Welcome to Agra
The magical allure of the Agra Taj Mahal draws tourists to the city like moths to a wondrous flame. The Taj Mahal, however is not a stand-alone attraction. The legacy of the Mughal empire has left a wondrously designed fort with fascinating tombs, mausoleums, and fun bustling chowks (marketplaces) that shouldn’t be missed. Tourists know the well-known attractions, but a worldwide local knows how to experience it best. This is an insider’s guide to some of Agra, India’s favorite local spots!
Worldwide Local Tip: Attend a light show at Agra Fort. It is truly mesmerizing, and it will teach you about the legends who ruled the Mughal Empire, the history of the monument, and other major historical events. Not many tourists know about this event, so take advantage of the lack of crowds!
Before you visit the Taj Mahal, we want to give you a few local tips. Arrive at the ticket booth early in the morning, when there will be less of a line (we are talking early like 5:15 am). Buy your ticket with exact change, and if you want a guide, make sure you only hire one who is certified. It is important to be sure that you dress appropriately.
Worldwide Local Tip: Once you are done visiting the Taj Mahal, be sure to visit Chaat Gali (snack street) of the Sadar Bazaar. There you will find amazing local and tasteful delights that do the Indian culture (and Agra culture!) proud. We recommend that you try Kachori and samosa, then finish with petha. The food here will outmatch the delicacies in even the finest Agra restaurants.
The History and Architecture of Agra
No trip to Agra is complete without visiting the Agra Fort. This formidable fortress sits on the west bank of the Yamuna river. Built more than a century before the Taj Mahal, this fortress was the landmark of many rulers throughout history. Shah Jahan, who renovated the Fort to its glorious state, was the same emperor who commissioned the Taj Mahal. You can spend hours walking through the mosques, courtyards, and towers, and exploring the stream of defensive roots that this fort was originally designed for.
By now, you might be feeling overwhelmed by the massive amounts of people that live in India and the hundreds of thousands of tourists that travel to India every year. Our tip--get out of town for a day! We would say go get some fresh air but… you are in India. Head out to Fatehpur Sikri, the third UNESCO site listed near Agra. This is one of India’s best preserved examples of Indo-Islamic architecture and served as the capital of Emperor Akbar’s kingdom for a short period of time during the 15th century. Here the crowds are less, and you can get a little more elbow room.
Worldwide Local Tip: What better way to take a taste of India home than by picking up some spices for yourself. Pinch of Spice is the best spot, outside of the five-star hotels in Agra, not only to pick up your spices but also to treat yourself to succulent kebabs and rich curries.
In Agra, you might be tempted to visit every single mausoleum you come across. They are very beautiful and definitely worthy of a photo--or 30--but don’t spend all your time exploring Agra only through its mausoleums. Make a list of the top ones you’d like to visit and make them a priority, but don’t spend your entire visit standing in lines trying to go. There is so much more to see in Agra; we don’t want you to miss out.
The Best Local Shopping in Agra
When you are traveling, you are bound to pick up a few local souvenirs. Let us point you towards the best market in Agra--the Buzzing Market, or the Kinari Bazaar, is where you will find everything you could possibly want. The colors around every corner will overwhelm you, from outfits that create a rainbow of contrast to traditional gifts that will be sure to please whoever is at home awaiting your return. This market is open daily from 11 am to 9 pm, except on Sundays, and is a perfect place to spend a day shopping, regardless of the Agra weather.
Enjoy your visit!
Agra is a city brimming with life, and not only because of the population. If you find yourself in need of something to do, take a stroll down the streets. You will find markets, shops, and plenty of things to see outside of the tourist stops that draw the larger crowds. Roaming the city as a worldwide local will grant you unparalleled access to its amazing sights and fascinating sounds.