Views of the complex from the gateway's roof and Akbar's cenotaph set on the upper terrace of the mausoleum are of prime interest to visitors.
The gateway to the tomb complex is a superb composition in red sandstone which is inlaid with white marble and colorful mosaics. Four corner minarets, entirely faced with white marble for the first time in India, give added delicacy to the work. If the gateway's roof is out of bounds, visitors should proceed directly ahead to the tomb following the paved causeway through the large Charbagh garden where, as usual, water no longer flows through the irrigation channels.
The podium has four identical facades, a central iwan on each side being flanked by five arched bays of a cloister. Above the podium, four storeys rise to form a flattened pyramid structure, best viewed from some distance. The lower three storeys, built of red sandstone, are open halls supported on spindly columns, evoking bird cages. Surmounting the ensemble is a verandah of marble screens, within which is courtyard and the cenotaph of Akbar (not visible externally). Chhatris decorate the roof at all levels.
The lack of a dominant focal point is an undoubted architectural weakness of the Tomb of Akbar at Sikandara and some have suggested that a central dome may have been intended. How much of the original design was altered by Jahangir is not known but the solidity of the gateway and the podium is in strong contrast with the airiness of the upper storey.
The entrance through the south is a leads to a vaulted vestibule, the colorful decoration of which is now in poor condition. Ahead, the passage descends gently to the crypt, where the marble sarcophagus of Akbar stands, is covered by a cloth. The lamp above it was donated by Lord Curzon. In 1691, the Jats rebelled against Aurangzeb's religious bigotry and raided the tomb of his great grandfather, looting much of its ornamentation, including the bronze gates.
Every attempt should now be made to ascend to the terraces above. On closer inspection, the top floor is revealed to comprise a courtyard surrounded by a cloistered verandah. Jalis screen the outer sides of the verandah. None of geometric panels of those 'screens' are identical in design. A triple-domed pavilion shelters Akbar's symbolic cenotaph. Inscribed on its sides are the ninety-nine names of Allah- the words Allahu Akbar (God is Great) on the north side and Jalla Jalalahu (May His Glory Shine) on the south side. It has been alleged that the short marble pillar behind the cenotaph once supported the Koh-i-Noor diamond is controversial.