Many people love Punjab and call Amritsar an incredible place for its food, culture, and hospitality. But the state is also home to many ancient buildings that have stories of their own. The numerous forts and palaces located here are a result of Punjab's long and illustrious regal heritage.
The best forts near Amritsar that are worth a visit
The magnificent Gobindgarh Fort tops the list of historical places near Amritsar. Gujar Singh Bhangi constructed the "Bhangian Da Qila" in the year 1760, more than 250 years ago. Later, it came under the control of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, and it was renamed to “Gobindgarh" in honor of the 10th Sikh Guru Shri Guru Gobind Singh.
The fort served as a watchtower above the adversary and a fortress to protect Amritsar. In 1964, it was designated as a historical monument. The fort has seen it all, from the control of the Misls to Maharaja Ranjit Singh to the British to the Indian Army.
Currently, the place is well-known for its museums, Haat Bazaar, and Toshakhana (where Kohinoor was preserved). Every evening, the top attraction is a light and sound performance that highlights the fort's history.
Distance from Amritsar: 0 kms
Faridkot, located in Indian state of Punjab, was named after Baba Farid who was a prominent Sufi saint from the 13th century.
The Faridkot fort and palace were built by the Kapuras between 500 and 700 years ago as a testament to the Barar Sikh Dynasty, which rose to its apogee under Raja Hamid Singh. The fort is sometimes also referred to as Qila Mubarak (of Faridkot).
Many ancient artefacts have been conserved as a testament to the era when Indian rulers lived in splendour and grandeur. These are still kept in the palace and include some rare books and weapons. The palace is currently being transformed into a museum by the Maha Rawal Khewaji Trust.
Location: Faridkot, Punjab
Distance from Amritsar: 120 km
Maharaja Narendra Singh constructed this large three-story structure, not far from the Old Moti Bagh Palace. The fort has elements of both European and Mughal architecture, and was built to give the numerous intellectuals, painters, and poets who frequented his court a place to express themselves.
Meaning "Palace of Mirrors" in its literal sense, it features an amazing collection of tiny paintings as well as carvings from Tibet, Kashmir, Burma, and Punjab, including a horrifying yet interesting apron made of human bones! The world's largest collection of medals and decorations is on exhibit in the renowned medal gallery.
A statue of Maharaja Bhupinder Singh showing his renowned sense of style and an imposing statue of Queen Victoria can be found on the grounds of the Sheesh Mahal. A spectacular suspension bridge spanning a (now dry) lake connects the Sheesh Mahal to the exhibition hall Banasar Ghar.
Location: Old Moti Bagh, Patiala, Punjab
Distance from Amritsar: 270 kms
Qila Anandgarh Sahib
Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the 10th Guru of Sikhs, resided in Anandpur Sahib for 25 years. He built five forts in the city to protect the Sikhs from Hill rulers and Mughal Army, one of these was Fort Anandgarh Sahib. It was referred to as the “Fort of Bliss” and a new Gurudwara has been constructed near the same.
The other four forts built were Fort Keshgarh (now a Takht), Lohgarh (fort of steel), Holgarh (fort of colour) and Fatehgarh (fort of victory). All the five forts were connected with the use of underground tunnels and earthworks. Although the Gurudwara building was recently built, remnants of the ancient and original construction may still be seen.
Visiting the spectacular structure give you a deep insight into the Amritsar history. A lotus dome hangs over the hall's 6-meter-square sanctuary. Gurdwara Qila Anandgarh Sahib is located in the centre of Anandpur Sahib town. It was the strongest of the five forts. The fort also has a historic baoli where the water level can be reached via a covered passage and has 135 marble stairs.
Location: Anandpur Sahib, Punjab
Distance from Amritsar: 190 kms
Kapurthala, also referred to as the "Paris of Punjab”, was the royal residence of The Ahluwalias.
The Jagatjit Palace was home to the former Maharaja of Kapurthala, Maharaja Jagatjit Singh. The impressive Indo-Saracen architecture of the palace is magnificent. It was constructed in the beginning of the 19th century and was inspired from the Versailles Palace, France. Since 1961, the historical monument has been home to the Sainik School, which trains boys for the National Defence Academy.
The reception hall was named in honour of King Louis XIV and the interiors of Jagatjit Palace feature an intriguing fusion of architectural forms with the painted ceilings showcasing the best of French aesthetics. The palace is an extraordinary example of one of the best heritage places near Amritsar.
The Durbar Hall, decorated entirely in Indian style, was used for ceremonial events. The Jagatjit Palace houses the Maharaja's collection of European artifacts, including a well-known mechanical clock that displays the planetary positions, the weather, and the time in 12 different European and Asian nations.
Location: Kapurthala, Punjab
Distance from Amritsar: 70 kms
Nawab Saif Khan constructed the Bahadurgarh Fort in 1658, and Maharaja Karam Singh of the former princely state of Patiala renovated the same in 1837. A moat and two ramparts encircle the round ancient fort. The Diwan-e-Aam and a beautiful mosque are only two of the significant Islamic-style structures that are close to the fort.
The monument was built with an enormous expenditure of Rs 10 lacs which was considered a massive amount at that time. Tourists can also see the grave of the nawab at a little distance from the fort. The structure was named after the ninth Sikh Guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur, who was invited to the fort and stayed there for over three months. The grounds of the fort have been used as the Punjab Police Commando Training School since 1989.
The Maharaja also constructed a gurudwara. Along with the gurudwara, the fort also has a mosque and it serves as a prime illustration of harmonious religious tolerance. Even in itself, the majestic fort's architecture is a sight to behold.
Location: Patiala, Punjab
Distance from Amritsar: 250 kms
If you are still wondering what to do on a trip to Punjab, here are some weekend getaways from Amritsar that should top your list.