A trip to Amritsar is like striking travel gold. The largest urban area in Punjab, Amritsar is one of India’s most deeply spiritual cities. Tens of thousands of devout Sikhs and cultural tourists alike make a pilgrimage to Amritsar every day for one main reason: A visit to the famous Golden Temple. There’s nothing quite like strolling around the glistening structure and sitting down for a communal meal from the temple’s massive, volunteer-run kitchen with dozens of other visitors.

But as you dig deeper into this soulful, frenetic city, you’ll have tons of other fascinating experiences that will make you fall in love with Amritsar. You can adventure to the border of Pakistan and watch the daily Wagah Border Ceremony, tuck into incredible Punjabi food, wander around the funhouse-like Mandir Mata Lal Devi, and tour the Summer Palace. Plus, Amritsar is an excellent spot to shop for Indian textiles.

Ready to experience all the magic Amritsar has to offer? Plan your trip to this beloved city with our list of the best places to visit in Amritsar.

1. The Golden Temple

The definitive top attraction in Amritsar is the Golden Temple, a two-story structure covered in real gold and surrounded by a 5.1-meter-deep manmade lake. But not merely a tourist site, this legendary religious shrine is one of the most sacred places in the world for Sikhs, many of whom make a pilgrimage to the temple at least once in their lifetimes.

To enter the Gurdwara complex, where the Golden Temple resides, you’ll need to cover your hair, remove your shoes, and step through a small stream of running water to cleanse your feet. Then, you’ll walk clockwise on the inlaid marble path that flanks the pool, as worshippers chant and bathe in the water.

Making your way to the glistening inner sanctum of the temple, where priests chant songs from the Guru Granth Sahib holy text, is just one of many things to do at the Golden Temple. This attraction is home to the world’s largest community kitchen, welcoming anyone to sit on the floor and savor a free vegetarian meal with other visitors. It’s mesmerizing to see hordes of volunteers chopping onions, peeling garlic, and cooking huge vats of lentils and roti for up to 100,000 diners every day.

You can also see a collection of holy Sikh weapons inside the Akal Takhat (a seat of power inside the Golden Temple complex) and learn more about Sikhism in the Golden Temple Interpretation Centre, tucked beneath the clock-tower entrance of the temple.

The Golden Temple is an inspiring place, and one that you can get personally involved with, if you wish. You can volunteer at the Golden Temple Kitchen, and bond with locals as you prepare lunch. You can also sleep at the Golden Temple in one of its pilgrim hostels for up to three nights. Sleeping here gives you easy access to the Golden Temple at sunrise—the best time of day to see the structure shine.

Address: Golden Temple Road, Atta Mandi, Katra Ahluwalia, Amritsar

2. Wagah Border Ceremony

A 31-kilometer drive west from the city center of Amritsar will take you to the border of Pakistan, where a curious border-closing ceremony takes place at sunset every afternoon. Full of pomp and circumstance, the Beating Retreat Ceremony involves an ostentatious display of goose-stepping guards from the Indian Border Security Force and the Pakistan Rangers saluting each other, lowering and folding their flags, and closing the gates at the border.

The experience gives tourists (typically seated in a special VIP section, once they flash their foreign passport) the chance to see the stark differences between Pakistan and India. On the Pakistan side, you’ll see men and women sitting separately in stadium-style seating, and the vibe is much more subdued.

On the Indian side, however, it’s a patriotic party. Bollywood music blasts from speakers as women dance in the street, while those in the stands wave Indian flags.

While just 45-minutes long, the entire ceremony gives you enough memories for hours of storytelling back at home.

Address: Wagah Border, National Highway 1 PB, Amritsar

3. Partition Museum

The year 1947 was a big one for India. Not only was it the year that India gained its independence from Great Britain, it was also the year it split into the two different entities of India and Pakistan—an event known as the Partition of India.

Tourists in Amritsar can learn about this defining moment in history at the Partition Museum, the only institution in the world devoted entirely to Partition. It features a haunting collection of newspaper clippings, antique photographs, and oral histories with people who experienced the violence leading up to the separation of the two countries, and the resettling of refugees after the event. The experience will give you a deeper understanding of the source of rivalry between India and Pakistan.

On your way out of the museum, jot down a message on a green leaf and hang it on the Tree of Hope.

Address: Hall Road, Town Hall, Katra Ahluwalia, Amritsar

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