If Agra Fort is the sister monument to the Taj Mahal, it’s definitely the lesser-known sister. But as any overlooked sibling will tell you, that’s all the more reason to visit it.
Closer to a walled city than a fortress, it striking red sandstone walls hide a complex of mosques, underground vaults, and stunning palaces and gardens that were once home to the emperors of the Mughal Dynasty.
Built in 1565 as a military fortress, by India’s first Mughal emperor, Akbar, it was turned into a palace by his successor, Shah Jahan (who later had the Taj Mahal built in memory of his wife). For him, it also became a prison when his son gained power and trapped him inside it. Even when housing emperors, though, the fort never lost its military connotations and it was a site of a battle during the Indian Rebellion. The military continue to use it to this day, so part of it is off limits to the public.
Now a UNESCO World Heritage site, the fort is one of the greatest and most important Mughal forts in India, and sits at the top of any list of Agra’s main attractions.
Make the most of the experience by using a map or a tour guide, to help you find your way around and show you the finer points of the interior. After all, Agra Fort was designed to outwit any enemies that breached its walls!
Parts of the structure have been lost over the centuries – and the crocodile-infested moat is a thing of the past (the moat remains, but crossing it is less risky) – but the scale and stunning architecture of the Agra Fort really needs to be experienced to be fully understood.
Built as a testament to the strength and power of the emperors that once resided within it, the crescent-shaped walls are 70ft high – all the better to accommodate the elephants that once walked through its gates.
Inside, palaces built for the emperors and their wives still stand in all their white marble and red sandstone glory – as do Shah Jahan’s geometric gardens and decorative fountains.
A real sense of history comes in the Diwan-i-Khas, which was used for private audiences with dignitaries and foreign representatives. Set with marble columns, just take a look at the intricate embellishments. Then there’s the Diwan-i-Am, which was built for domestic government affairs and houses a throne room where emperors once sat.
Situated as it is, just 2.5km away, you can catch a glimpse of the Taj Mahal from within the Agra Fort’s walls, too.
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Based on the banks of the Yamuna river, the fort is 1.4km from Agra city centre and 2.5km from the Taj Mahal gardens. If you’re coming from Agra or nearby, an autorickshaw is your best bet. Already have the half-day trip to Agra booked as part of your holiday package? Then a visit to the fort is included.
From sunrise to sunset, which means 6am to 6pm, every day.
Agra is a conservative part of India, so make sure you cover up to stay respectful; in other words, keep your knees and shoulders concealed.
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