Things to Do in India
Widely considered to be one of the most beautiful buildings in the world and certainly one of India’s most famous landmarks, the Taj Mahal is a living testament to the grandiose and the romantic. Lovingly built from white marble by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favorite wife, the structure is decorated with carvings of flowers and inlays of precious stone arranged into intricate patterns that can be admired both from its impressive exterior and interior. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a must-see for every traveler to northern India.
Situated in the heart of the old city, the Charminar is the most famous building in Hyderabad and a symbol of the city around the world. This monument was built at the close of the 16th century to celebrate the end of a plague—possibly cholera—that had devastated the region. A small mosque sits on the top floor of the building.
One of Mumbai's most recognizable attractions, the triple-arched Gateway of India was built during the early 20th century in honor of the 1911 visit of King George V. Built of basalt and concrete, this monument was designed in the Indo-Saracenic style, which blends traditional Indian, Victorian, and Mughal architectural elements.
The Elephanta Caves are among the most beautiful, historically significant attractions in Mumbai. Situated on an island off the coast, this UNESCO World Heritage Site features multiple rock-hewn cave temples and statues dating back to around the 7th century AD, including a celebrated statue of Shiva in his three-faced form.
Situated smack in the middle of Man Sagar Lake, on the road that runs between Jaipur and Amber Fort (Amer Fort), the 18th-century Jal Mahal (Water Palace) is a gorgeous red sandstone palace that’s accessible only by boat. Though currently closed to visitors, the dreamlike structure is still an incredible sight to behold from shore.
A huge, 15th-century fortress overlooking the “blue city” of Jodhpur 410 feet (125 meters) below, Mehrangarh (Mehran Fort) is owned by the Jodhpur royal family to this day. The citadel is enclosed by thick, imposing walls and contains a museum, courthouses, gardens, and several magnificent palaces with vast courtyards and elaborate architecture.
St. Francis Church is the oldest church in India, built in 1516 by Portuguese settlers to replace an older wooden church constructed in 1503 on the same site. It was once the burial site of Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama, who died in Kochi, and though his gravestone is still in place here, his remains have since been moved to Lisbon.
Devaraja Market is a bustling open-air shopping area full of colorful stalls that are loaded to the brim with fruits, vegetables, and flowers, along with incense, coffee beans, and heaping piles of spices. Though it's a great place to shop, Devaraja Market is equally worth visiting just to take photos and people watch.
Palace of Wind (Hawa Mahal) is easily one of Jaipur’s most iconic attractions. This stunning red and pink sandstone structure in the heart of the Pink City features rows of carved screens and more than 900 lattice-worked windows that allow in just the right amount of breeze to keep the 5-story complex cool.
More than 2 million people cross the Howrah Bridge each day, earning it the title of the busiest cantilever bridge in the world. The 2,313 foot (705 meter) expanse of steel girders hanging over the water connect Howrah and Kolkata with eight lanes of chaotic auto rickshaws, scooters, bikes, cars, animals and pedestrian traffic.
More Things to Do in India
Within a stone’s throw of the Taj Mahal, the 16th-century Agra Fort serves as another testament to the immense wealth and power of the Mughal Empire. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983, the Agra Fort was initially built by Akbar in 1565 on the same site as a previous fort on the banks of the Yamuna River. A succession of a half-dozen other emperors, including Humayun and Shah Jahan, has lived within the red sandstone walls.
While called a fort, the structures enclosed within 1.6 miles (2.5 km) of thick sandstone walls are more akin to a complex of exquisite palaces. Evidence of Shah Jahan’s time spent in the fort can be seen in the white marble structures he erected during his reign, and according to legend, he drew his last breaths on a marble balcony overlooking the Taj Mahal, the monument he built for his late wife.
As you pass through Amar Singh Gate into Agra Fort, you’ll see that the interior houses several smaller palaces, including the Jahangiri Mahal where the royal women lived, and Khas Mahal, where Shah Jahan made his residence. The beautifully worked Mussaman Burj tower was where Shah Jahan was imprisoned by his son for the last seven years of his life.
On the banks of Lake Pichola, Udaipur City Palace showcases centuries of traditional architecture, starting from when the foundations were laid in the middle of the 16th century. Successive rulers added on to the original, resulting in what today is an enormous complex with 11 palaces connected by mazelike passageways.
The Attari-Wagah border is a crossing between India and Pakistan that is known for its Beating Retreat ceremony, which is held each evening as the border closes. Visit at the end of the day to see the guards from both sides march in elaborate military costumes and face-off across the border in front of packed crowds.
Harmandir Sahib, popularly known as the Golden Temple, is among the most sacred of Sikh gurdwaras. It’s surrounded by a large complex with a marble walkway and a pool, known as the amrit sarovar, which holds holy water. As at all Sikh temples, everyone is welcome here, regardless of their background or religion.
Fort Cochin’s Chinese Fishing Nets have been a beach installation for centuries, well before the coming of the Portuguese colonizers.
It’s thought that the nets were introduced to this coastal area by the legendary Chinese explorer Zheng He, way back in the early 15th century.
The nets are permanent horizontal structures, lowered and raised by a network of cantilevered ropes, bamboo poles, and balancing weights and pulleys. Teams of up to six fishermen operate the nets, but the catch is usually quite modest.
For the best views, come at dusk with your camera to capture that quintessential shot of Kerala’s fishing nets and calm seas backlit by the setting sun. If you’re feeling hungry, you can buy freshly netted fish and crabs, and have them cooked up for your dinner at a roadside stall.
Dating back to 1726, the Jantar Mantar is an observatory with 19 fixed astronomical instruments. The tools in this UNESCO World Heritage site can be used for everything from tracking astronomical movements to predicting eclipses. It's one of five such north Indian observatories, all of which were built by Jai Singh II.
Varanasi’s Kashi Vishwanath Temple is also called the Golden Temple, thanks to its pure gold spire and dome. The current building dates from 1780, but temples stood in the same place for centuries. Dedicated to the Hindu Lord Shiva—one of the most significant deities in the Hindu pantheon—Kashi Vishwanath is a major pilgrimage site.
The Mubarak Mahal (Welcome Palace), was originally constructed in the late 19th century as a reception hall for foreign dignitaries. Today, this part of Jaipur’s City Palace houses the Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum, which showcases royal family artifacts including weaponry and regal garments.
One of the world’s oldest active synagogues, and the oldest in the Commonwealth, can be found in the center of the port’s spice district, Jew Town. The district is a particularly historic reminder of Fort Cochin’s multicultural heritage.
The synagogue sits at the center of the district once inhabited by Fort Cochin’s prosperous spice trading community of Malabari Jews, who traveled here from Holland and Spain. Today, apart from the synagogue and faded street signs, reminders of the district’s once-thriving Jewish community are few.
There were once seven synagogues in this quarter of Old Cochin, but Paradesi Synagogue (also called Pardesi) is the sole survivor. It sometimes also known as the Mattancherry Synagogue, as it shares a temple wall with the neighboring Mattancherry Palace. The word ‘paradesi’ is an Indian term for foreigner.
The original synagogue built in 1568 was destroyed by the Portuguese, and the current building with its distinctive clock tower was erected under the rule of the Dutch.
Notable features include the synagogue’s floor of blue-and-white tiles, individually hand-painted in Canton in a willow pattern. Colored glass lamps and glittering Belgian-glass chandeliers hang from the ceiling, and the gold pulpit is richly decorated.
As is traditional, there is a separate upstairs balcony for female worshipers. There are also historic Torah scrolls and copper plates inscribed with the synagogue’s charter of privileges on display.
When you visit the synagogue, make sure to come modestly dressed (no shorts or sleeveless tops allowed).
This 19th century palace was built in the late 1800s and served as a home to members of the Maratha Scindia dynasty. Travelers who venture to this regal destination will find plenty of Indian history and European architecture that’s worth exploring.
Forty of Jai Vilas Mahal's 400 rooms have been transformed into a remarkable museum that showcases the history, culture and daily lifestyle of old-school India’s royal elite. History-loving travelers will enjoy wandering the gilded halls filled with fine furniture, stunning chandeliers and photographs.
The famed British Residency Lucknow is an ideal place for history-loving travelers who want to experience the haunting beauty of historic ruins. Located in the heart of Lucknow, this former home of a British war general was built in the late 1700s. Travelers can wander the crumbling structures tucked amid lush greenery and explore the decrepit walls destroyed by cannon fire. A nearby cemetery is the final resting place of some 2,000 people who died during India’s war for independence. While travelers will certainly learn much about the history of this site while exploring the grounds on their own, an evening light show brings the British Residency’s history to life each night and it not to be missed.
Mansa Devi Temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to the wishgranting goddess Mansa Devi. It’s located on the top of a hill in Haridwar, which is one of seven holy pilgrimage centers in India known as Sapta Puri.
Mansa Devi Temple is a hugely popular site, with hundreds of pilgrims flocking to it daily with their prasad (food offerings) for the goddess in the hopes of getting their wishes granted.
Visitors can either walk the one and a half kilometers up the hill to the temple, or take a cable car ride up instead. Along the way there’s always a large number of people selling everything from food and flowers to music and jewelry.
Once inside the temple, devotees offer some of their prasad to the Hindu priests and receive a blessing in return. Visitors are then encouraged into the inner sanctum where the idol of the Mansa Devi resides. It is here that the rest of the prasad is offered, pieces of coconut are received, and wishes are finally uttered.
The Portuguese built the 16th-century structure as a gift to the then king of the Kochi dynasty, though it underwent significant remodels under Dutch rule, earning it its current moniker: the Dutch Palace. It's celebrated for its stunning murals, many of which depict scenes from Hindu epics, notably the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.
Bagore Ki Haveli is an 18th-century mansion (or haveli), situated by the water’s edge of Lake Pichola at Gangori Ghat in Udaipur. It was built by Amir Chand Badwa, the Prime Minister of Mewar and served the royalty of Mewar before being left vacant for 50 years. The building has since been restored to its original architectural style and now features a museum.
This grand haveli features more than 100 rooms situated around pleasant courtyards. Some of the rooms have been set up to evoke the period in which the house was inhabited, including the private quarters of the royal ladies; their dressing rooms, bedrooms, living quarters, worship rooms, and recreation areas. Others serve as galleries, displaying an intriguing collection of photographs, royal costumes, unusual monuments, and even the world’s biggest turban.
Bagore Ki Haveli features intricate carvings and colorful glass and mirror work, with peacocks in the Queen’s Chamber created with small pieces of colored glass to dazzling effect.
- Things to do in New Delhi
- Things to do in Jaipur
- Things to do in Mumbai
- Things to do in Udaipur
- Things to do in Chennai
- Things to do in Agra
- Things to do in Jodhpur
- Things to do in Jaisalmer
- Things to do in Thanjavur
- Things to do in Varanasi
- Things to do in Nepal
- Things to do in Pakistan
- Things to do in Uttar Pradesh
- Things to do in Himachal Pradesh & Uttarakhand
- Things to do in Maharashtra