12 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Agra
Known for being one of the largest cities of the world, Agra, located in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, is also a city with a rich history. In fact, the city is said to be the birthplace of India's most legendary epic, the Mahabharata. Having endured a tumultuous past, the city today is an excellent base from which to explore the surrounding territory, as well as getting a taste of the city's lively culinary scene.
Here are some of the top things to see and do in the city that have made Agra a modern-day tourist destination.
When visiting Agra, tourists can see the magnificent Taj Mahal at sunset or sunrise.
One of the most spectacular sights in Agra is the flaming Taj Mahal at sunset or sunrise. This magnificent building also is home to one of the most popular tourist attractions, the Taj Mahal, which reflects the history and beauty of India. Visit Taj Mahal Park for the best views of this majestic monument.
There is more to do in Agra than just visiting one of the world's most famous tourist attractions. The city's palace complexes, old streets, markets, and restaurants are all must-sees for tourists visiting the city. Plan your itinerary using our list of the top things to do in Agra, India.
Built by the Mughals in 1639 for Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, the fort in Agra, has served as a religious center, a mosque, a royal mausoleum, and a British cantonment. It also served as the location for the first-ever Indian film to be shown in England. The central brick and red-sandstone structure was originally four stories in height. Between 1853 and 1855, the British extended it to three stories, creating an imposing space that still stands today. You can visit the fort as part of a paid tour of Agra. Tours are available in both English and Hindi.
Jama Masjid was built during the Mughal period by Sultan Jahan in the 1430s to commemorate the death of his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal. The mosque is constructed of red sandstone and marble, and is the largest mosque in India. It was originally built with two prayer halls and used for praying by the imperial Mughal family as well as the Mogul and Rajput rulers. Emperor Aurangzeb was a great supporter of this mosque as was his son Prince Shahjahan. This magnificent mosque remains one of the oldest and largest mosques in India. Other attractions include the Sheesh Mahal (mirror-palace) and Chini Mahal (Chinese palace). In the inside of the mosque there is a Jama Mandir, or an exclusive enclosure for women.
The Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal, the magnificent mausoleum of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan (1592–1666), is among the most important and impressive mausoleums in the world. Considered the pinnacle of Mughal architecture, the building is composed of white marble inlaid with thousands of semi-precious stones, including marble from Panch Deval in Rajasthan and red sandstone from Multan. The tomb of Mughal emperor is protected by about 4,000 uniformed guards from India's Frontier Security Force, with elephants, horses and cannon patrolling its four entrances. The complex includes several other buildings, a rose garden and fountains, as well as the grave of Jahan's son.
Fatehpur Sikri is an ancient city in northern India known for its large structures and its fascinating history. The city was founded by the Mughal emperor Akbar the Great in 1571 and is home to three magnificent forts: Sikri, including the Red Fort; Lal Qila (Red Fort), better known as the fort in Agra, and the Delhi fort. Today it's a major tourist attraction, not only for its architecture but also for the graves of the Mughal emperor and his most important wives at a nearby cemetery.
Jade Buddha Temple
One of the highlights of Agra, Jade Buddha Temple is a striking reflection of the Silk Road and the influence of Mughal architecture. This exquisite mosque and its four domes, built in the 1560s, are reminiscent of the Mogul citadel at Fatehpur Sikri. In the mosque you will find exhibits detailing the region's history and religious architecture. Be sure to explore the upper floors, where visitors can view a stunning collection of Islamic art, including prayer rugs, intricate patterns, and carpets.
Akbar's Mausoleum (also known as the Red Fort) is one of the world's great imperial mausoleums. It was constructed for Akbar, the powerful and grand emperor of the Mughal Empire (1556-1605), at a place identified by Muslims as one of the most holy sites in the world. Built in the early 1600s, the mausoleum has walls made of red sandstone and is inlaid with marble and lapis lazuli, as well as a series of fountains and a garden. Admission is free, but it is advisable to purchase a timed ticket at the entrance to the mausoleum, which should be purchased in advance. The tickets are expensive, but given the amazing location of the mausoleum, a trip to the mausoleum is still an experience you'll never forget.
Located on a street of the same name in one of India's premier tourist areas, Mehtab Bagh is an 18th century _maidan_ (public ground) where over 1,000 years ago the powerful Mughal emperor Humayun laid the foundations of the fort that today is known as Agra. The tour of Mehtab Bagh is a scenic one. It begins in a typical Indian bazaar with the magnificent Taj Mahal - a perfect ruin in the heart of Agra. Mehtab Bagh is a few steps away from the Lal Qila, the red sandstone fortress. This was built by the Afghan general, Aurangzeb. Also near the square is the octagonal tomb of Jahangir. On the side of the fort is the multi-storey tomb of Salim Chishti. Beyond the fort is the splendid Chini ka Rauza (mother-in-law's well), also called the Firoza ka Tilla, named after the wife of Humayun, a Mughal princess. The garden of Mehtab Bagh was once full of flowers and shrubs. Today it's overgrown. It's said that it was also part of the ancient city, probably pre-Mughal, during the reign of Akbar (r. 1556-1605). The traditional route to the Agra Fort begins from the rail station. It goes through Baber Sagar Lake - used to irrigate the fields - then up to the fort. When you reach the main gate, you'll walk along the road that bifurcates in the middle to the east and west. The southern route passes the Lodhi Babar Park, part of a large park that also includes the Garden of Floral Designs. A five-hour trip on the Agra Fort sightseeing bus that will take you all around the fort.
A pavilion built entirely from white marble, the Jal Mahal in Agra is perhaps the most gorgeous example of Indian Muslim architecture. Despite its size, the facade is divided into three tiers, each one finely embellished with geometric patterns and arabesque motifs. It is a popular spot for wedding photography, and its most famous wedding of all time was that of Emperor Akbar and his third wife, Jodhabai. On the facade of the building, painted on its ceiling is the legend of the discovery of fire (seen here), which was supposedly discovered by one of Akbar's servants.
Considered one of the wonders of the world, Red Fort, built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan between 1638 and 1648, was originally known as Fort Qasim. Today it is a famous monument of Mughal India, and is home to a number of museums, including the Bibi Ka Maqbara, a mausoleum which lies directly behind the main building. Highlights of a visit include the beautifully-painted rooms and Mughal gardens on the ground floor of the palace, and the illuminated night spectacular held once a month. More extensive tours can be booked in advance.
Qutub Minar is the world's tallest brick minaret. Its graceful curve of stone rises 180 meters, piercing the sky in southern India near Agra. Construction began in 1193 and it was completed in the mid-13th century, just one of the many edifices of the vast Mughal empire. Its four successive levels, or qilams, show magnificent examples of stone carving. The fifth floor contains inscriptions in Akhbar calligraphy and the name of Islam's prophet, Mohammed. The minaret is entered from a street that is well known for its beautiful lamps (murals), tiled courtyards, and beautiful gardens. Traveling to the city requires a private vehicle, but the minaret and city are open from sunrise to sunset.
With its Observatory, also known as the Brick Palace, Jantar Mantar is one of the best places to visit in India. Built in 1628 by Jai Singh I of Jaipur, it is an accurate representation of the solar system on a scale of 1:1.75. Its various instruments, some sophisticated, include telescopes and parabolic mirrors. The structure is accessed via several walkways and pavilions from which are spectacular views across gardens. The Observatory also has excellent photo opportunities that include various palaces, forts, and temples. Most tourist areas of Agra are also within easy walking distance from Jantar Mantar.
Located in the heart of India, Chandni Chowk was built in 18th century by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, for his son and heir, Shahdara, who became emperor Aurangzeb. The name Chandni Chowk means "colorful bazaar" in Hindi and this is the result of Shah Jahan's attempts at introducing Western tastes and fashions, but it is still an authentically Muslim bazaar, as the architecture is traditional Mughal and there is a mosque in the midst of it. There is a grand view of the Taj Mahal from the top of the palace, which is the second largest Mughal-style building in the world. Its elaborately carved entrance pavilion is decorated with friezes, parquetry floors, high-arched windows and exquisite, turquoise and green glazed tiles. The building contains mosques, airy galleries, formal and informal courtyards, family palaces, and gardens, along with many historic Mughal and Rajput buildings and tombs. The grounds of the palace are open to the public on two days a year: during the winter festival of Holi and on the anniversary of the birth of Mumtaz Mahal, one of the empress' daughters. After visiting the palace, tour the bazaar and see the assorted shops, some housed within historic buildings, selling a variety of items, from Nepalese carpets and wall hangings to intricate metalworks and beautiful art.