Inspired by Jaipur's intoxicating mix of architectural splendour, old world craft and new world energy, British brand consultant, Rosanna Falconer, moved to Jaipur in 2022. She shares her tips for a magical trip to Rajasthan's Pink City.
I first visited Jaipur on honeymoon five years ago, and it hit me straightaway. 'Hit' feels the only word appropriate: from its heady scents to its dawn-to-dusk harmonies of trains, tuk tuks and peacock calls, this is a city that rushes at you, in the most energising, stimulating way. I was addicted from that first moment, and Jaipur remains the most inspiring, exciting city I know. So much so that, five months ago, our family moved here - a serendipitous happenstance of job moves and a house renovation.
The city is flourishing, from the entrepreneurial spirit of a new generation, to Jaipur's long-established, iconic businesses and crafts, which are benefiting from a resurgence in tourism. H.H. Maharaja Sawai Padmanabh ‘Pacho’ Singh, 24, is brilliantly in tune with the modern traveller; part of the City Palace is available on AirBnB with proceeds going to his mother's non-profit, The Princess Diya Kumari Foundation. Meanwhile the local government is making strides in prioritising green space and cleaner air.
The Pink City, the Paris of India, romantic clichés abound over this city. After five months of living here, for me, they are true. These are my Jaipur favorites.
Where to Stay
Villa Palladio: Twenty-five minutes outside the city, this boutique hotel feels a world away. Founder, Barbara Miolini, and creative director, Marie-Anne Oudejans, have created a wonderland: towered rooms, frescoed suites, all depicted in every shade of red and encased by grounds full of roses, organic vegetables and topiary.
Rajmahal Palace: Once the home of Maharaja Sawai Man Singh and Maharini Gayatri Devi, this hotel still belongs to Jaipur's royal family. Its pastel Art Deco design is the stuff of fantasy, with pink-turbaned waiters foreseeing your every whim.
Samode Haveli: This 18th-century family haveli is right in the heart of the Old City but its courtyards and gardens are serenity itself, with birdsong, fountains and the call to prayer the only soundtrack to your stay. Request the Sheesh Mahal suite - the walls are adorned with 200-year-old hand-painted murals and mirror work highlighted in gold and rubies - and don't forget to try the signature date and jaggery ice cream.
Amanbagh: Amanbagh translates as peaceful garden, which is blissfully true of this hotel 90 minutes from the city. The interiors are exquisite and an ode to the local area: sandstone in Jaipur pink, jade marble from Udaipur and polished wood. Rise early for the dawn walk to the local village of Ajabgarh; you’ll pass mustard fields, goat herds and women in brightly colored shawls, all lit by sunrise through the Aravalli Hills.
Where to Eat & Drink
Bar Palladio: The first stroke of brilliance from dynamic duo Barbara Miolini and Marie-Anne Oudejans; it has Amalfi coast style with Rajasthani flair. Blue is the color: from the iconic floral frescoes to the canopied daybeds in the courtyards. It's always buzzing from 4pm each day or Sundays have a quieter family vibe.
Polo Bar, Rambagh Palace Hotel: Hands down the best martinis in town. The decor is an ode to the city's royal sport, and the hotel itself is a former hunting lodge of the Maharajah of Jaipur. Arrive before sunset and begin with tea on the verandah while you watch the hotel’s peacocks strutting through the 47-acre gardens.
Wind View Cafe: The masala chai here is as caffeinated as it is sweet - delicious. But most of all, come here for the view. From a seat on the terrace you will have a breathtaking view of the Pink City's iconic Hawa Mahal (Wind Palace).
Spice Court: The best Rajasthani cuisine I've found, recommended by friends who've been going since it opened in 2004. They go for the baked keema baati with gravy, while I love the dal panchratan. Ask for a table in the bougainvillea-lined garden and pick up some caramel brownies from Dzurt next door.
Half Light Coffee House: Masala chai across the city has a real caffeine kick but sometimes only coffee will do. The espresso here is the best around. They source Indian specialty arabica directly from farmers in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
Where to Shop
Royale Treasurers: A treasure trove of furniture and art, which truly merits its name. Very much off the tourist trail, it's located in Civil Lines (the neighbourhood of the Chief Minister). Every corner is filled with unique artefacts sourced across India. These are the talking points that will bring delight to your house.
The Gem Palace: No visit to Jaipur would be complete without visiting The Gem Palace, established in 1872 and now in its 9th generation of the Kasliwal family. Ask to see their personal collection, including the 300-carat rose cut diamond necklace and sapphire poison ring, all kept in a hot pink room by Marie-Anne Oudejans.
IDLI: Thierry Journo is an artist in its truest sense; all of the designs at IDLI are by him - from fashion to home - with his fantastical illustrations adorning the walls, cushions and stationery. This year, he's collaborated with iconic Indian brand Good Earth; head to their store at Rajmahal Palace to find this painterly collection.
Anokhi: The ancient art of block printing has been passed down through generations here in Jaipur; the most famous purveyor of this technique is Anokhi, with everything from childrenswear to bedspreads. Stop by their organic cafe next to the store (I recommend the corn fritters and vegan chocolate cake).
Vasansi Jaipur: If it's saris and lehengas you seek, head straight to Vasansi Jaipur, a family-owned brand that goes back seven generations. Uniquely, they cover every element of the garment’s journey in-house, from design to dyeing and embroidery.
Amrapali Jewels: The archival collection of globally renowned Amrapali Jewels is so esteemed it is now showcased in a five-year established museum, the first and only museum for Indian ethnic jewellery. It's the result of 40 years of meticulous collection from Amrapali's co-founders, Rajiv Arora and Rajesh Ajmera.
What to See & Do
City Palace: To really experience this 18th-century palace, buy a Royal Splendour ticket, which includes a guided tour of the Chandra Mahal (private quarters). There you'll find the Shobha Niwas (Hall of Beauty) with its walls lavishly embellished with mirrors and real gold leaf. On the floor above, you'll find the Chhavi Niwas (Hall of Images) with its beautifully preserved blue and white frescoes.
Old City Dawn Walk: Begin at the Phool Mandi (flower market) where the air is sweet with the scent of roses and marigolds ready to be strung into garlands or used in rangoli. Ensure you arrive at Govind Dev Ji temple in time for the Aarti ceremony (timings change with the sunrise so ask locally).
Amber Fort: This fort and its palace rise like a golden mirage 11km outside of the city. Look out (and up!) for the immaculately preserved frescoes on the sandstone of its Ganesh Pol and glittering Sheesh Mahal, which was completed in 1727. It is a tourist hotspot so two tips: arrive for opening (8am) and you will have the place to yourself; the elephants that carry tourists are awe-inspiring, but opt for the 10-minute walk up the ramparts as their welfare has been called into question.
Nahargarh Fort: Amber is the fort everyone talks about, but the fresco colors of Nahargarh are inspired: pink, sandstone, mushroom and turmeric yellow in the Queen's quarters. The panoramic views from the roof are the best in the city. For the energetic, the trio (Amber, Jaigarh and Nahargarh) can be visited in one day.