I have lived in Amritsar for almost 18 years, and the city has changed so much over time. But the things that remained constant are the Golden Temple, Jallianwala Bagh, Wagah/Attari Border retreat ceremony, and of course the crazy food of the city.
In this post, I show you around Amritsar, and give some insider local tips, that you might not find anywhere else!
Places to see
Start from touring the older city of Amritsar. Walk through the narrow alleys and be astonished by the crafts work that goes on inside the tiny old shops.
After strolling through the old city, and observing little things around yourself, head to the other highlights of the city.
Heritage Street Walk
Almost a kilometer long walk that takes you from interiors of the city to the Jallianwala Bagh and Golden Temple, the street is adorned with statues and buildings signifying Punjab's culture. You'll also see numerous shops selling traditional food, clothes, footwear, and much more.
This place attracts a lot of tourists all the year round, so while it is a great spot to do the traditional shopping from, you'll get similar things at better prices in other parts of the city.
More tips in the Shopping section below!
It is a historic site, signifying 1919 massacre where hundreds of Indians were murdered in cold blood by the British troops. You'll be able to visualize history as you start walking inside the garden.
There is only one point of entrance and exit to the garden, and that too is very narrow. Once you are there, you'll be able to imagine how the only point of escape was blocked by the Britishers so no one could exit the garden.
Inside the premises, there is Amar Jyoti, the flame that burns day and night throughout the year, to pay respect to the people who died on that unfateful day.
Walk a little further, and you will see the wall that bears the marks of the bullets that were fired by the troops. You will also see a well, into which many people jumped, to protect themselves from the hurling bullets.
There is also a museum that showcases the pictures with details of the freedom fighters.
Golden Temple or Harmandir Sahib
You can easily spend 3-4 hours in the holy temple, Harmandir Sahib. Visited all the year around, by so many tourists, it is one of the main highlights of the city, and a must visit when you are in Amritsar.
Surrounding a sacred pool (Sarovar) is this gold plated shrine. Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the holy literature in the Sikh religion lies inside the temple and is revered as the purest and the most spiritual authority in Sikhism.
You will see people from everywhere, without any bias, serving the visitors, by offering them water, also regularly cleaning the temple premises. You'll be amazed by how selflessly people are providing their services here.
After walking around the temple, head out for the Langar (free kitchen). The food here is cooked by the volunteers and is served to all free of cost.
Wahga-Attari Border is located between the Attari village of India and Wahga village of Pakistan. It is around 30 km from the city of Amritsar. The retreat ceremony at the border happens every evening, just before the sunset.
The ceremony starts with a parade on both sides of the border and just when the sun starts setting down, the gates open and the two nations lower their flags in coordination. It is followed by a quick handshake between soldiers on both sides before the gates close again.
You'll be amazed to look at the enthusiasm and energy of the crowd that has gathered and immediately become a part of the excitement too.
PS: Reach at least 2 hours before the retreat ceremony, especially during the holiday season, as the place gets crowded very quickly and it is hard to find a perfect spot to get a good view of the procession.
You can also buy VIP passes to reserve seats in advance.
Gobindgarh Fort has opened recently to the public after almost 200 years. The fort is a walk, straight into the history of Punjab. There are many attractions within the fort, including, Toshakhana or Treasure house that was once home to the Kohinoor diamond, the Warfare Museum that displays different artillery used in the ancient times, a Turban Museum that displays the turban styles around the world, and how the tying of turbans has evolved over time.
There is a stage inside the fort where you will see live performances, including Bhangra - traditional Punjabi dance form, Gatka - traditional Sikh martial arts, and much more.
You can watch the light and sound show that walks you through the history of the fort, a 7D show that shows history about Maharaja Ranjit Singh Ji.
There are several small food shops that you can sit and eat at, while you take a break from walking all around the fort.
Places to shop at
There are specific areas in the city that are best for a certain kind of shopping. Here are a few places that you must visit if you want to do some local street shopping.
Katra Jaimal Singh
The whole street is clustered with the wholesale cloth and garment shops. You can buy a variety of traditional dresses from these shops that include salwar kameez, phulkari, and saree. You can even buy good quality western wear at a lesser price than the branded showrooms.
And of course, there is a lot of scope for bargaining in these shops too!
The best place to buy Punjabi Jutti or the traditional Punjabi footwear is opposite Hall Gate. There are several shops lined up that offer different varieties of jutties, ranging from fancy to casual wear.
You can arrange at these shops too!
PS: Do not shop these items at Heritage Walk unless it is very necessary because the difference in the rates is very significant.
But if you want to buy Kada or the traditional Sikh Bangle, then heritage Walk is a great choice.
Places to eat at
Amritsar is a foodie's paradise, and it offers a wide range of vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes with the best taste.
Find Amritsar's detailed food guide here.
The holy city of Amritsar has so much to offer, and I hope this detailed tour guide is helpful to you as you plan your visit to the city.