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The Taj Mahal in Agra: everything you need to know

Agra is a city located southeast of Delhi  on the banks of the Yamuna river (same river as flowing through Delhi) in the state Uttar Pradesh and is part of the golden tourist triangle Delhi-Agra-Jaipur. The city is relatively small (3.3 million in 2023) compared to Delhi and Mumbai. Agra is most famous for its world wonder, Taj Mahal and the Agra Fort. Most visitors only stop by the city for a night or two because the aim of their visit is limited to these tourist attractions.

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How to get there?

Agra is part of the ‘golden-tourist-triangle’ together with Delhi and Jaipur. Most visitors to India who are on a tight schedule visit these three cities. Agra does have an airport, however most visitors reach the city by train or bus from Delhi or Jaipur. Agra is located roughly 250 kilometres south-east of Delhi and about the same distance east of Jaipur. The train ride takes about 3–5 hours as the train stops multiple times on the way. Before buying a train ticket online or at the station, check whether it is a ‘regular’ or ‘express-train’ as the duration of the journey can vary greatly. Taking the bus is a good alternative, however, make sure it is air-conditioned and carefully choose. 

Unless you’re really adventurous and love sitting on the roof or hanging outside a train, we advise travelling first class with AC, even for short distances. It is slightly more expensive, but way more comfortable.

Where to stay?

You’re most likely visiting Agra because of the Taj Mahal, so you really want accommodation near this tourist attraction. If you’re on a budget, the homestay ‘Taj Homes’ is a good option. It is run by a friendly and helpful owner and the rates start from just €12,-. If you’re searching for something more comfortable and luxurious, Surasena Regal Vista is a great option. Prices vary between €19,- and €36,- Near the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort there are plenty of other hotels in budget and luxurious styles.

Where to eat?

India has one of the richest cuisines in the world and at the same time you have to be careful where you eat as street food in particular can be dangerous. Near the homestay of the Taj Homes, there is a pizzeria (Joey’s) which offers delightful paneer pizza. Just around the corner, there is a safe smoothie bar (in other places, avoid these as ice generally is unsafe). On the way back from the Taj Mahal, there are multiple restaurants offering delicious thali. This is one of India’s most famous dishes consisting of rice, chapatis (wheat flatbread) and a selection of side dishes served on a metal platter. During our stay in India, this was one of Wessel’s most-ordered Indian dishes, as the side dishes vary greatly from region and restaurant.

Taj Mahal in Agra, India

Many people know the Taj Mahal as one of the seven world wonders. Its history and significance however remain mostly unknown. The Taj Mahal is a must-visit for everyone visiting Northern India and will certainly leave an impression on you. In this article, all the information you need to know about this stunning piece of architecture has been gathered.

The location of the Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal is located on the banks of the Yamuna river in the eastern part of Agra. The closest railway station is Agra Fort station. Most tourist hotels are located in the neighbourhood surrounding the Taj Mahal. One can easily walk 10–15 minutes to the main entrance or grab a tuk-tuk for a small fee. Hotels in Agra range from very cheap to expensive.

The story of the Taj Mahal

Despite what is often thought, the Taj Mahal is not a mosque, temple, or monument but a mausoleum. The structure is completely built in ivory-white marble and was ordered by Shah Jahan in 1631, who had it built in memory of his deceased wife, who gave birth to fourteen of his children. Seen from this perspective, the Taj Mahal is the ultimate love story. The Shah and his wife are both buried inside the structure. Shah Jahan was the ‘Shah’ or ‘Persian king’ of the Muslim-Mughal Empire, which ruled most of India from 1526 to 1858. 

The Mughal Empire built a lot of impressive architecture and art throughout the region, such as the Red Fort and Humayun’s tomb in Delhi and Agra Fort. The Taj Mahal is surrounded by an impressive garden and other tombs marking the 300 square metres complex.

Opening times, entrance fee and other requirements

The Taj Mahal is open every day of the week from sunrise to sunset except on Fridays. The entrance fee for foreigners is 1,300 (about €14.50) and just 50 for Indians. Although this difference in price is huge, this is very common throughout India, as foreigners always pay more. When visiting the Taj Mahal, you have to cover both arms and legs. When it comes to females, rules are stricter than regarding men. Women often wear ‘saris’ which are quite popular. One is allowed to wear shoes around the complex, but not inside the Taj Mahal itself (you need plastic shoe covers). This rule also applies to taking photographs, which is allowed outside the structure but prohibited inside the tomb.

Inside the Taj Mahal

People often wonder whether it is possible to enter the Taj Mahal itself. The answer to this is: Yes! There is not a lot to see though as the inside of the structure is dedicated solely to the tomb of Shah Jahan and his wife who are buried there. Again, you have to wear plastic shoe covers and are not allowed to take photographs out of respect. Walk around the tombs according to a walking route. The inside of the Taj Mahal is beautifully decorated.

Visiting tips

To make the most of your Taj Mahal experience, here are some more tips.

  • Arrive as early as possible. Sunrise at Taj Mahal is beautiful, the temperature is still cool and it is not yet crowed with tourists.
  • Bring your own drinking water, this is allowed. It is possible to fill your water bottles, but we would not recommend this (anywhere in India in tourist spots!).
  • Wear comfortable (or Instagrammable) clothes, but keep in mind to cover both arms and legs.
  • Taking a selfie is perfectly fine, but remember that loud talking or yelling at a mausoleum is disrespectful.

Agra Fort

If you visit Taj Mahal in the early morning (which we recommend) and still have some time left, Agra Fort is another great UNESCO World Heritage Site to consider.

Agra Fort is another gift of Mughal Architecture in India. It was constructed by emperor Akbar between 1565 and 1573 and served as the main reigning residence of the Mughal Empire when its capital was shifted from Delhi to Agra.

The huge red fort consists of beautiful courtyards and lush gardens. For architecture lovers, the marble-sand stone Fort is a must-visit. The cost of the fort is 550 ₹ (euro?). For foreigners and it is possible to hire a guide (make sure they are officials) for a small extra fee. Just as the Taj Mahal, make sure you’re not in a hurry and have at least two hours of time for a good experience.