College Street, located in central Kolkata (Calcutta) in the University area, is the heart of intellectualism in a city that prides itself on its esteemed academic traditions. Thousands of secondhand bookstalls line the street to either side where you can find nearly any book ever sold in the city, including rare titles at bargain basement prices. Haggling is expected.
Of all the centers of learning located in the College Street vicinity, the Presidency College is the most respected. Established in 1817, it’s one of the oldest and most prestigious academic institutions in India and the place where filmmaker Satyajit Ray attended university. Directly across the street is the nationally famous Indian Coffee House, where students and Bengali intellectuals cram each night for heated debates over a cup of coffee.
Unfortunately, the tiny stalls with piles of old tomes are giving way to modern book malls filled with new or nearly new publications, making it more difficult to hunt down rare volumes. Now is the time to visit this quickly changing neighborhood while it still retains some of its old charm.