in the middle
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Located in eastern India, Calcutta is the capital of West Bengal. A city of contradictions, it features everything from rickshaws to honking taxis, a renowned and modern university housed in old colonial buildings, plus of course the grand hotels like Taj Bengal Kolkata that retain an air of traditional mystery despite their contemporary fittings. One thing's for sure, you won't be stuck for things to spend your Indian Rupee on while in the metropolis. India's second biggest city, it is locally considered to be the cultural centre of the country and it contains dozens of venues showcasing Bengali dance, art, poetry, music, film and theatre. Calcutta is also home to some of the nation's best restaurants and to air-conditioned shopping malls. You can further explore this vast country by combining your holiday with flights to more superb Indian destinations, such as Mumbai and Bangalore.
The monsoon season in India runs from June to September, although you do not have to let this get in the way of your travel plans. It does not rain all day every day during this period, and tourist attractions tend to be much quieter.
Calcutta flights land at the Netaji Subhash Bose International Airport, which is situated around 20 kilometres from the city centre. Expect one stop en route from the UK and a journey that takes a little over 13 hours. Frequent buses operate between the hub and Calcutta, and there is a rail link too. If you fancy braving the busy traffic, you can take advantage of cheap car hireinstead.
Within Calcutta itself, there is a one-line metro service. Above ground, you can flag down rickshaws to get around, and auto-rickshaws and taxis are also available.
The hubbub of daily life in Calcutta is one of its appeals. However, if you fancy escaping into calmer, greener surrounds, take a trip to the city's 109-hectare botanical garden. There, you can check out a palm collection, cactus house, boating lake and more. The Indian Museumis another superb attraction. Set in a colonnaded palace it is home to an array of exhibits, including Hindu sculptures, a Glyptodon dinosaur-armadillo and pinned insects.
When you fancy a pit stop, head to one of Calcutta's Kuzums. These outlets offer Bengal's trademark fast food, the kati roll, which comes with your choice of stuffing. If you're after a meaty treat, you could try curried chicken versions, while paneer is a lighter option and it is equally delectable.