Known as its pink capital, Jaipur is also Rajasthan’s largest city. The cityscape is so beautiful that it’s no wonder models, fashion editors, designers, and style lovers alike have become completely intoxicated by its charm. It’s full of terra-cotta pink hues, centuries-old palaces, sandstone forts, and decadent Mughal havelis. As of late, the old city has been rejuvenated by the alchemy of new innovation. Ancient palaces and havelis are becoming hotels and restaurants, giving visitors the opportunity to live like a maharaja. With Jaipur also being a major international hub for the gem and textile industries, tourists are flocking to the city to buy emeralds, sapphires, rubies, and diamonds by the dozen. So, seeing a pink city, staying in lavish palaces, and returning home with a fistful of diamonds—what did you say your dream trip looked like again?
Where to Stay
If you’ve ever dreamed of waking up in a Wes Anderson movie, stay at Suján Rajmahal Palace Hotel. Recently redecorated by acclaimed designer Adil Ahmad, the three-century-old residence was originally built by Jaipur’s Maharaja as a garden retreat for his wife. Today, it features an art deco pool and flamboyant interiors in pastel, retro hues, with dozens of custom-made wallpapers that capture the history of Rajasthan with every unique print.
Jaipur’s heritage is also evident on the walls of the 32-acre resort The Oberoi Rajvilas, as it was built to mirror a Mughal emperor’s walled palace. With elephants and peacocks roaming the property among the many fountains and 250-year-old temple garden, every detail at the The Oberoi Rajvillas is a portrayal of decadence.
300-year-old Samode Haveli is a hotel that maintains much of its Rajasthan heritage, starting with its family name. Reserve room 115 for a truly authentic stay; it’s the hotel’s very own Sheesh Mahal (palace of mirrors).
What to Do
A visit to the Pink City is what you came for, so start there. One of the first things you’ll spot is the terra-cotta pink building shaped like a honeycomb, known as Hawa Mahal, the two-century-old Mughal landmark built by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh as an extension of the City Palace. Next, take an early morning walk through the busy, yet wonderfully fragrant, flower market, Phool Mandi, where heaps of colorful tuberoses and roses are sold out of sacks and saris. Finally, you’ll arrive at the heart of the Pink City, the City Palace. The palace was built between 1729 and 1732, Sawai Jai Singh II, who was the ruler of the then-called kingdom of Amber. The beauty of the palace is a decadent fusion of the Mughal and Rajput architecture that defines each of its rooms. The Sukh Niwas Blue Room is among the many highlights.
Atop a hill overlooking Maota Lake in Amber, a town 11 kilometers from Jaipur, sits the Amber Fort, which you can climb by way of elephants if you arrive between 9:00 and 11:30 a.m. The Amber Fort is known for its Hindu architecture and artistic elements, and while it was built some 200 years before the City Palace, it is no less opulent. Sheesh Mahal, the palace’s hall of mirrors, was designed so that it can be lit up with a single ray of natural light reflecting off its mirrored or glass tiles.
A visit to Jaipur would not be complete without a shopping trip to the local trades. Jaipur has maintained its centuries-old handmade artisanal practices at a time when most cities have migrated to machinery. Your first stop should be the Gem Palace, which has become more of an institution than just a jewelry store. The Kasliwal family has designed jewels for emperors, kings, queens, and celebrities across nine generations, and their two-story emporium of hand-cut gems (made in-house on the second floor) more than exemplifies this. Next, visit family-run Ridhi Sidhi Textiles to stock up on all of the best block prints. From clothing and accessories to home furnishings, you’ll walk away with a piece of one of Jaipur’s ancient crafts for everyone on your list. To get a closer look at block printing, take a Studio Bagru tour of Bagru Village, a place that’s famous for its expertise in block carving, dyeing, washing, and printing. A Studio Bagru tour will educate you about the history and process of this age-old practice, where you’ll get to watch master artisans at work and eventually create your own piece to take home with you. For a more mainstream shopping experience, visit the shopping complex at Hotel Narain Niwas Palace. There, you’ll find such local favorites as Idli Boutique, which carries clothing, accessories, and home furnishings designed by larger-than-life French designer Thierry Journo, who combines traditional Indian practices with beautifully modern silhouettes. Also in the complex is Hot Pink, a shop showcasing a colorful assortment of contemporary Indian designers.
Where to Eat and Drink
For a quick healthy snack or lunch between sightseeing and shopping, stop into local favorite Anokhi Café for organic bites in a laid-back environment. While you won’t find Indian food there, you can enjoy a chai tea or an assortment of vegetarian options; all the produce is grown locally at Anokhi farm. (Don’t miss their shop next door.) Another casual reprieve is Caffé Palladio. The international fare is good, but it’s the whimsical backdrop of bird, butterfly, and palm tree chinoiserie murals that you must go for. Bar Palladio, its sister restaurant directly across the street, is less flamboyant with its cerulean blue color scheme and block prints but equally as chic a spot, and best in the evening for drinks or dinner. Head over to Rambagh Palace for high tea in an idyllic Indian setting. Take a table on their lawn and watch the sunset while sipping tea or champagne with an assortment of delicious desserts served on a decadent three-tier display. The setting and service is a winning combination.