‘You’ve seen the Taj Mahal and got your iconic photograph clicked. Now it’s time to explore what else Agra has to offer’
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg visited the Taj Mahal during his India visit in 2015. During an official visit to India with Prince Charles in 1992, Diana sat alone outside the Taj Mahal. Charles had visited the monument of love in 1980, a year before his marriage. American First lady Hillary Clinton visited the Taj Mahal with daughter Chelsea in March 1995. Five years later, Chelsea also accompanied her father, the then-US President Bill Clinton during his 2000 .
For foreign travellers, The Taj Mahal is indeed the most important thing to see and visit on their first trip to India. Why not? A white marvel built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal, it is said to be the jewel of Islamic art. Known as “crown of palaces” in Arabic, it combines various architectural styles including Islamic, Persian, Ottoman Turkish and Indian. So, what next? From markets and street food in the old town to Agra Fort and an abandoned 17th-century city, Agra is more than just the Taj. We stroll through the streets to find out.
Located opposite the Taj Mahal, Mehtab Bagh is a four garden complex considered as the ultimate viewing point of the Taj Mahal. Originally designed to be a Persian-styled Char Bagh Complex, it had reflecting pools, pavilions, water fountains and much more. However, in the early 20th century, due to the floods of River Yamuna, the garden was damaged. The Archaeological Survey of India is currently renovating it. The garden is square-shaped and measures 300 metres on each side. Open from sunrise to sunset, Mehtab Bagh is a delight for photographers as they can get some unique photographs of the Taj with a gorgeous backdrop.
Mehtab Bagh is a four garden complex and is
considered the ultimate viewing point of the Taj Mahal
Built during the second half of the 16th century by Emperor Akbar, Fatehpur Sikri was the capital of the Mughal Empire for some 10 years. The complex of monuments and temples, all in a uniform architectural style, many legends echoed from these walls, as it went down in history as the court of Akbar’s legendary courtiers. It is the same place where Tansen sang for rains and Birbal polished his wits. At a distance of about 1 km from Fatehpur Sikri Railway Station, is the Jama Masjid. One of the largest mosques in India and situated on the highest point of the ridge in Fatehpur Sikri Complex, this is one of the most notable tourist attractions here. This mosque was recognised as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986.
What to shop
Sadar Bazar is the most prominent place in Agra for shoppers, which attracts a good number of tourist. If you are looking for products like handicrafts, garments, some delicious sweets, leather products, then this place can be the best option for you to find the best possible deals. It remains open till 10 am during peak season.
Next on the list is a budget-friendly choice for shopaholics, Sadar Bazar houses hundreds of shops selling everything from ethnic clothes and accessories. However, the one thing that is most sought after here is leather goods. Known as a hub of leather goods, here you can get your hands on belts, gloves, footwear, bags and jackets. Sadar Bazar’s close proximity to the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort easily makes it one of Agra’s most popular shopping areas. If you are looking for junk jewelleries, Kinari Bazar is the best place to find them. It’s also a great place for bridal shopping, as it stocks everything from apparel and jewellery to ceremonious bric-a-brac.
Agra is known for its street food, especially the chaats, puris and kachoris, however, the most popular is the Pancchi Petha (though it’s not street food). Tourists can come across several shops selling the sweet, but if you are looking for the original one try the one in Sadar Bazaar. Made from the ash gourd vegetable, it comes in various flavours, including Kesar Angoori Petha, Rasbhari Petha, Chocolate Petha or Paan Petha.
Pethas of Agra
Pethas were originally prepared over 350 years ago, slipping out of the royal kitchen of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. From then on, this sugary, syrupy sweet kept gaining popularity. It comes in flavours like chocolate, paan, angoori, kesar etc.
While Agra is no short of hotels offering the best of facilities for travellers, the one you can try is the Taj Hotel & Convention Centre. Located in close proximity to the Taj Mahal, the luxury hotel in Agra has 239 plush rooms, including 12 lavish suites and one presidential suite. A refreshing rooftop infinity pool with magical views of the Taj, an invigorating spa and a buzzing fitness centre are at hand to rejuvenate every guest. There is also an abundance of dining options to delight the epicurean.
Daawat-e-Nawab, one of Agra’s finest Indian restaurants, serves authentic Nawaabi and Mughlai cuisine, accompanied by live Indian classical music. The airy, spacious, all-day diner, Palato, with its lively buffets, show kitchens and globally inspired dishes, is always buzzing. The luxury hotel also provides the perfect vantage point to take in the many riches of Agra, including the rugged, red sandstone glory of Agra Fort, built by Emperor Akbar.