Royal, colourful and hospitable, Jaipur has been welcoming visitors since the 18th century. Against the magnificent heritage backdrop, the cool cafes, arty zones and buzzing markets make the city an inviting getaway. Here’s what you can indulge in the Pink City, besides exploring the forts and palaces:
1. Sunrise Rides
Wake up before the sun rises and cycle around the city. There are different tours — some go to the city’s hidden alleys with old havelis and warm people. Some move around the City Palace complex where fruit, vegetable and flower vendors share their tales. Meet the gods at Govindji and Tarkeshwar Mahadev temples, explore the cenotaphs and Jal Mahal area. In the Amer tour, you get to see ancient stepwells, the village and the fort area.
Jaipur was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site on 6 July 2019, It was founded in 1727 by Raja Jai Singh II, a Kacchawa Rajput ruler of Amer. Designed by Vidyadhar Bhattacharya, it was one of the first planned cities of India.
2. The Heritage Tour
The pink city is famous for its forts, so you definitely need to explore those. The must-visit attractions are Amer Fort with its marvelous carvings, Jaigarh Fort with its weapon museum, evenings at Jal Mahal are about camel rides and trinket shopping, Hawa Mahal offers some spectacular views through its intricately carved jaali windows, City Palace has amazing doors and artefacts, besides the ostentatious darbar hall. For me, the highlight was the Jantar Mantar, a phenomenonal example of astronomical studies. And you might like to see the famous Diggi Palace, venue for the acclaimed Jaipur Literature Festival.
3. Discovering More Colour
If you like arts and culture, then head to Jawahar Kala Kendra. Designed by the famous architect Charles Correa, this government building opened for the public in 1992. The red stone and white marble building spread across nine acres is designed on the navagraha or nine house mandala. Raja Jai Singh II had planned the city on the nine-square yantra, depicting the nine planets. It hosts art exhibitions, cultural and music programmes, and more. Most people vouch for the coffee house here.
Looking for trinkets, bandhanis, juttis, quilts, jewellery, Bapu Bazaar is the pocket-friendly zone. While you are on the streets, do try the small plate of Kanji Vada. You won’t find this anywhere else.
If malls are your thing, then go to World Trade Park. This houses the best brands such as the Body Shop, Amante, Colorbar; a movie hall; food court with The Irish House; kids’ zone and hotels.
4. Sunset Point
Watch the sun go down at Nahargarh Fort while sipping tea at the open-air Café Padao. Known as the tiger fort, Nahargarh offers a spectacular view of the city. The catch is you need to use your own vehicle or hire one in Jaipur as it doesn’t have good public transport.
And then drive past the colourful lights of Albert Hall Museum.
5. International Platters
OTH aka On the House in C-Scheme is the place to enjoy waffles, pancakes, cereals and platters with fruit bowls for breakfast. A European-style bistro, it has Italian, Continental and Mexican cuisine. We missed the breakfast, but enjoyed Coconut Fish, BBQ Chicken Pizza, Butter Garlic Prawns for lunch.
Since we liked the lunch at OTH, we checked out its sister restaurant — Rustic by OTH — in the plush Malaviya Nagar. This offers Indian, Continental and Lebanese cuisines. We liked the Veg Lebanese Platter. With the Indian Naan as the base, falafel and hum- mus were garnished with coriander. We also enjoyed Bajre Ki Roti with Taar Ghost, mutton cooked in Rampur style. Our meal ended with a cold Vietnamese-styled Coffee. Another interesting one is the De-constructed Ice Coffee.
For cakes and pastries, Ombre is the baker in town. Gauri Rawat, trained at Le Cordon Bleu, London, offers a mean Cookie Cake. With a cookie as the base, it is decorated with sugary flowers and macaroons. The range of bakes goes from mouthwatering Tarts to melting Cheese Cakes, Red Velvet Pastries. There are eggless varieties too.
The glittery, starry nights are best enjoyed from the open-air rooftop bar, Tablu, at Clarks Amer has awesome vibes—white walls, blue tiles, colourful sink-in sofas. It is the oldest five-star in the city and so arty. We downed beer and mojitos with Mushroom and Paneer Tikkas.
For some hip-hop, Akh bar at Sarovar Premiere on Tonk Road is your zone. This has a glittery indoor seating and starry seats to enjoy the breeze. There are DJ nights, good snacky options to dig into, a screen to watch the matches.
6. Find Blue Pottery at Sanganer
Sanganer is very close to Tonk Road. And a walk through the village of Sanganer turned out to be a lesson in the local culture. People are warm and friendly, unlike the cold metros. Not many shops were open, but the wares on the roads were bright and beckoning. Most people didn’t understand what we were looking for until we downloaded a picture of blue pottery. And then all smiles, help was on its way. A shopkeeper even asked his son to write down the directions and offered us water. He was selling bangles.
If you go at a leisurely pace, you can enjoy the sounds of people haggling over veggies, women buying bangles and daily household wares. What was interesting–the small cups on carts which are reasonably priced. And the honesty is almost a shock. We ate a plate of kachori and the famous chilli pakora with kadi (unusual for those living in Delhi) and paid only INR 20, just the same price as the locals.
The sun had set and shops were closing, but we reached the main road and finally the shop where the signboard read Shiv Kripa Blue Pottery. Seeing us unimpressed with the dust, the shopkeeper took out his car and drove us to his godown. There we found a treasure of vases, plates, cups, diyas, masks, all reasonably priced.
How to Reach Jaipur
Jaipur is well connected by road, air and railways. It’s a 365-day destination but the best season is October-April.
Some parts of this article first appeared on In Sight page, ST Plus, the Sunday magazine of Sakal Times, published on 15.12.2019 (the English edition of this paper is no longer being published).