A Nostalgic Guide To The Iconic Park Street In Kolkata

From grand mansions to iconic pubs and eateries, bookstores dating to the 1920s, and more. Bookmark this nostalgia-infused guide to Kolkata's legendary Park Street
Kolkata's distinctive yellow taxis on Park Street
Kolkata's distinctive yellow taxis on Park StreetRoop_Dey/Shutterstock

Located near Maidan and Victoria Memorial, Kolkata's famous Park Street is a popular gathering spot for people who enjoy good food, drinks, and music. However, it has lost much of its former glory as a lively nightlife destination in Kolkata. In the past, the street was known as "the street that never sleeps" due to its numerous restaurants and pubs, making it a unique and vibrant destination. Unfortunately, many of these establishments have now closed down. With the arrival of generic mass brands like Nykaa, Hard Rock Cafe, KFC, Starbucks, and others, Park Street has started to resemble any other central street, albeit with some grand old buildings. However, every year, people throng the street during Christmas and New Year, when the Park Street Carnival is held.

The Hub Of Nightlife

In the 1950s and 60s, the city was renowned as India's premier nightlife destination, with Park Street standing at the heart of Kolkata's vibrant evening scene. This iconic street was alive with the sounds of live bands and singers. Legends such as Pam Crain, the band Louis Banks Brotherhood, Usha Uthup, all graced the stage at places like Trincas, Blue Fox, Peter Cat, Moulin Rouge, and Mocambo, leaving audiences spellbound with their electrifying performances. Firpo's, which shut down some time back, had the only sprung floor in India. You can watch Satyajit Ray's movie "Seemabaddha" to get a glimpse of the place and its legendary dancer Miss Shefali who used to perform at the Lido Room in Firpo's. Most of these places are long gone. Only a few remain - pale versions of their 60s swinging avatars. Here's a guide to things that remain.

Auction Houses

Kolkata stands out as perhaps the only metropolitan city in India where a significant number of colonial-era bungalows still stand tall, preserving their architectural grandeur. Over the years, while some of these heritage houses have succumbed to urban development, their remnants often reveal a treasure trove of memorabilia. The owners of these homes, over decades, have curated collections that eventually find their way to the auction houses nestled around the vibrant Park Street area. Historically, Kolkata was home to numerous auction houses, such as the 19th-century Mackenzie Lyall & Co., known for its opium auctions, along with Dalhousie Exchange, Stainer & Co., and D Albert & Co.

The second generation of owners of The Russell Exchange carrying the legacy forward
The second generation of owners of The Russell Exchange carrying the legacy forward@the_russell_exchange/Instagram

However, time has not been kind, and most of these establishments have ceased operations, leaving only a few of the city's old auction houses in existence. Among these, the Russell Exchange stands out as a remarkable survivor. Situated in the heart of Russell Street, just off Park Street, this auction house is a collector's paradise, offering an eclectic mix of items. From vintage record players, cameras, and typewriters to colonial-era gas lamps, marble statues, rare lithographs, and elegant glass decanters, it's a treasure trove for enthusiasts. The auction house is run by two brothers, Anwer Saleem and Arshad Salim. They have even had a documentary made on them by a British film-maker, 'The Auction House - A Tale Of Two Brothers'. You can read more about the auction house in our story here.

Address: 12 C, Russel St, Park Street area, Kolkata, West Bengal 700071

Eateries And Pubs

The distinctive pink Flurys signage on Park Street
The distinctive pink Flurys signage on Park StreetArijeet Bannerjee/Shutterstock

Park Street has long been the go-to destination for special occasions and dining out with loved ones, boasting iconic establishments like the Blue Fox, Trincas, Mocambo, and Flurys. While only a handful of these legends have stood the test of time, Flurys continues to be a beloved breakfast spot in Kolkata since its inception in 1927 when it opened as a tea room catering to the British. It has changed ownership and the charm of the interiors have faded. Nevertheless, its nostalgic charm still captivates thousands, especially during Christmas. When visiting, indulging in their rum ball, sandwiches, and the classic English breakfast is highly recommended.

Address: 18A, Mother Teresa Sarani, Park Street area, Kolkata

Among the older eateries, Trincas went through a revamp and has restarted live music events. The Trincas Timeline Project, a collaborative memory initiative focused on gathering stories, photographs, and personal anecdotes spanning 80 years, not only delves into the rich history of the restaurant, but also offers insights into the evolution of 'the Park Street Scene' along with the transformation of Calcutta/Kolkata over the nearly past century. Check it out here.

Address: 17, Mother Teresa Sarani, behind Trincas Restaurant, near The Park Hotel, out gate, Taltala, Kolkata, West Bengal 700016

The legendary Olypub, affectionately known as "Olly," located on Park Street, has been a haven for notable personalities like Satyajit Ray and the celebrated Bengali actor Uttam Kumar. Popular for its beef steak and affordable alcohol, securing a spot here during weekends often requires a bit of a wait. It's not uncommon for patrons to share tables, adding to the camaraderie and unique experience of visiting this iconic spot.

Address: 21, Park St, Taltala, Kolkata, West Bengal 700016

Opened in the 1950s, Mocambo is another iconic eatery on Park Street that has survived the years. From the wooden signage to the red leather booths liveried waiters, and a menu stuck in time, this place oozes nostalgia and atmosphere.

Address: Ground Floor, 25B, Mirza Ghalib St, Taltala, Kolkata, West Bengal 700016

Mocambo was popular for Continental food and jazz performances
Mocambo was popular for Continental food and jazz performances @mocambocalcutta /Shutterstock

The Park Street Cemetery

Old trees and ancient gravestones in South Park Street Cemetery
Old trees and ancient gravestones in South Park Street CemeteryPan_photo/Shutterstock

If history is your true muse, then the South Park Street Cemetery is a must-visit. Urban legend says it’s one of Kolkata’s most haunted places. With over 1,600 graves (the oldest one dating back to 1760s), this is your site for thanatourism with its collection of obelisks, urns, pyramids and ornate temple-like structures. From Dickens’ son to philologist William Jones and HLV Derozio—they are all here. Several city-based heritage walk outfits organise guided walks around the cemetery.

Address: Opposite The Assembly of God Church School, Park Street, Mullick Bazar, Park Street area, Kolkata, West Bengal 700017

Oxford Bookstore

This historic bookstore on Park Street in Kolkata has seen several changes since it opened its doors to book lovers in 1921. It is well-stocked with books from the world's biggest publishers, coffee table books, periodicals, writing instruments, and various lifestyle products. On the second floor, there is a little café where you can get the original Darjeeling tea and multiple teas and savouries. The bookstore also organises several literary festivals, including the Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival, Apeejay Bangla Sahitya Utsav, and Hindi Sahitya Utsav.

Address: 17 Park Street, Kolkata 700016

There are several other bookstores in and around Park Street. For instance, Bingsha Shatabdi is a quirky cat-themed store selling mostly Bengali books.

Address: Shop, Kamdhenu Building, Mother Teresa Sarani, Taltala, Kolkata, West Bengal 700016

Pay a visit to Earthcare Books, located on Kolkata's Middleton Street, known for its carefully curated stock of books on the environment with selected titles from a number of small, independent publishers, especially in the alternative sector. These are rarely found elsewhere under one roof. Read more about it here.

Address: Earthcare bookstore, 10, Middleton St, near Maidan, Park Street area, Kolkata, West Bengal 700071

Indian Museum

A short walk from Park Street is the Indian Museum. Established in 1814, it is one of the oldest museums in Asia. It houses a vast collection of artifacts, including fossils, sculptures, and Mughal paintings, offering a glimpse into India's diverse history. Look out for the Egyptian mummy. More info on the website here. Read more about it in our guide here.

Address: 27, Jawaharlal Nehru Rd, Fire Brigade Head Quarter, New Market Area, Dharmatala, Taltala, Kolkata

Asiatic Society

The Asiatic Society of Bengal was established on January 15, 1784, by Sir William Jones, a British lawyer and Orientalist, with the aim of promoting Oriental studies. The Indian Museum was originally located here before being moved to its present location in 1878. The Asiatic Society covers an area of 15071 square feet and houses an excellent library as well as its own museum. The library has approximately 117,000 books and 79,000 journals, printed in almost all major languages of the world. The earliest printed book in the library dates back to 1499. Among the 45,000-odd manuscripts is the Gulistan (a seminal work in Persian Literature), an illustrated manuscript of the Holy Quran, and a copy of the Padshah Nama signed by Emperor Shah Jahan. More info on their website here.

Address: 1 Park Street, Kolkata 700016

Getting There

If you're flying, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport is the primary gateway. Alternatively, the city is well-connected by rail, with Howrah and Sealdah major railway stations. Bus services and private vehicles also ply on well-maintained roads.

Best Time To Go

Winter is the best time, from October end till February. Kolkata remains hot and humid from March end to around mid June.

Related Stories

No stories found.
Outlook Traveller