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Best things to do & places to stay:

Last updated: 14 December, 2022
Expert travel writer: Amar Grover

Around 180km south of Delhi beside the Yamuna River, Agra’s fame rests almost entirely on the iconic Taj Mahal. Yet for over a century from the 1520s it was the Mughal empire‘s principal capital, with Emperor Shah Jahan, in particular, endowing it with other dazzling buildings and monuments which remain a major draw.

The enormous garden tomb of Akbar, one of the great Mughal emperors, stands in suburban Agra at Sikandra. Forty kilometres west lies the evocative ‘ghost city’ of Fatehpur Sikri, a spectacular example of a largely intact Mughal cityscape. Throw in a 17th-century mosque, vigorous warren-like bazaars, and earthy life and colour, and you have one of India’s essential destinations.

Stays in the city, however, tend to be short, if not fleeting. It’s not an attractive city or an appealing place to spend time. The relentless congestion, clamour and all-to-eager shopping touts make the place feel like an effort, bizarrely at odds with its magnificent monuments.

Orientation

Agra wraps around a large hairpin loop of the sluggish Yamuna River with most of the city and sights lying south and west of its silty banks. Both the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort overlook the Yamuna (though its waters no longer lap the latter’s mighty walls).

Immediately south of the Taj lies ‘Taj Ganj’, originally a 17th-century market area with traders and caravanserais but now a much expanded workaday mix of humble streets, modest homes, budget hotels and restaurants. Most of the city stretches away west of the Taj and the Fort with the leafier Cantonment (or Raj-era military neighbourhood) forming a partial buffer.

The bucket list experiences our writer says you must do in this destination

Taj Mahal

Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India

India’s iconic landmark and one of the world’s most beautiful buildings readily matches, if not exceeds, the hype. Built in 1653 by the great Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan to entomb his wife, Mumtaz.

Best for ages: 13+ | Free

Fatehpur Sikri

Fatehpur, Uttar Pradesh, India

An atmospheric ‘ghost city’ that provides a fascinating and unique insight into the Mughal court, and superb example of Mughal planning and architecture.

Best for ages: 13+ | Free

Agra Fort

Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India

A symbol of Mughal military might, this massive, rust-red fort, built by the Mughal emperor Akbar in 1573, is an almost self-contained royal city.

Best for ages: 13+ | £8

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Other worthwhile experiences in this destination if you have the time or the interest

Deeg Palace
Experience

Deeg Palace

Deeg, Uttar Pradesh, India

A little-visited lakeside summer resort and palace complex that was built in 1772 for the Jat kings of Bharatpur, as a luxurious retreat. Its architecture fuses Mughal and Rajput styles.

Best for ages: 18+ | £1

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Keoladeo National Park
Experience

Keoladeo National Park

Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India

Over 350 species of migratory birds winter in this former royal hunting ground,  formerly known as the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary. Spread over thirty square kilometres, it’s classified as an internationally important wetland that’s also home to resident species.

Best for ages: 8+ | £5

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Ud Daulah’s Tomb
Experience

Ud Daulah’s Tomb

Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India

Sometimes referred to as the ‘baby Taj’, this outstanding 17th-century noble’s tomb with formal gardens showcases the kind of pietra dura inlay on white marble that reached its apogee with the Taj Mahal.

Best for ages: 18+ | £2

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Our selection of the best Viator tours of this destination, plus helpful tickets and transfers

All Inclusive - Delhi and Agra 2 Days Private Guided Tour

All Inclusive - Delhi and Agra 2 Days Private Guided Tour

New Delhi

The tour is designed for 2 days,this tour package would take the client through Delhi and Agra, these two cities have distinct views and cul...

$180 | Rating 4.83 / 5 [36 ratings]

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Private Taj Mahal from Delhi to Agra By Car

Private Taj Mahal from Delhi to Agra By Car

New Delhi

Day Trip to Taj Mahal :- Experience one of the seven wonders of the world named the Taj Mahal in a one day from Delhi by private car and als...

$60 | Rating 4.97 / 5 [38 ratings]

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Tajmahal Full day Tour by tuk tuk

Tajmahal Full day Tour by tuk tuk

Agra

I am providing Reliable And Flexible Service. I Speaks Very Good English. You can customize your tour .

$18 | Rating 4.98 / 5 [92 ratings]

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Our writer’s picks of the best places to stay in this destination

Grand Imperial Hotel

Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India

One of Agra’s oldest and most characterful hotels revamped for the modern traveller yet retaining its vintage feel and ambience.

Official star rating:

Oberoi Amarvilas

Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India

Agra’s finest hotel boasts unfussy luxury with uninterrupted views of the Taj Mahal and architecture of refined Mughal and Rajput design.

Official star rating:

When to go

The main tourist season runs from October to March, though September and April are also fine – clear skies with warm to hot days. May and June bring extreme heat and are worth avoiding, while the July and August monsoon cools things slightly but brings more humidity.

Peak season is Christmas and New Year as well as the Indian festival of Diwali in late autumn. Mid-December to early February can deliver surprisingly cool nights.

Getting there and away

Most visitors to Agra travel by chauffeur-driven car – typically from Delhi on the Yamuna Expressway (3-4 hours), or from Jaipur on a dual carriageway (4-5 hours).

Delhi, Agra and Jaipur are also connected by numerous trains and public buses, but the best public transport option between Delhi and Agra is the express ‘Shatabdi’ or superfast-designated train services from/to New Delhi and Hazrat Nizamuddin railway stations which are safe and reliable. Between Agra and Jaipur there are regular express trains.

There are no direct or practical flights between Delhi and Agra or Agra and Jaipur.

Getting around

If you’re not travelling by chauffeur-driven car, taxis and particularly auto-rickshaws are the best way to get around the city, though you’ll need the former (or a public bus) to reach Fatehpur Sikri. Cycle rickshaws are worthwhile for short hops through the city’s crowded streets.

Where to stay

Agra is not an attractive city; urban chaos has done it no favours whatsoever. Most of Agra’s best hotels lie on the outer fringes of ‘Taj Ganj’, a fairly compact knot of streets and lanes lying just south of the Taj Mahal. The neighbourhood’s also home to numerous budget hotels and restaurants; you might not like the food and lodgings but some of their rooftop terraces have fine Taj views and the more youthful vibe might even feel nostalgic.

Taj Ganj is not particularly appealing or atmospheric but is your best bet because of its proximity to the Taj and it’s slightly quieter and less congested than downtown Agra – but this is relative.

Where to eat or drink

Agra abounds in high-end cuisine and tasty food ranging from fine-dining in its upscale hotels – probably the safest and most comfortable bet for those with sensitive dispositions – to the street food and humble eateries of its bazaars and down-town streets. Occupying the middle ground are the traveller-oriented cafes and restaurants of Taj Ganj – very much a mixed bag where character, vibe and Taj views from their rooftops might count far more than the quality or authenticity of their meals.

Where to shop

Kinari Bazaar is probably the single best spot for some fun shopping, although little could be called high-end. Sadaar Bazaar and nearby Mall Road in the Cantonment neighbourhood are other similar but possibly less ‘touristy’ options. The Shilpgram ‘craft village’ near the Taj Mahal has a more rustic earthy feel.

State-government run emporiums you’ll find in some Indian cities like Delhi offer fixed-price products – no cheating or rip-offs. Note that despite shop names suggesting otherwise, there is no Uttar Pradesh Government emporium in Agra. There’s no such thing as a fixed price in Agra.

Our writer’s recommended itineraries for this destination

Other guides relevant to this destination

Delhi destination guide

India

India’s intense sight- and monument-filled capital is a compelling blend of the modern Raj-influenced New Delhi, and the sights, sounds and smells of Old Delhi’s heaving and exotic lanes and bazaars.

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