October 30, 2018
Oh the pink city – Jaipur – yes we love it. And when we say love it – we mean LOVE it.
Jaipur has catapulted to the top of our list of the must see places in India. It’s a place we are spending more and more time and longer and longer stays.
The capital of Rajasthan, Jaipur is known as the ‘Pink City’ because of the pink paint applied to the buildings in its old walled town. (Though in fact it’s more of a terracotta colour really.) The city was named after its founder, the warrior and astronomer sovereign, Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh who ruled from 1688 to 1744. Begun in 1727 and completed in just eight years, Jaipur was planned according to the principles laid down in the “Shilpa Shastra”, an ancient Indian treatise on architecture. Originally built within high crenelated walls (though it has expanded outside of the original walls over time) the city was divided into nine sectors, or chokris, each named after the caste who lived and practiced their specific skills there.
Architecturally interesting, and steeped in history and culture, the past comes alive here in magnificent forts and palaces, once the habitats of maharajas
So what is there to see and do in Jaipur?
There are mighty forts, grand palaces (and some of them you can stay in), contemporary and traditional dining, and good shopping. Sound interesting?
Jaipur is one of the better-known cities of India – it’s well visited and forms one of the main stops in Golden Triangle Tours in India – and because of that it can also be busy with visitors during peak seasons. It’s well visited though also because there’s a lot to see and experience in Jaipur.
Before we get to our list of the top things to see in Jaipur – let’s touch on when is the best time to visit Jaipur?
When to visit Jaipur depends on who you ask – on what sort of weather you like and how you like travel.
Jaipur, and Rajasthan in general, is popular with visitors in December and January for its cooler weather – days in the high 20s and at night cooler temperatures means you need a jumper and light jacket. Most people find this time of year pleasant, but then its busier with tourists and visitors. For us personally we love Jaipur in April/May and September. At this time of year it’s hot – but to us that adds to our experience of Jaipur and we love the warmer weather. Rajasthan has an arid landscape and the heat of Jaipur’s summer sits with the picture of the environment.
To beat the heat travelling in the hotter months, we generally start early and do one activity up until just after lunch and then retreat to the hotel to swim and relax. (Regular readers of our blogs by now have worked out we like slow travel – travel where we do one activity per day and in the afternoon swim, hang out at the hotel, go for high tea etc. We like a holiday to be a holiday and we like to enjoy the facilities when we are at a `good hotel.’ And we are often travelling with children in India – which means not doing back-to-back sightseeing everyday. ) In the hotter months, you will find cities like Jaipur attract fewer visitors and we also like that. When you travel though depends on what weather conditions suit you best and when you can get away. We will provide more information about the weather in India, when is the best time of year to travel in Rajasthan and take into account regional weather factors when we plan your customized India holiday.
Here is our list of some of the recommended activities you can do in Jaipur, all based on first-hand experience and research. In no particular order –
# 1 Amber Fort
Rajasthan is known for its mighty forts and grand palaces. Whether you are exploring Rajasthan in depth or making a short visit by taking a tour of the Golden Triangle, a visit to one of the state’s forts is a must. Few can resist being impressed by the sheer size of the forts in places including Jaipur and Jodhpur. Amber Fort is located a short drive outside of the city of Jaipur. Start early to beat either the heat (if you are visiting in summer) or the crowds (during peak tourist months.) This spectacular fort dates back to 1592. It was once the citadel of the Kachhawah rulers before they moved their capital to Jaipur in 1727.
There are two options for making the ascent up the winding fort road; by jeep or atop an elephant. Please note – our standard practice is that we only include the jeep ride in our private tours as we are concerned about the treatment and care of the elephants used in this activity. Should you wish us to include the elephant ride in your private tour of India, including Rajasthan and Jaipur, please request it specifically.
Once inside you’ll note how incredibly well preserved the fort is. Don’t miss Elephant Pol (Elephant Gate) and the lovely Palace of Mirrors inside – two of the palace’s big draw cards. A visit to Amber Fort will easily take half a day – especially if you factor in the travel time.
#2 City Palace and Hawa Mahal
Inside Jaipur’s old city two of the big-ticket attractions are City Palace and Hawa Mahal.
The magnificent City Palace is a sprawling complex showcasing both Rajput and Moghul architecture, with an interesting museum detailing the rich heritage of Jaipur’s royal family with its collection if weapons, miniature paintings, textiles and books.
Hawa Mahal, or the Palace of the Wind, is not only a key city landmark, but an icon of the city. Some people only make time to see it from the outside, but we think it’s worth seeing from the inside – it will (literally) give you an entirely different perspective of the pink city and Jaipur’s main market area.
#3 Jantar Mantar
Jantar Mantar in Jaipur tops our personal list of the best things to see and do in Jaipur. We visit it every time we are in the pink city. Jaipur’s founder Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh had a passion for astronomy and hence the construction of these towering yellow, astrological instruments. They are striking to see if you have never seen such instruments before, and given modern technology and the tools available to astronomers now – the size of Jantar Mantar allows you to imagine even just a little bit, just how different life once was.
#4 Market Walking tour in Jaipur
India is best experienced from the street level – not from a bus window. If you travel with us on a private tour or one of the small group tours from our sister brand Remarkable East, one thing you will notice is we like to recommend and include city walking tours for our travellers. We believe this is one of the best ways to get to know a city – you will be introduce to small by-lanes and local communities you can’t discover from a bus or from just visiting the main attractions and sights. It also gives you the chance to interact with a passionate and knowledge local guide, who can reveal the everyday small details of a city, as well as provide you with the perspective of a place away from the historical details. They often are a font of knowledge too – so can give you tips on other places to visit or things to see in their home cities.
In Jaipur – our city walk and market visit will reveal to you the ancient arts and craftsmen of the city that were once favoured by Jaipur’s royal rules – see the small silversmiths, the papermakers producing wedding invitations and the makers of bangles. You’ll also stop to try some of the best (and safe) local street snacks – sample India’s famous tea – the spiced, milky, sweet chai; taste aloo tikki – a potato patty cooked on the open grill; and of course – Jaipur’s best kulfi. (a type of ice cream).
#5 Shop in the main market
Jaipur’s bustling city bazaar is one of the best local markets in India. You can easily spend a few hours here – shopping, exploring the small market stalls and bustling alleyways. The market extends all around the city – there are blocks and blocks and blocks of it inside the painted pink walled city. Most people tend to visit the central part around Hawa Mahal as it is more convenient with the main sightseeing. Be prepared to bargain whatever you buy and don’t be afraid to walk away. The merchants are used to tourists in Jaipur and so will definitely try it on – particularly around the stores near Hawa Mahal. Still, the bargaining is half the fun if you are up for it and are comfortable to walk away if you don’t want to pay the price. Equally, if you are happy to pay what a merchant asks then do so. Remember what is just a few dollars for us can go along way in someone else’s pocket in India. Some of the things you can buy include the distinct Jaipur leather slippers, leather bags, locally hand-stitched bed covers, block printed clothing, copper pots and brassware, temple bells and trinkets, and of course bangles! Plus many more souvenirs and everyday items. We really do love to explore this market, so do give yourself a little time for a poke around.
#6 See a Bollywood Movie at Raj Mandir
There are two things you’ll find most Indians have in common – a love of cricket and Bollywood movies. It’s hard to describe Bollywood movies to the uninitiated – there’s the singing and highly choreographed dancing. But then there’s also the – wait for it – the moment the male lead rips of his shirt and reveals his fully toned torso – the beautiful costumes, the pent up tension between the male and female leads, etc. Get the picture? But more than that is the crowd and their involvement in the film – the whistling, the cheering, the talking on the mobile phones during the film, the endless eating, the intermission and possibly the national anthem at the start of the film. Going to a Bollywood movie in India is quite the experience – not just for the theatrics of the movie itself but to be part of the audience. There’s no better place to see a Bollywood film than Raj Mandir in Jaipur – an art deco cinema masterpiece. It’s worth buying a ticket just to go inside this pink architectural delight and see the sweeping staircase and grand chandeliers inside. The tickets are relatively inexpensive so while the movie is not likely to be in English – if you can let yourself be caught up in the experience stay for the movie. It will be something you won’t forget. (You can always leave halfway.)
#7 Try a Block printing course in Jaipur
Jaipur is famous for hand-block printed textiles and indigo dying. And you’ll see plenty of it around town – lovely fabrics with various patterns and shapes that have been printed and dyed by hand using wooden blocs. This is one of the crafts of India we hope never dies or gets taken over by machinery. We are slowly and surely gathering an impressive collection of home wares (bedcovers and table clothes) and garments (dress, tops, scarves) featuring a range of designs and a rainbow of colours. If you want to try your hand at block printing there are a number of workshops you can join about 45 minutes outside of town at a place called Bagru – one of the centres of block printing in India. We recently joined a day course with Studio Bagru – hand block printing our own tote bags and learning more about this traditional craft and area. (This again is another great activity that works when travelling with children in India.) A hands-on activity such as this is a great change from sightseeing and helps you to gain a deeper insight into one particular part of a culture and tradition.
#8 Visit the Anokhi Museum
Textile enthusiast should plan to visit the Anokhi Museum during their stay in Jaipur. Anokhi is synonymous with block printing in Jaipur. If you are planning to do a block-printing course (see above) visiting the Anokhi Museum either before or after will give you some historical context about block printing in Jaipur and India. It’s a little out of town so make sure to plan your itinerary before hand to include it with other sights near the area so you don’t waste too much of your Jaipur time in the car. More details about the museum can be found here.
#9 Lunch at Anokhi Cafe
Aside from the museum – Anokhi is known for its boutiques pan India, with one of the biggest and best being in Jaipur. On top of that they run an excellent café in Jaipur. Depending which stage of your private tour of India you are at – the very start or the very end – and your enthusiasm for Indian food – chances are you might be ready and keen for a lighter, western style lunch once you reach Jaipur. Anokhi Café is our daily lunch stop when we are in Jaipur – a place where you can get a salad, a pasta or falafel, a sandwich and excellent coffee and cake. A welcome respite from heavy Indian meals and absolutely delicious! While you are there you can browse the Anokhi boutique – one of the biggest branches of this well known and loved store selling hand block printed fashion, home wares and jewellery. Well loved by expats, tourists and locals alike. Please note the café and store is NOT near the museum. They are at two separate locations.
#10 The best places to shop in Jaipur
While we are talking about shopping – the shopping in Jaipur is excellent. As well as the main city market where you can buy Indian handicrafts, souvenirs and everyday items and trinkets, Jaipur is home to some fabulous boutiques and stores. There are a number of newer, more modern designers and artisans that are opening stores in Jaipur using the traditional crafts of the region but with modern aesthetics. Some of the places we love to shop in Jaipur include: Anokhi, Fab India, Amarpali, Studio Kassa, and the boutiques at Narain Niwas Palace Hotel.
#11 Modern Jaipur
Still on food and shopping – two past times we do enjoy – we highly rate Jaipur Modern in the city for both. The café serves fresh, lighter western style fare (pasta, pizza, salads and a menu devoted just to quinoa!) while the boutique sells modern, well-crafted and designed apparel, home and giftwares. You would be hard visiting both the store and café and not stopping to shop and eat!
#12 Splurge on a palace hotel
Rich in royal history and mighty empires – Rajasthan is home to incredible palace hotels and restored havelis. In fact, the accommodation we use is so central to our itineraries as we believe these places will augment your experience of the city you are in. Stay in a place hotel and soak up the grandeur and excess that was once daily life for local rulers. Jaipur is home to some of the best hotels in India – particularly its luxury hotels and grand palaces. We have been fortunate enough to stay at several of them over there years – and would say that a splurge on one of these hotels in Jaipur is worth adding to your itinerary. Here are some of the best hotels in Jaipur:
Samode Haveli – At the top of our list is Samode Haveli. A traditional haveli with rooms set around beautiful courtyards and gardens, and a lovely swimming pool. The rooms are beautifully decorated with colorful furnishings and tiles – there are even the grand suites where rubies once decorated the ceilings. This luxury hotel has a lovely outdoor dining area, as well as a spa and gym. There’s sparkling wine at breakfast, incredible service and the pool is oh so refreshing in the summer months!
Rambagh Palace – One of the grand palace hotels of India operated by the Taj Hotels group – Rambagh Palace is as the name suggests – a true palace. With sweeping lawns and wide verandahs, rooms of antique and ornate furnishings, Rambagh Palace is steeped in heritage and history. The problem is you may not want to leave!
Raj Mahal Palace by SUJAN – A relatively new hotel among the palace hotels of India – Raj Mahal is a colourful and modern palace – with a pastel pink exterior and antique car in the driveway, its standout feature is the wallpaper that decorates each room of the hotel. Designed by the Adil Ahmad – known for his work with Good Earth – who has worked with the royal family on the design concept of this hotel. If you have been to the Good Earth stores in India, the hotel’s décor and furnishings feel familiar to what you find when strolling through these shops. For more details about what you can expect from a stay at Rajmahal in Jaipur read our hotel review here.
# 13 Palace hotel experience on a smaller budget
We recently stayed at Hotel Bissau Palace. It has the charm and character of the Rajput era and the feel of a palace – we would describe the atmosphere and feel as `faded glory’. But it’s certainly quaint, and gives you the experience of Rajasthan’s royal history, and it has a pool. This hotel is good for families travelling in India – the rooms/ family rooms are spacious, the hotel itself has a decent size garden and lawn area plus the pool. We really enjoyed staying here recently – though we would describe the service as Faulty Towers meets an army of aged Indian male servants. Definitely the weak point of the hotel, but the charm outweighs that……..just!
#14 Indulge on High tea in Jaipur
Holidays in India can’t all be about sightseeing and touring – there needs to be some indulging, pampering or down time. If, like us, you love afternoon tea, head to Rambagh Palace for the afternoon and spoil yourself with high tea on the verandah, overlooking the manicured palace gardens. If you can’t afford to stay at this luxury palace hotel in Jaipur, it’s a good way to get a taste of palace life and imagine yourself to be a royal for the afternoon.
# 15 Mouth-watering meals
Regardless of where you are staying – there are a couple of places worth spending extra on a meal in Jaipur. Samode Haveli (see above) serves one of the best thali meals we have probably had in all of India – besides the incredible flavours and range of dishes – the meal is served on a silver thali plate. (Wow!) Our other tip on best places to eat in Jaipur is dinner at ITC Hotels Peshawri restaurant. Tandoori meat and breads are the main items to savour here, but nothing beats the slow cooked, incredibly rich and flavour-packed Bukhara dal. Both these options will give you a taste of the best of Indian cuisine and dining.
#16 Visit an NGO
There are several places in India where we support community projects or where there are specific communities we are involved with on issues from education to sport and women’s health. For clients who wish to see some of our community work, engage with local communities who are doing some incredible work to improve the lives of others around them or for example, to travel with a little more meaning, we are happy to arrange for you to visit an NGO and learn a little more about some of the daily challenges that face Indians everyday. Naya Sawera in Jaipur in one such NGO we are proud to support – for the incredible work they are doing on women’s health. You can read more about their work and our involvement with them here. In September we visited Naya Sawera again and saw the sanitary pad machine in action. What a privilege for us and what outstanding work they are doing!
#17 Let’s go fly a kite ……
Each year Jaipur is home to an International Kite Festival. The skies will be crowded with kites at this time, but throughout the year you will still see young boys and girls flying paper kites on roof tops and in parks. In the main market you will find small stores selling beautiful handmade, colourful paper kites in a range of sizes and the colourful spools of string to fly them with. These paper kites start at as little as 20 cents. If you are on a family travel in India and there’s even the faintest of breezes – head to the market and buy a stack of these inexpensive treats and find a place in Jaipur to fly them. (Buy many as you are sure to crash/tear them in your efforts to launch them into the air.) Many hotels will have rooftops or gardens where you can try your hand at kite flying in Jaipur. If you don’t have any experience flying a kite you won’t be stuck for help – there will easily be one or two experienced and enthusiastic kite flyers at your hotel willing to help.
Other festivals Jaipur is also known for include the Jaipur Literature Festival.
#18 Uncover the secrets of Indian cooking
If your tour of India hasn’t already introduced you to Indian kitchens and their culinary secrets – visit one of our favourite havelis in Jaipur where the warm and welcoming hosts will guide you through a cooking class, followed by lunch. You’ll have some new recipes to impress your friends with when you return from your holidays and at the same time, have the chance to interact with some interesting local people.
#19 See your future
For those taken by the mystical and the unknown, for a light-hearted and fun evening, Taj’s Rambagh Palace offers palm reading services most evenings on the verandah of the hotel. The hotel’s palm reader has decades of experience and there’s quite a magical feeling about the experience – sitting outside under the stars, music playing in the background, the reader’s antique magnifying glass. Something a little different during your holiday. You can read our experience of having our palm read in Jaipur here.
#20 Step back in photo time
Have your photo taken by a more than centuries old black and white camera. Not far from Hawa Mahal you’ll find Mr. Tikam Chand with his street-side studio, taking photos with his antique, though still functioning, black and white camera. Originally used by his grandfather, the 150-year-old German-made camera still works and you can pose for a picture and watch it develop. You’ll get both your negative and positive image, all processed in a bucket of water in front of you. A great thing to do with children, who find the process fascinating! The photo makes a great souvenir from Jaipur and a family portrait with a twist.
#21 Visit the city’s wholesale milk market
Start early and head first to see the city’s lively wholesale milk market. Witness where farmers and merchants travel in by bus, bike or truck, to sell freshly gathered milk in huge silver vats. Watch the buyers test the quality by sticking their hands into the milk, time and time again, making sure the milk hasn’t been watered down and see families buy large quantities of fresh milk for celebrations or simply to feed extended families. For most of us who are used to buying milk straight from the supermarket, the wholesale milk market is a real eye opener!
#22 Bar Palladio
To see where Jaipur’s hip, young, wealthy and sophisticated relax – Bar Palladio is the spot. There aren’t actually a lot of options for places to enjoy a drink in Jaipur away from the big hotels, so this is one of the best places for a night out. Besides, not only can you enjoy a drink and tapas style meals, you can also indulge in a bit of people watching at the same time!
#23 Albert Hall Museum
Depending on how much time you have and your interests – you may wish to visit Jaipur’s Albert Hall Museum. Generally most itineraries in Jaipur won’t include the museum and don’t have enough time in this fabulous city to see and do all that’s worth doing. If you are spending an extended period in Jaipur add it to your list of things to see and do in Jaipur. If you only have 2 or 3 days, there are other things we would recommend seeing first.
We hope you get a sense from this list that there is a lot to see and do in Jaipur – and this isn’t even an exhaustive list. Depending on your personal interests, we would tailor your experience in Jaipur to suit you. Jaipur is one of our favourite cities in India and one we love to share with other travellers. It’s a city we really believe you can have an extended stay at in India and one that you can explore in depth.
You may also like to read our other India travel blogs, including:
Some of our suggested itineraries that include Jaipur are:
You can also visit Jaipur on our Insights of India tour in April 2019 – a group tour of India designed for women travellers.