The Best Things to See and Do in Agra Beyond the Taj Mahal

Khas Mahal in the Agra Fort
Khas Mahal in the Agra Fort | © Antrix3 / WikiCommons

The Taj Mahal is the most iconic landmark in India and it attracts nearly two million visitors every year. However, there’s lots more to the historic Taj City than just this majestic ivory-white mausoleum. Here are the best things to see and do in Agra, beyond the Taj Mahal.

Take a tour of the historic forts

Agra has a rich history and reminders of this are spread throughout the city. One of the finest historical sites is the 16th century Agra Fort, which is reminiscent of the Mughal era. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the fort is built using red sandstone and beautified with inlay work in white marble. Inside the fort lies stunning structures, like Khas Mahal, Jahangiri Mahal, Shish Mahal (mirror palace), Diwan-e-khaas (hall of private audiences), Diwan-e-aam (hall of general audience), Moti Masjid (Pearl Mosque) and Nagina Masjid (Gem/Jewel mosque), which are truly mesmerizing. Another striking fort is the Sikandra Fort that lures visitors in with its stunning architecture, which is a blend of Hindu and Muslim styles, intricate carvings and exquisite marble work. The tomb of a powerful Mughal Emperor, Akbar, also resides in this fort.

Agra Fort, Rakabganj, Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India

The Agra Fort
Jahangiri Mahal in the Agra Fort

Marvel at the magnificent tombs

There are two tombs that were built before the Taj Mahal, Akbar’s Tomb and theTomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah, but both are often overshadowed by it. Beautifully preserved, the tombs are historical and architectural marvels that provide an insight into the bygone era. Spread over a sprawling 119 acres of land in Sikandra, Akbar’s Tomb contains the remains of the Mughal Emperor, Akbar. Speaking of the design aesthetics, the tomb is a four-tiered pyramid made of deep red sandstone and enhanced with white marble, intricate carvings and calligraphic and floral designs. Just a stone’s away from Akbar’s Tomb lies another tomb, the Tomb of Mariam-uz-Zamani (wife of Emperor Akbar and mother of Jahangir).

Akbar’s Tomb

Another tomb worth visiting is the Tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah, which is an antithesis to the characteristics of Mughal architecture. It was the first mausoleum to be built out of white marble instead of red sandstone (this exemplifies Mughal architecture). Also called ‘Baby Taj’, the tomb has been built with the same cut-out stonework (Pietra dura) and elaborate carvings as the Taj Mahal. A particularly appealing feature is the 13 metre-tall hexagonal towers at each corner of the structure. Surrounded by beautiful gardens, this mausoleum is an equally opulent structure that oozes beauty from every corner.

Tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah, Moti Bagh, Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India, +91 0562 228 0030

Side view of the Tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah

1. Shop at the Kinari Bazaar

Market

1. Shop at the Kinari Bazaar
© Varun Shiv Kapur/ Flickr
Historic and bustling, the Kinari Bazaar is a one-stop shopping spot in Agra. Situated in the narrow alleys behind the Jama Masjid, the bazaar is a veritable treasure trove, brimming with petite colourful shops selling everything from clothes and accessories to jewellery, spices, marble items, shoes, wedding garb and other knick-knacks. There are a few snack stalls dotting the bazaar, which make for a perfect pit-stop, should you need to replenish your energy. Even if you do not want to buy anything, just strolling the streets and soaking in the wonderful sights and sounds can be equally remarkable.

Interact with and feed bears at the Agra Bear Rescue Facility

If you’re an animal lover, this is a must-visit place. The Agra Bear Rescue Facility is the largest bear rescue centre in the world, housing over 200 rescued sloth bears. However, it also provides shelter to several other animals, such as leopards, tigers, elephants and more. Two-hour guided tours are on offer, which include a documentary on the dancing bears of India, as well as allowing visitors to get up-close and personal with bears and other animals.

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