Endlessly fascinating and full of life, historical Jaipur is one of India’s most enthralling cities. This colourful, ‘pink’ city in the heart of Rajasthan sees old and new live side by side in delightful contrast. Picture dawdling camels and relaxed rickshaw drivers working in harmony with an elevated metro line set against a backdrop of majestic modern architecture. If you’re spending the day in Jaipur, get ready to experience flamboyant India in all its glory.
Things to see:
Make the most of your time in Jaipur, and head for these delightful highlights.
One of India’s most famous landmarks, the stunning City Palace was built by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh during his reign. A complex of courtyards, gardens and buildings, this impressive monument is located right in the centre of the Old City and acts as a veritable paradise for art and history lovers.
There are a number of different buildings to explore, the Mubarak Mahal (or Welcome Palace), is a multi-arched construction which displays a mix of Islamic European and Rajput architecture styles. Today, it contains a collection of stunning royal costumes including the clothing of Maharaja Sawai Madho Singh who was rumoured to weigh in at 40 stone and measure 2m tall by 1.2m wide!
If art is your thing, the Diwan-i-Am art gallery, is sure to please. Exhibits include a copy of the entire Bhagavad Gita (Hindu scripture) handwritten in tiny script, and miniature copies of other holy scriptures which were small enough to be easily hidden in the event of attack.
Need to know: The City Palace is open from 9.30am and should take around one and half to two hours to visit. Arrive early to see this stunning monument at its finest.
Next on the must-do list is the world-heritage-listed Amer Fort. This imposing structure overlooks the beautiful Maota lake and, although situated about eight miles away from Jaipur, is certainly worth a visit. Originally built by Rajput Raja Man Singh I as a tribute to Goddess Amba, it was modified and rebuilt by successive rulers. The elaborate courtyards, mahals and palaces with impressive carvings and inlay work accurately reflect the opulent lifestyles of the Rajput kings and are sure to leave you spellbound. Be aware that, as with most sights, this place does get very crowded, try visiting on a weekday to avoid the largest crowds. Evening entrance allows you to witness the light and sound shows (available in both English and Hindi) which detail the history of the magnificent Fort. There are handicraft stalls and shops in Amer town so be sure to pick up some authentic memorabilia and, if you are up for some exercise, the surrounding hills make for magnificent trekking experience.
Need to know: Open from 8am to 4pm for visitors, or 6pm for those wishing to see the shows. The only way to truly experience the beauty of the landmark is to walk around it, therefore comfortable shoes and clothing plus a bottle of water will come in handy.
Jantar Mantar – the world’s largest sundial
Travelling thousands of miles to see a sundial may seem like an unusual way to spend your time but Jantar Mantar is worth every second. Located in the heart of Jaipur and considered the largest sundial in the world, Jantar Mantar was built by Maharaja Jai Singh II, supposedly to help him predict his fate in upcoming wars. These days it is more widely known for its clever use of geometrical patterns but some Indian visitors will ignore their smartphones and instead consult Samrat Yantra (the 27-metre-high marble and stone sundial) whose shadow can tell the time with incredible accuracy.
Need to know: While its size and intricacy is sure to impress, you don’t need to dedicate a whole day to this monolith. An hour should suffice which will give you plenty of time for…
The old city or ‘Pink City’ is a veritable shopper’s paradise. Head to Pink City Bazaars to take in the wide range of handicrafts produced in and around the city. It is worth paying each of the four main markets a visit:
The Johari Bazar is famous for its exquisite precious gemstones. Take a look at the stunning ‘Kundan’ style jewellery which originates from the area.
The Bapu Bazar where you’ll find authentic Jaipuri textile designs is a great spot for any budding clothes designers.
Nehru Bazaar is the perfect place to pick up unusual gifts for your friends back home. Look out for the striking blue pottery on offer as well as the elaborately designed Juttis (a distinctive type of Indian footwear).
Kishanpole Bazar is known for its intricate and impeccably crafted woodwork. Look out for the tiny camels and elephants which are supposed to act as good luck charms!
Where to eat
And after a long day of sightseeing, thoughts are sure to turn to all things food. Try one of these delightful eateries to experience a slice of authentic Jaipur.
Peacock rooftop restaurant
Located near the Hathroi Fort, this multilevel rooftop restaurant at the Hotel Pearl Palace continually receives excellent reviews for its mouthwatering yet inexpensive menu (including Indian, Chinese and Continental dishes). The service is second to none and the décor is tons of fun. Try out the healthy breakfasts and tasty thalis.
In the Modikhana district, you will find this charming and diminutive outdoor restaurant. If dining al fresco is your thing, you’ll love watching the chef knock up tasty local and vegetarian dishes in full view from the open-air kitchen. Try the delicious paneer butter masala, so tasty that you won’t notice it’s meat-free!
With all the ingredients necessary for a memorable glimpse of authentic India, a day in the pink city is not to be missed. In amongst a bustling population of 3.1 million (making it India’s 10th most populated city), you’ll find pockets of historic charm evoking the relative calm of times gone by. Pay it a visit before it modernises beyond recognition.