Udaipur's Mewar dynasty survived many enemy battles over time. However, it was the flourish of a pen that ultimately had the power to destroy the dynasty. When India became a democracy in 1947, royal rulers had to give up their states and fend for themselves. The tourist has benefited greatly from this. In order to generate an income, the Mewar royal family has developed the Udaipur City Palace Complex into an all encompassing tourist destination, focusing on heritage tourism. You can even stay in an authentic palace hotel there.
Udaipur City Palace Museum
The City Palace Museum is the jewel in the crown of the Udaipur City Palace Complex. It's there that you can immerse yourself in the history of the Maharanas of Mewar, and really get a feel for their culture and how royalty lived. The museum comprises both the Mardana Mahal (King's Palace) and Zenana Mahal (Queen's Palace), which make up the City Palace. Constructed over four and a half centuries, starting in 1559, the museum is the oldest and largest part of the City Palace Complex. The architecture, and many galleries containing personal royal items, are its main highlights. Read more about and see inside the Udaipur City Palace Museum.
The imposing Durbar Hall forms part of the Fateh Prakash Palace hotel, situated just opposite the City Palace Museum in the Udaipur City Palace Complex. The foundation stone was laid by the Viceroy of India, Lord Minto, in 1909. Once used for royal audiences, Durbar Hall now serves as a venue for banquets and special functions. Its dramatic ambiance is enhanced by grand portraits of the Maharanas of Mewar, and other historic artifacts.
The Crystal Gallery, which overlooks the Durbar Hall at the Fateh Prakash Palace hotel, is probably the largest private collection of crystal in the world. It certainly is extensive, and contains some incredible pieces. Among them is a crystal footrest, and the only crystal bed in the world. If you're not staying at the hotel, the entrance fee to the Crystal Gallery is 700 rupees for adults and 450 rupees for children (including a guide). It's open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., daily. Tickets also provide entry to the Durbar Hall.
Even if you're not a car fan, it's likely that you'll still find this extensive vintage car collection interesting. The collection, which was opened to the public in early 2000, is housed in what was once the royal garage. There's even an antique petrol pump there. The cars in the collection were imported by the grandfather of the current Maharana. Some of them are over seventy years old, with each painstakingly restored to working order. Highlights include a 1924 Rolls Royce, a 1938 Cadillac, 1946 Buick, 1947 Chevrolet bus used for transporting children to the Maharana's school, the first Rolls Royce jeep, as well as the car that was used in the James Bond Octopussy movie.
The Vintage Car Gallery is located at the Garden Hotel on Gulab Bagh Road, about a 10 minute walk down from the City Palace Complex via Lake Palace Road. The entrance fee is 250 rupees for adults and 150 rupees for children. It's open daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
If you're looking for the best location to see Lake Pichola and the Lake Palace hotel bathed in colorful hues at sunset, the Sunset Terrace is the place! It's also part of the Fateh Prakash Palace hotel, and is enviably positioned right on the bank of Lake Pichola. The view is superb. Enjoy it with a cocktail and live music. The Sunset Terrace is open daily from 7 a.m. to 10.30 p.m.
After evening drinks at the Sunset Terrace, climb aboard a boat to Jag Mandir for a romantic dinner! Jag Mandir was the first palace to be constructed in the middle of famous Lake Pichola. It was built in the 17th century and used as a pleasure palace by the Maharanas of Mewar. Recently refurbished, it has a fine dining restaurant and bar that face towards the City Palace Complex, a rare heritage exhibition called Jagriti, and guest accommodations. The way Jag Mandir is lit up at night is magical. It's not exaggerating to say that it feels like part of a fairy tale. Not surprisingly, Jag Mandir is a popular regal wedding venue in Udaipur.
Shiv Niwas Palace Hotel
The Shiv Niwas Palace hotel is one of two authentic palace hotels in the Udaipur City Palace Complex. Built in the early 20th century during the reign of Maharana Fateh Singh, the Shiv Niwas Palace served as his residence for a while. It was later used to accommodate royal guests. The hotel found fame in the James Bond movie, Octopussy, where part of it was filmed. You can save 50% on rates during the summer and monsoon season, from April to September. It's a great deal! Take a look inside the Shiv Niwas Palace hotel.
The Fateh Prakash Palace hotel is the smaller of the two authentic palace hotels in the Udaipur City Palace Complex. Also built in the early 20th century, it's named after Maharana Fateh Prakash who reined during its construction. Originally, the Fateh Prakash Palace served as an exclusive venue for royal functions, where the Maharanas of Mewar held court. The Fateh Prakash Palace hotel isn't as famous as its counterpart, the Shiv Niwas Palace hotel. However, what makes it so special is what's inside it. Check out this photo tour of the Fateh Prakash Palace hotel.