Agra is a small city with recognition around the globe. One of the seven wonders of the world – Taj Mahal has attracted millions of people to this small town in Uttar Pradesh. Taj is undoubtedly a thing of beauty – its architecture, ambience and story have made the monument a ‘must-visit’ when it comes to Indian tourism.
However, Agra is a lot more than just Taj. There is so much the city offers, from the great shopping sites of Old Bazaar and Mall Road to remnants of the Mughal era (pre-dating the Taj Mahal). It’s possible to experience village life and get close to nature in the city. You may be surprised by what else Agra has to offer.
Chow Down Mughlai Cuisine
Agra has had a long history with Mughals. This has impacted the culture, architecture and even the food of the city. The small town of Uttar Pradesh is known for some of the best Mughlai food in North India. From chicken tikka to delicious kebabs, many dishes can be a delightful experience at this place. Taj Ganj has many famous restaurants like Peshwari-ITC Mughal and Patra-Jaypee Palace that serve the finest quality of Mughlai food in the town.
Shopping at Kinari Bazaar
The wholesale market located in Mantola is the perfect place to splurge on ethnic wear. One can find daily need products as well as beautiful dresses for special occasions such as weddings or other functions. From sarees to Anarkali dresses, the shopkeepers have got it all. The varied selection will not allow you to leave without lightening your wallets.
Stroll in Mehtab Bagh
Taj Mahal is the trademark of Agra city, but the monument is often crowded and demands a hefty admission fee. Mehtab Bagh or Moonlight Garden is the perfect spot to get an alternate view of the beautiful monument by taking a walk with your loved ones. The 25-acre Mughal Garden situated right opposite Taj was built by the first Mughal Emperor Babur (way before the Taj Mahal). The entry fee is just Rs. 25 for Indians and Rs. 300 for foreigners.
Chaat on Mall Road
Mall Road has the biggest market in the city, and you can find anything and everything here. Shoes, artefacts, clothes and so much more is available on the long stretch of road. However, snack food, especially chaat, is the most amazing thing you can find here. Agra Chat House, started in 1956, is the hub for delicious treats at great prices. The little shop is so famous that the lane it is situated at is now officially called “Chaat Gali.”
Hangout with She-heroes
Sheroes Hangout in Fatehabad Road, Taj Ganj is a beautiful space to have a meal. The restaurant was started in 2014 by a Delhi based NGO, Stop Acid Attack as a means to spread awareness about the adversity these attacks bring to the society. The remarkable and inspiring Sheroes (She+Heroes) Hangout is staffed entirely by women who are survivors of horrific acid attacks in India. The place provides women with the confidence to come out in the world and show that they are beautiful, no matter what.
Spend Time with Wildlife at Agra Bear Rescue Centre
Located 50 km outside the city, the centre houses many sloth bears who were held captive and forced to dance to entertain people. Wildlife SOS, an animal rescue organisation, operates the centre. The rescue centre operates from sunrise to sunset. Soor Sarovar Bird Sanctuary situated on National Highway 19 is also nearby. Tours are available for public starting at Rs. 50. Wildlife SOS also has an Elephant Conservation and Care Centre, about 15 minutes further along the highway towards Mathura, where you can spend time with rescued elephants.
Get One with your Roots in Korai Village
Enroute Fatehpur Sikri, drop into Korai Village, a rural tourism initiative of Uttar Pradesh. The tribal village of Korai inhabits people who were the keepers of the dancing sloth bears. They’ve been struggling to earn an income and survive since Wildlife SOS took away the bears, and these villagers were deprived of compensation. You’ll be able to learn about and experience daily village life, and even meet the village magician, Mohammad. The cost to enter the village is Rs. 750 per person.
Other Tombs and Mughal Sites
Agra has a rich cultural history, thanks to the Mughals. It was the capital of the Mughal Empire from 1556 to 1648, under the Mughal Emperors Akbar, Jahangir and Shah Jahan, after which Shah Jahan shifted the capital to Delhi. Once in the city, you can explore many Mughal architectural buildings, other than the famous Taj, that will take your breath away. Akbar’s tomb, Fatehpur Sikri, the tomb of Itmad-ud-Daula, Agra Fort, and so many more are a must-visit in Agra.
The beautiful city of Taj is a jewel in India’s crown. Agra is a lot more than that, and we hope that when you visit the next time, you’ll find more things to mesmerize you.