Hipster Hoods To Old-World Charm: An Expat's Guide To What She Loves About Kolkata

2624 Interested |

I haven’t lived in Kolkata since I was thirteen, but what I remember of it still holds true to this day. Kolkata, to those who haven’t been, feels like a slow motion sepia-toned version of Bombay, however much smaller and with characteristics from its past evoking scenes from a Satyajit Ray film. The trams, unchanged since their installation in 1902 weaving through the traffic consisting of flashy cars and old yellow ambassador taxis alike. The chai stalls with their bright graphics, and old whitehaired bespectacled men in white kurtas with jholas reading the newspaper can be seen on every other street.

Though these things are probably what make Kolkata feel like Calcutta, amongst its leisurely exterior there are several small new businesses and hangouts I’ve discovered on my moving back there. And several old ones that I now see in a new light. I am sharing some of them here:


Cafe 4/1

Gone is the Camac street of my childhood, where the only cool place to get fancy things was Vardaan Market. Tucked in an old colonial building next to a Wills Lifestyle and Rolex shop, is this hipster millennial cafe. They don’t seem to serve alcohol but have a large balcony seating area with eclectic furniture with a running theme of bright yellow in all their design elements.

The food is yum, mostly familiar Indian snacks but with better branding and presented in thoughtful well-designed ways. I love coming here with my laptop, or to just have a snack after a long day of shopping. You will often find college students and young professionals treating themselves to a quick lunch here.

Chamba Lama

This is an antique jewelry shop in the heart of New Market. My mum and her college friends used to frequent this shop. And now every time I’m home to visit my family, my mum and I end up here, and end up spending at least 16k on average because every piece is unique, antique and customisable.

The best place to shop for unusual silver jewelry, like coin necklaces, earrings and rings with miniature paintings embedded in them, heavy Nepalese tribal silver necklaces and bead necklaces of all shapes and sizes. It’s a Calcutta classic.


I have lived in Williamsburg {Brooklyn}, the mecca of all things hipster. On my visit back to Kolkata, driving around Gariahat felt a lot like I hadn’t left Williamsburg, since here hipster philosophy reigns supreme.

From the moment you enter the neighbourhood, to the naked eye, it just looks like old colonial houses, quieter streets and a lot of bird poop on the sidewalk. But on closer look you’ll find little new age Indian shops with great graphic design, sustainable clothing shops, cool designed buildings, art galleries and rainbow painted streets.

Sienna Cafe

Located in Gariahat, tucked at the back of Sienna {the organic clothing store}, is their cafe. And to me, the ultimate Calcutta hipster adda spot. Enjoy their yuuuuum avocado salad, really really good coffee with a piece of strawberry crumble cake, or if you want something savory their beetroot dip with chips is delicious and healthy.

The interiors are beautiful, their internet connection is speedy and their laidback attitude makes you feel comfortable taking up an entire table with your laptop for four to six hours at a stretch, despite there being a huge demand for tables. The perfect spot for freelancers, high society aunties on a health food kick and hipsters alike.

Rang De Basanti Dhaba

A bit of a trek for most people who live in town {like me}, this place is located in Salt Lake. As someone who has lived in the US for long enough for her immune system to be messed up by just chaat masala, this gives you the simple dhaba “experience” without the food poisoning. Their biryani is amazing.