Jaipur, Rajasthan's desert capital and "Pink City", is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and part of the popular Golden Triangle tourist circuit (along with Delhi and Agra). The city's well-preserved palaces and forts, with elaborate architecture reflective of the their royal heritage, are top attractions. However, the recent addition of many cool shops, bars, cafes, and creative spaces has made the city quite hip too. Read on to discover the best things to do in Jaipur.
Take an Off-Beat Tour of Jaipur
Fancy zipping around Jaipur on an electric Segway? Or, going sightseeing in a classic restored Ambassador car, or custom-designed e-rickshaw driven by an enterprising lady from a low-income household? Perhaps you're the sporty type and would prefer to explore the city on a cycling tour? There are all kinds of memorable off-beat tours in Jaipur. They cover attractions such as the Old City, markets, food, and Jaipur by night.
Join an Old City Heritage Walk
Delve into Jaipur's Old City beyond its famous monuments on one of the early morning or evening immersive heritage walking tours conducted by Vedic Walks. Depending on which tour you choose, you'll get to visit communities of artisans such as bangle-makers and metal workers, gemstone workshops, ancient temples, a traditional Ayurvedic hospital, and old stables converted into a market. The tours depart at 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., and run for about two and a half hours. Another option is this insightful Temples and Havelis Walking Tour conducted by Virasat Experiences. It uncovers some of the Old City's lesser known-architectural wonders and traditions of local communities.
Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II built the City Palace as part of his new capital in Jaipur. It was completed in 1732 and has an expansive complex of courtyards. The royal family still lives there, in the graceful Chandra Mahal. Various parts of the palace are open to the public according to the type of ticket purchased. Standard City Palace composite tickets cost 300 rupees for Indians and 700 rupees for foreigners. These provide access to palace courtyards, galleries, Jaigarh fort, and the royal cenotaphs. A highlight is the palace's Pritam Niwas Chowk with its colorful painted doorways representing the different seasons. Other attractions include displays of royal costumes, old Indian weapons, paintings and photographs. Special tickets provide access (with a guide) to the royal family's private quarters, and start from 1,500 rupees for Indians and 2,000 rupees for foreigners.
The City Palace is situated in the Old City and is open daily from 9.30 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. It reopens from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. in the evenings for a sound and light show, plus night viewing. Tickets for this cost 500 rupees for Indians and 1,000 rupees for foreigners. For an extra special experience, have dinner at the City Palace's Baradari restaurant while you're there.
Go Behind the Iconic Wind Palace
The intricate facade of the Hawa Mahal (Wind Palace) is possibly Jaipur's most photographed building. Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh constructed it in 1799 as an extension of the women's quarters of the City Palace, to enable the royal women to look out over the main street below without being observed. Wind used to flow through the shutters, giving the palace its name. However, most are now sealed closed to help preserve them. It's possible to go inside the Hawa Mahal from the entrance around the back. Government composite tickets, costing 300 rupees for Indians and 1,000 rupees for foreigners, are available from Rajasthan's Department of Archaeology & Museums. These tickets are valid for two days and also include Amber Fort, Nahargarh Fort, Jantar Mantar observatory, and Albert Hall Museum. Otherwise, the entry fee is 50 rupees for Indians and 200 rupees for foreigners. The Hawa Mahal is open daily from 9 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Find out more in this essential guide to the Hawa Mahal.
Jantar Mantar's intriguing structures are actually a collection of astrological instruments. Each has a specialized astronomical function such as measuring time, predicting eclipses, and tracking stars. The most impressive one is the huge Samrat Yantra sundial. At a height of 90 feet (27 meters), its shadow moves roughly the width of a person's hand every minute. It's a profound display of how quickly time does in fact go! Jantar Mantar (literally meaning "calculation instrument") is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of five such astronomical observatories built by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II, a renowned mathematician and astronomer. It was completed in 1738 and is located next to the City Palace in the Old City. The entrance fee, for those who don't have a government composite ticket, is 50 rupees for Indians and 200 rupees for foreigners.
Explore Amber Fort and Palace
Like something out of a fairy tale, Amber Fort sits atop a hill overlooking Maota Lake about 30 minutes north of the city center. Maharaja Man Singh I, who led Mughal Emperor Akbar's army, commenced constructing the fort in 1592. It was the home of Kachwaha Rajput rulers until Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II relocated their capital to Jaipur city in 1727. Inside is a series of lavish palaces, halls, gardens, and temples. Elaborate mirror work adds to the grandeur. Amber Fort is open daily from 8 a.m. until 5.30 p.m. Many people choose to remain there for the evening sound and light show that brings to life the fort's history, night viewing, and dinner at opulent restaurant 1135 AD (which was once the king's private dining room). The fort reopens, evocatively illuminated, from 6:30 p.m. to 9:15 p.m. The entry fee during the day for those who don't have a government composite ticket is 100 rupees for Indians and 500 rupees for foreigners. Plan your trip with this complete guide to Amber Fort.
Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II built Jaigarh Fort in 1726 to protect Amber Fort. This fort holds great appeal for military lovers, as it contains the world's largest cannon on wheels. The cannon has never been fired though, and neither has the fort been captured. As a result, it has remained impressively intact over its long life. In fact, the fort is one of the best-preserved military structures of medieval India. Jaigarh doesn't have the delicate palace interiors of Amber Fort, and therefore appears as a real fortress. Climb Diwa Burj watchtower to get an outstanding view over the plains. The fort is situated above Amber Fort and can be reached on foot (if you're fit!). It's open from 9.30 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. daily. Those who don't have a City Palace composite ticket must pay an entry fee of 50 rupees for Indians and 100 rupees for foreigners.
Jaipur's remarkable Jal Mahal (Water Palace) appears to magically float on Man Sagar Lake near Amber Fort. Not a lot is known about its history but Maharaja Sawai Madho Singh I is thought to have made it a lodge for royal duck hunting trips in the mid 18th century. The palace actually has four floors that are submerged below the water, with specially designed lime mortar to prevent water seepage. Unfortunately, despite being renovated, the palace not yet open to the public, so you'll have to be content with viewing it from the side of the lake.
Spend Sunset at Nahargarh Fort
Compact yet robust Nahargarh Fort (also known as Tiger Fort) is perched high on the rugged Aravali Hills northwest of Jaipur city. Sawai Jai Singh II commissioned it in 1734 to help strengthen the security of his new capital. It found fame in 2006, after scenes from the hit Bollywood movie Rang De Basanti were filmed there. The fort provides spectacular views over the city, particularly at sunset. Inside, the highlight is the Madhavendra Bhavan palace complex, which is the backdrop for the new Sculpture Park. There's also a wax museum, elegant fine-dining restaurant called Once Upon a Time, and a budget government-run restaurant called Padao. If you don't have a government composite ticket, you'll need to pay an entry fee of 50 rupees or Indians and 200 rupees for foreigners to access the palace part of the fort. Those who are feeling energetic can hike up to the fort from the Old City. The main palace part is open from 10 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. daily. Refer to this essential guide to Nahargarh Fort for more information.
Despite being included in the City Palace composite ticket, the Gatore ki Chhatriyan cenotaphs at the foothills of Nahargarh Fort are overlooked by most tourists. This makes them delightfully restful most of the time. The superbly carved cenotaphs honor Jaipur's deceased kings, from Sawai Jai Singh ll to Man Singh ll. The most impressive cenotaph is dedicated to Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh ll. It's made out of white marble, has 20 pillars, and is decorated in carvings of Hindu gods and people. The cenotaph complex is open daily from 9.30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Take the Jaipur-Amber Road and turn off near Jal Mahal to get there. The entry fee for those who don't have a City Palace composite ticket is 40 rupees for Indians and 100 rupees for foreigners. Nearby Garh Ganesh temple is worth visiting too.
There are two little-known but important stepwells with amazing architecture around Jaipur (one at Nahargarh and the other near Amber Fort). You can learn about their functionality and the sacredness of water in Rajasthani culture on the informative walking tours conducted by Heritage Water Walks. The explanation of the ancient water catchment systems used to supply water to the forts is fascinating. The tours run for two hours. The cost is 1,000-1,100 rupees per person for Indians and 1,300-1,500 rupees for foreigners. Timings are flexible.
Pose for Photos Inside Patrika Gate
Jaipur's ninth and most colorful gate, Patrika Gate, graces the entrance to Jawahar Circle garden five minutes north of Jaipur airport. This recently constructed but traditional-style ornamental gate is named after the Rajasthani newspaper and media company, Patrika. Its interior walls are covered in splendid paintings depicting scenes from daily life and various regions in Rajasthan. Not surprisingly, it's one of the most popular places for photo shoots in Jaipur.
The rather ruinous but holy Galtaji temple is nestled between two granite cliffs at the far eastern edge of the city. It's part of a larger temple complex, which also has three sacred pools of water. One of the pools has been taken over by thousands of monkeys that congregate there to swim and bathe. They're generally friendly and love to be fed. Unfortunately, the area is not well maintained. Be prepared to encounter dirt and trash, as well as people who will coerce you to pay money. Visit late afternoon, near sunset, when the monkeys flock to the temple. To get there, from the road walk up the hill to the white Sun Temple, and then follow the steps downhill into the gorge.
Jaipur is one of the most majestic spots for hot air balloon flights in India. Skywaltz operates two different routes. The main one is just north of Jaipur, surrounding Amber fort. The balloons drift over local villages, forts, and palaces. The other route covers the untouched area around Samode Palace and village. Starting points vary depending on wind speed and direction. The duration of the flight is about an hour, and the cost is from $190 per person. The season extends from September to April.
Shop 'Til You Drop
Thanks to Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II, who turned Jaipur into a commercial hub by inviting artisans and traders to settle there, the city is a great place to shop! You'll find an enticing variety of goods including precious gemstones, silver jewelry, bangles, clothes, perfumes, blue pottery, and textiles. The lanes in the Old City's bazaars are each dedicated to specific handicrafts. In Tripolia Bazaar, head to crowded Maniharon ka Rasta for lacquer bangles (Awaz Mohammed is an award-winning bangle-maker). Inexpensive jewelry is sold at Johari Bazaar, while Bapu Bazaar has textiles. Metal-workers occupy Thateron ka Rasta, Jhalaniyon Ka Rasta has spice sellers, and Khajanewalon Ka Rasta is the place for marble statues. M.I. Road is lined with upmarket branded stores. Here are some top places to go shopping in Jaipur. Alternatively, Virasat Experiences offers shopping tours to local markets. Do note that many stores are closed on Sundays.
Be Dazzled at the Wholesale Flower Market
Early risers shouldn't miss the fragrant wholesale flower market, known as phool mandi, which takes place just inside the Old City's Chandi ki Taksal Gate. It gets underway at around 6 a.m., with traders selling sacks filled to the brim with bright blooms such as marigolds and roses. The flowers are used by garland makers, as offerings in temples, and as decorations for weddings. Combine your visit with the neighboring fruit and vegetable market as well. If it's a Saturday, the Hatwara flea market pops up there too and is delightfully free of tourists.
Jaipur's Albert Hall Museum is housed in a magnificent old Indo-Saracenic building that was completed in 1187. It's Rajasthan's oldest museum and has an eclectic collection with many items from the city's past including portraits of kings, costumes, jewelry, woodcarvings, paintings, sculptures and pottery. However, the most notable exhibit is an Egyptian mummy, belonging to the Ptolemaic dynasty. Unfortunately photography isn't allowed. The museum is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and again for night viewing from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. when it's illuminated. The entry fee for those who don't have a government composite ticket is 40 rupees for Indians and 300 rupees for foreigners. Night entry tickets are 100 rupees per person irrespective of nationality.
The Rajasthan government recently converted the Rajasthan School of Arts building in the Old City into a museum dedicated to the state's arts and crafts. The Museum of Legacies opened in 2017 and is housed in a mansion that was originally constructed in 1823 as the residence of Pandit Shivdeen (a minister in the court of Maharaja Ram Singh II). The building itself is one of the main attractions. Its five galleries are spread over three floors, and each displays a collection curated by a noteworthy individual in the arts scene in India. Indigenous arts are a feature. The museum also has a dedicated space for young artists to exhibit their works. It's open from noon to 8 p.m. daily except Mondays (closed). Entry is free.
The most prominent arts center in Jaipur, Jawahar Kala Kendra sprawls across 9.5 acres of landscape grounds about 10 minutes south of the Old City. Following its recent revamp, it has come alive with regular exhibitions from a range of genres such as photography and architecture, seminars, workshops, dance and music recitals, and theater shows. The center has two permanent art galleries, six exhibition galleries, a library, and coffee house that portrays lesser-known aspects of astronomy through art work. It's open from 9.30 a.m to 9 p.m. on weekdays, and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekends.
Amrapali Museum is another new museum in Jaipur. This one opened in 2018 and is India's first museum dedicated to jewelry and jeweled objects. As its name suggests, it was founded by Amrapali, a renowned Indian luxury jewelry house favored by Bollywood stars. All the exhibits in this remarkable museum are from the personal collection of the brand's owners, which they've amassed over 40 years from the time they started sourcing jewelry and opened their business. There are some very unusual items such as silver anklets for horses, a Parsi necklace with a hidden message, a holy water flask, bejeweled tooth cleaners, and ruby-studded back-scratcher with conceal blades. The museum is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Tickets cost 600 rupees per person and include an audio guide.
Sample Rajasthani Cuisine
For all kinds of local street food in one spot, head to Masala Chowk -- an open-air food court in Ram Niwas Garden, close to Albert Hall Museum. Many of the city's much-loved street food vendors have stalls there. It's open daily from around 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. There's an entry fee of 10 rupees per person.
Chokhi Dhani serves up authentic rural cuisine in a recreated 12.5 acre Rajasthani village setting about 40 minutes south of Jaipur. It's quite touristy, with cultural performances such as puppet shows and folk dances, so is best suited to first-time visitors. Opening hours are 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. daily.
Foodies may also like to discover the ingredients and essentials of Rajasthani cooking on this food walk in the Old City or culinary cooking experience in a local home, offered by Virasat Experiences.
Enjoy Indian Masala Chai
India's roadside masala chai (spiced tea) is ubiquitous but not all tourists feel comfortable drinking it from a stall. You can enjoy delicious masala chai in a cool, clean environment at Tapri the Tea House. where roadside chai meets hipster hangout. Tapri Central on Prithviraj Road in C-Scheme is the original and best of the three Tapri outlets in Jaipur.
If tea stalls are more your style, try the uniquely flavored tea at Sahu Chaiwala, opposite Sai Baba Mandir on Chaura Rasta in the Old City. This family-run tea stall was established in 1968. They slow boil the milk on a coal stove. It's open from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. Gulab Ji Chai's long-running stall on M.I. Road also has a loyal following. Their chai is now available at the new and cute D'Good Cafe in Bani Park.
Bar Palladio, at the historic Narain Niwas Palace Hotel, is possibly Jaipur's most photogenic bar. Renowned Dutch designer Marie-Anne Oudejans created its interiors, and they are stunning. The bar is an ideal spot for a post-sightseeing cocktail or gin, accompanied by delicious Italian food. It's open daily from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. In the evening, the atmosphere is magical, with tented garden pavilions and candlelight.
A lot of people who go to see a movie at Raj Mandir on Bhagwant Das Road (near M.I. Road) do so to mainly to have a look inside. Its owner, a reputed Jaipur jeweler, wanted to create a cinema that makes the audience feel like they're a guest of a royal palace. The way it has been designed -- resplendent with spiral staircase, antique chandeliers, and a ceiling that changes color -- is certainly intriguing. Movies, in Hindi, are screened in the afternoons and evenings.
Immerse yourself in Jaipur's regal heritage by staying in an authentic palace hotel, or a less costly hertiage property. There are plenty to choose from. The magnificent Taj Rambagh Palace used to be the home of the Maharaja of Jaipur and is the pick of the bunch if budget isn't a constraint. It's worth treating yourself! Sujan Raj Mahal Palace (immaculately renovated in 2014) and Samode Haveli are other top luxury options. For somewhere a bit less costly, check out Diggi Palace, Alsisar Haveli, Narain Niwas Palace, and Shahpura House. 150 year-old Arya Niwas is recommended for budget travelers.
Nila House is a contemporary new non-profit hub for the preservation and promotion of traditional Indian crafts. It opened in October 2019, in a converted 1940s bungalow on Prithviraj Road, with the aim of facilitating interaction and collaborations with local artisans and weavers. The space has studios, showrooms, an archive and research library, exhibition gallery, textiles vault, and artists-in-residence rooms. Products designed and made in-house are retailed in a store on the premises. Regular craft-focused workshops and seminars take place there as well. Nila House is open daily, except Sundays, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Learn About Block Printing
The Anokhi Museum of Block Printing, in a restored heritage mansion near Amber fort, is an absorbing attraction for those interested in this handicraft. It's open from 10.30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. on Sunday. Plan ahead to be there for one of the regular block printing demonstrations and workshops.
You can also visit Bagru village, about an hour southwest of Jaipur. The whole village is dedicated to block printing. You'll be able to see the artisans and watch them in action. You'll also get to view the fabric drying in the sun. Vedic Walks and Studio Bagru offer guided trips and workshops.
Hike in the Hills
It may come as a surprise that the wall surrounding Amber is the third longest in the world (after the Great Wall of China and Rajasthan's Kumbhalgarh fort). A hike along it will take you through the Aravali mountain range to an ancient temple, lake, villages, and some old royal hunting lodges. Plus, you'll be rewarded with captivating views and an amazing sense of perspective. Set aside about five hours to complete the trek. Various companies offer guided trips if you don't want to do it alone. Virasat Experiences conducts a shorter two-hour hike to a tribal village.
There are plenty of places to spend time with India's much-loved pachyderms in the elephant care village near Amber fort. Elefantastic is the most popular one. You'll be able to wash, feed and walk the elephants, and learn about their medicines and treatments. The elephants aren't chained up or ridden there. However, do be aware that they work at Amber fort in the morning. Foreigners can expect to pay 4,000-5,100 rupees per adult for the day. Discounts are available for children. The price for Indian adults is 2,000-3,500 rupees. This includes all activities and a vegetarian meal.
An alternative is Dera Amer Wilderness Camp, about 30 minutes from Jaipur at the foothills of the Aravali mountains. They have three resident female elephants that were adopted from Amber fort and roam around the property. Guests can interact with them and bathe them.
Ladli is a non-profit vocational training center and residential shelter that supports underprivileged women and children, including orphans and abused children who have been rescued from the streets. The children are looked after, educated, and taught how to make beautiful quality handicrafts such as jewelry, which you can buy. It's a happy and inspiring place that encourages visitors and volunteers. Your kids will have fun playing with the younger children there. Call ahead and the center will arrange free transport for you, as its backstreet location is difficult to find. A couple of hours is required to fully see and appreciate everything.
Experience a Festival
The iconic Jaipur Literature Festival takes place every year towards the end of January. From modest beginnings in 2006, it has evolved into the largest literary festival in Asia-Pacific. More than 100,000 people attend the hundreds of sessions held over five days. Major religious festivals celebrated in Jaipur include the Kite Festival (in mid January), Holi/Dhulandi (in March), Gangaur (in late March or early April), Teej (in late July or August), and Diwali (in late October or early November).