24 Hours in Jaipur
Jaipur, smack dab in the middle of the desert, is India’s first planned city, the most regal city in country and a real shoppers’ paradise. If you have to choose between Delhi, Mumbai or Jaipur for your ‘big city’ experience in India, give Jaipur a chance–it has a charm to which other places can’t compare.
Although you should spend more than one day in Jaipur, we’re going to share some of the very best things to do while you’re here so that you don’t miss any essentials on a short visit. The food, shopping and sightseeing are incredible, but with only one day you’ll want to go a little light on the sightseeing and only visit the very best shops.
Jaipur is called the ‘Pink City’ simply because many walls and buildings are spectacularly pink. It’s spectacular! They were painted this way to welcome the Prince of Wales in 1853 and remained so after his departure. The royal heritage of Jaipur is really an interesting thing, and if that is your main reason for going then it is best to hire a guide to take you around and actually teach you about the places you are seeing.
Start of the day. If you arrive very early in the morning, consider doing a sunrise hot-air balloon ride. Jaipur is consistently listed along with other more famous destinations as one of the world’s top hot-air ballooning destinations, and a ride is extra spectacular when watching the sun rise.
After your hot-air balloon ride, spend the morning seeing the ‘must-see’ places like the Amber Fort and Palace, which is about 30 minutes from the centre of the city and the top tourist attraction in Jaipur. Visit the City Palace, where the insanely wealthy royal family used to live. The peacock gate is one of the most popular places to take photos in Jaipur and doubles as a museum. Another palace to take time for is Hawa Mahal, or ‘Palace of Wind’ which has outstanding, intricate architecture and overlooks the Old City. These are the top three sights in Jaipur, and of course there are many more, but in only 24 hours you’ll have to keep it limited.
If you have no interest in sightseeing then you could consider spending time at Elephantastic. This is a tourist favourite where you can paint and wash the elephants, and is considered a sanctuary of sorts. However, when it comes to interacting with animals taken from the wild, it’s best to do your research (another topic more suited to a separate article) to make sure it aligns with your values. If pushed, we’re not sure we’d recommend Elephantastic.
Next, you’ll need to eat lunch! Stick with Rajasthani food; the pepper the locals use is unique to the Thar desert and makes this fare truly unique. Eat at The Spice Court in Civil Lines to really experience the local flavours.
Next is shopping. You HAVE to shop in Jaipur! This is the place to buy gemstones, gold, silver, wall-hangings, and pillow covers, and you will get the best prices here compared to anywhere else in India. If you are serious about buying gems, start at the Gem Palace, which does not scam people and offers vintage and breathtaking pieces of jewellery. For more jewellery, across many price ranges, visit Johari Bazaar, where you can buy all sorts and find something that works for your budget. Hot Pink is a famous store to buy newer trendy pieces for the home with a Rajasthani touch. Mojari is where you need to head for shoes.
For dinner, try Handi Restaurant, which is an old favourite, and devour a spicy Rajasthani curry or go for a tandoori. They set up a kebab stall at nighttime.
Lastly, you need to know where to sleep. Samode Haveli is the TOP boutique experience here, and is consistently mentioned in the press as a top hotel in all of India. You cannot go wrong booking here (as long as the budget suits). Yes, it’s a luxurious experience and splurge, but after being around the royal feel of Jaipur’s past Maharajas you may well be in the mood to indulge! Aside from Samode Haveli, there are still some great boutique options in Jaipur, and we recommend Dera Mandawa, a wonderful owner-run hotel, and Alsisar Haveli, one of Jaipur’s loveliest heritage hotels.