Rumour has it that in 1876, Maharajah Ram Singh of Jaipur painted the entire city pink to welcome the arrival of the Prince of Wales and Queen Victoria, who were paying India a visit. Ever since then, Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan, has become known as the pink city of India.
There are many things to do in Jaipur but if, like me, you only have one day in which to explore Jaipur, here are a few things you really need to see, do and eat:
Visit the Hawa Mahal
Jaipur’s famous ‘Palace of the Winds’, the Hawa Mahal was originally built to enable Royal Muslim women to observe the outside world without being seen themselves. An awe-inspiring five-storey structure built mainly in red and pink sandstone, the palace has over 900 intricately designed open windows, allowing air to flow freely throughout.
Explore the Amber Fort
Built in the 16th century by Raja Man Singh I, Amber Fort, known locally as Amer Fort, is situated on top of a hill around 11 kilometres from Jaipur, overlooking the idyllic Maota Lake. A fine palatial structure based upon Hindu and Muslim designs, the Fort is made from both sandstone and marble and is a maze of temples, palaces and gardens. There is a lot to see inside Amber Fort, but these are my personal highlights:
Diwan-i-Aam (Hall of Public Audience)
The Diwan-i-Aam or the ‘Hall of Public Audience’ is a beautiful hall standing on two rows of ornamented pillars featuring carved elephant heads, open on three sides. From here, the Raja would listen to public concerns and meet with his officials. Occasionally, festivities would be held to mark special occasions such as victory battles or Dussehra (the Raja’s birthday).
Diwan-e-Khas (Hall of Private Audience), a.k.a Jai Mandar, Sheesh Mahal, Palace of Mirrors or Glass Palace
Constructed by Mirza Raja Jai Singh (1621-67), the Diwan-e-Khas is also known as Jai Mandar and, due to the stunning mirrored glass designs featured inside, the Sheesh Mahal, Palace of Mirrors or Glass Palace. Here, the Raja would meet special guests from other states, government ministers, and his friends. The upper section is named Jas Mandir and features breath-taking intricate floral glass designs.
The walls and ceiling of the Sheesh Mahal are adorned with mirrored tiles and brightly coloured glass. The Palace was built in this way for the former queen, who was not allowed to sleep in open air, but loved to see the stars shining. It is said that if you burn two candles in the Sheesh Mahal, the reflection will be enough to transform the light into a thousand stars.
Opposite Diwan-e-Khas, you’ll find the Sukh Niwas. Also known as the ‘Pleasure Place’, this was the Raja’s private apartment, where he would retire to rest.
Zenani Deorhi (Ladies’ Apartments)
Another highlight was the Ladies’ Apartments, where the queen-mothers, Raja’s consorts and female attendants were housed. The design enabled the Raja to pay night time visits to his various wives’ respective chambers without the others knowing, as the chambers were independent but opened onto a common corridor.
They never went short of food at Amber Fort, because they had two enormous cast iron cooking pots on hand to help them in preparing and storing cooked food.
Avoid the elephant ride
Many tourists are drawn to visiting Amber Fort because they want to ride an elephant while they’re there. However, many of the elephants at Amber Fort have been captured in the wild as babies and subjected to a brutal training process, involving beating and starving. Meanwhile, their physical health and well-being is also neglected and many elephants suffer with foot injuries, impaired eyesight and general fatigue. So, resist the urge to ride on an elephant’s back up to Amber Fort. Instead, exercise your morals (and your legs) and walk, or take a ride in a car. Please see the World Animal Protection website for further details regarding elephant abuse at Amber Fort.
Also known as the Floating Palace or Water Palace, Jal Mahal was once a shooting lodge for the Maharajah. However, the palace flooded during a bad monsoon and four floors remain underwater, in the Man Sagar Lake. Although you obviously cannot go inside, sometimes it is possible to take a boat ride to see the palace up close. I can only imagine how amazing it would be to go diving and explore those four hidden floors, but unfortunately this isn’t allowed. It does make for a great photo opportunity though, and unlike taking photos at India’s other popular attractions, you don’t have to worry about other tourists getting in the way of your perfect shot!
Treat yourself to some new bling
Whereas Agra is known for marble, Jaipur is known for gem stones. You can buy precious gemstone jewellery for much less here than you can back home, so if you’re looking for something shiny and new, it makes sense to treat yourself while in Jaipur.
I’d noticed a few Indian women wearing diamond- and gem stone-embellished nose rings and I’d been keeping my eye out for one for myself, but hadn’t found anything until this point. However, I told my Viator tour guide about it and he took me to a jewellery shop called Rajasthan Gems. Rajasthan Gems is a family-run business, and when you visit the shop you can see how the gem stones are cut, polished, shaped and set into beautiful pieces of jewellery. I treated myself to a 9-carat gold nose ring encrusted with several semi-precious gems while I was there, and I’ve worn it daily ever since I bought it and it’s still in excellent condition.
Discover the Jantar Mantar Observatory
The Jantar Mantar Observatory is an astronomical observation site dating back to the 18th century, featuring 20 different instruments for use in mapping the movements of the sun, moon and stars with the naked eye.
It was the largest of five Jantar Mantars constructed by Maharajah Jai Singh II, the founder of Jaipur, between 1724 and 1735, alongside others in New Delhi, Ujain, Mathura and Varanasi. Jaipur’s Jantar Mantar Observatory also houses the world’s largest sundial, pictured below.
Be sure to take a photo next to your zodiac sign at the Rasivalayas Yantra; 12 instruments, each corresponding to a particular sign of the zodiac and located according to the constellation it measures.
No trip to Jaipur would be complete without a trip to the City Palace, comprising of gardens, courtyards and buildings erected at different stages, from the early 20th century onward.
To this day, the Maharajah of Jaipur still resides at the Chandra Mahal, pictured below. As the royal residence, this superb seven-storey building is decadently decorated with elaborate works of art and beautiful painted ceilings, and surrounded by idyllic gardens.
Jaipur’s City Palace is also home to the famous Mubarak Mahal, below, constructed using carved ivory. Originally used as a guest house, it later become the site of the Royal Secretariat, and is now the Tosha Khana (Royal Wardrobe) of the on-site museum.
My favourite building was the Diwan-e-Khas, or the Hall of Private Audience. Salmon pink in colour, this was a pretty open chamber with elegant archways on each side, sitting in the courtyard of the Muburak Mahal. Today it is used as a museum and art gallery, and it houses several artefacts including the Maharajah’s Throne and original handwritten Hindu scriptures.
Where to eat in Jaipur
From authentic street food to fine dining, there’s something to suit all tastes in Jaipur. I steered clear of the street vendors because many of them use tap water in their cooking, and I didn’t want to risk getting sick given the very little time that I had to spend in India. Instead, my Viator tour guide asked our driver to take us to a traditional Indian restaurant for lunch.
Sitting on Amer Road, Royal Jaipur Palace is only a short drive from Amber Fort and Jal Mahal.
My tour guide and I shared homemade poppadoms and a selection of chutneys, including mint raita and fiery lime pickle.
I tried the Murgh Malai Tikka Kebab; succulent diced chicken marinated in creamy yoghurt and cheese sauce, and grilled in a clay oven, accompanied by a pillow-soft garlic naan bread.
With the whole meal coming in at around £10, including a glass of coke, I really couldn’t fault it at all.
Where to stay in Jaipur
There are lots of places to stay in Jaipur, but I really like Holiday Inn Jaipur City Centre because it’s classy, the facilities are good and the staff go out of their way to make your stay an enjoyable one. Click here to read my full review of this hotel.
Have you ever been to India – what was your favourite city? If you haven’t been to India, do you think it’s a country you’ll visit in the future?
This post contains affiliate links and if you place a booking through one of these links, I will receive a small commission fee. I received a 20% discount on the cost of this tour through Viator, as part of a 3-day Golden Triangle package including Jaipur, Delhi and Agra.