A trip to Amritsar is like a trip gold. The largest urban area in Punjab, Amritsar is one of the most deeply spiritual cities in India. Tens of thousands of Sikh stakes and cultural tourists make a pilgrimage to Amritsar every day for one main reason: a visit to the famous Golden Temple. There’s nothing quite like wandering around the glittering structure and sitting down for a communal meal in the temple’s huge volunteer-run kitchen with dozens of other visitors.
But as you dig deeper into this moving and frenetic city, you’ll have tons of other fascinating experiences that will make you fall in love with Amritsar. You can venture to the Pakistan border and witness the daily Wagah border ceremony, savor incredible Punjabi cuisine, stroll through the funhouse-like Mandir Mata Lal Devi, and visit the Summer Palace. Additionally, Amritsar is a great place to shop for Indian textiles.
Ready to experience all the magic that is offered by Amritsar? With our list of the best places to visit in Amritsar, plan your trip to this beloved city.
1. The Golden Temple
Amritsar’s main attraction is the Golden Temple, a two-story structure covered with real gold and surrounded by an artificial lake 5.1 meters deep. But not just a tourist spot, this legendary religious shrine is one of the holiest places in the world for Sikhs, many of whom make a pilgrimage to the temple at least once in their lifetime.
To enter the Gurdwara complex, where the Golden Temple resides, you will need to cover your hair, take off your shoes, and walk through a small stream of running water to clean your feet. Next, you will walk clockwise along the inlaid marble path that borders the pool, while worshipers sing and bathe in the water.
Getting to the shimmering inner shrine of the temple, where priests sing songs from Guru Granth Sahib’s sacred text, is just one of the many things to do at the Golden Temple. This attraction is home to the world’s largest community kitchen, welcoming everyone to sit on the floor and enjoy a free vegetarian meal with other visitors. It is fascinating to see hordes of volunteers chopping onions, peeling garlic and cooking huge tubs of lentils and roti for up to 100,000 diners every day.
Inside the Akal Takhat (a seat of power inside the Golden Temple complex), you can also see a collection of Sikh sacred weapons and learn more about Sikhism in the Interpretation Center of the Golden Temple, nestled under the entrance to the temple clock tower.
The Golden Temple is an inspiring place and one in which you can get personally involved, if you wish. You can volunteer at the Golden Temple kitchen and bond with the locals while you cook lunch. You can also sleep at the Golden Temple in one of its pilgrimage inns for up to three nights. Easy access to the Golden Temple at sunrise can be achieved by sleeping here which gives you the best time of day to see the structure shine.
Address: Golden Temple Road, Katra Ahluwalia, Amritsar
2. Ceremony at the Wagah border
A 31-kilometer drive west of downtown Amritsar will take you to the Pakistan border, where a curious border closing ceremony takes place every afternoon at sunset. Full of pomp and circumstance, the threshing retreat ceremony includes a ostentatious demonstration of Indian Border Security Force guards and Pakistan Rangers greeting each other, lowering and folding their flags and closing the gates at the border.
The experience gives tourists (usually seated in a special VIP section, once they have displayed their foreign passports) the chance to see the stark differences between Pakistan and India. On the Pakistani side, you’ll see men and women seated separately in stadium-style seats, and the vibe is much more subdued.
On the Indian side, however, it is a patriotic party. Bollywood music emanates from the speakers as the women dance in the streets, while those in the stands wave Indian flags.
Although it only lasts 45 minutes, the entire ceremony gives you enough memories for hours of storytelling at home.
Address: Wagah border, national road 1 PB, Amritsar
3. Partition Museum
1947 was an important year for India. Not only was this the year that India gained independence from Britain, but it was also the year that it split into two different entities of India and Pakistan – an event known as partition of India.
It features a haunting collection of newspaper clippings, old photographs and oral histories with people who lived through the violence after the event that led to the separation of the two countries and the resettlement of refugees. The experience will give you a better understanding of the source of the rivalry between India and Pakistan.
As you leave the museum, write a message on a green leaf and hang it on the Tree of Hope.
Address: Hall Road, Town Hall, Katra Ahluwalia, Amritsar
4. Punjabi restaurants
Punjabi cuisine has become known around the world for its spicy curries, soft breads and meats cooked in tandoori. If you are looking to indulge in this colorful holiday tradition, there is no better place to do so than in Amritsar.
Bharawan Da Dhaba, located at the Kitty Corner of the Partition Museum, whips up an Amritsari kulcha (lightly risen flatbread) stuffed with Indian cheese or potatoes and served with spicy chickpeas.
Rip into the Punjabi breakfast staple, chole puri (puffy chickpea curry bread) at Kanha Sweets, just one block from BBK DAV College for Women.
Enjoy tandoori chicken from a decades-old recipe at Beera Chicken House, opposite Bhandari Hospital.
And if you have a sweet tooth, treat yourself to some piping hot jalebi (fried spirals of maida flour dough dipped in sugar syrup) at Gurdas Ram Jalebi Wala, a candy store just 400 meters away. far from the Golden Temple.