Highlights of Jaipur India | Everything you want to know about the pink city

by Deborah Durrfeld
Highlights of Jaipur

Jaipur is one of the most beautiful cities to visit in Rajasthan, India. The city is known as the pink city, because of the many pink sandstone buildings. Jaipur is busy, chaotic and you will be fascinated. There are bazaars, beautiful palaces and fortresses, colorful people, holy cows, rickshaws and elephants wandering through traffic. It is an overwhelming and intense city, that leaves an impression. In this article I tell you why you should definitely visit this pink city of India one day, including the highlights of Jaipur and best things to do.

Highlights of Jaipur

Background information about Jaipur

Jaipur, together with Agra and New Delhi, is part of the golden triangle of India, because of the many beautiful buildings and sights that you will find here. Jaipur means city of victory. The city is named after the king Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II, who left the city of Amber and founded a new capital in the 18th century. When the Prince of Wales visited the city in the 19th century, the entire city was painted in terracotta pink to welcome him appropriately. Pink is the color of vibrance and hospitality. The old center is still largely pink and one of the highlights of Jaipur. Here you will find most sights, such as the Palace of Winds and the City Palace.

When Jaipur became part of India, after the independence of the British, Jaipur turned into the capital of the state Rajasthan. Today, 3 million inhabitants live in Jaipur. Like many Indian cities, Jaipur is a city of contrasts. You will find quiet and luxurious suburbs on one side and a busy and chaotic center on the other.

Best things to do in Jaipur

Palace of Winds – Hawa Mahal | Highlights of Jaipur

This building is one of the highlights of Jaipur and one of the most extraordinary buildings I’ve ever seen. I had seen many pictures before visiting, but having the building in front of you will make you feel speechless. The pink-painted building contains 953 carved windows and balconies, in the same shape as the palace itself. The palace was built for Maharadja Sawai Pratap Singh in the 18th century. It was used for the woman of the harem. They were able to sit behind the window and observe daily life, without being seen themselves.  This palace is called palace of winds because of its natural unique ventilation system. 

Hawa Mahal | Best things to do in Jaipur

The palace can be visited nowadays. It houses a small museum and it offers good views from the top. But one of the best things to do in Jaipur is to observe the building from one of the terraces at the other side of the street, while enjoying a coffee or tea. One of the best places is called the Wind View café.

Highlights of Jaipur | Suraj Devra Mandir, Galta Ji Temple – Monkey temple

This Hindu temple complex is located in the Aravalli hills of Jaipur, on the outskirts of the city. It has always been an important place of pilgrimage and sacred sadhus still make daily sacrifices here. It is one of the best things to do in Jaipur if you want to find some peace and leave the busy city behind. You will visit the Galta Kund temple and Galta Ji Temple, known as the Monkey temple, because of the many cheeky monkeys running around and swinging through the trees. The temple contains a natural water source that is said to have healing powers. You can also visit the temple of the sun, the Suraj Devra Mandir. This temple is located on a mountain and offers a beautiful view of the city.

There are two ways to visit the temple complex. If you are by car, you can be dropped off at the main entrance and you will find yourself directly between the temples (rickshaws do not come here). If you come with a rickshaw from the center, you can be dropped off at the end of the Surjapol Bazar road. You first hike about 1 kilometer up to the Sun temple and then descend in about half an hour to the Galta Kund and the Galta Ji temples. Afterwards you walk the same way back, where the rickshaw picks you up again. It is best to do this walk with someone together. I walked through the hills on my own without meeting anyone for an hour. I did not feel unsafe but I was very aware of the fact that I walked here alone as a woman.

Jaipur City palace | Highlights of Jaipur

This is one of my favorite palaces in Rajasthan, because of its breathtaking decorations, and an absolute Jaipur highlight. I couldn’t have been more inspired than here. The palace was built by Maharadja Jai Singh II in the 17th century and extended by successive rulers. The complex contains several buildings, courtyards and gardens, including a few museums. A part of the palace is still inhabited by the royal family.

Characteristic for this palace are the unique pink walls, so be prepared to take many pictures. An absolute Jaipur highlight is the Pritam Niwas Chowk, the court of the peacocks. In this court you will find breathtaking decorated portals, representing different seasons. The peacock gate represents autumn, the lotus gate depicts summer, the green gate spring and the rose gate shows winter.  

Raj mandir cinema | Jaipur Highlights

A visit to this cinema is included in this list and one of the highlights of Jaipur. Raj Mandir is the largest Bollywood cinema in India. Both the exterior of the building and the foyer are incredibly kitsch, a combination of art decor and American 1960s atmosphere, but also beautiful. Watching a Bollywood movie here among the locals is a real experience. The Bollywood film style is a genre of its own, with a lot of overacting, dancing, singing and drama in it. The visitors get wild: They sing, dance and scream along with the actors’ emotions.

Tip: The movies last around 3 hours and are entirely in Hindi. There is no English subtitles, so it’s more about the experience than the movie. If you are tired or bored after a while, just leave during the break. It is also recommended to buy your ticket in advance (in the morning or online) It can be very busy at the small ticket counters.

Curious about (Bollywood) movies filmed in Jaipur?

In Shudh Desi Romance, the Mahal Palace, Nahargarh Fort, Hawa Mahal, Raj Mandir and the living streets of Jaipur pass by. Rang De Basanti was filmed at the Nahargarh fort. In the movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (not a Bollywood movie) starring Judi Dench, the streets around the Tripolia Bazaar can be seen.

Amber fort  – Jaipur

This fort is located in the former capital of the Jaipur empire, Amer, 11 km from Jaipur. Amber Fort, or Amer fort, is located on a hilltop, overlooking the Maota Lake and city of Amber. The fort was build by Rajput Raja Man Singh in the 16th century and is famous for its fine architecture and decoration. It is visited by 1.5 million visitors a year and one of the best things to do in Jaipur.

Amber fort is divided into different sections with courtyards and palaces, build from yellow and pink sandstone and white marble. You can walk through the areas, climb up stairs and explore different hallways and alleys. You will pass the Hall of Audience, the Maharadja apartments with frescoed arches, Hall of Pleasure and the Hall of Victory, with multi mirrored ceilings and walls. From the top you can enjoy views over the lake.

Amber Fort is a 30-minute drive from Jaipur. Most rickshaws drop you off in the parking lot, from where you have to go a bit more uphill to reach the entrance.  Jeeps may be available to get you to the fort. Please don’t take the elephants up. It is beautiful to see them walking, but in my opinion there should be no people sitting on them.

Interested in reading more about forts in India? This is an overview with the most beautiful forts and palaces of Rajasthan.

The bazaars

One of the best things to do in Jaipur is to stroll along the countless bazaar and do some serious shopping. You will find beautiful scarves, bracelets, carpets, jooties (leather shoes with embroidery), cloths, silver and sarees.  Every item has its own street or area, so it’s super easy to explore and bargain. But if you don’t want to buy anything, it is just as much fun to walk around and observe everyday life. There are countless families, couples and groups of friends coming together to do their shopping. A visit to the bazaar will be one of your highlights of Jaipur, if you want to experience the culture and local life. Famous Bazaar streets, such as the Johari Bazaar, Chandpol, Tripolia, Sireh Deori and Bapu bazaar, can be found in and around the old city.

Panna Meena Ka Kund

If you are active on Instagram, you may have seen this place pass by. It used to be a rather unknown place, nowadays everyone wants to take a picture here. Panna Meena ka Kund is a baori, an ancient water source from the 16th century, with numerous stairs that are built completely symmetrically. It looks like an Esher painting and it’s very unique. The water source was used for the inhabitants of Amer to get their water. It is a 5 minute drive from the Amber fort and is one of the best things to do in Jaipur and include in your daily schedule.

Panna Meena Ka Kund | Best things to do in Jaipur

Nahargarh fort

Jaipur is known for the Amber fort, but the city has another fort: The Nahargargh fort. This fortress in the Aravalli mountains is one of the highlights of Jaipur because of the beautiful view over the city. Especially at the end of the day and during sunset, you take the most beautiful pictures.

view jaipur | Best things to do in Jaipur

Nahargarh Fort was built in 1734 by Maharaja Jai ​​Singh II and served as a summer retreat for him and his wives. Nahargarh means “home of the tigers”, named after the king’s tigers and leopards, who used to walk around the park. The fort is connected to the Jaigarh fort via a long fortress wall. Together with the Amber fort it formed an important defense ring. For the view, you want to visit the roof of the Madhavendra palace. And after closing time you can walk to the sunset point to watch the sun go down behind the city. It is best to reach the fort with a rickshaw and have the driver wait for you downstairs.

view Jaipur | Best things to do in Jaipur

Jal Mahal – Water palace

On the way from Jaipur to Amber, you will come across a special palace in the middle of a large lake: the Jal Mahal, or water palace. This was the country house of the royal Maharaja family and served as a hunting lodge. Unique about this palace is that the bottom floors are under water. Only the top floors are above the water. Unfortunately it is not possible to visit the palace, you need special permission. But it is worth to stop for a picture. The view is incredible and one of the highlights of Jaipur, if it comes to taking pictures.

water palace jaipur | Best things to do in Jaipur

Jantar Mantar observatory

Jantar Mantar means calculator and is a large open-air observatory in the center of Jaipur. It was built by Prince Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II in the 18th century, so that he could further develop his astronomical knowledge. You will find various stone structures that serve as a calculation tool, to calculate the position of the sun and stars, but also distances between celestial bodies. This place is always busy with Indian and foreign visitors, who take plenty of photos and selfies. Nevertheless, it is recommended to pay a short visit and marvel at the ancient knowledge.

Bar Palladio

Bar palladio is a place that often pops up when you read or hear about Jaipur. And that’s for a reason. This is a place you absolutely want to visit. The bar is part of the Narain Niwas Palace Hotel and is known for its beautiful interior with blue and white colors. It was designed by the Dutch designer Marie-Ann Oudejans and is described as Mughal luxury with Italian influences (for the connoisseurs). The idyllic atmosphere and furnishing is a big contrast with the busy city center. This place is a Jaipur highlight because of its unique vibe and fantastic cocktails.

Minaret view

You can climb the roof at various places in the city for a beautiful view of the pink city. But one of the best places is the Iswari Minar Swarga Sal. An endless series of stairs take you to the tower of this minaret. At the top, you have a 360 degree view of Jaipur.

Central museum and Albert Hall

On a roundabout south of the old city, the central museum of Jaipur can be found. The museum is located in the Albert Hall, designed by a British architect. The museum contains an extensive collection of rajpoet art, costumes, weapons and jewelry. Not interested in visiting the museum? Make sure to make a  stop with the rickshaw and take some pictures of the building, including the many pigeons flying around. You will also find many Indian people wanting to take pictures and selfies with you.

Jaigarh fort

Another nice view can be found from the Jaigarh fort. Here you look out over the water palace and the Amber fort. This fort was built as a place of refuge for the royal family, in case the Amer fort was attacked. A secret tunnel connects the two fortresses and it is possible to visit the tunnel. A unique experience and one of the coolest things to do in Jaipur. It is said that there would be a hidden treasure under the fort, but it was were never found. The fortress was one of the most important defenses of the city and has the world’s biggest wheeled cannon, the Jaivana, with a barrel of 7 meters and a range of 35 km.

Best things to do in Jaipur | Jaigarh fort

Other Highlights of Jaipur

  • Located outside the center, Jawahar circle is a colorful building, which is part of a roundabout. It has become one of the highlights of Jaipur for photographers. Make sure to get out and marvel at the beautiful walls. Or visit the place in the evening. Then it is a popular place for local families to gather. It’s nice to be among the locals and observe daily life.
  • Gaitore Ki Chhatriyan is the royal crematorium grounds for the Kachhwaha community, a Rajput clan who ruled for years. Today you will find a cluster of graves, with stunning buildings, statues and decorations. It’s a lovely place to take pictures and one of the sights in Jaipur that I would like to visit a next time.
  • Birla Mandir is a huge temple made of white marble, dedicated to Lord Vishnu and Goddess Lakshmi. In contrast to the traditional Hindu temple, you will find influences from various other religions here, something that can be seen in the many decorations. It is an important shrine and therefore Jaipur highlight.

What to do around Jaipur? | day trips

Do you want to go out into nature? Jaipur can be used as a good base to take a safari through the Ranthambore National Park, home to the Bengal tiger. India is known for the largest tiger population in the world. It is possible to go on great safaris in the National Parkm by jeep or truck. In addition to tigers, it is possible to see leopards, hyenas, bears, crocodiles and many birds. If you are short on time you can make a day trip from Jaipur.

Ranthambore National Park

Keep in mind that it will take you 3 to 4 hours to get to the National park. Then, you will be in the park for a few hours tour, to return to Jaipur at the end of the day. Do you have more money to spend and are you looking for an unforgettable experience? Try to stay in one of the luxury lodges around the park such as The Oberoi Vanyavilas, Sher Bagh and Khem Villas.

Getting around in Jaipur

The old city is surrounded by city walls and has a number of entrance gates, such as the Chandpol in the west, the Tripolia gate in the south, the Surajpol in the east and the Zorawarpoort in the north. There are numerous bazaars, each with their own merchandise. Many craftsmen who practice the same profession still live in the same district. The old town is also home to important sights such as the Palace of Winds, observatory and city palace. The center is built according to a tight chess board pattern and easy to explore by foot. You really can’t get lost. For the other Jaipur highlights, it is best to take one of the hundreds of rickshaws, which take you from one sight to another for a small amount of roepies.

Best places to eat in Jaipur

Jaipur has numerous restaurants; from popular local hotspots to hip cafes and high-end culinary experiences in palaces. I am definitely not (yet) an expert in Indian cuisine. However, I was amazed by the variety of dishes and excited to let myself be treated with lovely culinary surprises. Moreover, 70% of the inhabitants seem to be vegetarian, so for a vegetarian like me, it is heaven on earth. This is a list of the nicest, most beautiful and best restaurants in Jaipur for local dishes, a beautiful setting, good cocktails or delicious cakes.

Best restaurants in Jaipur | Local food

  • Lakshmi Misthan Bhandar better known as LMB, (100 Johari Bazar) is one of the most famous restaurants of Jaipur. Located in the old town, it has been a favorite of locals for many years. The vegetarian thali, including different small snacks with many type of breads, is my personal favorite. LMB is also known for its typical Rajasthani sweet snacks, which I personally found very sweet. Having a meal here is one of the best things to do in Jaipur if you want to taste Rajasthani traditional food.
  • Have you ever tasted a typical Indian lassi? A combination of yogurt, fruit, nuts and lots of herbs. For the very best lassis in Jaipur, head to Lassiwalla (MI Road). It is always busy so be prepared to stand in line.
  • Another popular local food restaurant is Midtown Multicuisine Restaurant (Kishore Niwas, Tripolia Bazar 3rd Floor, Opposite Sargasuli)

Best restaurants in Jaipur | Hip & Fancy places

  • One of the most beautiful and glamorous places for a cocktail or afternoon tea is Verandah. You will be enjoying a lunch or drink in the beautiful courtyard of the Rambagh Palace hotel (Bhawani Singh Road) and feel like a queen.
  • Anokhi Cafe is a hip place, where you can easily open your laptop or read a book. You order tasty lunches, beautiful coffees and delicious cakes.
  • Peacock rooftop restaurant is a rooftop restaurant with a 360 degree view of Jaipur. You’ll enjoy delicious Indian dishes at this fancy place.
  • There is only one reason to visit the Wind View Café: this place offers the best view of the Palace of Winds. You can also order a drink and get a simple lunch here. The cafe is located on the third floor, opposite the Palace of Winds and is accessible via a number of narrow stairs.
  • For good and beautiful coffees, go to Curious Life coffee.
  • 51 shades of pink is part of the Sujan Rajmahal Palace, one of the most expensive hotels in the world, where Queen Elizabeth even stayed. The interior of the restaurant consists of different colors of pink and white. It is a unique and bizarre place to dine and take pictures. Make a reservation in advance.
  • If you are looking for a quiet place in the busy center, Samode Haveli’s restaurant is highly recommended. You will be enjoying a lovely lunch in the courtyard of a former royal land house or dine in the royal dining room.

Where to stay in Jaipur?

In Jaipur you really want to spend the night in one of the beautiful authentic palaces or havelis (old mansions). Spending a night in one of these palaces, will be one of your highlights of Jaipur.  It’s one of the best things to do in Jaipur to go back in time and experience the culture of the former maharadja empire. There are many options in different prize ranges. This is an overview of my personal recommendations.

Boutique style palaces

  • One of the best places to stay is Samode Haveli. Samode Haveli is an old mansion, belonging to the royal family, which has been transformed into a stylish boutique hotel. The rooms are furnished with antique sofas and beds, beautiful decorations and painted arches. A true fairytale.
  • Narain Niwas Palace Hotel is a beautiful palace in the center of Jaipur. Here you will also find an authentic amazing interior and beautiful decorations. The hip Bar Palladio is also located in this palace complex.

Luxury palaces | Dream locations

If you have more money to spend, check out dream locations, such as Samode Palace and the luxurious Rambagh Palace. These are breathtaking palaces where you walk straight into a fairytale.

  • The Samode Palace has been transformed into a luxury hotel and has one of the most beautiful interiors imaginable. The only downside is that you are located 45 kilometers from Jaipur city.  You could choose to stay here for one special night and spend the rest of the time in the center. If you only want to visit the palace, you can also make a reservation in the restaurant and take a tour through the palace.
  • Rambagh Palace is a world class hotel. It was the former residence of the Maharaja of Jaipur. The luxurious rooms have authentic decorations, colorful carpets and special decorations. But also just visiting the palace makes you already feel like a royalty. The Verandah restaurant is part of the Rambagh palace.

More budget

Are you looking for a budget option but still want to stay in a palace? Then I definitely recommend checking out Bissau Palace. Bissau palace is located a few hundred meters from the Chandpol, the western gateway to the pink city. A very central location. The rooms are simple and the service less luxurious, but you still sleep in a room of a former palace.

Do you want to read more about India? Check out the overview with the most beautiful palaces and forts in Rajasthan, the desert city of Rajsathan – Bikaner, New Delhi slum tour, and the Karni Mata Rat temple in Deshnok.

This post is also available in: Nederlands (Dutch)

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