Founded in 1577 by the fourth Sikh guru, Ram Das, Amritsar is home to Sikhism’s holiest shrine, the spectacular Golden Temple, one of India’s most serene and humbling sights. The same cannot be said for the hyperactive streets surrounding the temple.
Amritsar is divided in two by a tangle of railway lines. The old city, containing the Golden Temple and other historic sights and bound by 12 medieval gates, is southeast of the railway lines. This is a fascinating area to explore, with a capillary network of narrow bazaars that seems to float between the centuries.
To the north of the railway lines, ‘modern’ Amritsar has grown up in haphazard fashion around a scattering of colonial-era boulevards. Gleaming malls and upmarket hotels stand testament to the prosperity of the city, but the hectic traffic makes this area hard to love at street level. Crossing between the old and new cities is best done by cycle-rickshaw, but once you’re in the old city, walking is often the quickest way to get around.
Taxis taking you to the Golden Temple area will often drop you at Furwara Chowk from where you can walk the last few hundred metres.