The regal city of Agra is dotted with the wondrous remains of the Mughal period, inviting people to delve into India’s medieval past. Its claim to fame is the marvellous Taj Mahal, one of the seven wonders of the world, which attracts travellers from all around the globe. Due to the city’s inclusion in the Golden Triangle circuit owing to its proximity to Delhi and Jaipur, the places to visit in Agra observe a large influx of tourists all year round. Most people visit the city for the huge marble mausoleum but end up indulging in the evergreen ancient charm of the city highlighted by the many places to visit in Agra. It is undeniably a unique destination in the country where a huge chunk of Indian history is based. It is not surprising, therefore, that the annual number of visitors coming to the city is more than double of its own population! Excessive tourism, however, also contributes to the heightened activity in the city. It can get exasperating to avoid throngs of taxi or auto rickshaw drivers, street hawkers and unofficial tour guides competing for you to choose their services. But the Indian experience is characteristically defined by the order in its disorder, hence the places to visit in Agra manage to encapsulate such spirit rather well. Whether you love or hate it, it has become an unspoken rule for travellers to visit Agra at least once in their lives to check off the wondrous monument from their bucket list. Read on to find out which are the important places to visit in Agra.
The pre-eminent monument of India, the Taj Mahal is at the very top of all places to visit in Agra. It is a UNESCO world heritage site and among the seven wonders of the world. Renowned internationally as an eternal symbol of love, the mausoleum was constructed in the 17th century by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife, Mumtaz Mahal. It is completely made of white marble and is arguably the most beautiful edifice in the word. At each entrance of the complex, you will find large gates made of red sandstone. Walking inside, you will see the beautifully maintained Mughal gardens ornate with watercourses. While strolling by the marvellous layout, it is inevitable for you to not be dazzled by the magnificent structure as you approach it. It is settled on an elevated platform, so when you look up at it, the white building stands out against a backdrop of a lovely blue sky. The Taj Mahal exhibits the classic characteristics of Mughal architecture with a dome and four minarets at each corner. The Yamuna River flows behind the building, granting a picturesque view from the complex. Right under the dome are the cenotaphs of Mumtaz Mahal as well as Shah Jahan. You are not allowed to click pictures inside the mausoleum.
Next to the Taj Mahal is a red sandstone mosque that is one of the most important places to visit in Agra for Muslims. Every Friday prayers are held here and the monument is closed to tourists. This monument’s unimaginable beauty exceeds tourists’ wildest expectations and you must plan a trip to the Taj Mahal before all other places to visit in Agra and India. Many tourists prefer going to this tourist destination in Agra early in the morning to avoid crowds.
Another UNESCO world heritage site, the Agra Fort is one of the most important places to visit in Agra, owing not only to its incredible architecture but also its historical significance. Before the capital of the Mughal Empire moved to Delhi, this fort was the residence of the rulers. In fact, the Red Fort in Delhi was made by Shah Jahan almost replicating the Agra Fort. It sits on the banks of the Yamuna River and is at a distance of about two and a half kilometres from the wonderful Taj Mahal. The construction was started by Akbar, but the fort was enhanced from a military building into a palace by Shah Jahan. He was, sadly, imprisoned here by his son Aurangzeb within a part of the fort from where he could only see his grand creation for his beloved wife – the Taj Mahal. The complex is more like a fortified city, consisting of a number of buildings within it. Many of them have been destroyed over the years by different rulers, last taken over by the British for its troops. After India’s independence, the Indian army has occupied a large part of the fort, which is not open to tourists. Travellers can explore various other parts of the fort, such as Jahangir’s Palace, Khas Mahal, Anguri Bagh, Shish Mahal, Muthamman Burj, Jharokha Diwan-i-Khas, Diwan-i-Aam, Takhti-i-Jehangir and Nagina Masjid. Going to these places to visit in Agra within the fort can take up to three to four hours. These places can be visited as early as 30 minutes before sunrise and latest by 30 minutes before sunset.
This is one of the places to visit in Agra that is essential for you to acquaint yourself with the evolution of architecture in the country. It is popularly called Baby Taj Mahal. Nur Jahan, Jahangir’s wife, got it made in memory of her father (who was also Mumtaz Mahal’s grandfather). Itimad-ud-Daulah’s Tomb was the first in India to be constructed entirely out of marble and denoted a shift in Mughal architecture. Initially, the monuments constructed by them mostly utilized red sandstone whereas the use of white marble was limited to some designs. But in this new phase, white marble was used to create whole buildings. The mausoleum is the first monument in India to be set beside the Yamuna River and incorporate the pietra dura style of designing. It is believed that this tomb is one of the major inspirations for the Taj Mahal’s construction. You will notice a few similarities between this monument and other places to visit in Agra too.
Built by Jahangir in honour of his father Akbar, this tomb is one of the most popular places to visit in Agra. It is made of red sandstone and white sandstone and is located in the Sikandra region. Its site was chosen by Akbar and early construction was supervised by him as well. He also designed the beautiful gardens that surround the monument. Most tombs of Islamic rulers would face the Mosque of Mecca, but Akbar’s tomb faces the east, where the sun rises. During Aurangzeb’s rule – Akbar’s great-grandson – offended Jats charged at the Agra Fort and raided Akbar’s tomb. It was later restored by the Viceroy of India to preserve this architectural marvel where lay the remains of one of the greatest rulers in the subcontinent. The restoration process was successful to a great extent, and this tomb continues to be one of the most popular places to visit in Agra.
Fatehpur Sikri is among the significant places to visit near Agra. Its foundation was laid by Akbar and this fortified city served as his capital for years. It is a UNESCO world heritage site and home to many landmarks important in the list of places to visit in Agra. For example, a few of the places to see in Agra located in Fatehpur Sikri are Jodha’s palace, Jama Mosque, Buland Darwaza, and Salim Chisti’s tomb. Fatehpur Sikri shows a genuine union of varying cultural and religious beliefs as Akbar constructed individual palaces here for each of his wives who followed different religions. The walled city was constructed after his son was born in the village settled there. A paragon of Indo-Mughal architecture, this is one of the best places to visit in Agra where you can have a better understanding of India’s history.
Buland Darwaza is an impressive example of Mughal architecture, and was constructed by Akbar as a symbol of his victory over Gujarat. It is one of the most wonderful places to visit in Agra because it holds the record for being the highest gateway in the world! An entrance to Jama Masjid in Fatehpur Sikri, Buland Darwaza is also made of red sandstone and decorated with white and black marble. There are Persian inscriptions in the centre that narrate Akbar’s victory, tolerant nature and openness to different religions.
Jama Masjid, also known as Friday Mosque, is one of the largest in India and among the stand-out places to visit in Agra. It was created by Shah Jahan, dedicated to his eldest daughter, Jahan Ara Begum. It is situated opposite Agra Fort; the two structures are separated by the Agra Fort Railway Station. True to the primary Mughal architectural style, this mosque is made of red sandstone, ornate with white marble. As you enter, you will see a fountain in the middle of the courtyard. Going inside, you will observe Persian inscriptions on the inner walls of the building in appreciation of Shah Jahan and his daughter Jahan Ara. The mosque is adorned with paintings, carvings, tiles and precious stones. For centuries, it has remained a landmark of the city and is one of the most iconic places to visit in Agra. Every Friday, prayers are held here that invite thousands of people. Within the premises, the Tomb of Salim Chisti is also present.
Jodha Bai ka Rauza
This is one of the many places to visit in Agra made by the Mughal Emperor Akbar. It is located in Fatehpur Sikri and was made by the king for his beloved Rajput wife Jodha. Their union was an important event, which led to Akbar being more tolerant of other faiths. His acceptance of different religions is tangibly manifested in this palace as it incorporates both Hindu and Islamic styles of architecture and decoration. Since this place was occupied by women, the architecture displays simple elegance and femininity. Although this is one of the few places to visit in Agra that is often skipped by tourists, if you are going to Fatehpur Sikri, you should make a stop to admire its distinct beauty.
Places to Visit in Agra: Markets
Situated near Agra Cantt. Railway Station, Sadar Bazaar is arguably the most visited of all the places to visit in Agra for shopping. There is hardly anything that you will not find here. Whether you are looking for traditional handcrafted items, ethnic clothes, bags, sweets or typical souvenirs, you will find them all here. You can stop by at one of the food joints in the vicinity when you wish to take a break from shopping. The momos and soya chaap here are pretty popular. Keep in mind that the market is closed every Tuesday.
Subhash Bazaar is another one of the popular places to visit in Agra, and is located near Jama Masjid and Agra Fort. It is especially known for its silk sarees. Being a street market, it is imperative that you try to negotiate the prices so that you do not end up paying extra. This market is shut on Tuesdays.
Another famous market from the places to visit in Agra is Kinari Bazaar. It is an old market near Jama Masjid. It is especially known for the wholesale goods you can find here. From handicrafts, traditional textiles to glass and marble products, there is a variety of items for you to buy at a bargain. This is also among the go-to places to visit in Agra if you want to shop for a wedding. You can easily find a good collection of sherwanis, lehengas, jewellery, dupattas, and turbans. Chimmanlal Puri Wale is one of the popular street food vendors in Agra who puts up his stall near the market, giving you another reason to stop here while you explore the places to visit in Agra.
Raja ki Mandi
One of the busiest marketplaces to visit in Agra, Raja ki Mandi is famous for jewellery, accessories, clothes, decorative good, items used for worship, books and sweets among many other things. It is right next to Raja ki Mandi Railway Station. This is one of the oldest places to visit in Agra, as this market has been functioning since the Mughal era. You can find an assortment of items on sale here and is good for a visit if you are looking to shop in Agra.
Places to Visit in Agra: Lesser Known Spots
Across the Yamuna River to the north of the Taj Mahal lies Mehtab Bagh. For a distant yet gripping view of places to visit in Agra such as the Taj Mahal and the Agra Fort, this is an ideal spot to spend your evening. It is the last remaining Mughal garden out of the 11 set on the banks of the Yamuna River. A perfectly symmetrical square garden, it has four towers made of red sandstone at each corner. There is also a huge tank smack in the middle. Not only is the garden a beautiful site to stroll around amidst a variety of trees, flowers and shrubs, it is also the best spot to enjoy a postcard-perfect view of the Taj Mahal. It is said that Shah Jahan renovated the degraded park to marvel at his architectural wonder just as millions of tourists do today. This is one of the most picturesque places to visit in Agra and is often frequented by photographers. During monsoon, the park sometimes gets flooded, hence it is advised to plan a visit to this tourist destination in Agra in winter.
Wildlife SOS Agra Bear Rescue Facility
Wildlife SOS has a commendable initiative to protect wildlife and preserve the environment in Agra. They are mainly known for protecting the sloth bears used as dancing bears by the tribal community of Korai Village, near Fatehpur Sikri. The rescues are cared for in artificially created natural habitats. The organisation also attempts to educate locals and provide them with alternatives for a sustainable way of earning a livelihood. Besides bears, Wildlife SOS focuses on helping leopards, elephants, tigers and other reptiles. You can add this to your itinerary along with the historical places to visit in Agra for a change. There are tours organised where you can learn about the recuperation process of the rescued animals. This is one of the places to visit in Agra where you can attend informative workshops.
Situated within the premises of the Taj Mahal, this museum is home to all the information you could possibly want on the monument. It consists of original layout plans, samples of stones, royal orders, records, old photographs and drawings of the Taj Mahal. Even the planning of the graves and their records are kept here. Hence, this is one of the most interesting places to visit in Agra as it showcases the entire brainstorming process behind this grand monument. The major exhibits here are the ivory portraits of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal. As you walk around, you will observe a number of antiquities, weapons, manuscripts, calligraphy works, semi-precious stones and utensils.
Mother Teresa's Missionaries Of Charity
Mother Teresa was a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who started the Missionaries of Charity, a Roman Catholic religious congregation, in over a hundred countries. Its aim was the welfare of the underprivileged afflicted by HIV AIDS, tuberculosis or leprosy. One of those centres is in Agra and is among the few places to visit in Agra where you can spend a day in service of the society. As you enter this place, you will be greeted with warmth and smiles. This is unlike any of the other places to visit in Agra, but the time you spend with the people here will leave you with memories that’ll last for a lifetime. You can go on a tour, observe the kindness prevalent in the centre and learn about how the nuns extend a helping hand to the needy. If you wish to, you can make small donations here as well.
Written by Shruti Mishra, an in-house Tripoto writer.
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