Without fail, when you tell Indians you’re going to Amritsar, the response is, “Amritsar. The Golden Temple.” Certainly, the Golden Temple is probably what attracted you to Amritsar in the first place. After all, who can resist once they see photos of a glistening golden temple floating in a glistening pool of water? But is that enough reason to make a special trip? Never fear, Amritsar has more things to do than just the Golden Temple. Squeeze that extra day out of your itinerary for Amritsar, and we’ll make sure you see all the top sights.
If you have more time to spend in Amritsar, consider yourself lucky! It’s a vibrant, friendly city perfect for wandering…not to mention eating. However, if you’re like most people on a tight itinerary, here are the things we recommend you do on your one day in Amritsar.
Here Are the Top Things to Do in Amritsar
1. Golden Temple
Start your day at the Golden Temple. If you’re really hardcore, you can come for the 4am procession of the “The Book” of Sikh holy scriptures. We are not that hardcore. If you do want to see the procession, check the exact timing on the official website (listed as “Departure of Palki Sahib from Sri Akal Takhat Sahib”).
Founded in 1574, the Golden Temple, or Sri Harimandir Sahib, is the holiest Gurdwara (religious temple) in the Sikh religion and the most important pilgrimage site. A marble walkway and various temple buildings surround the massive water pool. The size of the temple complex stunned us. From photos, you think it’s just the Golden Temple. Nope.
As soon as you arrive, head for the Golden Temple itself. The line only gets longer throughout the day. On a busy day (especially Sundays!) the wait can be up to 4 hours.
After you visit the temple, take time to walk clockwise around the entire sacred pool and soak in the atmosphere: music and sung prayers, pilgrims bathing in the water, and people sitting and praying. It is a meditative experience.
2. Golden Temple Community Kitchen
Before we spent time in India, we didn’t realize that one of our favorite things to do would be to visit community kitchens (langars) in gurdwaras and help prepare food for pilgrims and visitors. Even if you don’t choose to help prepare or eat food, make sure to visit the Golden Temple langar (Guru Ka Langar). The kitchen is open 24 hours/day. Volunteers do all the cooking, serving, and washing up. Community service in action!
You are also welcome to eat. Get in line and follow the crowd to get your plate and cutlery. You will sit cross-legged on long mats on the floor. Simple food is served piping hot.
Clean your plate! If you decide to eat in the langar, make sure you eat everything on your plate. Food is valued and waste is frowned upon. Helpers will automatically refill your plate unless you clearly say “no more.”
3. Jallianwala Bagh
When you’re done visiting the Golden Temple, the next thing to do in Amritsar is visit Jallianwala Bagh. Jallianwala Bagh is an easy 10 minute stroll down a pedestrian-only street from the Golden Temple. Baazars abound in the entire area around the Golden Temple. Feel free to shop as much as your schedule allows. Remember that near any tourist site, the shop owners will seek you out, which can make window shopping tiresome.
The Jallianwala Bagh massacre, also known as the Amritsar massacre, took place in April 1919. A crowd of 10,000 Indian civilians had gathered for a peaceful protest against the British government. British Indian Army troops fired into the crowd killing at least 379 people, but likely many more. The massacre was a turning point in Mahatma Gandhi’s commitment to Indian independence from Britain.
Nowadays, Jallianwalla Bagh is a large public garden with a memorial in the center. If you look closely, there are spots in the wall where you can still see bullet marks.
3.5 BONUS: Partition Museum
If you arrived at the Golden Temple early enough, you may have time to visit the Partition Museum. The Partition Museum is the first museum to cover the story of the 1947 Partition, which divided India into India and Pakistan, and the resulting migration of 20 million people. The museum is a 5 minute walk from Jallianwalla Bagh.
Opening hours: 10:00am – 6:00pm. Closed Mondays.
Entrance fees: Foreigner 250 rupees / Indians 10 rupees. Children under 5 FREE.
4. Wagah Border Closing Ceremony
Equal parts national pride, Bollywood dance party, and legitimate border closing, the Wagah Border Closing Ceremony is not to be missed. Even better, the closing ceremony is free to watch.
The border is 40km from Amritsar. Make sure to leave Amritsar by 3:00pm or you may miss the ceremony. You can make the trip by taxi, autorickshaw, or shared minibus. We recommend a taxi as an autorickshaw you may not reach the border in time. Once you arrive, look for the “Reserved / Foreigners Lane”, which should be up against the fence across from the food court near where the tour buses park. Inside the stadium, guards will direct you to the foreigner section on the lower right-hand side.
Bring your passport, but not your bag! In theory, you need to show your passport to prove you are a foreigner. We dutifully carried ours, but no one ever asked. All bags (including handbags) are banned from the ceremony.
Make sure to check the timing for the day you’re there. The timing changes between winter and summer. Generally, the dance party seems to start around 4:00pm.
5. Dhabas and Street Food in Amritsar
After the Wagah Border, you will be hungry again. Punjabi food is famous all over India and really all over the world…butter chicken, anyone? Make sure to take advantage while you are in Amritsar.
You can eat either at one of Amritsar’s many dhabas (restaurants) or hit the street food scene. If you are headed to the Golden Temple at night, Brothers Dhaba is a delicious option nearby. Other trustworthy local recommendations are Kesar da Dhaba and Beera Chicken House. If you love street food, but feel anxious about getting sick, try City on Pedals scrumptious and filling Amritsar Street Food Bicycle Tour.
6. Golden Temple at Night
Finish your one day in Amritsar with a night visit to the Golden Temple. The gold on the temple shines and the pool reflects all the lights. Plus, the temperatures are much cooler.
We almost missed doing this, but our son pulled out his top negotiating skills to convince us. We were so glad we went and recommend that you do too!
That brings you to the end of a fabulous one day in Amritsar. Enjoy your visit!
Where to Stay in Amritsar
Amritsar has accommodation of all types and prices. If you are looking for top-end (5*), we recommend the Fairfield by Marriott Amritsar. You can use the map below to find the best accommodation for you in Amritsar.