The enthralling, historical city of Jaipur is the gateway to India’s most flamboyant state, Rajasthan. The city’s colourful streets ebb and flow with a heady brew of old and new. The splendours of Jaipur’s majestic past are islands of relative calm, evoking a different pace and another world. Dive into the city’s splendid experiences as it has vast offerings.
The Old City (often referred to as the Pink City) is both a marvel of 18th-century town planning, and a place you could spend days exploring, for it’s the beating heart of Jaipur. Avenues divide the Pink City into neat rectangles, each specialising in certain crafts. The main bazaars in the Old City include Johari Bazaar, Tripolia Bazaar, Bapu Bazaar and Chandpol Bazaar.
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A complex of courtyards, gardens and buildings, the impressive City Palace is right in the centre of the Old City. The outer wall was built by Jai Singh II, but within it the palace has been enlarged and adapted over the centuries. There are palace buildings from different eras, some dating from the early 20th century. It is a striking blend of Rajasthani and Mughal architecture.
Adjacent to the City Palace is Jantar Mantar, an observatory begun by Jai Singh II in 1728 that resembles a collection of bizarre giant sculptures. Built for measuring the heavens, the name is derived from the Sanskrit yanta mantr, meaning ‘instrument of calculation’, and in 2010 it was added to India’s list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Jaipur’s most distinctive landmark, the Hawa Mahal is an extraordinary pink-painted delicately honeycombed hive that rises a dizzying five storeys. It was constructed in 1799 by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh to enable ladies of the royal household to watch the life and processions of the city. The top offers stunning views over Jantar Mantar and the City Palace in one direction and over Sireh Deori Bazaar in the other. There’s a small museum with miniature paintings and some rich relics, such as ceremonial armour, which help evoke the royal past.
This museum is housed in the spectacularly florid Albert Hall, south of the Old City. The building was designed by Sir Swinton Jacob, and combines elements of English and North Indian architecture, as well as huge friezes celebrating the world’s great cultures. The grand old building hosts an eclectic array of tribal dress, dioramas, sculptures, miniature paintings, carpets, musical instruments and even an Egyptian mummy.
Built in 1734 and extended in 1868, this sturdy fort overlooks the city from a sheer ridge to the north. The story goes that the fort was named after Nahar Singh, a dead prince whose restless spirit was disrupting construction. Whatever was built in the day crumbled in the night. The prince agreed to leave on condition that the fort was named for him. The views are glorious and there’s a restaurant that’s perfect for a beer.
The magnificent honey-hued fort-palace of Amer rises from a rocky mountainside about 11km from Jaipur. You can trudge up or reach via a jeep or elephant ride. If you walk or ride an elephant up, you will enter through Suraj Pol, which leads to Jaleb Chowk, where returning armies would display their war booty to the populace. If you arrive by car you will enter through Chand Pol. Jaleb Chowk leads either to the main palace, to the small Siladevi Temple, on the right, or to the second courtyard and the Diwan-i-Am, with its double row of columns, each topped by a capital in the shape of an elephant.