The Taj Mahal: wonder of the world, landmark and masterpiece of architecture. No building in the world has ever given us such goose bumps as the world-famous marble mausoleum in northern India. Majestically, the Taj Mahal rises into the air. Even the crowds can’t do anything to the magical spell.
Undoubtedly, the best time to visit the Taj Mahal is sunrise. Believe us: the first sight of the Taj Mahal at dawn is something you will never forget for the rest of your life. It doesn’t get any more beautiful than this!
In this article, we’ll tell you what to look for when visiting the Taj Mahal. We also show you what else you can do in Agra.
1- Taj mahal: Info & Things to Know
What many do not know: The Taj Mahal is a mausoleum and not a palace, as it is often said. But what a palace! The Taj Mahal was built almost 400 years ago by the then Indian Great Mogul Shah Jahan for his deceased wife. 20,000 workers are said to have been involved in the construction of the monument.
The Taj Mahal embodies architectural perfection. It is made of bright white marble that shines out at you even in hazy weather. Not to mention, of course, the sheer perfect harmony of proportions: The enormous, striking dome is surrounded by four minarets – probably one of the most famous silhouettes in the world.
How do I get to Agra/to the Taj Mahal?
The Taj Mahal is located on the outskirts of Agra – an otherwise unspectacular city located about 200 kilometers south of Delhi. Most people travel to Agra from Delhi. We can only highly recommend you to cover this distance by train.
The train ride from Delhi to Agra takes 2 to 3 hours, depending on the train. There are countless connections every day. Our choice was the Shatabdi Express (train number 12002). It leaves Delhi from New Delhi Railway Station early in the morning at 6am and arrives in Agra just under 2 hours later at 7:57am. We really enjoyed this morning train ride!
It is not so easy to book the train ticket from Europe, because there are not only countless providers, but you often need an Indian phone number for the booking. However, it works without problems via the provider Train ticket Delhi-Agra via 12go.asia
How much time should I plan for the Taj Mahal?
The bad news: For some time now, the visit to the site has been limited in time. With your ticket, you are allowed to spend a maximum of three hours in the area of the Taj Mahal. If you stay longer, you have to pay a fine.
In Agra itself we would plan one or two nights. Apart from the visit of the Taj Mahal, there are some other worthwhile places in Agra, such as the Agra Fort. Also, there are some worthwhile viewpoints around the Taj Mahal that will give you a new perspective on the wonder of the world.
Price & opening hours
Admission: The regular ticket for tourists costs 1,100 Indian rupees. An additional 200 Indian rupees is required to enter the interior of the mausoleum. (Buy online and save 50 Indian rupees).
Opening Hours: The Taj Mahal opens 30 minutes before sunrise and closes 30 minutes before sunset. This means that opening hours vary slightly depending on the time of year. On Friday the Taj Mahal is closed!
Important info about ticket purchase
There are three entrances to the Taj Mahal, although currently (as of early 2020) tickets can only be purchased at two of them: Taj Mahal Western Gate and Taj Mahal Eastern Gate. The Southern Gate is used exclusively as an exit.
The ticket office at both locations (Western and Eastern Gate) opens one hour before sunrise and remains open until 45 minutes before sunset. The Western Gate is usually the entrance used by the locals. The Eastern Gate is where tour groups tend to congregate, so it can be busier in the morning.
From both gates it is about a 15 minute walk to the actual entrance to the core area of the Taj Mahal. Alternatively, you can take a rickshaw.
Before the actual entrance to the core area of the Taj Mahal, security checks will take place. There is a separate queue for men and women. Here we had to wait another 10 to 15 minutes before we were inside.
Important info: If you buy your ticket at the ticket office as soon as the counter opens, you will definitely not make it into the core area of the Taj Mahal first, because by then a lot of people have already gathered in front of the security check who already have their ticket. The ticket can also be purchased online. In addition, many travelers receive their ticket in advance from their tour operator.
Here you can buy the ticket online in advance: Taj Mahal Online Ticket
FYI: The site is considered an official website, but it is not only very slow, but also confusing. Also, we’ve heard that booking tickets often doesn’t work. So it’s best to just try your luck.
2- Sunrise at the Taj Mahal
If you’re early, then yes you can avoid the crowds at many sights: Not at the Taj Mahal! You must be aware that it is practically impossible to photograph the Taj Mahal without people. The morning hours are one of the most popular times to visit the Taj Mahal.
The good news is that we would still definitely recommend sunrise for a visit to the Taj Mahal. The light is simply magical! With a bit of luck, you can look forward to a little (not too much) morning mist and a truly unique, very mystical ambience.
In front of us is the Taj Mahal, shimmering gold in the morning mist. We have to pause for a moment to realize how beautiful it is.
The earlier you come, the better! The area (not the ticket office) opens half an hour before sunrise, as we said. And already some time before that, a long line forms here before the security check. If you really want to be at the front of the line, you have to buy your ticket online in advance (see above) and get in line as early as possible.
We recommend not to stress yourself too much. We were by far not the first ones in the area and still found the atmosphere breathtaking! Besides, the crowds get lost quite well anyway – especially in the morning.
3-What else you can do in Agra
After the Taj Mahal, the Agra Fort is the most important sight in the city. It is, of course, pretty much overshadowed by the Wonder of the World, but is still really worth a visit. This gigantic sandstone fortress reminds a bit of the one in Delhi, but we personally liked it better.
The fort dates back to the 16th century and was once the residence of the Mughal rulers. You walk here through countless parts of buildings, courtyards and rooms made of sandstone and marble.
The complex is very extensive, so plan enough time. (We recommend at least 1.5 hours.) A highlight is also the view of the Taj Mahal in the distance, which you can enjoy from here.
Info about visiting the Agra Fort:
Entrance fee: 600 Indian rupees
Opening hours: From sunrise to sunset
This park is located across the river from the Taj Mahal. Especially at sunset, we can highly recommend a visit. From here you have a beautiful view of the sunlit Taj Mahal. The park is not very well maintained, but the view is of course top.
Our tip: If you follow the road sideways to the front, you will get to a free viewpoint, which is at least as beautiful.
Entrance fee: 300 Indian rupees
4- Food and drink in Agra
Our restaurant tip: Shankara Vegis Restaurant
We ate very well in this small, family-run restaurant in the center of Agra. As the name of the restaurant suggests, they serve vegetarian food. All the dishes we ordered tasted great. The prices are absolutely affordable: a thali costs about 150 Indian rupees.
The ambience is simple, cozy and quite authentic. There is an indoor area on the ground floor and a rooftop terrace with a somewhat limited view of the Taj Mahal. The restaurant, by the way, has been around since the 80s – speaks for the quality, we’d say.
Rooftop bar with a view of the Taj Mahal
In Agra, there are a number of rooftop restaurants from which you can enjoy a great view of the Taj Mahal. Some of them are located near the southern entrance of the Taj Mahal. However, the quality of the bars or restaurants is usually rather modest – here the focus is really on the view. Quite famous is the Saniya Palace Restaurant.
For a more luxurious experience, you can visit the most famous hotel in the city, the Oberoi Amarvilas. Even as an outside guest, you can stop by for breakfast, dinner, or just a drink. The best tables outside are often reserved for hotel guests, but the view is still fantastic.
5- Our Hotel tip for Agra
In Agra there are a lot of really luxurious and expensive hotels. However, our recommendation for you is the family-run The Coral Court Homestay. It is located in a quiet residential area, about 15 minutes walk from the Eastern Gate of the Taj Mahal.
The homestay is felt with a lot of attention to detail. You really feel very comfortable, which is mainly due to the warm and helpful hosts.
The rooms have an authentic charm, are well equipped and very clean – unfortunately this is not always the case in India. There’s also a plus point for the great, varied breakfast. All in all: If you are looking for a cozy, lovingly managed accommodation, you are in good hands in this homestay!