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When you’re in Agra, everyone knows to go see the Taj Mahal. But just down the river is another stunning place to visit: the Agra Fort.
Don’t let its name deceive you though. It’s much more than just a fort.
A Quick History of the Agra Fort
The fort was first built in 1080 AD, but what you see today actually only dates back to 1573 AD when the fort was rebuilt using red sandstone. The Agra Fort was the main residence of the emperor’s of the mughal dynasty until 1638 when the capital was moved to Delhi.
Shah Jahan, who also built the Taj Mahal, is responsible for much of what we see today in the Agra Fort. He rebuilt much of the inner buildings to use white marble, his medium of preference. At the end of his life, the Shah was imprisoned by his son within the fort and it is rumoured that Shah Jahan died in the Musamman Burj which overlooks the Taj Mahal.
Today the Agra Fort is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. However, only a portion of the fort is open to the public as part of it is still used by the Indian military. I wonder if the areas not open to the public are as grand or beautiful as these areas.
While the outer walls are built from red sandstone, inside, there are beautiful areas made of white marble. From some of the rooms along the Yamuna river, you can look out and see the nearby Taj Mahal off in the distance.
Here are some highlights from my visit to the Agra Fort:
Agra Fort Gate
The first thing you come upon when you enter the fort is it’s dominating front gate. At one point in history, the fort had 4 gates, but today, only one, the Amar Singh gate, is in public use.
Once through the gate, you walk up a slope with tall walls which spits you out right in the middle in the courtyard of the fort.
Across a wide expanse of a very green lawn you can see all the buildings of the fort.
The Khas Mahal was the royal palace of the emperor. The walls and ceilings are full of embellishments and floral designs. Some of the remaining royal colours of gold and blue can be seen through the palace.
The recesses found through the room were thought to once contain portraits of Mughal rulers and iron rings on the ceiling held chandeliers.
Through the lattice windows and veranda, you have a wonderful view of the Taj Mahal – weather permitting of course!
This octagonal pavilion sits on the east side of the fort and looks out across the Yumma River and towards the Taj Mahal. It was built by Shah Jahan for his wife. The interior of the Musamman Burj is incredibly beautiful and ornate. Delicate marble lattice surround the room which is further decorated by coloured stones laid within. Above is a marble dome and at the centre of the room is a sunken marble fountain.
It was within these walls that Shah Jahan was imprisoned by his own son for 8 years. Its veranda provides the perfect view of the Taj Mahal, where the Shah’s wife was buried.
Pro tip: to see the actual octagonal pavilion from the outside like in the photo above, be sure to walk to the end of the Diwan-I-Khas which overlooks the outer fort walls and this pavilion. Here is the location on a map. I was hot and uncomfortable so I didn’t walk over to see it from the outside, only the interior.
This is the Hall of Private Audience and was used by the emperor for holding cultural events and meeting important guests in private.
The hall actually consists of two halls, but the public isn’t able to walk into either of them. Its marble pillars are decorated with semi-precious stones and you can see some Persian script used as decoration above the arches into the inner hall.
Diwan I Am
The Diwan I Am or the Hall of Public Audience. It was used for formal receptions where the emperor would conduct official state business on the throne.
The throne is set high above the rest of the hall which clearly marks the division of class.
When to Visit the Agra Fort
We went to the Agra Fort after visiting the Taj Mahal because we only had the day in Agra. While it was busy with tourists, the fort was so big and spread out, it didn’t seem so bad. However, if you have the time and flexibility, I would definitely suggest going first thing in the morning. Another reason to go in the morning? Beat the heat. Many of the areas of the fort are out in the open and there is no shade. You definitely need a hat, a water bottle and to just embrace the sweat that’ll come regardless.
Like the Taj Mahal there are two entrance prices – one for locals and one for foreigners. The entrance price for us is 550 rupees. However, if you have a child under the age of 15, there is no fee for them.
Where to Stay in Agra
I stayed at the Radisson Blu Hotel which is just a short walk away from the ticketing booth for the Eastern Gate. The room was extremely comfortable and came with breakfast. It’s also really reasonably priced especially for a Radisson which can get quite expensive in North America. Book your stay on Booking.com or Hotels.com and check out reviews on Tripadvisor.
The Agra Fort is a Must See When in Agra
The Agra Fort is one impressive compound covering an area of 94 acres with room after room of beautiful and intricate architecture. As you move through the rooms, each area has its own character, design and detailing.
As with the Taj Mahal, I would highly recommend getting a guide for your time at the fort. They’ll be able to provide you much needed context to what you’re seeing which really helps bring the whole fort to life. Considering booking one of these multi-day tours of the Golden triangle through GAdventures and visit New Delhi and Jaipur in addition to Agra. Alternatively, if you’re looking for a personalized private tour, I could not recommend my tour guide enough.
Have you been to the Agra Fort? Were you as mesmerized by it as I was?