The Weekly Getaway: windows to the past, doorways to the future in Jaipur
There is an unmistakable air of whimsy mixed in with historic royalty in Jaipur. It was evident the day I arrived as the evening sky was buzzing with kites, leftovers of the prior week’s Kite Festival. Easily mistaken for birds, some of these kites would eventually land in trees and electrical lines adding to the colorful landscape that is India.
Glittering sunlight dampened by the dust give the city an earthy amber tone, though it’s nickname “Pink City” comes from the buildings being painted pink in anticipation of the Prince Albert’s arrival more than one hundred years ago. Somehow the nickname, like the pink terracotta walls, has stuck.
Jaipur may not be one of the largest Indian cities, but it could easily be one of the busiest in terms of tourism. With its many forts and historic sites celebrating the kingdom of Rajasthan, it’s hard not imagining what life was like centuries ago. I couldn’t help thinking that when I came across a small doorway hidden amongst the chaos of tourists at Amer Fort. Built in the sixteenth century along a mountain ridge, the fort has several courtyards and pavilions connected by underground tunnels. Could this doorway lead to secret passage?
Jaipur is a known hub for artisans and handicrafts and you would be remiss not to take advantage of the shopping. Textiles of cotton and silk, as well as woodwork and blue pottery can be found at many local shops and boutiques.
To try my hand at block printing, I went Studio Bagru for a workshop. It was there I met Jeremy Fritzhand, an American expat who is passionate about the traditional methods of block printing and provides a workspace for designers and artisans to come together to keep this centuries old tradition alive.
As I leave the Pink City, with an extra suitcase filled with souvenirs, I carry with it just some of the magic of Jaipur. It’s this connection to the past that is leading it gallantly into the future.
- Amer (Amber) Fort - climb to the top of the fort via elephant or on foot for beautiful views of the fortress walls and surrounding city.
- Hawa Mahal - located in the historic old city, stop to take a look and shop the souvenirs at Johari bazaar closeby.
- City Palace Jaipur - still a functioning palace for the current royal family, view the galleries outside and the rooms inside. A must see is the Sukh Niwas Blue Room.
- Studio Bagru - workshops and trips to the block printing town of Bagru available, as well as a boutique with local designers in Jaipur.
- Anokhi Museum - tour through the history of block printing, and appreciate the fabrics that are hand printed to this day.
- Jal Mahal Water Palace - submerged in water, this structure was previously used as a shooting lodge but is now one of the most photographed attractions in Jaipur.
- Jawahar Kala Kendra - a relatively new arts and cultural center, it offers modern and historic exhibits of Rajasthani culture.
- Taj Jai Mahal - a former royal residence, the sprawling grounds and traditional atmosphere take you back to historic colonial India.
- Pearl Palace Heritage Hotel - each room is unique in this boutique hotel, giving you an authentic Rajasthani guesthouse experience.
- Samode Haveli - set in a haveli, or mansion, it offers historic touches and modern amenities.
- SUJAN Raj Mahal Palace - for a truly luxurious experience, this hotel is also in a former royal residence with lots of local charm
- Peacock Rooftop Restaurant - a popular spot of tourists, but for good reason. It offers live music and some of the best food in Jaipur.
- Bar Palladio - one of the most well known locations in Jaipur, which is more of a visual treat than culinary one. Serving Italian food, it is a place to stop and admire the scenery.
- Tapri The tea house - a mix of Indian and international cuisine, this place doesn’t take reservations so please Himmat Rakho, or have patience while waiting for a table!
- Okra - for fine dining, this restaurant has an extensive menu for Indian and non-Indian palates alike
- Teatro Dhora - this Italian “Design theatre” houses a collection of local designers for women and men.
- Anokhi - a popular Indian chain store, it’s flagship store has a wide selection of home decor and apparel, and a cafe if you need to take a shopping break. There is also am Anokhi Museum located near the Amer Fort.
- Soma - another well known Jaipur store specializing in block printed fabrics, including an entire floor for organic cotton.
- Amrapali - a wide range of fine to cosmetic jewelry, this Jaipur staple is a fun place to shop or just browse.
- Rungneel - an interesting concept of a boutique cafe, this newly opened space has room after room of colorful textiles.
- Neerja pottery - the best place to find a collection of traditional Jaipur ceramics.