The splendour of AGRA – capital of all India under the Mughals – remains undiminished, from the massive fort to the magnificent Taj Mahal. Along with Delhi and Jaipur, Agra is the third apex of the "Golden Triangle", India's most popular tourist itinerary. It fully merits that status; the Taj effortlessly transcends all the frippery and commercialism that surrounds it, and continues to have a fresh and immediate impact on all who see it.
That said, Agra city itself is huge and disorienting. There's no real "centre", but rather a series of self-contained bazaar districts embedded within the formless urban sprawl, which stretches across well over twenty square kilometres. Most of the major Mughal monuments are lined up along the banks of the Yamuna River, which bounds the city's eastern edge, including the Taj Mahal. Clustered around the Taj, the tangled little streets of Taj Ganj are home to most of the cheap accommodation and backpacker cafés. A couple of kilometres west, on the far side of the leafy Cantonment area, lies Sadar Bazaar, where you'll find many of the city's smarter places to stay, as well as numerous restaurants and crafts emporia. Northwest of Taj Ganj lies Agra Fort and, beyond, the third of the city's main commercial districts, Kinari Bazaar, centred on the massive Jama Masjid.
Years of corruption and political neglect have reduced Agra's infrastructure to a shambles: filthy water and open sewers are ubiquitous, power cuts routine and the traffic pollution appalling. Moreover, as a tourist you'll have to contend with often overwhelming crowds at the major monuments, absurdly high admission fees, and some of Asia's most persistent touts, commission merchants and rickshaw-wallahs. Don't, however, let all this put you off. Although it's possible to see Agra on a day-trip from Delhi, the Taj alone deserves so much more – a fleeting visit would miss the subtleties of its many moods, as the light changes from sunrise to sunset – while the city's other sights and Fatehpur Sikri can easily fill several days.