Top Attractions for your Agra Sightseeing Itinerary
If you’re anything like me then you want to visit Agra to see the Taj Mahal but you don’t really know what else there is to do while you’re there. So, although the Taj Mahal will top any list of places to visit in Agra, you should stay a while and see some of its other attractions.
A List of Places to Visit and Things to do in Agra
- Taj Mahal
- Jawab Masjid
- Taj Museum
- Agra Fort
- Take a bike ride into the countryside
- Taste Agra street foods on a food tour
- Shop in the markets
- Make an offering at a temple
Without doubt, it was the Taj Mahal that inspired us to visit Agra and it’s probably the major attraction here for most, if not all, visitors. I imagine that most people would certainly recognise the stunning white mausoleum. In fact, the Taj Mahal was built between 631 and 1648 to commemorate, Mumtaz Mahal, the wife of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. Located on the banks of the Yamuna River, the Taj sits in over 16 hectares of beautiful gardens. Indeed, a perfect setting for a truly spectacular building.
Opening Hours and Tickets
The Taj Mahal is open every day except Fridays from 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes before sunset. If you are lucky enough to be in Agra when there is a full moon then you can visit the Taj Mahal for a special night-time viewing. In any event, check dates on the official website.
You can buy tickets online before you go but these are for timed entry and the times are now being enforced so be careful unless you’re absolutely sure you will be there on time. Otherwise, buy at the ticket kiosk. Tickets cost 1100 Rupees (£12) plus an extra 200 Rupees (£2) if you want to go inside the mausoleum. Which of course, you do! You do get a bottle of water and some shoe covers as well with this ticket. Make sure you pick them up at the kiosk to the left of the ticket window prior to entering the Taj Mahal.
Inside the Taj Complex
Once you have your ticket make your way to the main entrance. Then you pass through security scanning after showing your ticket with separate queues for men and women. You’ll then get your first glimpse of the red sandstone entrance gate which leads into the main gardens. I found this a very exciting moment without a doubt. So close but not yet able to see the iconic Taj Mahal.
Walk through the gateway and then you will be greeted with the beautiful white, marble Taj Mahal, framed in the archway. It’s impressive in photos but believe me, it’s quite something else when you stand there in person. This area, inevitably, gets very busy so unless you arrive early, don’t expect a clear shot of the Taj without any other tourists in it. We did manage to get a few shots of us standing in front of it but we had plenty of company. Still, at least it proves we were there!
The Taj Mahal is set in lovely gardens and so you can spend quite a bit of time exploring. All the time though, you’ll keep looking around for a different view of the white mausoleum.
The Taj Mahal up close
To get up onto the platform surrounding the mausoleum you have to go through a second ticket check. Look out for the separate entrance for high-priced tickets. That’s for people who pay the 1100 Rupee entrance fee as well as the 200 Rupees to enter the mausoleum. This queue is much shorter than the locals’ queue which stretches right around the gardens. So there are some advantages to paying a higher price.
As soon as you pass through this entrance you will walk up some steps and then you’ll find yourself on the white platform looking out over the gardens. Now is the time to put on your shoe covers before you enter the mausoleum. As you can see in the photo below, they are not much of a fashion accessory but they are designed to keep the mausoleum floors clean.
Inside the Mausoleum
Here you can see the entrance to the Taj Mahal mausoleum and a few people putting their shoe covers on at the last minute. Sadly, they don’t let you take photos inside so I can’t show you how beautiful it is. Now, you’ll have to visit for yourselves after all!
However, you can get some ideas of the ornate decorations inside from these photos which I took on the way out. They show the intricate designs which are beautifully painted and in really great condition despite their age.
The space inside is quite limited so you walk along in a slow-moving line, past the tomb and then out through a different door. Inside, there are some guides who will tell you more detail about the mausoleum as you walk past. Be warned that they are looking for a tip so if you don’t want to pay then just smile and keep moving.
As I have already mentioned, the grounds of the Taj Mahal are quite extensive. So large, in fact, that several other buildings can be seen here. When you stand in front of the Taj Mahal, on either side of the mausoleum, you will see two buildings. These are quite similar in appearance but one is a mosque and the other a meeting hall. is flanked by almost identical two buildings on either side of the platform. Since they are built in red sandstone, they contrast strikingly against the pure white mausoleum which dominates the trio.
You can view both buildings from outside but it is not possible to enter inside. Indeed, it’s a stunning building in its own right.
Another gem in the Taj complex. You’ll find the Taj Museum inside the gardens surrounding the Taj Mahal. Entry is free and it opens from 10 am. It’s a small museum but worth taking a look around. We found it very quiet and most visitors to the Taj Mahal seem to ignore it. Inside you can see portraits of the emperor and his wife so it really does add to your visit as you can see the very people who are most intimately connected with the Taj Mahal.
You’ll find Agra Fort right in the centre of the city, opposite the railway station. Like the red fort in Delhi it was built for the Mughal Emperors and it’s also a UNESCO World Heritage site. Although it’s called a fort, it’s more like a walled city. Inside the walls, you’ll find a number of different buildings and you can expect to spend some time exploring here.
The fort is open every day from sunrise to sunset. In particular, it is open on Fridays so it’s a great place to visit when the Taj Mahal is closed. Although Agra Fort had several gates, most of them are no longer in use. Nowadays, you will enter the fort through Amar Singh Gate which is on the south side. Tickets for foreigners cost 650 rupees (£7) if you pay cash, or 550 rupees if you use a credit card. Children under 15 years of age can enter for free.
Bike Riding in the Countryside
One of the highlights of our trip to Agra was a cycle trip in the countryside surrounding the Taj Mahal. We booked ours through Agra by Bike and their office is on the road leading to the Taj Mahal so it’s very handy if you stay in the area. They supply you with a fairly sturdy bike and a bottle of water and off you go.
It’s a great opportunity to see the local communities who live outside the main city areas. We met a farmer who lived alongside his herd of cows and buffalos within sight of the Taj Mahal. He was happy to pose for photos although he didn’t speak English we could see that he was very proud of his small farm.
The cycle ride is not too strenuous and it does give you a chance to see things that you wouldn’t see otherwise. Life outside the cities is quite different. Much more basic but also calmer and less chaotic. In the photo below you can see a shrine which was in the middle of nowhere.
Don’t be put off if you’re not a keen cyclist. The tour is approximately 5-6 km, so not too far and although it’s a bit up and down, none of the hills are steep. The tour with Agra by Bike was booked online and paid in US Dollars. It cost US$30 which is approximately £23 per person. Sometimes when you’re travelling it’s easy to get into a routine, doing the same kind of tours all the time so it was fantastic to do something a bit different. Agra by Bike were great as well so do try them out.
Street Food Tour
We took a food tour with Agra Beat called Flavours of Agra. It was a small group tour so we were joined by two Americans. Agra Beat picked us up at our separate hotels and then took us into the centre of Agra to start the tour. I think the small group tours are the best way to experience a food tour as you get to meet new people and eating in a group is always fun.
One of the most fascinating things we saw was Petha being made. Firstly, we went inside the building where they were preparing and boiling the gourds. They are soaked in sugar syrup and this makes a sweet which is a bit like Turkish Delight. It is surprisingly addictive and I really liked it but you’ll need a sweet tooth.
We tasted so many different types of Indian street food and snacks: PaniPuri, AlooTikki, papri chaat, Dahi Bhalla, PavBhaji, Samosas, Kachoris. It’s like a whirlwind of different tastes.
We wandered through the major bazaars and streets of Agra like Belangunj, MG Road, Kinari Bazaar, Pratap Pura, Sadar Bazaar, Raja Mandi bazaar. You’d get totally lost on your own so it’s perfect to take a tour like this. Also, we try to be quite adventurous and try new things but we’re still a bit wary of eating in the wrong place. By taking a tour you know that the food you’re eating is safe and you’ve also got a tour guide who can make sure the food fits with any dietary needs. We were both vegetarians during our tour of India and it’s useful to be sure you’re not being served dishes containing meat or fish.
Colourful, noisy, chaotic, fascinating. Agra’s markets stretch across many of the city’s streets and they really come alive at night.
You can buy pretty much anything here. We went inside this cute wedding shop where they sell the ceremonial hats. It’s typical of the hospitality of the Indian shopkeepers that they were happy to let everyone try one on for photos even though they knew we weren’t buying. In the photo above you can see Paul and one of our American companions with their hats on. In the background is Moses, our amazing tour guide.
Make an offering at the Temple
As well as the cycling tour, we did a cultural tour with Agra by bike. During this tour, we bought offerings and took them into one of the Hindu temples. In photo, you can see a man selling these offerings. You take a piece of food and a candle. They also have shops selling clothes and jewellery to give to the gods. All in tiny sizes.
Once, inside the temple, you put your candle on the stand and then give the food offering to a lady who gives you a flower in return and puts the tilaka on your forehead. It really makes you feel welcome and I think it’s really wonderful to be able to participate in this kind of cultural ritual.
Hindu temples are very colourful and have lots of different deities inside. Because Hindus treat their gods as people with the same needs as themselves they make offerings of food. They also wrap them up so they can sleep and not be looked upon for several hours a day.
We saw lots of different types of gods. A lot of them are in animal form and they often have their own alcove to rest in. It’s a fascinating insight into cultural practices in India and wonderful to feel so welcome to be part of it.
Pin it for later!
While we were in Agra, we stayed at the Coral Court Homestay. It’s a great family run boutique B&B within walking distance of the Taj Mahal. To read my review click on the image below.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about the things I recommend you do in Agra. Hopefully, you’re visiting Agra as part of a wider tour of India like we did as there is so much to see and do here. Please take a look at some of my other articles on India and I hope they will inspire you to travel there.