Howard Plaza – The Fern Hotel in Agra, India

by Santorini Dave • Updated: June 19, 2019

Review of Howard Plaza The Fern in Agra, India.

Howard Plaza – The Fern – Considerably better than most in this vibrant/chaotic part of the city, but a little outdated.

This good-value and convenient mid-range option is surrounded by several facilities including carpet shops, money-changers, and cafés. The exterior needs some updating, but the lobby is contrastingly opulent, and the hotel does offer some traditional charm, evidenced by the turbaned doorman. Rooms are also a little plain and overdue for some renovations, but certainly cozy and comfortable enough. Set back a little from the main road and its maniacal traffic, rooms are also quieter than most in the area. The main selling points are the cafés/bars on-site, including one on the rooftop; and proximity to the Taj Mahal, barely 1.2km up the street.

Howard Plaza – The Fern – The Location

  • Address: Just around a corner from Fatehabad Road, a main thoroughfare through downtown. Faces a tiny park.
  • Area: Really vibrant or absolutely chaotic – depending on your point of view. With numerous hotels in the vicinity, there are abundant shops, cafés, and money-changers, but facilities are mostly for Indian (rather than foreign) tourists. And the anarchic traffic makes crossing the road potentially dangerous.
  • How to Get There: About 1.4km from the Taj Mahal (7-minute drive); 5km from the Agra Cantonment Railway Station, which has most services to/from Delhi and Jaipur (12-minute drive); and 11km from the new airport (30-minute drive). All are accessible by taxi or auto-rickshaw.

Howard Plaza – The Fern – The Basics

  • Guests: Caters for all, with many tourists and business people from across India.
  • Views: Rooms to the front face the main road and may suffer from traffic noise. Those at the back currently face a construction site, but whatever is being built should finish by mid-2020.
  • Private Pools/Jacuzzis: Not expected or provided at an old-fashioned hotel like this in Agra.

  • Extras: Daily newspaper delivered to each room.
  • Wi-Fi: Free throughout but sometimes slow and unreliable.
  • How to Book: Booking.com will have the best rates.
  • Phone: +91 (0)562 404 8600
  • Email: [email protected][email protected]
  • Websites: howardplazaagra.comfernhotels.com

Howard Plaza – The Fern – Amenities

  • Pool: Decent outdoor pool on a lower level. Lounge chairs and some shade.
  • Spa: The Elixir Spa offers a more interesting range than expected, including an ‘Erotic Bath’. Decent discounts for guests.
  • Fitness Center: Near the spa, and quite impressive given the standard and size of the hotel. Yoga classes on request.
  • Other Facilities: Business Center. Money-changer. Boutiques.

Howard Plaza – The Fern – Food and Drink

  • Restaurants & Bars: Glassy – Bistro and bar on the rooftop, with intimate seating, but not quiet given the open-air position. • Rendezvous – At the lobby level, featuring snacks all day and tempting menu at lunch and dinner. Attached bar stocks all sorts of drinks. Everything at pleasing prices. • East India Company – Lounge offering vast array of teas from across India. • Pool Bar – Drinks and snacks alongside the pool.
  • Breakfast: Not usually included, but can be added when booking or paid for at the time.
  • Room Service: Available 24/7.

Howard Plaza – The Fern – Rooms

  • Room Types: Deluxe Rooms • Plaza Rooms • Suites
  • Smoking Rooms: Smoking is allowed in some rooms, if requested.
  • Best Room: The suites are more spacious and luxurious than the hotel layout would suggest, and offer separate living/dining areas.
  • For Families: The suites can fit in extra single beds, or book adjoining rooms (which don’t have connecting doors).

Howard Plaza – The Fern – Local Transport

  • Walking: The backstreets around the hotel are more pleasant for walking than the noisy, crowded, and potholed main road. A few cafés and plenty of shops nearby; otherwise, take an auto-rickshaw wherever possible.
  • Public Transport: Nothing of any use to tourists.
  • Taxis & Auto-rickshaws: Taxis (unmetered) are hard to find because they’re rarely needed in this area. If required, arrange through the hotel reception, or book an Ola cab. A few cycle-rickshaws and automated versions can be found along the street outside.

Howard Plaza – The Fern – What’s Nearby?

Restaurants & Bars

    Places listed below are along the main road.

  • The Signature Restaurant +91 99170 33955 – Renowned across Agra for its exquisite Indian food and flamboyant setting. Just across from the hotel gates. 2-minute walk (130m).
  • Café Coffee Day – Bright, cheery, and opens early for coffee and light meals all day. Just past The Signature. 3-minute walk (200m).
  • Mansingh Palace Hotel – Offers 3 pleasing options: Sheesh Mahal (Indian and European cuisine, with live music most evenings), Ripples (all-day dining and frequent buffets), and The Tequila Bar (surprisingly sophisticated). 250m southwest down the road. 3-minute walk.
  • Taste of India +91 92670 01111 – Premier café set up for Indian tourists, but foreigners are welcome, of course. Authentic food at local prices. 350m east of the hotel. 4-minute walk.

Shops

  • A livelier area of Agra with plenty of facilities for tourists, i.e. Indians, but foreigners are always welcome. Oversupply of shops all over selling carpets and handicrafts.

Attractions

  • The Taj Mahal is certainly Agra’s, and possibly India’s, number one attraction. The ticket office at the West Gate is only 1.4km away. Head north up the side-street that the hotel faces, or take an auto-rickshaw (7-minute drive). Separate entries for men and women. Open from sunrise to sunset, but closed on Fridays.
  • Agra Fort – The grand Red Fort (Lal Qila) symbolizes power and resilience. Partly occupied by the Indian Army, tourists can still see multiple mosques, palaces, and other structures inside this vast monument located close to the city center. Open from 6 am to 6 pm on all days. 7-minute drive (2.5km).
  • Itimad-ud-Daula – Popularly thought of as the first draft of the Taj Mahal, and often known as “Baby Taj”. The tomb is the first marble structure built by the Mughals and features intricate lattice work. Open from sunrise to sunset. 15-minute drive (6km).
  • Soor Sarovar Bird Sanctuary – A haven for several species of birds and a must-visit for wildlife photographers. Apart from birds, it also houses pythons and Wildlife SOS, the largest bear rescue center in India, as well as the only elephant hospital in the country. 42-minute drive (24km).
  • Fatehpur Sikri – This majestic red sandstone fort is known for the Buland Darwaza, Jama Masjid, Tomb of Salim Chishti, Diwan-i-Aam, Diwani-i-Khas, and several other monuments on-site. Built in the 16th-century by Emperor Akbar to celebrate the birth of his son, Jahangir, in Sikri. Open daily from 6 am to 6 pm. Tickets can be bought online from various travel portals or at the fort entrance. 55-minute drive (39km).

Howard Plaza – The Fern – The Hotel

The hotel is located away from the main road, at a junction of multiple streets.

The hotel faces an odd triangle of streets, just back from the main road in downtown.

The traditionally-dressed doorman warmly welcomes guests.

While the exterior and amenities at the Howard Plaza need some updating, the doorman is an example of the hotel’s traditional charm.

The lobby is very opulent.

The opulent lobby belies the rather old-fashioned and unpainted exterior.

The giant chandelier in the lobby is extraordinary.

A huge chandelier dangles above the lobby.

The lobby offers plenty of seating for guests.

The lobby area has several areas where guests can relax.

The 2 boutiques by the reception are classy.

Near the reception desk are 2 classy boutiques – better than expected at this mid-range hotel.

Elixir Spa offers a good selection of treatments.

Within a lower level at the hotel, the Elixir Spa offers a more interesting array of treatments than most hotels of this type.

The Rendezvous restaurant serves buffet breakfasts and a la carte meals through the day.

The main hotel restaurant, Rendezvous, serves buffet breakfast and good-value a la carte meals all day.

The rooftop houses the Glassy bar and bistro.

On the hotel rooftop, Glassy is a terraced bistro and bar.

Glassy Bar & Bistro offers panoramic views of the city.

Views from the Glassy café on the hotel rooftop are vast, but less impressive when smog shrouds the city, which is especially bad during the winter.

The pool is adequate for the number of guests.

The outdoor pool is a decent size. (Like many hotels, the pool was undergoing maintenance during the winter months.)

The hotel gym is well-equipped.

Near the spa complex at the hotel is the sizeable fitness center.

The spacious corridors have comfortable sofas and lounge chairs.

Hotel corridors are dotted with lounge chairs, adding to the feeling of comfort and spaciousness throughout.

The hotel exterior needs an update.

The hotel does look and feel a little outdated, and is in need of some maintenance on the outside.

Rooms offer views of the neighborhood.

Rooms either face the side street in front (but are a little distant from traffic noise along the main road around the corner) or overlook a construction site at the back.

The rooms are very spacious.

Rooms are more spacious than those at rival hotels in the vicinity.

Lounge chairs add to the appeal of the otherwise plain rooms.

The décor can be a little plain, but extras – e.g. a corner lounge chair – add to the appeal.

Room furnishings and rates are modest.

Furnishings are more modest than many similar hotels in the immediate area, but rates are also lower.

The neighborhood is typical busy Indian city life.

The general area around the hotel is not that pleasant: crowded, noisy, and dirty, as is typical of Indian city life.

Café Coffee Day opposite the hotel serves good coffee and light meals.

Just across the main road from the hotel is the cheerful and western-style Café Coffee Day.

The Signature Restaurant opposite the hotel is renowned across the city for its food.

Also just over the main road, The Signature Restaurant is renowned across Agra for its décor and menu.

Taste of India nearby is also a good restaurant.

Another fine eatery within a short walk along the main road from the hotel is Taste of India.

There are several souvenir shops in the neighborhood.

Because of the numerous hotels in the vicinity, there is an (over) abundance of souvenir shops, mainly catering to Indian tourists.

The main road offers several modes of transport.

All sorts of transport options are available along the main road, about 50m from the hotel.

The Taj Mahal entrance is a short walk away.

One gate to the Taj Mahal is only 1.2km north along the street from the hotel.

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