Part of the Golden Triangle of India, Jaipur, the Pink City, dazzles every tourist with its array of bazaars, forts and monuments, each more beautiful than the other. Jaipur is the perfect introduction to the vibrant Rajasthani culture that is in the air here; a cornucopia of traditions, arts, architecture and food, it easily tops the traveller’s list with its many things to do. Our list here should be a handy Jaipur sightseeing guide.
Jaipur Things To Do – The Pink City
1. Experience Rajasthani royalty by taking an elephant-ride to the majestic Amer Fort:
When one of nature’s most regal creatures takes you up a cobbled road leading to one of the most regal palaces, you cannot help but display a hint of royalty as you kick back and let the pachyderm climb up the winding path on the hill with the Amer Fort on it. Be sure to get here early as there are limited slots and they sell like hot cakes. Most people consider this ‘the must-visit’ palace destination in Rajasthan. For those who have never seen elephants in their life before, there is no better first-time experience than the Amer Fort Elephant Ride. And you can have a guilt-free experience too, the animals are well taken care of and the number of people and rides per day restricted.
The Amer fort is a true depiction of the grandeur of the palaces that the Rajput Maharajas built, where even the doors and gateways are intricately decorated with paintings that still exist. The most famous of the attractions here is the Sheesh Mahal, which is literally a ‘palace of mirrors’ built as a winter palace for the kings. Pay careful attention and you will find the Magic Flower motif, a single motif where you can spot a fish tail, cobra hood, scorpion, elephant trunk, lion tail, corn cob and lotus, depending on the viewing angle.
At night, the Sheesh Mahal reflects the light of the stars and creates a dazzling spectacle, fit enough for royalty. While you may not be permitted inside at this time, you may certainly enjoy the Light and Sound Show at the palace held in the evening.
2. Marvel at the beauty of a structure that is Hawa Mahal:
Situated in the Pink City zone, around a busy intersection, the Palace of Winds, or Hawa Mahal, makes the daunting task of standing apart from colourful pink surroundings look like an easy one. The trio of cities – Pink City of Jaipur, Blue City of Jodhpur and Golden City of Jaisalmer – together display the wealth of tradition of Rajasthan. Originally built as a means for the royalty to observe the common man without being disturbed, this sandstone structure also served as a summer palace for the royalty.
The 953 decorated windows of the palace force the wind through small openings, causing the wind to cool down the interiors of the palace, like the palace at Orchha.
It was built by the architect-king, Sawai Pratap Singh, who was an ardent devotee of Lord Krishna, which explains why the palace has been made in the shape of Krishna’s crown.
While exploring the inside of this palace is definitely fun, the best way to photograph this gem is from the outside, whilst dodging the auto-rickshaws and bikes. Personally, we prefer photographing it at night for a much better view and much lesser traffic. You could also sit at any of the cafes opposite the road from Hawa Mahal.
3. Fulfill your gastronomic desires with a Rajasthani Thali:
The arid region and the warring clans of Rajasthan have developed unique ways of preparing and storing their food. Water being precious here, their specialities include usage of buttermilk and camel milk instead of water in their cooking. A typical Rajasthani Thali also features desserts with a heightened level of sweetness, but do not be alarmed if a local has his dessert first before enjoying the rest of the meal; this is widely acceptable, in fact, we even encourage you to try it.
Our recommendation is to go for the Thali at the famous LMB or Lakshmi Mishtan Bhandar at Johari Bazar in Pink City. Though not the one with the most varieties, this is certainly the best introduction that you could have to the food culture of here. Be sure to try the Gatte Ki Subji, a dish made of chickpea flour dumplings cooked in buttermilk; the Dal Bhati Churma, a lentil-based dish famous across Northern India in varying combinations; the Mishri Mawa, a dessert sweetened with rock-sugar and topped with pistachios and almonds. If you are here during the months between June and October, try their speciality, Ghevar, a standard welcome dish at Rajasthani homes.
4. Fulfil your astronomic desires at the Jantar Mantar:
India has always been associated with ancient-world wisdom and ancient Indians have been fascinated with the study of celestial objects and devised ingenious ways to observe and study them. One such fascinated person was the founder of Jaipur, Raja Sawai Singh II, who had the Jantar Mantar built in the early 18th century at five locations, including Jaipur.
Of the 19 instruments here, a few are the Ram Yantra, Laghu Samrat Yantra, Chakra Yantra, Kapali Yantra and the Rasivalaya Yantra. Using these, one could determine the position, altitude and azimuth of celestial bodies using a series of complicated calculations.
The largest sundial in the world is present here and it is capable of estimating the time with a mind-boggling accuracy of 2 seconds; truly the Jantar Mantar is a phenomenon that was built ahead of its time. It is of little wonder that Jantar Mantar has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
5. Shop till you drop in the Pink City markets :
Jaipur has historically been known for its markets and traders who flocked the city from various places around the world. These markets have helped showcase the culture of the Rajputs to the world, whilst encouraging others to bring in their expertise and influence the Rajasthani culture as well. This has resulted in a plethora of products that Jaipur offers through its markets.
The Johari Bazar or the Pink City Bazar is the numero uno destination for Kundan jewellery, antique jewellery, gemstones, Jaipuri blue pottery, hand puppets, Leheriya sarees, Gotapatti and Meenakari work, bags, colourful chappals (slippers), Jaipuri Razai (lightweight quilts), Rajasthani miniature paintings, Bandhani work (tie-dyeing) and block-printed bedspreads. The list may be huge, but the Pink City markets are well worth at least a day or two’s visit if you plan to buy these exquisite items.
6. Explore the unique combination of utility with aesthetics that are the step-wells:
Rajasthan being the dry and arid region that it is, has forced its people to look for innovative solutions to water management. One of them being the construction of step-wells to store water. And as the Rajputs builders were, they built these amazing step-wells that quenched the thirst of the throat and the eye as well. In days when they were still being used, these step-wells were covered with a shade to prevent exposure to direct sunlight with just an opening for the stairways.
The Panna Meena Ka Kund near the Amer Fort is a great example of a typical Rajasthani step-well, with its zigzagging flights of stairs at each level. Another classic example is about a hundred kilometres from Jaipur, at Abhaneri, the Chand Baori; with 13 stories and more than 3500 steps, it is the most iconic of step-wells and one of the oldest in the country too. The step-wells of Rajasthan are much older than the ones present elsewhere, such as in Lucknow or in Gwalior and have even influenced the architecture of the latter.
Not just for utility and aesthetics, the step-wells even served as an excellent place for banter and gossips among the people of the area in addition to being a hotbed for tourists retiring for the night. Many of them are now in need of dire care and repair, and this is perhaps why the movement of people into the wells has been restricted. However, there is not much water in these wells and whatever is left has been claimed by catfish. If you must experience step-wells that are still in use, then you must visit Jodhpur.
7. Imagine the thundering sound of the largest wheeled-cannon in the world:
Four elephants were used to shuttle the largest cannon in the world, Jaivana. It has never been used in war and we can be thankful for that. For the only time that the 50-tonne cannon has been used, an estimated 100 kilograms of gunpowder were used to fire a single cannonball and the place where the cannonball fell is now a small lake. The people who fired the cannon jumped into tubs of water kept nearby to escape the shockwaves.
The cannon, situated at Jaigarh Fort was manufactured in the forges atop the fort and is the pride of Jaipur and even features prominently on historic depictions of Jaipur. The Jaigarh Fort was built atop the Amer Fort as a fortified structure protecting the city underneath and contained forges and armouries that were used to produce weapons on a large scale. The fort also provides an insight into the type of water management that the Rajputs used such as catchment areas and funnels. This is in every way a military fort and even contains a secret walkway from Amer Fort that has now been made open to the public.
8. Pose near the world’s largest silver urns at the picturesque City Palace:
Just behind the Hawa Mahal are the exquisite living chambers of the present royalty of Jaipur, who have so graciously thrown open their doors to provide an insight into the daily lives of the royals. It is said that the City Palace once covered nearly 15 percent of the old city of Jaipur, which we now know as Pink City, and was situated right in its centre. Other than the living chambers, the City Palace hosts a number of galleries, each depicting a different facet of royal life such as the clothes that they wore, the weapons they used, the coins that they issued and their paintings and other forms of art.
The famous silver urns called Gangajalis that have found a place in the Guiness World Book of Records for the world’s largest silver urns can be found here. They each can carry 4090 litres of water and weigh approximately 350 kgs. They were used to carry the holy water of the Ganga river when Sawai Madho Singh II travelled to England for the coronation ceremony of Edward the VII. These urns are situated right in the centre of the courtyard adorned with decorated gateways.
Interestingly, the gateways draw more attention than the structures inside with their beautiful sculptures and murals. You can visit the official site of the City Palace for tickets and packages.
10. Stroll around the Jawahar Circle Park:
What appears to be an ordinary park with jogging and walking tracks is not so ordinary when it is in Jaipur. There is a touch of artistic culture to this park too; the Patrika Gateway of Jawahar Circle Park is decorated with beautiful frescoes. The themes vary from scenes from Indian epics to scenes from Jaipur’s history and a few modern-day paintings too.
The park is a great place to have an evening walk or catch the famous musical fountain show which seems to attract a crowd. For those wishing to rent a cycle to ride on, the other end of the park, from Patrika Gate offers cycles on rent at competitive rates. The park is a great place to wind down after a tiresome day.
11. Visit any of the museums of Jaipur:
From small personal museums to grand ones, Jaipur has on offer, a number of museums that could leave the traveller confused. If we are to pick the top museums, then we would go with Albert Hall Museum and Anokhi Museum in addition to the museums situated within the palaces and forts.
Apart from the mainstream museums, a few niche ones exist too, the most famous of them being the Doll Museum, Wax Museum, Gyan Museum, Seashell Museum and Amrapali Museum.
12. Calm your mind at the serene Birla Temple:
A feature of many Indian cities is the presence of a Birla Mandir, temples built by one of India’s leading business families, the Birlas. The Jaipur Birla Mandir is built atop a hillock, like the temple at Hyderabad is. The climb up the stairs is worth it as you are treated to a magnificent view of a white marble temple and a view of the busy city traffic from a serene spot.
Just outside the Birla Temple is the famed Pandit Pav Bhaji, or rather a multitude of Pav Bhaji stalls, each proclaiming to be the real deal: we have Famous, Famous Purana, Asli Purana, Purana and Asli Pandit Pav Bhaji stalls. So, which one is the real deal? The one with the photos and a seating area behind seemed to be the real one. And while many places simply do not seem to live up to the hype, this one surely did. Of course, food does taste much better when you have calmed your mind at Birla Mandir.
13. Display your bravado by visiting one of the world’s most haunted places:
The fort where even the locals fear to stay at night, the one where the line between myth and reality is often blurred, is the abandoned Bhangarh Fort. Haunted or not, the fort is definitely beautiful and the stories behind its abandonment add to its character. Entry in here is prohibited after sunset, so you can only display your bravado during the day here. This has probably been done as wild animals roam around the fort at night. There have been many instances where paranormal activities have been reported and people who have stayed here have reported an eerie feeling. Unfortunately, you cannot stay here to verify these claims.
The natural spring over which the fort was built has been dirtied now with the increasing influx of tourists and lack of maintenance. But, there are a number of temples here that have been restored by the ASI and you can spend time roaming here, feeding the monkeys that throng the temples and taking a stroll through the meadows. You could visit the nearby Ajabgarh fort as well. People usually cover Bhangarh, Ajabgarh and Abhaneri stepwell as a day-trip from Jaipur.
14. Indulge in the delicacies that Jaipur has to offer:
India has always been a haven for street-food and Jaipur is no exception; the Pink City offers to the foodie, much more than the glamorous Rajasthani Thali. While a dinner at LMB is often suggested, a lunch at Surya Mahal is often inconspicuously left out. While we cannot verify the claim, the traditional Rajasthani Jungli Maas or Forest Meat at Niro’s is to die for as per many food bloggers.
However, we do recommend the Jal Mahal Ice Cream Parlour next door; try their speciality Charcoal Ice Cream that contains activated charcoal. While you are here, do remember to check out the famous Raj Mandir Cinema Hall that is just around the corner from these places.
15. Fine-dine at the exclusive restaurant at the Nahargarh Fort:
Like a watchful guardian, the Nahargarh Fort towers above the ramparts of the Amer and Jaigarh forts, offering an excellent vantage view of Jaipur and Amer. Built exclusively as a fort for defence purposes, the fort offers stunning sights that would leave one spellbound. It is still owned by the Royal Family, as the City Palace is, who have turned the best viewing spots into fine-dine restaurants.
Reach here by evening, giving you enough time before dinner, to explore the majestic Madhavendra Bhavan, the summer resort of the royal family. It features artwork and sculptures from some of the most renown artists of the century.
Of course, a mere listicle is no match for the might of the number of things to do at Jaipur, this is but our attempt to have a curated list of things to do at Jaipur. We welcome your comments and suggestions too. A few of you have asked us to include Chokhi Daani, which exclusively displays the culture of Rajasthan in one place, we however did not visit Chokhi Dhani (yet) as we felt that we could experience the Rajasthani culture everywhere. If you are short on time and not heading over to other parts of Rajasthan, we would recommend that you go to Chokhi Dhani for a day. The Pink City is a great way to start your tour of Rajasthan.