Jaipur – The capital and the largest city of India’s desert state of Rajasthan. The city has retained its flair for royalty and is one of the visited cities of India when it comes to Tourism.
The City of Jaipur was designed in the 18th-century by Maharaja Jai Singh and named after him. The old city reflects royalty with numerous royal palaces, gardens and pavilions and street designed for parade routes flanked by bazaars. The entire old city was painted pink to welcome the Prince of Wales in 1876 and as a result is affectionately known as the Pink City.
When it comes to tourism Jaipur is one of the most popular destinations and forms part of the Golden Triangle.
I finally managed to get to the Pink City at its peak season and it was more than what I has expected and had heard about it. So here is my quick guide to the best this city has to offer.
Best Time to Go
Jaipur’s climate is in sync with the vast Thar Desert that covers most of Rajasthan with scorching heat from April to July. The best time to Jaipur visit is during the winter months when the temperatures are mild but sees an influx of tourists and the prices reflect it.
By Air – Jaipur International Airport serves the city as both a domestic and international airport and is located in the suburb of Sanganer, roughly 13 km from the city centre. It is considered as one of the best airports in India and has good connection with all the major cities in India and a few International destinations. Depending on the time of the day your journey from the airport to the city could take anything between 30 to 60 minutes. Plenty of taxis available but if you are not using a pre-paid one make sure to agree a price. Best option use UBER.
By Train – The Indian Railways connects Jaipur from all over the country and is one of the cheapest options. The most popular option from the capital Delhi is the Shatabdi express which transports you to Jaipur in roughly 4 hrs.
By Road – Jaipur is well connected to the capital and other cities around it by a modern network of highways and there is an excellent bus service between Jaipur and Delhi run by the Rajasthan State Road Transport Corporation (RSRTC) with buses approximately every half an hour in both directions. The journey by car from Delhi takes less than 4 hrs via the National Highway No 8.
Taxi / Car – A very convenient and comfortable and affordable option. As you can’t hail one call and pre book. Negotiate prices if they are not metered. My personal favourite Uber or Ola which are certainly becoming increasingly popular, so finding a car at a reasonable fare is quite easy.
RTD Bus – One of the cheapest way to visit the Jaipur Local Sights is by using the RTDC (Rajasthan Tourism Dept. Corp.) There will be one guide with each bus to give you brief info about all sights.
Metro / Underground – Started operation in 2015, Jaipur Metro provides a fast and inexpensive way to get around the city. Chandpole station, which is around 1 km from the old city is a great way to avoid the traffic.
Auto-rickshaw / Tuk Tuk – An exciting way to travel around the city and hiring one for whole day would cost you under £10. Always agree on price before you start and all that in may include (time, petrol and parking fees). It is a fun way to experience the city.
Foot – One you are in the old city the best way would be to walk around. A great way to soak in the atmosphere and the Pink City’s architecture and colourful bazaars.
Where to Stay
Choosing the right accommodation in Jaipur can be enjoyable. Depending on your budget and what you prefer Jaipur offers a wide choice. The city has some incredible palaces that have been converted into hotels and give you a feel of how the royalty lived. It has some of the largest global chains and for the budget traveller an array of guest houses. Lastly if you are a fan of Airbnb then its surely making its mark within the subcontinent and you can book some affordable accommodations in Jaipur though it. You can either choose to stay in the old city or the more new and developed part. We went with one of our favourites the Hilton which was not too far from the old city and a relatively new property.
Hilton Jaipur – You can find a detailed review about the Hilton Jaipur and all it has to offer in the link below. The Hilton Jaipur has a great location in the city centre, minutes away from most of the famous attractions and offers an ideal base for both leisure and business travellers. The hotel offers impeccable service extended by an experienced and skilled team and honestly I could not have asked for more.
After doing some research we planned an early start for 2 main reasons. First to avoid the traffic jams that are common in high tourist seasons and long ques to get inside the fort and second was not to miss the mush desired elephant ride which takes you to the top of the fort.
A nice breakfast at our hotel and we headed to Amer Fort. I must say starting early did help and the journey thought the old city was a breeze.
Amer Fort is a located in the town of Amer, roughly 11 kilometres from the capital with an area of 4 square kilometres. Located high on a hill, it is tone of the most popular tourist attraction in Jaipur.
Once the capital of Jaipur, the fort was the residence of its rulers. Built by the famous Maharaja Man Singh I, its construction started in 1592 on the remains of an 11th-century fort. Successive rulers added to Fort before moving the capital to Jaipur in 1727. Declared as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2013 its architecture is a fusion of Mughal and Rajput art.
Amer Fort is open daily from 8 am to 5:30 p.m. and tickets can be purchased at the entrance or online and are valid for two days which include entry to Amber Fort, Nahargarh Fort, Hawa Mahal, Jantar Mantar and Albert Hall Museum. It is a good idea to hire a guide which cost us INR 500 and he helped us get tickets and arrange for our ride to the top of the hill. You can reach the fort which is on top of the hill by walking uphill, riding on elephant back, jeep or take your vehicle.
A popular way and one which we chose was to ride on an elephant from the car park to the main courtyard of the fort on the top of the hill. However, due to concerns over the welfare of the elephants there are limited rides each elephant can do from 8 in the mornings until 11 so arrive early to enjoy it and reach the fort like Royalty did. The prices have been fixed by the government so you don’t need to negotiate and your guide can help you arrange this as well.
Primarily made out of sandstone and marble, Amer Fort internally has courtyards, palaces, halls, and gardens. The primary courtyard where you get off the elephant is Jaleb Chowk where the king’s soldiers assembled. Moving on from the main square you’ll reach the second courtyard that houses the Diwan-e-Aam followed by the Diwan-e-Khas where the king’s private quarters were located.
One of the most fascinating aspect of the fort is the Sheesh Mahal covered in intricate mirror work, using glass imported from Belgium. The other building which includes a beautiful garden is Sukh Niwas or place of pleasure where the king relaxed with his ladies.
The fort also houses another small Palace of Mann Singh, one of the oldest parts of the fort and this was completed in 1599.
You can step back in time with the sound and light show every evening which tells you the history of Amer Fort and its rulers.
Lunch at LMB.
After spending most of the morning at Amer Fort we headed to the old city and lunch at the famous Laxmi Misthan Bhandar or LMB as it is called by the locals. Established in 1954, it is located in Johari Bazar and consists of a sweetshop, restaurant and hotel which is said to be the first three star hotel in Rajasthan.
LMB is one of the most famous restaurant and sweetshop in Jaipur and serves pure vegetarian food including the Rajasthani thali and Dal bati churma a Rajasthani speciality. LMB is popular with both locals and tourists and you might have to wait for a table so get there early to avoid the lunch time rush.
After a delicious thali and the Kulfi it was time to hit the streets of the pink city and Hawa Mahal the most iconic building in Jaipur.
It’s worth slipping into the side streets where you can find local artisans and traders who keep the city ticking and give you a feel of old Jaipur. A great place to get some bargains and shop for some authentic Rajasthani fabrics.
Just a short walk away is the Hawa Mahal or Palace of Winds. This was built in 1799 to allow the women of the royal families to be able to watch any processions and activities on the street without being seen by the public.
It has 953 windows on the outside walls and is the shape of a honeycomb with beautifully carved windows that allow breeze to blow through the palace making it the perfect summer palace. It was built as an extension to the City Palace.
You can easily spend a few hours walking through the old city and if you fancy shopping some Jewellery then make sure to visit Gem Palace an attraction itself. Owned by a family of jewellers that once served the royal family it is a now down to the eight generation that runs this shop.
After a long day we headed back to the hotel for some well-deserved rest.
Evening at Steam
Jaipur offers a wide variety of Palace hotels and eateries but one I would highly recommend is Steam at the Taj Rambagh Palace Hotel. Located within the premises of the hotel the restaurant is recreated inside a steam engine restored from the colonial period and a Victorian station. The interiors are very comfortable and set in a royal setting, while the outdoor seating is very relaxed and contemporary.
One of Jaipur’s best and offers Mediterranean cuisines along with a selection of drinks from its bar. Steam offers some delicious variety of pizzas and make sure to book well in advance. It was definitely a unique experience and a great way to end the day.
A more relaxed start today and after a nice breakfast we set out to visit the magnificent City Palace and Jantar Mantar followed by a trip in the evening to Chowki Dhani.
Royalty and the City Palace
The City Palace of Jaipur gives you a reflection of the royal family and what it would have been in all its glory. Jaipur still has a sovereign and parts of the City Palace consist of a fully operational palace with the flag of the royal family hoisted when the Maharaja is in residence.
A blend of Rajasthani and Mughal architecture and construction dating back to the early twentieth century. Just behind the main courtyard is the towering seven floor Chandra Mahal that houses the royal family. It is totally worth every penny to buy an exclusive access to the Chandra Mahal with a personal guide that gives you an insight to the palace and its royalty. The tour costs INR 2,500 and lasts for an hour.
Chandra Mahal is the most commanding building in the City Palace complex. It is a seven-storeyed building and each floor has been given a specific name such as the Sukh-Niwas, Ranga-Mandir, Pitam-Niwas, Chabi-Niwas, Shri-Niwas and Mukut-Mandir or Mukut Mahal. It contains many unique paintings, mirror work on walls and floral decorations.
You end the tour in the main hall on the ground floor where the Sovereign still entertains his guests. The ornate dining room has chairs with silver lions and walls painted with gold dust and extracts of rubies and emeralds.
You also get access into the museum with royal costumes and the main courtyard which displays the much talked about silver earn that carried water from the Ganges for the Maharaja when he went to London in 1902 for Edward VII’s coronation.
One of the most stunning parts of the City Palace is the Peacock Gate located in a small courtyard known as Pritam Niwas Chowk . The Chowk has four colourful painted doorways with each of them representing a different season. The magnificent Peacock Gate is dedicated to fall/autumn and Lord Vishnu.
There is a very informative website that gives you details of the Royalty of Jaipur and I really enjoyed it. Royal Jaipur.
A short walk from the City Palace and you reach Jantar Mantar a collection of nineteen architectural astronomical instruments built by the Rajput king Sawai Jai Singh II. This also houses the world’s largest stone sundial and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The instruments allow the observation of astronomical positions with the naked eye. The monument expresses architectural innovations, as well as the coming together of ideas from different religious and social beliefs in 18th-century India.
Evening in Chowki Dhani.
We planned to spend our last evening in Jaipur at Chokhi Dhani which is synonymous with a Rajasthani village themed hospitality and offers some great entertainment and dining experience.
Roughly an hours drive from the city centre Chokhi Dhani is a concept capturing the vibrant spirit of a Rajasthan village and ensuring a perfect Rajasthani experience. It is based on a Rajasthani village and consists of shops, street performers women in traditional costumes and also a few rides.
Their aim is to preserve and encourage the village art and culture and to give the new generation a closer look at the roots and see the Indian village life.
They have a great dining experience which includes a traditional sit down thali experience or the multi cuisines restaurant. a great way to spend the evening and keep the kids occupied.
Last stop Bar Palladio.
After 2 hectic days it was time to wind down and reminisce all the great time spent in this city and there could not have been a better place to do this than Bar Palladio.
It is located within the grounds of the Palace Niwas Hotel and was quite easy to locate thanks to Uber. It is set in a garden house with a dramatic blue interiors, a reflection of the City Palace and and canopied tables in the garden and bonfires. It is inspired by Italian Renaissance design mixed with Mughal architecture and the most beautiful setting for an evening combined with some great Italian food and fancy cocktails from its ornate bar.
The vibrant blue colours of the décor the sparkle of the chandeliers and the candle light garden set the tone for the perfect end to our trip to Jaipur.
There is a lot more you can see and do in and around Jaipur but this was how we enjoyed the best the city has to offer. I have added below some of the other attractions and trips you can take.
Must Do and See
- Treat yourself to the famous kulfi of Jaipur at Pandit Kulfi.
- Get lost in the streets of the old city on a self-guided walking tour.
- Drive down to the Shekhawati region the world’s largest open air art gallery.
- Go back in time and spend a night in one of the many hawelis that have been converted into hotels.
- Walk into the narrow lanes from Panch Batti circle.
- Shop for local art and clothing at Anokhi.
- Splash some cash at Juneja Art Gallery for contemporary art and jewellery.
- Walk through the Ajmeri and Sanganeri Gate in the old town and marvel at the pink architecture.
- Walk the streets of Jaipur’s Old Bazaars and crack a bargain at the Johari Bazaar.
- Ride on the back on an elephant to Amer Fort.
- Watch a Bollywood film at the old world Raj Mandir cinema.
- Sip a cocktail at Bar Palladio.
- Cook with a local family and learn how to make a Rajasthani meal.
- Learn all about block printing the ancient way printing on fabric.
- Catch a glimpse of Jal Mahal on your way to Amer Fort.
- Take a guided tour of Chandra Mahal and admire the royal family home and its treasures.
- Find your way out of Jantar Mantar.
- Treat yourself to an evening meal in the luxury of a vintage train carriage @ Steam.
- Spend an evening at Chowki Dhani
- Tour the Albert Hall Museum.
- Enjoy a thali at Laxmi Mishtan Bhandar.
- Strike a pose in front of the Hawa Mahal, or Palace of the Winds.
- Get some beautiful views from Nahargarh fort.