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Discovering Jaipur in Rajasthan: A Guide to the Pink City’s Attractions

by Paola Bertoni
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Jaipur, famously known as the Pink City of Rajasthan, is renowned for its exquisite jewellery making and splendid historical architecture that reflects the grandeur of ancient times. In the heart of the city stands the City Palace which is still home to the former royal family, the ancient astronomical observatory Jantar Mantar, and the iconic Hawa Mahal, popularly known as the Palace of Winds. The bustling streets of the city exude electric energy. At the same time, the historic buildings offer a glimpse of the city’s glorious past, creating a fascinating contrast between the dynamic present and the silent traces of the past.

What are the most famous sights in Jaipur

The Old City of Jaipur, better known as the Pink City, owes its initial name to the red sandstone, the same sandstone used to construct the Amber Fort. However, its final transformation into a genuinely pink city occurred in 1876. On the occasion of the visit of the Prince of Wales, who later ascended the throne as Edward VII, Maharaja Ram Singh had the entire historic centre painted pink, considered the colour of hospitality in Rajasthan.

Therefore, The city centre is already a tourist attraction, but the monuments and attractions present are genuinely unique. From the iconic Hawa Mahal, the Palace of Winds that we all immediately associate with Jaipur, to the astronomical curiosities of Jantar Mantar, everything in the city tells stories of bygone eras. It offers visitors an unforgettable experience in the heart of Rajasthan.

Hawa Mahal: the iconic Palace of the Winds

The Hawa Mahal, better known as the Palace of the Winds, is an iconic five-storey pink palace with over 900 windows. Built in 1799 at the behest of Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh, its purpose was to allow court ladies to observe city life without being seen. The nickname Palace of the Winds derives from its structure, designed to promote adequate air circulation, keeping the palace’s interior cool during hot Rajasthani days.

The best view of the building is from the palace opposite, whose upper floors house bars frequented exclusively by tourists interested in the Hawa Mahal. The bar service is mediocre, but it is the only place to take memorable photographs if you get the right light conditions.

Hawa Mahal Palazzo dei Venti
Hawa Mahal Rd, Badi Choupad
J.D.A. Market, Pink City
Jaipur, Rajasthan 302002, India

The Palace of the Winds, Hawa Mahal, in Jaipur
The Palace of the Winds, Hawa Mahal, in Jaipur

City Palace: the Royal Palace of Jaipur

The City Palace is the Royal Palace of Jaipur and is still the residence of the maharaja’s family. Built between 1729 and 1732 by Sawai Jai Singh II and located in the heart of the Pink City, the building features a fascinating fusion of Rajput, Mughal and European styles. Like other Rajput royal palaces, the City Palace includes a kiosk for the maharaja’s private audiences within a courtyard. Here, you will also find two giant silver vessels used to carry water from the Ganges for the maharaja to drink on his way to England.

You can discover other curiosities of the past and the ruling family of this region of Rajasthan in the museums of the City Palace. One room displays the portraits of all the previous reigning maharajas, while the armoury houses mainly swords, knives, and pistols. You can admire the ‘welcome’ sign made of blades and knives at the entrance, while at the exit, a ‘goodby’ without the final ‘e’ made of pistols.

The building, once used as a guesthouse, has been transformed into the Textile Gallery and exhibits clothes of past maharajas, such as polo shirts and pyjamas, embroidered textiles and dresses, and shoes. The scarves printed with the traditional block print technique and carpets made by local craftsmen are exquisite.

City Palace Palazzo di Jaipur
Gangori Bazaar, J.D.A. Market, Pink City
Jaipur, Rajasthan 302002, India

Audience Hall in the Royal Palace of Jaipur
Audience Hall in the Royal Palace of Jaipur

Jantar Mantar Observatory

The Jantar Mantar Astronomical Observatory in Jaipur is an extraordinary UNESCO World Heritage Site that fascinates visitors with its monumental astronomical instruments. This complex was built in the 18th century by Maharaja Jai Singh, passionate about astronomy. It is the largest astronomical observatory in India and represents a remarkable contribution to the science of the time. Read my article on Jantar Mantar, Jaipur’s astronomical observatory, to learn more.

The Jantar Mantar astronomical observatory in Jaipur houses a variety of instruments, from small prototypes to large instruments. Prominent among the various astronomical instruments is a giant sundial. This incredibly precise sundial works until the sun is high in the sky, with an accuracy of about 20 seconds. In addition, you can also see an instrument dedicated to measuring the polar star and a double sundial. The latter operates six months of the year, while the sundial above is only operational for two days during the equinoxes.

Jantar Mantar Astronomical Observatory in Jaipur
Jantar Mantar Astronomical Observatory in Jaipur

Jal Mahal: the Water Palace

The Jal Mahal, better known as the Water Palace, is a majestic building in the middle of the Man Sagar Lake. Its white marble architecture offers a fascinating contrast to the surrounding azure waters. With the right lighting conditions, you can see the palace reflected in the water in an incredible visual spectacle. Built as the summer residence of the maharajas, the Water Palace once hosted festivals and duck-hunting activities. However, today, it is closed to the public. It is only visible outside, so it is just a short stop on the way to Amber Fort.

Jal Mahal Palazzo dell’Acqua
Amer, Jaipur
Rajasthan 302002, India

Jal Mahal, the Water Palace near Jaipur, Rajasthan
Jal Mahal, the Water Palace near Jaipur, Rajasthan

Amber Fort: the fortress of Jaipur

Located 11 kilometres from Jaipur, the imposing Amber Fort majestically dominates the surrounding hills, offering a panoramic spectacle that captures the attention of every visitor. This fortress, built initially as the residence of the Rajput royal family, is an architectural gem with a succession of courtyards, gardens and palaces, as you can read in detail in the article on Amber Fort in Jaipur.

Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, construction of the Amber Fort began in 967 during the reign of Raja Man Singh but underwent numerous additions and modifications over the following centuries. The building materials used, marble and red sandstone, make the fort pinkish. At the same time, the interior has four main courtyards accessed through monumental entrances.

Forte Amber
Devisinghpura, Amer
Jaipur, Rajasthan 302001, India

Exterior walls of the Amber Fort in Jaipur with a view of the defensive walls
Exterior walls of the Amber Fort in Jaipur with a view of the defensive walls

Stepwell Panna Meena Ka Kund

Along the road to Amber Fort, from Jaipur to Amer, stands the amazing stepwell Panna Meena Ka Kund. It is an important example of Rajasthani architecture. Stepwells are, in fact, common, especially in western India, to collect rainwater during the monsoon season and make it available during drought.

The Panna Meena Ka Kund is over 30 metres deep and one of the oldest stepwells in Rajasthan, with over 1,500 years of history behind it. Once used as a drinking water reservoir, today, it is more of a tourist attraction. It is less touristy than other similar wells in India, so you can safely admire its unique architecture after visiting the nearby Amber Fort.

Panna Meena Ka Kund
Amer, Rajasthan 302028, India

Stepwell Panna Meena Ka Kund Rajasthanis
Stepwell Panna Meena Ka Kund in Rajasthan

Gatore Ki Chhatriyan: the royal cenotaph in Jaipur

Situated a short distance from Jaipur, Gatore Ki Chhatriyan is a tranquil place relatively unknown to tourists, where members of the Kachwaha Rajput royal family were anciently cremated. Built during the reign of Maharaja Jai Singh II, founder of Jaipur, the architecture of Gatore Ki Chhatriyan presents a harmonious fusion of Vedic and Indo-Persian influences. The north side of the complex houses the crematoria, while cenotaphs, similar to towers or small open-air palaces decorated with elements of nature, historical battles and elephants, are scattered throughout the complex.

Gaitor Ki Chhatriyan
309B, Mangala Rd
Bada Akhada, Krishna Nagar
Brahampuri, Jaipur, Rajasthan 302002, India

Royal Crematorium at Gaitore Ki Chhatriyan, near Jaipur
Royal Crematorium at Gaitore Ki Chhatriyan, near Jaipur

Visiting Jaipur: tips for travelling and shopping

Although the historic centre of the Pink City is relatively tiny, exploring Jaipur requires a well-planned travel strategy, given the traffic and the distance to some must-see attractions, such as the Amber Fort. Tuk-tuks are ideal for getting from your hotel to the city centre. At the same time, guided tours or taxis are better options for reaching destinations outside the city.

Walking in Jaipur can be challenging because of the intense heat (always carry a water bottle with you) and the insistence of the vendors who won’t give up even when you say no. If you visit the city with a local guide, you can ask him to intervene by limiting the vendors’ insistence. Apart from the insistence of souvenir sellers in the more touristy areas, you can buy beautiful textiles, jewellery and authentic Rajasthani art objects in the Pink City if you have time to visit markets and shops.

In conclusion, Jaipur, the Pink City, offers an exciting journey past ancient royal palaces and fortresses. To fully explore the richness of this destination, a guided tour is the ideal option, allowing you to immerse yourself in the depths of this Rajasthan city’s history and culture. Write to me in the comments about which of Jaipur’s attractions you would like to visit and what fascinates you most about this fascinating city.

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