In a city that never stops moving, it always helps to have a place to start. Here’s our guide to Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan in northern India.
What to Do
Panna Meena ka Kund stepwell is located between the temples at the base of the valley—if you’re lucky, you can descend the steps when the guards are off duty.
In accordance with the astrology that rules insights in India, the Jantar Mantar monument offers a collection of 19 sand-colored stone instruments that allow astrologists to observe celestial positions with the naked eye. Wander through the UNESCO World Heritage site to discover how the sun hits your zodiac sign, and view Vrihat Samrat Yantra, the world’s largest sundial, from above and below.
Mingle with rhesus monkeys in the Aravalli Hills, just 10 kilometers east of Jaipur’s city center. A towering stone edifice once used as a Hindu temple still holds traces of the blue and orange paint the ascetics applied when the temple was erected. On every rocky outcrop and climbable ledge, the monkeys who call Galtaji home defend their turf, but you can lure them out with a ₹10 bag of food purchased at the top of the temple.
In a city dominated by the five senses, the vegetable and flower market is at the center of it all. There, you’ll find burlap sacks sliced open and overflowing with blooms in a kaleidoscope of colors, and vegetables towered on carts and packed expertly in plastic bins. To find your way here, just take a left through the last gate on Hawa Mahal Road, just before the street bends east. Then follow the vegetable carts and the flowers in bicycle baskets until the market opens up in front of you. Once you’re there, spend a while weaving between people and produce, and be sure to bury your nose in a handful of flowers.
Where to Eat
Laxmi Mishthan Bhandar
Inside what resembles a poorly lit conference venue cafeteria, Laxmi Mishthan Bhandar, usually referred to as LMB, isn’t where you’d expect to find a quintessential Rajasthani meal. But its Royal Rajasthani Thaal in this restaurant just off of Johari Bazar presents a platter of curries, grains, sauces, and breads that capture the tastes of the region. The dining room attracts locals and tourists alike, and while they don’t encourage splitting orders, you’d be wise to order one thaal for the table and supplement with other main dishes.
The Kitchen at Jaipur Modern
Once a vintage bungalow, the Kitchen at Jaipur Modern brings the rich heritage of the city into the present. Its menu features dishes that harness global flavors, from pizza and pasta to Phuket satay and Moroccan tagine, and are prepared using traditional methods and ingredients from local farms. The cafe also offers a quinoa-based menu—they grow the seeds themselves—plus fresh juices to stave off the heavy heat. If you’re interested in a different type of beverage, note that the venue is BYOB.
For a more refined menu, make a reservation at Bar Palladio’s outdoor tables, where sofas are nestled in the sandy patio. Dishes bring a savory Italian sensibility to Jaipur, with fresh pastas and simply prepared vegetables, served in a lavish and inviting setting. Besides the menu, the cocktails and wine list at Bar Palladio are among the best in the city. Plus, the stunning hand-painted blue interior, designed by Marie-Anne Oudejans, a Dutch designer who runs the fashion label Tocca, reflects the visuals and artistry of Jaipur.
Where to Drink
Rajmahal Palace RAAS Jaipur
The Rajmahal Palace serves up more than splendor, between the primped landscaping, the ornate décor, and the spirits at the Colonnade restaurant and bar (the cocktails here are highly recommended, just be sure to make a reservation if you’re not staying at the hotel). The Good Earth shop on the palace grounds is also worth a visit. There, you can snag your own wallpaper designed to match the walls of the Rajmahal.
The people of Jaipur love their tea, so caffeine of any consequential dose—at least by Western standards—is tricky to find. If you’re craving your morning hit, C’est Bon will do the trick, with an espresso and some sweet French(ish) pastries on the menu.
The Juice Shop
Just between the Ganda Nala river and a New York pizza slice impersonator, the Juice Shop offers freshly blended smoothies and pressed juices. Local fruits and vegetables mingled with the first (and last) appearance of kale during a visit to Jaipur. The combinations are so delicious you may want to order extras for the road.
Where to Stay
Hotel Narain Niwas Palace
Just southeast of Jaipur’s Central Park, this hotel offers a central experience that’s true to the city’s history and aesthetic: a beautiful collection of rooms, a brilliant culinary program at Bar Palladio, and a highly-curated collection of global fashion at the Hot Pink boutique. The location, décor, and hospitality are hard to beat.
About 30 minutes outside of Jaipur, Castle Kanota offers a hushed reprieve from the bustle of the city. The owner, Manh Singh, is as personable as he is regal. Don’t fail to ask the chef about his cameo on The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (which was filmed at Kanota, and he’s got the selfies with Dame Maggie Smith to prove it). If you’re staying here, it would be wise to book a driver to take you into the Pink City, as taxis and Uber drivers aren’t readily available. The huge courtyard, filled with chickens, peacocks, and other exotic fowl, makes the drive into town worth it.
Royal Heritage Haveli
Once the residence of one the city’s royal rulers, Madho Singh, the Royal Heritage Haveli has been transformed into a luxury hotel that is a serene oasis. You’ll find hand-painted ceilings in each room, a pool with plenty of shade, and an inviting patio dining area. Don’t pass on a sweet lime soda (or try the salty, if you’re feeling more adventurous) and the tandoori chicken.
Where to Shop
At Tripolia Bazar, in the center of the Pink City, small shops spill over with a variety of goods, from spices to kitchen accoutrements, fabrics to storage trunks. Hit the main drag of the market, but also duck into the alleyways, or Ka Rastas—ask directions to Thatero Ka Rasta for brasswork, Lal Ji Sama Ka Rasta for saris, and Maniharon Ka Rasta for bangles. It’s never certain when (or even if) the stall you’re searching for might open, but you definitely won’t leave empty-handed.
Like the famed French boutique Colette, Teatro Dhora brings together some of the best local designers into a sleek shop in the shadow of the Ajmer Road overpass. The unassuming locale is a trove of handcrafted jewelry, handbags, and earthenware, with a stellar selection of modern apparel. Plus, the boutique features local labels on a rotating basis, so you’ll have to pop in to see just what’s in stock.
A product of the Rajasthani government, the proceeds from everything purchased here (from hand-woven scarves and dresses to locally harvested honey and religious relics) go directly to the rural communities where the goods are produced. This means the prices are fixed, but fair, and you’ll leave with a true piece of the local culture.
Shopping in Jaipur doesn’t get more Manhattan than Hot Pink. Expect the highest price tags and the trendiest silhouettes—proof that modern fashion thrives in what most presume is an antiquated culture.