is great fun.

Historically, the Maidan was created in in 1758, in the aftermath of the ‘Black Hole’ fiasco. A moated ‘second’ Fort William, it was shaped in octagonal, Vaubanesque form, and the whole village of Gobindapur was flattened to give the new fort’s cannons a clear line of fire. Though sad for then-residents, this created a 3km-long park that is today as fundamental to Kolkata as Central Park is to New York City. Fort William itself remains hidden within a walled military zone to the west of the greens.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Kolkata (Calcutta) attractions

1. VM North Gate

0.21 MILES

Day-time entry tickets to the park and Victoria Memorial museum are sold here, but there's no access to the sound and light show.

2. Indira Gandhi Statue

0.25 MILES

This statue of India's first (and so far, only) female prime minister is one of many statues located around the Maidan that were set up to occupy plinths …

3. Birla Planetarium

0.29 MILES

Loosely styled on Sanchi’s iconic Buddhist stupa, this 1962 planetarium presents slow-moving, half-hour audiovisual programs on the wonders of the…

4. VM East Gate

0.33 MILES

By day you can exit the Victoria Memorial park from the east gate but not enter this way. From 5pm, a ticket booth here starts issuing tickets for the…

5. Victoria Memorial

0.35 MILES

The incredible Victoria Memorial is a vast, beautifully proportioned festival of white marble: think US Capitol meets Taj Mahal. Had it been built for a…

6. St Paul’s Cathedral

0.35 MILES

Arguably Kolkata's most iconic Gothic superstructure, decorated with a central crenellated tower, St Paul’s would look quite at home in Cambridgeshire but…

7. Sri Aurobindo Bhawan

0.37 MILES

Revolutionary nationalist-turned-guru Sri Aurobindo – who later went on to establish the famous ashram at Auroville near Pondicherry – was born in…

8. Academy of Fine Arts

0.43 MILES

Several bright, ground-floor gallery rooms in this 1933 building feature changing exhibitions by local artists. It's a good place to check out young-and…