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Must Visit Places in Incredible Amritsar

In this travel guide for Amritsar, we will go over all of the must-visit places in the dazzling capital of Punjab in North India! You'll also find out how to get there, how to get around, and all the fun things to do in Amritsar!


The golden temple of Amritsar
The Golden Temple


CONTENTS




 


About Amritsar


Amritsar is a city in the state of Punjab, situated in northwest India on the border with Pakistan. Of the 25 million Sikhs in the world today, 75% of them live in Punjab. Amritsar is the centre of Sikhism, it's where it was founded, and it is their principal place of worship.


When hearing of Amritsar people may associate it with Sikhism, the Golden Temple, Jallianwhala Bagh, the Wagah Border, the Partition, incredible food, and warm hospitality, here we will explore them all!



 

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How to Get to Amritsar


TRAIN


  • I booked a train called the Shatabdi Express from New Delhi to Amritsar. This left at 07:20am and the journey time was 6h15m.

  • The class was AC Chair, which was very comfortable, and included breakfast. My meal was a very dry vegetable cutlet, about 6 peas, and one cold french fry. Plus tea, mango juice, and a bottle of mineral water. (So bring snacks!)

  • I suggest buying a ticket directly at the train station, it’s quite straightforward and will save you a lot of money and hassle. The ticket price is 800rs.

  • For a step-by-step guide on buying a train ticket and the different train classes, check out my guide: Taking the Train in India as a Tourist & Train Classes.



BUS


  • There is an option to take a bus, you can check timings and ticket prices on RedBus or 12go Asia.

  • These are night buses and the journey takes a little longer than the train, roughly 8 hours. The ticket should cost 800-1000rs.

  • Unfortunately, you won't be able to book a ticket yourself on Redbus without an Indian bank card, which means paying an agent to do it for you or booking with 12go Asia.

  • Always arrive at the bus station at least 30 minutes before departure, and IGNORE EVERYONE who says the bus is cancelled, or who tries to send you somewhere else. It's a very common scam to get you to buy a new ticket.



FLY


  • There are flights from the UK, Singapore, Malaysia and the UAE direct to Amritsar. Otherwise, you can fly from many domestic airports in India. A flight from New Delhi will take a little over an hour and set you back about 4000rs.

  • I always compare flight prices on Skyscanner and then book directly with the airline. Indigo are a very solid domestic airline; reliable and budget-friendly.



 


My First Impressions of Amritsar


Amritsar is a far cry from the constant harassment and confusion of New Delhi. I did not feel like everyone was out to get us, and even though it's still a big congested city, it's buzzing with charm.


The city centre has been pedestrianised and is pristine, but one swerve into one of the many alleyways and you'll be met with fantastically frenetic old bazaars and a deluge of smells and sounds. It's a great place to wander and get lost and there are so many things to do and must-visit places in Amritsar!



 


Getting Around Amritsar


On the advice of our guesthouse owner, we used Uber to get around rather than battling with rickshaw drivers, and it was really convenient. (Ola is available too). I have heard that Uber doesn’t have the best track record with employment standards, but haggling with taxi drivers is a constant drain - so we did things the easy way this time.



 


Where to Stay in Amritsar


I think that two nights is plenty of time to explore the city and its surroundings and enjoy all of the must-visit places in Amritsar. We stayed at 'Shree Vikas Home Stay' - in the quiet-ish neighbourhood of Rani Ka Bagh - a 15-minute drive / 45-minute walk from the city centre. I made the reservation on booking.com.


The owner of Shree Vikas was beyond helpful to us during our stay. I texted him constantly with questions and he seemed to genuinely care about our experience in Amritsar.



 


GPAY


FYI it’s widespread in India now for guesthouse owners to message you before your stay and ask for a deposit for the room via Gpay. I had never encountered this before Amritsar and initially thought it was a scam.


We just explained we are unable to use GPay with an Indian phone number and British bank account, and our reservation was kindly accepted without a pre-paid deposit. It may be worth setting up GPay whilst still on home soil, in case your guesthouse owner isn't so understanding!



 


Must Visit Places & Things To Do in Amritsar


1. EAT


The most important of the things to do in Amritsar is eat. Punjabi cuisine is known for being rich and buttery, and bread is king in these parts! For me, nothing beats a glistening slice of buttery toast, so being in the land of Kulcha and Paratha was a living dream. (If you have never tried these two breads, I suggest you get on that, stat!)


Here are some of my and Joe's favourite places:


Bhai Kulwant Singh Kulchian Wale

A decades-old joint packed with locals right by the Golden Temple. Try the Alu-Wala Kulcha. Open 8am - 4pm



Bhai Kulwant Singh Kulchian Wale restaurant in Amritsar


Makhan Fish + Chicken Corner

A little further out on Majitha Road, they are attached to a hotel and have been going since 1962. Try the Fish Fry Sohal or the Chicken Methi. Open 11am - 11:30pm.



Chicken methi from Makhan Fish and Chicken Corner


Beera Chicken House

Just a few doors down from Makhan, a casual spot with delicious Butter Chicken on the bone. If it's good enough for the one and only Anthony Bourdain, it's good enough! Open 12:30 - 11:00pm



Kesar Da Dhaba

Dhaba means roadside restaurant, and this one is found down a small lane in Chowk Passian near Town Hall. Another Amritsar institution, try the Thali with Paratha. Open 12:30 - 10:45pm



Thali with paratha from Kesar Da Dhaba


 

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2. THE GOLDEN TEMPLE


The Golden Temple is one of India's most famous landmarks, and is formally known as Sri Harmandir Sahi - it is for sure one of the most popular must-visit places in Amritsar!


It is a Gurdwara, a Sikh place of worship, and was built in the 16th Century. It is made of copper and marble overlaid with gold leaf which catches the sunlight most beautifully. I would suggest visiting at sunset.


Entry is free, and the temple is open from 4am - 11pm.


Both men and women must wear long trousers and cover their shoulders and heads. People will try and sell you bandanas on the way in, or you can take a free one from a container by the entrance to the Gurdwara - if you don’t mind mixing head sweat with strangers. We mixed head sweat!


Even though it's plenty busy, I found it very peaceful. Joe and I sat on the edge of the pool and just enjoyed the atmosphere. Sikhs are allowed to bathe in the purifying water, we are not.


The Sikh guards are really badass! It's not often in the UK you see someone walking around with a dagger tucked into their belt, so this was quite a novelty to us!


The dagger is one of the five k's, which are the five articles of faith:


Kesh: Unshorn hair and beard, covered by a turban.
Kangha: Comb for the Kesh, usually wooden.
Kara: A bracelet, usually made of iron or steel.
Kachera: A type of undergarment worn that allows you to jump into battle with no notice.
Kirpan: A small curved sword or dagger.

There is an option to see the Adi Granth, which is the Sikh equivalent of The Bible, but the queues were really long so we skipped that.


You can also get a free meal at the Gurdwara kitchen - which serves 100,000 people per day, and it's all completely free! These free kitchens are called Langars, and they can be found in Sikh communities all over the world.


The Golden Temple at Night
The Golden Temple at night

 


3. PARTITION MUSEUM


The Partition Museum was the most captivating part of my visit, and it was my personal favourite must-visit place in Amritsar. It's humble, moving, and very well-planned.


Before visiting I did not know that Punjab used to encompass a huge swathe of the Northern part of the Indian Sub-continent, until 1947 when it was chopped in half, the Eastern part becoming Pakistan.


This 'chopping' was done by a British lawyer who had no knowledge of India, and he was tasked with 'drawing a line' to segregate Muslims into Pakistan and Hindus and Sikhs into India. This line drawing had to happen in record time, to coincide with India's independence date from the British.


You can probably guess it didn't go well. In fact, it was to become the largest refugee crisis in history, where 1 million people died and 20 million people were displaced. The museum explains the lead-up to this monumental crisis, and the mental warfare that was at play, where Muslims and Hindus were pitted against one another, the ramifications of which are still playing out in India today.


I was really moved by the hand-written letters and other personal stories, as well as the Suicide Well and the Vultures of Calcutta article. I won't go into any more detail, but if you're of a sensitive disposition be warned - it's all quite hard to swallow. I learnt a lot here and the things I read and saw will stay with me for a very long time


Open 10am - 6pm (not Mondays), Admission is 250rs for foreign nationals.



 

4. JALLIANWALA BAGH


Jallianwala Bagh is a monument inside a memorial garden, not too far from the Golden Temple Complex. It serves as a place to honour the victims of the Amritsar Massacre of 1919, where British troops opened fire on thousands of unarmed Indian civilians during a festival. You can still see the bullet holes.


Open every day 6:30am - 7:30pm (The museum closes at 5pm).

Entry is Free.

The light and sound show is at 5pm in winter and 7pm in summer (in Hindi).


JALLIANWHALA BAGH
Jallianwala Bagh


 


5. THE WAGAH BORDER CEREMONY


This one wins the award for being the most bizarre thing to do in Amritsar!


Every single evening since 1959 there has been a 'lowering of the flags ceremony at the Attari-Wagah border of India and Pakistan. The internet describes this as a charming spectacle of patriotism. I saw a lot of hip-gyrating and dick-thrusting that was certainly not charming.


The border is approximately a 30-minute drive from Amritsar, and we paid a driver 2000rs to take us, wait for us for roughly 3 hours, and bring us back. To save money there are options to share taxis, or there is a large rickshaw stand outside the complex if you don't want to pay a waiting charge.


In winter the ceremony is at 4:15pm and in summer at 5:15pm. Entry is free.


We took some bad advice and got there super early, as we had heard it’s a popular event and fills up quickly, and when it’s full - it’s full. When we arrived (too early) we followed the swarms of people to the back of a giant queue. Upon seeing our pale faces we were quickly ushered to the front of this queue by a guard, and along to the foreigner's section of the viewing platform.



Crowds at the Wagah Border Ceremony
Crowds at the Wagah Border Ceremony

We waited for what felt like an eternity whilst the military 'warm-up guy' worked the crowd. You had to give it to him, he was really going for it. This went on for about 90 minutes as the stadium slowly filled up on both sides.


By the time things were about to kick off the Indian crowd was roaring, and all the girls were called up to dance to Bollywood songs in the middle. Meanwhile, Pakistan's side quietly organised chairs for an audience that looked much more official (and much smaller).


When the ceremony started it became clear very quickly that this was literally just a my dick is bigger than yours thing. It was quite entertaining for about 10 minutes, the soldiers really can kick high! It soon grew tiring.


Soldiers hip-thrusting to each other against the backdrop of the crowd screaming HINDUSTAN / PAKISTAN on a continuous loop. There was then a race to unfurl the flags, which was won by Pakistan, and when we noticed things were drawing to a close Joe and I quickly made for the exit to beat the stampede.



Pomp and pageantry on the Indian side of the Wagah Border
Pomp and pageantry on the Indian side of the Wagah Border


 


6. THE SIKH MUSEUM


Okay, we didn't actually go here but I heard it was good.


Here are some things I learned about Sikhism whilst in Amritsar:


  • Sikhism was established by Guru Nanak in Punjab in the 15th Century.

  • It rejects the caste and class system, as well as all distinctions based on gender, colour, race, and nationality.

  • Sikhs strongly believe in the idea of "Sarbat Da Bhala" - "Welfare of all" and are often seen on the frontline to provide humanitarian aid across the world.

  • Male Sikhs generally have Singh ('lion') as their last name, though not all Singhs are necessarily Sikhs; likewise, female Sikhs have Kaur ('princess') as their last name. These unique last names were given by the Gurus to allow Sikhs to stand out and also as an act of defiance to India's caste system, which the Gurus were always against.

  • Sikhism stresses the importance of doing good actions rather than merely carrying out rituals.

  • Their place of worship is called a Gurdwara and visitors, irrespective of their religion, are offered shelter, comfort, and food.


As far as organised religions go those are some nice qualities!


The Central Sikh Museum is open 9am - 4pm, Tuesday - Saturday.

Admission is free of charge.



 


DO NOT be fooled into visiting CHOKI DANI the 'cultural village'. I got duped into going to the one in Rajasthan, which was awful, and I noticed there is a new one close to Amritsar. It's set up like a tacky theme park and is a huge waste of money and definitely NOT a must-visit place in Amritsar.



 



Moving on from Amritsar

From Amritsar, I booked a night bus to Dharamshala via Redbus - with my friend's Indian bank card. The ticket was 800rs.

The bus station in Amritsar is very tricky. We arrived one hour before our scheduled departure to find a very confusing set of car parks full of buses, all rather spread out. People were sending us in all directions, ‘trying to help’ but not actually helping at all.


Some people were saying there is no such bus to Dharamsala, it doesn't exist, or it's been cancelled. After an hour of traipsing around we tried calling the driver's phone, and the number provided by Redbus did not connect.


Two Belgian lads were in the same predicament as us, looking for the mystery bus. We never found it. We resorted to Uber, which quoted 4500rs for the 5-hour journey to Dharamsala.


After the Uber driver accepted the job and then refused to take us (very common in India) and a lot of farting about, we eventually found someone to drive us to Dharamshala. I forgot to mention Joe had been projectile vomiting in the bus car park intermittently during all of this (dodgy lassi), it was 35 degrees Celsius, and it had been 3 hours since we arrived for our bus with all of our bags. What a PALAVA!


Luckily the driver was cool and he got us to Dharamsala in one piece and in record time. We arrived at our new destination sick, bruised, and sweaty AF - but not beaten!!! We spent the next few weeks touring the beautiful Himachal Pradesh, you can read about that here.



 


Thank you for reading my post about must-visit places in incredible Amritsar! If you enjoyed the read please consider subscribing to my blog where I post articles once every week about my current travels around the world.


If you have any questions about Amritsar please hit the comments!


If you're planning a trip to India check out my post on everything you need to know before you go!

Happy Travels

xxx



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I Dream of Mangoes is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. That being said, I only link to products I use and love.

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