Here’s what Kolkata’s seasons offer to the intrepid traveller.
A gentle, soothing Kolkata Autumn (October through November)
October to November is invariably the best season to visit Kolkata. To experience Kolkata’s kaleidoscopic nature, its culturally-rich landscape and how the modern and the technologically-driven co-exist with the historic or the squalid and decaying, visit in the post-monsoon months when the lashing showers have petered off and the temperature lingers between a pleasant 23 and 32 degree Celsius. The humidity levels are significantly low and the city gears up for its most important celebration, the Durga Puja. A carnival of sorts, Kolkata is bedecked with colourful - and creative - depictions of Goddess Durga through mammoth clay idols sculpted by the artisans of Kumortuli. Makeshift puja pandals mushroom across the city sending its curfew time to the wee hours. The shops are a hub of activity. From eating out around South Kolkata to shopping for sarees and other bric-a-brac, this is the season to take in the infectious energy that the city has long been associated with. One flip-side of an autumn visit is the crowds. They seem to multiply and pervade the public places, from a cinema hall, an air-conditioned shopping mall, open-air streets to the restaurants and the ubiquitous Durga Puja pandals. Hotel prices can shoot up too in this season. But within the chaos, photography lovers claim to have a field day as Kolkata comes together to offer a brilliant visual and sensory experience.
A cool, comfortable Kolkata Winter (December through February)
Arrive in December or January, the best month to visit Kolkata. At this time of the year, the temperate drops to a cool 11 degree Celsius with the maximum lingering between 26 and 27 degree Celsius. Mornings are misty and wonderful to set out on a long jog. You can head out to the lovely greens along the Rabindra Sarovar, a wonderful spot to watch folks gather for a yoga class, a laughter class or simply catch the bird-life of the season. Follow it up with a visit to the Hooghly Riverbanks and watch daily life pick up steam on its banks as you saunter down the green neighbourhood and stop by to take pictures of the innumerable ferries and boats that career through its brackish waters. Reserve the evenings for cheap street-side eats and pilgrimages to some of its iconic waterholes and restaurants such as OlyPub and Peter Cat respectively. If you are a follower of Jazz or Rock music, you must round up one of Kolkata’s best live music venues, Someplace Else. With the weather favouring you through the day, you could also chalk up an itinerary that includes important landmarks such as the Belur Math, Victoria Memorial (even better if you can catch a light-and-sound show in the evening), St Paul’s Cathedral, Chinatown, New Market, Writer’s Building among others. From eating out, sightseeing, to clubbing or strolling down College Street and Park Circus, these are the best days to be in Kolkata with mellow mornings, low humidity levels and a nice nip settling over the city post-sundown.
A nasty, sticky Kolkata Monsoon (June through September)
On the heels of the southeasterly monsoon winds, Kolkata receives an annual rainfall of about 1582 metres that threatens to deluge the city. While the temperature hovers between 20 and 28 degree Celsius with pleasant to cool nights, the humidity can deflate your spirits. The rains intensify between late July and early August sending the city into a tizzy with its chock-full roads, overflowing drains and muddy puddles dotting its thoroughfare. A terrible time to visit Kolkata and explore it for its heritage and culture. Unless you wish to be identified with the swish Bengali gentry that frequents the colonial-era clubs and dines at the grand old-world restaurants and likes to watch the rains from the cast iron balcony of your heritage hotel, a cup of tea in hand, your Kolkata holiday could turn out to be a bit of a damp squib.
A hot, balmy Kolkata Summer (March through May)
Owing to the southwesterly monsoon winds, Kolkata’s summer months are supremely humid. Very hot days culminate with a brief spell of rain accompanied by dust storms and winds. A phenomenon locally called ‘Kal Baishakhi’. The maximum temperature reaches a 40 degree Celsius with little respite in the nights when it goes down to about 30 degree Celsius. The heat makes the city that needs you to be on foot largely unexplorable. You feel the humidity get the better of you as you trundle down a heritage tram or journey in a local train. Eating out, sightseeing, roadside shopping, or simply walking in the Park Street area can leave you fatigued and frustrated. The lakeside walks or the lush botanical gardens seem to fall into disuse. You can’t even imagine going anywhere near the sun-baked ghats of the Hooghly River straddled by the cantilever Howrah Bridge. But if you truly wish to capture the essence of Kolkata and understand its colonial heritage, summer is not the time.
How to reach Kolkata?
- By Air: The Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport located in Dum Dum about 17 kilometres from the city centre is the largest hub in eastern India. The airport offers great domestic and international connectivity with flights to Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, Guwahati, Bangalore among others aside from international destinations like Bhutan, China, Bangladesh, Southeast Asia. Prominent airlines flying out of the Kolkata airport include AirAsia, Air India, Bhutan Airlines, IndiGo, Vistara, SpiceJet, China Eastern Airlines, Druk Air, GoAir, Emirates, Etihad.
- By Rail: Sealdah and Howrah railway stations are Kolkata’s two major railway terminals from where intercity and interstate trains arrive and depart. The daily footfall at these stations is close to 2 million each. The Sealdah Rajdhani Express departs from here for Delhi, as does the Howrah Rajdhani Express. Some of the significant trains departing from Howrah include Howrah-Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminal Duronto Express, Howrah Mumbai Mail (12321), aside from the Santragachi Pune Humsafar Express.
- By Bus: The West Bengal Transport Corporation (WBTC) operates a fleet of Volvo AC and non-AC buses within Kolkata and across districts in West Bengal. Formerly called Calcutta State Transport Corporation (CSTC), it has bus depots across Salt Lake, Belghoria, Howrah, Lake Depot, Garia, Maniktala, Thakurpukur. Some of its popular bus routes outside Kolkata include Kolkata to Asansol, Durgapur to Kolkata, Kolkata to Bolpur, Kolkata to Digha bus, Durgapur to Kolkata airport among others.
To get detailed information, check here
Best Time to Visit Kolkata - FAQs
Q. Is summer a good time to visit Kolkata?
A: If you are planning your summer holidays, you need to steer clear of Kolkata and instead choose West Bengal’s upper reaches such as Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Ghum or Mirik. Between March and May, Kolkata experiences a hot and muggy summer with day temperatures soaring to a 40 degree Celsius with night temperature falling just a wee bit at around 30 degree Celsius. The humidity levels are also very high. Travelling around in this season can be a challenge especially with all the heat and the moisture sticking to your skin and making you feel dehydrated.
Q. Which is the monsoon season in Kolkata?
A: The southeasterly monsoon winds affect the Kolkata monsoon months starting from late June through early September. Kolkata’s monsoon inundates the city by water-logging the drains, increasing the chaos on the streets and bringing daily life to a grinding halt. The day temperature reaches 28 degree Celsius with high humidity levels, but the evenings turn pleasant at around 20 degree Celsius. Sightseeing, heritage walks, shopping, street-side eating, visits to parks or simply sitting by the ghats of the Ganges are hardly a possibility in this season.
Q. Which is the best time to visit Kolkata?
A: For both weather and atmospherics the post-monsoon months of October and November are a good time to visit the ‘City of Joy’. Of course, you can visit the Victoria Memorial, go shopping in New Market, walk about College Street, but the highlight of these autumn months is Kolkata’s answer to a carnival, the Durga Puja. The euphoria reaches the streets with colourful installations of idols of Goddess Durga coming up in every nook and cranny, crowds thronging the Puja pandals, restaurants and local shops spilling onto the streets, shops selling interesting knickknacks and the city’s curfew hours getting pushed back by several hours. From dance, music, parties to cultural events, the city at this time of the year are throbbing and pulsing with life. Check Kolkata current weather status here.
Q. Does Kolkata have a winter season?
A: Yes, though comparatively milder than India’s northern cities, Kolkata has a distinct winter season starting from December to February. The temperatures oscillate between 26 to 11 degree Celsius making it the best season to visit Kolkata. You can be out on the streets in the day time for longer hours without really minding the gentle sun. Walk in the parks, sit at the ghats, go on a boat ride, eat on the streets, go window shopping and capture the flavour of Kolkata. Plenty of heritage walks are planned at this time of the year. It is also a good time to catch a light-and-sound show at the Victoria Memorial. With low humidity levels, Kolkata is an absolute delight in this season.
Q. What kind of clothing to pack for a Kolkata trip?
A: You are not recommended a visit to Kolkata in the summer and monsoon months because the heat and the rains are a dreadful combination the city reels from year after year. But if you are visiting in the post-monsoon months of October and November, carry light cotton clothes, walking shoes, a hat. In the winter months, between December and February, supplement it with a layer of woollens, but no shorts or sleeveless outfits as even the daytime weather would be too cold for them.
Q. How is the metro rail connectivity in Kolkata?
A: Kolkata has a decent metro connectivity. The Line 1 (North-South Metro) stretches to a 27 kilometre serving 24 stations comprising Kavi Subhash, Kavi Nazrul, Gitanjali, Girish Park, Shobhabazar Sutanuti, Shyambazar, Belgachhia, Dum Dum among others. Line 2 (East-West Metro) is still underway, while Line 3 (Joka-BBD Bagh Metro) encompasses Thakurpukur, Behala Bazar, Taratala, Victoria, Park Street, Dharamtala to name a few. Similarly, there is Line 4 (Noapara-Barasat Metro), Line 5 (Baranagar-Barrackpore Metro), and Line 6 (New Goria-Biman Bandar Metro).