Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), is the capital of West Bengal has been nicknamed the Cultural Capital of India, City of Palaces, City of Joy, etc. This comes from the numerous palatial mansions built all over the city. Unlike many north Indian cities, whose construction stresses minimalism, the layout of much of the architectural variety in Kolkata owes its origins to European styles and tastes imported by the British as it was the capital of British India from 1772 to 1911 and, to a much lesser extent, the Portuguese and French. The buildings were designed and inspired by the tastes of the English gentleman around and the aspiring Bengali Babu (literally, a nouveau riche Bengali who aspired to cultivation of English etiquette, manners and custom, as such practices were favourable to monetary gains from the British). Today, many of these structures are in various stages of decay. Some of the major buildings of this period are well maintained and several buildings have been declared as heritage structures. Long known as the “Cultural Capital of India” for its vibrant culture which has led India from the forefront from the 18th century onwards in all fronts ranging from culture to arts, literature to sciences, sports to politics, theatre to films.
Home to the famous Bengal Renaissance which boasts of a host of luminaries like Raja Rammohan Roy, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, Ramakrishna, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose, Rabindranath Tagore, Swami Vivekananda, Khudiram, Chittaranjan Das, Sri Aurobindo, Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, Bagha Jatin, Bidhan Chandra Roy, and countless others. The city has lost much of its glory now but has never lost its effervescence. West Bengal is also known for the famous The Sunderbans.
From historical point of view, the story of West Bengal begins from Gour and Pandua situated close to the present district town of Malda. The twin medieval cities had been sacked at least once by changing powers in the 15th century. However, ruins from the period still remain, and several architectural specimens still retain the glory and shin of those times. The Hindu architecture of Bishnupurin terracotta and laterite sandstone are renowned world over. Towards the British colonial period came the architecture of Murshidabad and Coochbehar. Darjeeling is a famous Himalayan city in the state of West Bengal. Darjeeling tea is world famous because of its attractive smell. Other than Darjeeling there are notable hill stations like Kalimpong, Lava, Lolegaon, Rishop, etc. There are some wonderful trek routes also, like Sandakfu, Falut etc. Beside hill stations West Bengal has some beautiful sea beaches also, like Digha, Shankarpur, Mandarmoni, Bakkhali etc. West Bengal is home to six national parks — Sundarbans National Park, Buxa Tiger Reserve, Gorumara National Park, Neora Valley National Park, Jaldapara National Park, and Singalila National Park. Extant wildlife include Indian rhinoceroses, Indian elephants, deer, bison, leopards, gaur, and crocodiles, as well as many bird species. Migratory birds come to the state during the winter. The high-altitude forests of Singalila National Park shelter barking deer, red panda, chinkara, takin, serow, pangolin, minivet and Kalij pheasants. Additionally, the Sundarbans are noted for a reserve project conserving the endangered The Royal Bengal Tiger, although the forest hosts many other endangered species, such as the Gangetic dolphin, river terrapin and estuarine crocodile.