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Varanasi, also known as Benares or Kashi, is located on the banks of the River Ganga and is considered one of the holiest cities in India. Pilgrims stream in throughout the year to take a dip in the Ganga (which is believed to wash away your sins) and to scatter the ashes of their loved ones in the river. Varanasi is just the India you've likely imagined — houses sitting cheek by jowl, saffron-clad sadhus strolling nonchalantly by, and crowded (often dirty) streets where sights, smells, and sounds assail you from every angle. While it’s certainly not for the faint-hearted, Varanasi is a sight to be seen. Whatever you do, don’t miss the Ganga aarti ritual that’s performed every evening at Dashashwamedh Ghat (a flight of steps leading into the river). Below, our favorite places to stay a night.
Best Overall: Brijrama Palace
Brijrama Palace is hands-down one of the most spectacular properties in Varanasi. Perched conveniently on Darbanga Ghat, just 500 meters from Dashashwamedh Ghat, this historic, early 19th-century sandstone palace is built in the Maratha style of architecture. The ‘Brij experience’ begins right at the outset with a boat ride that lands you at the palace steps. The interiors here are regal and crammed with antique furniture, while original 19th-century artworks grace the walls. The hotel’s 32 guestrooms and suites are sumptuously done up with hand-painted gold and silver ceilings and traditional Banarasi pure silk upholstery. Splurge on the Varuna Burj suite— located in the semi-circular turret of the palace — for stunning 180-degree views over the Ganga.
The Chota Angan restaurant is equally opulent offering a Maharaja-style dining experience surrounded by intricate blue and silver thikri (glass inlay) work; cuisine is inspired by the royal kitchens of northern India and mixed with local street food. If you're after something romantic, the hotel can also organize private riverboat dining on the Ganga while being serenaded by the temple bells along the ghats.
Best Budget: Ganpati Guest House
This cheerful guesthouse on Meer Ghat is a favorite among budget travelers to Varanasi. Located inside a 200-year-old building, Ganpati is an intimate property offering 18 en-suite air-conditioned rooms in five different categories. Apart from the Budget category, all rooms look out over the Ganga and Deluxe rooms come with private balconies as well. Rooms are spacious, clean, and fitted with basic amenities. The guesthouse’s brightly colored walls are decorated with local artworks and there are a couple of nice lounges, including a garden lounge. You also have a dedicated yoga hall at your disposal.
The open-air, multi-cuisine rooftop restaurant is a major selling point with fabulous views over the river; it’s particularly pleasant at dinnertime when the weather is cooler and the space is all lit up. The staff is quite friendly and helpful, and can arrange a reliable, government-approved tour guide to take you around the city. The guesthouse offers free Wi-Fi and several paid services like transfers to and from the railway station or airport, laundry, riverboat trips, taxi bookings, and more.
Best for Luxury: Taj Nadesar Palace Varanasi
Located in the heart of the city, Taj Nadesar Palace is an oasis of calm in noisy and chaotic Varanasi. Set amidst gardens, jasmine fields, and mango orchards, this erstwhile palace (dating back to 1835) of a local maharaja has been refurbished into a heritage hotel. Artifacts, furniture, and antique objets d’art that belonged to the royal family are showcased throughout the property. It’s a compact hotel with just 10 elegant rooms and suites, but all come with king-size four-poster beds, silk-upholstered furniture, the maharaja’s original artworks, and luxury bathtubs. The delicate, pink-hued Historical Suite is particularly splurge-worthy, but all rooms have private butler service.
The chandeliered dining room serves a mix of Indian and global cuisines. Alternatively, you can choose to sit by the pool and enjoy a live barbecue while contemplating the Baradari — a majestic marble edifice that stands in the Maharani Lawn. Ask for the hotel’s Banarasi Chai experience where local street food is served in the Nirvana Lounge as you sip on hot masala chai while seated on an elegant marble bench.
Best for Romance: Guleria Kothi
Guleria Kothi has recently undergone a revamp and come under new management; once an 18th-century riverfront house, the property has been magnificently restored into a heritage hotel. The beautiful sandstone building reflects the local architecture and is decorated with traditional artifacts. There are plenty of intimate nooks around the hotel for reading or lounging against cushions upholstered with sumptuous Banarasi silk. Each of the hotel’s 15 rooms has access to a patio with a view of the river.
Relax on Café Guleria’s sun terrace with a cup of coffee while overlooking the river, then enjoy Banarasi and other Indian delicacies at the rooftop fine-dining restaurant. Since the dining areas are outdoor, summers can be too hot and winters a bit nippy, but the restaurant arranges small fire pits all around, lending the place a rather romantic feel. The hotel offers curated experiences like folk music and dance in the courtyard, boat rides on the Ganga, a Ganga aarti experience, private guides for city tours, and more.
Best for Families: Ramada Plaza JHV Varanasi
Situated in the Cantonment area of Varanasi, right by the Varuna River, Ramada Plaza offers 120 rooms and suites done up in earthy tones with wood- and silk-paneled walls. Take your pick between Superior Rooms, Club Rooms, and Suites, all of which sport contemporary décor, flat-screen TVs, marble bathrooms, and luxe amenities. The 1000-square-foot suites look out over the Varuna River, the surrounding lush green foliage, and the hotel pool, and they come with a living and dining room, deep soaking bathtub, and separate powder room.
Dining options include the all-day, multi-cuisine Palate restaurant, Tadka for North Indian lunch and dinner, a poolside bar, another bar and lounge inside the hotel, and the patisserie-café Temptationz. The hotel features two swimming pools (including one for children), a fully equipped fitness center, a beauty salon, and the Kayakalpam Spa which offers Ayurvedic treatments and massages. There’s also a shopping arcade where you can buy Indian jewelry, artifacts, carpets, and Pashmina shawls.
Best Boutique: Suryauday Haveli
Located on Shivala Ghat, Suryauday Haveli is a heritage property that was built in the early 20th century by the Maharaja of Nepal as a retreat for aged people. Today, it has been painstakingly restored and refurbished. Arrive in style via the riverway on a boat or by car (the last few meters need to be traversed on foot through a maze of alleys, but the hotel sends porters to take your luggage). The boutique hotel offers 14 air-conditioned rooms and suites with attached bathrooms. The rooms are fitted with wooden flooring, done up in muted tones, and furnished with period furniture. Nine of the rooms face the river, including the spacious Shivala Suite which comes with a separate living and dining area and a bathtub.
The hotel’s Khana Pakana restaurant serves elaborate vegetarian fare. Try the Banarasi thali for a deep dive into the local cuisine; be warned though that it’s a massive platter of food and will likely be your only meal for the day if you really commit. Wi-Fi is free but a bit erratic in the corner rooms. The hotel offers yoga sessions led by a trained practitioner every morning on the terrace.
Best for Singles: Hotel Alka
Located on Meer Ghat, just a short walk from the two major attractions of Kashi Vishwanath Temple and Dashashwamedh Ghat, Hotel Alka is a great choice for solo travelers. It has 36 rooms that range from basic, non-air-conditioned standard rooms to air-conditioned ‘Deluxe View’ and ‘Royal View’ rooms. The ‘Premium View’ room is the top category, offering spacious, well-appointed lodgings with an en-suite bathroom, flat-screen TV, and balcony with river view.
The hotel’s vegetarian restaurant is located under a canopy in the courtyard and is a pleasant place to savor local fare. There’s a gift shop on the premises for souvenir shopping and the hotel has recently opened an Ayurvedic spa where you can pamper yourself with massages, warm oil therapy, and beauty treatments. Hotel Alka offers guided sightseeing tours in the city and can arrange for a pickup and drop to the railway station or airport. The hotel also offers tours to the neighboring town of Sarnath — a major center of Buddhism.
Best for Business: Radisson Hotel Varanasi
Varanasi’s Radisson Hotel is on The Mall in the Cantonment area of the city center making it well located for the business traveler. It offers 116 rooms and suites, all featuring free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, a large work desk with swivel chair, and tea/coffee making facilities. Book a Business Class room and you'll gain access to the Club Lounge and a complimentary drink voucher every evening. For all guests, the hotel offers a full-service business center as well as meeting and banquet spaces.
The hotel’s EastWest casual restaurant serves local and international cuisines and even has a wood-fired oven for fresh pizzas. Alternatively, head to the colonial-style Oakwood Bar for after-work drinks and then try succulent kebabs at the Great Kabab Factory. Don’t skip your regular workout — hit the hotel’s well-equipped fitness center or take a dip in the outdoor pool. Finally, unwind at the on-site spa with a full-body massage, an herbal treatment, or a special Ayurvedic marma point massage.
Best Hostel: Bliss Hostel
Located just 100 meters from Assi Ghat, Bliss Hostel is perfect for backpackers looking for a cheap stay right by the Ganga. The hostel offers seven rooms, including one four-bed mixed dorm with bright-colored walls and a shared bathroom. The rest of the rooms are varying categories of double room, all of which feature en-suite bathrooms, a mini-fridge, and a safe. Some rooms have a balcony or terrace. In addition, there’s a game room with board games and puzzles, as well as a shared rooftop terrace where you can relax with views of the river while swapping stories with fellow travelers.
The hostel also has a shared kitchen and a restaurant where freshly cooked breakfast and meals are served (at an extra cost). Wi-Fi is free and reasonably fast and the 24-hour front desk can assist you with sightseeing tours, taxi services, airport transfers, and more. The owner and staff are warm and friendly and go out of their way to make your stay comfortable including offering to accommodate early check-ins or late checkouts.
Our writers spent 2 hours researching the most popular hotels in Varanasi. Before making their final recommendations, they considered 25 different hotels, read over 75 user reviews (both positive and negative), and stayed in 3 of the hotels themselves. All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.