13 Best Sights in Jaipur, Rajasthan

Amber (Amer) Fort and Palace

Amber Fodor's choice

Surrounded by ramparts, this hulking but grandiose fortress is perched on a hill near the Maota Lake and grows more alluring as you approach it. There's a Persian inscription at Amer, added when it was completed, that reads: "Just as the heavens should always be laden with rain, so also this stately building, the foundation of the Maharaja's longevity and wealth, be preserved from any kind of damage."

And it has been preserved remarkably well. Raja Man Singh began building it in 1592; Mirza Raja Jai Singh and Sawai Jai Singh continued the construction over a period of 125 years. For centuries the fortress was the capital of the Kachhawah Rajputs, but when the capital shifted to Jaipur in the early 18th century, the site was abandoned. Although the fort is in ruins, the interior palaces, gardens, and temples retain much of their pristine beauty. Both the art and the architecture combine Rajput and Mughal influences in felicitous ways; the old rainwater harvesting and lifting systems have been renovated and are particularly worth a look. You approach the palace complex by walking up a sloping incline to the Singh Pole gate and Jaleb Chowk, the preliminary courtyard—or you can drive up from the rear end into Jaleb Chowk. Elephant rides are also offered up to the fort in the early morning; however, due to claims that the elephants are abused and that riding them causes lasting damage to their bodies, we do not recommend this option. The fort-palace attracts legions of tourists, especially during high season when Indians are also traveling (summer, Diwali, Independence Day, and the Christmas holidays) and sometimes the traffic volume is so high the traffic police close the roads to prevent further arrivals. You are best off exiting your hotel for Amer by 8:15 and reaching the fort entrance by 8:45 to beat the heat. You will then need to set aside just an hour to tour the fort.

To get the most from your visit, pick up an audio guide at the ticket window.

Two flights of stairs lead up from Jaleb Chowk; to start, skip the one leading to the Shiladevi Temple and take the one leading directly to the palace. In the next courtyard, the pillared Diwan-i-Am (Hall of Public Audience) contains alabaster panels with fine inlay work—the kind of craftsmanship for which Jaipur is famous. Typical of the Mughal period, the rooms are small and intimate, whereas the palace's successive courtyards and narrow passages are characteristically Rajput. In one corner is an interesting hammam (Turkish bath) area.

One of the elaborately carved and painted gates is known as Ganesh Pol, after the elephant god Ganesh. From a latticed corridor above it, the queen—always in purdah, or hiding—would await the king's return from battle and sprinkle scented water and flowers down upon him. Each room shows some vestige of its former glory, especially the Sheesh Mahal (Palace of Mirrors), with glittering mirror work on the ceiling. Narrow flights of stairs lead up to the lavish royal apartments, and beyond the corridors and galleries there you'll find the small, elegant Char Bagh garden. Take in the views of the valley, the palace courtyards, the formal gardens abutting the octagonal pool next to the lake, and the vast Jaigarh Fort, the ancient fortress on the crest of the hill above you. Also on the upper floor is Jas Mandir, a hall with filigreed marble jalis (screens) and delicate mirror and stuccowork.

On your way out, peek into the 16th-century Shiladevi Temple to the goddess Kali, with its silver doors and marble carvings. Raja Man Singh installed the image of the goddess after bringing it here from lower Bengal (now Bangladesh). Exit the palace by the gate near the temple, and just a few minutes down the road is the 16th-century Jagat Shiromani temple. Dedicated to Krishna, this exquisitely carved marble-and-sandstone temple was built by Raja Man Singh I in memory of his son. Amer village has several other old temples and buildings. Before you exit, within the fort there are a few legitimate government-run handicraft stores worth visiting---Rajasthali, Magical Creations, and Tribes. Avoid the handicraft shops in Amer village, even if your guide or driver recommends them. For a cool drink, stop at Coffee Cafe Day, also before the exit.

City Palace

Pink City Fodor's choice

The opulent complex of pavilions, courtyards, and chambers is one the gems of Jaipur. Begun by Jai Singh II in 1727, wings were added by later maharajas. Start the tour with a visit to Mubarak Mahal (Guest Pavilion), built by Maharaja Madho Singh in the late 19th century. Now a museum, it's an ideal place to admire some of the royals' finest brocades, silks, and hand-blocked garments and robes, some dating back to the 17th century. The armory in the northwest corner of the courtyard has one of India's best collections of arms and weapons. The paints used on the beautiful, 18th-century ceiling are believed to have been made from crushed semiprecious stones. The Bhaggi Khana (carriage museum) offers a peek into the royal family's horse-drawn vehicles and palanquins. In the inner courtyard, through the gateway guarded by two stone elephants, is the art gallery, housed in the cavernous Diwan-i-Am (Hall of Public Audience). Built in the late 18th century, the building has a magnificent, vintage-1930s painted ceiling, rows of gray marble columns inside the courtyard, the second-largest chandelier in India, and two silver pots so large that they are mentioned in the Guinness Book of World Records. The art includes scores of miniatures from the Mughal and various Rajput schools, rare manuscripts, and 17th-century carpets from the Amber Palace. From the courtyard, enter a small hall on the left that leads to the Pitam Niwas Chowk (the square). Here's where to get up close to the four small gates (doorways), intricately painted to represent the four seasons and Hindu gods. They include the Peacock Gate, Green Gate, Rose Gate and Lotus Gate---they're smaller in person than they appear in photos but still striking. In busy months there's a line of people posing in front of each one. Look up to see the seven-story Chandra Mahal (Moon Palace). Built by Jai Singh II, it was the official residence of the last maharaja, "Bubbles" (a nickname bestowed on him by his British nanny because of the amount of Champagne that was consumed when he was born in 1931)—Lieutenant Colonel Sawai Bhawani Singh—who passed away in 2011; his family still lives on the upper floors. The ground floor, open to visitors, has sumptuous chandeliers and murals. A "Royal Grandeur" tour is available for Rs. 2,500, taking you close, but not quite into, the royal family's quarters and their guest rooms, including the grand Sukh Niwas (Hall of Rest), complete with stunning geometric archways painted in deep Wedgwood blue. Plan on two hours to tour the palace. The recently renovated Baradari Restaurant within the complex is a sleek, upscale eatery offering contemporary and traditional Rajasthani food, as well as alcoholic beverages. You don't need to pay admission to City Palace to enter the restaurant; it's become a trending spot with locals and visitors.

Watch out for cons claiming that you need a guide to tour the palace—you don't. There are official guides available for Rs. 300 and audio guides for Rs. 200 in eight languages at the ticket window.

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Jaipur, 302001, India
Sights Details
Rate Includes: Palace, from Rs. 500. Royal Grandeur tour, Rs. 2500, Daily 9:30–5 (last tickets sold before 5)

Albert Hall Museum

The oldest museum in Jaipur, inside the Ram Niwas Bagh, is worth a visit just for its breathtaking architecture—the sandstone-and-marble 19th-century Indo-Saracenic-style building was designed by Sir Samuel Swinton Jacob, the father of that movement that merged popular Indian and Victorian architecture of that era, and who was one of Rajasthan's great builders (he built the Rambagh Palace as well). Named in honor of Victoria's son Prince Albert (who became Edward VII) who came visiting shortly after it was built, the exteriors and gardens offer a glimpse of what the then--New Jaipur (completed circa 1887) was like. The museum's enormous collection includes folk arts, miniature paintings, textiles, pottery, traditional costumes, marble carvings, coins, musical instruments, ivory, and visual explanations of Indian culture and traditions. Avoid the weekends when it gets crowded with local tourists. The museum has night hours (7--10), when it's set aglow with twinkling lights and you can have access to the central part of the museum.

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Jaipur, 302001, India
141-257–0099
Sights Details
Rate Includes: Rs. 300; night entrance, Rs. 100, Daily 9–5 and 7-10

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Chokhi Dhani

About a 45-minute drive from Jaipur, this large replica cultural village includes a huge buffet meal in the admission price, consisting of pretty much every regional vegetarian dish you can imagine as well as a formidable selection of sugary desserts. Come hungry and expect to eat with other tourists, either sitting on benches or on the floor in a lantern-lit hut. If you are uncomfortable sitting on the floor, there is inside seating at chairs and tables in a/c comfort; however, prices are higher. Performance tents host a vibrant Rajasthani pageant—traditional dances, including the dramatic fire dance, folk singing, katputli (puppet shows), and juggling. Tipping is discouraged. You'll find plenty of vendors selling every type of Rajasthani tchotchke under the sun; salesmen can be irritatingly pushy. There's a less interesting hotel on-site, although not in authentic village style—it's much more luxurious—and its restaurant and bar, serving regular Indian fare, offer an alternative to the buffet. It gets very busy on weekends and holidays.

Galta Ji

Known by locals and rickshaw drivers simply as Monkey Temple, the surreal Galta JI and nearby Galwar Bagh (empty gardens) is a popular pilgrimage site and temple complex on the outskirts of town. The temple itself, (not one of the area's most stunning), is called Galta Ji Mandir; it's a 30-minute walk from the ceremonial gate called Gulta Pol, located at the far eastern edge of the city. If you visit on a hot day, make sure to bring plenty of water, though avoid carrying unsealed food, as this can attract monkeys, who generally have no qualms about mugging unsuspecting humans for their lunch. Alms seekers will also make their presence known; it's perfectly okay to give small donations, and they typically clean up after the monkeys. The walk leads you over a small mountain pass and past a few small temples and shrines. Jaipuri Hindus believe that at the site of the Gulta Ji Mandir a local saint named Gala Rishi—nicknamed Gulta Ji—brought forth a spring (kund) of holy water from the Ganges that filled a water reservoir 18 feet deep. The waters here are believed to be spiritually connected to the Ganges—if you bathe here, you are said to get the same benefits as a pilgrimage to the Ganges, but as with that river, spiritual cleanliness does not equal physical cleanliness, and we don't recommend going in. The temple, which venerates Brahma, the Hindu god credited with creating the universe, is in violation of a curse by Brahma's wife Savitri; she confined his temples to Pushkar.

Jaipur, 302003, India
Sights Details
Rate Includes: Free, Daily 6–10:30 and 4–6:30

Hawa Mahal

Pink City

Jaipur's photogenic Palace of Winds was built by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh in 1799 so the women of the court (the zenana) could discreetly take in fresh air and watch the activity on the street below. Every story has semioctagonal overhanging windows, and each has a perforated screen. This curious five-story structure, named after the westerly winds that blow cool breezes through the 953 windows (or jharokas) is just one room wide, so the wind easily passes through the building and cools the interior. The building facade has a delicate honeycomb design with close to 1,000 windows, and is fashioned from pink sandstone. Short on time? Skip a trip inside, and view the mahal from the outside, especially at sunrise or sunset, when it is most striking.

For best views, go to the touristy Wind View Cafe across the street, where you can buy a soda or snack and then snap a pic from the balcony.

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Jaigarh Fort

Originally the royal treasury, this dramatic-looking fort has large water tanks for storing rainwater channeled from the imposing Nahargarh. There are fantastic views of Jaipur from the watchtower. Star attraction of the fort is the Jaivana Tope, the largest wheeled cannon in the world, measuring more than 20 feet long and weighing in at around 50 tons. The mighty Jaivana was unsurpassed for power in its day; one of its cannon balls was found 35 km (22 miles) from here. This fort was responsible for the defence of Amer Fort (which is at a lower elevation) and its armory and museum showcases the weaponry it once had as well as photographs. Local lore has it that when Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi ordered a search of the water tanks in 1976 a vast collection of gems and jewelry emerged. Guides are available at the entrance—an English-speaking one will charge about Rs. 200, but it's recommended to negotiate the fee down. For a small fee you can enter the fort by car to reach the top (where the cannon is) and save yourself a long, uphill walk. It's possible to drive from Jaigarh to Amber, but be sure to get a driver who knows the way through the narrow roads.

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Jaipur, 302002, India
141-267–1848
Sights Details
Rate Includes: Fort, from Rs. 100, Daily 9:30–4:30

Jantar Mantar

Pink City

The scholarly Sawai Jai Singh II was well aware of European developments in the field of astronomy and wanted to create one of the world's finest observatories. He supervised the design and construction of five remarkable facilities in northern India, and Jantar Mantar is the largest and best preserved of the five. Built in 1726 out of masonry, marble, and brass, this observatory is neatly laid out and equipped with simple solar instruments called yantras, which look like large, abstract sculptures, and are remarkably precise in measuring complex celestial data like time, the location of stars, angles of planets, and predicting forthcoming eclipses. Such accuracy was desired for creating astrological predictions. A guided tour is available for an additional Rs. 200, and guides will explain the history and how these devices work, as they're fascinating and, for nonscientists, somewhat complicated.

Avoid the observatory at noon, as it can be very hot.

Jaipur, 302001, India
141-261--0494
Sights Details
Rate Includes: Rs. 200, Daily 9–4:30

Jawahar Kala Kendra

Moti Dhungri

Jaipur's center for arts and crafts was founded by the state government with a specific vision: to create a space for understanding and experiencing culture and folk traditions. The center hosts regular theatrical, dance, and musical performances; check the website for schedules. It also holds regular classes on film, art, and traditional crafts. You can drop by the impressive modern building to meet some of the locals who exhibit and perform here, or have a look at one of the rotating exhibits.

Kanak Vrindavan Gardens

Man Sagar

This picturesque set of gardens and temples is just below the majestic Amber and Nahargarh forts and is nearly 300 years old. It was established by Jaipur maharaja Sawai Jai Singha. From here you can get a good look at the Jal Mahal Palace in Man Sagar Lake. The gardens also make a great picnic spot, especially on weekends if you like to people-watch. A few Bollywood films have been shot here, such as the famous romantic film Lamhe.

Amber Rd., Jaipur, 302002, India
Sights Details
Rate Includes: Free, Daily 8-6

Nahargarh Fort

The scenic hilltop location of Nahargarh Fort provides breathtaking views of Jaipur and its natural defenses. One of the main reasons to arrive here after doing a round of Jaigarh and Amer, a few kilometers away, is to take in the panoramic landscapes below. Initially built by Sawai Jai Singh in 1734, it was enlarged to its sprawling, present-day glory in 1885 by Sawai Madho Singh, who commandeered it as a lookout point. Cannons placed behind the walls recall the days when artillery was positioned against potential attackers below. During the 1857 revolt, several Britishers took refuge here. The palace of nine queens—with nine separate apartments for the wives of Maharaja Ram Singh—within the fort is also worth a short visit. The massive channels that carried rainwater from Nahargarh to Jaigarh Fort, a few miles away, where it was stored in large tanks as part of a rainwater harvesting system, can still be seen from the approach road. For best views of the city, a sunrise at the fort can't be missed. Alternatively, the lights at sunset give the fort a pretty glow.

Jaipur, 302002, India
141-513--4038
Sights Details
Rate Includes: Rs. 200, Fort daily sunrise–sunset; palace daily 10–5:30

Salim's Paper

Whatever handmade paper you've seen back home may well have come from Salim's, a factory where you can see each step of the process. Some of the thick, beautiful papers are made with crushed flower petals; it's fun to see them thrown into the mixture of cotton and resin. At the showroom you can buy an enormous range of pretty paper products---gift bags, wrapping paper, gift tags, Christmas stars, albums, and gift boxes.

Sisodia Rani ka Bagh

On Highway NH 11 that heads to Bharatpur and Agra stands one of many palaces built for the ranis, or queens, of Sawai Jai Singh II. Built in 1728, the palace, though not as opulent as it once was, still looks lovely against the backdrop of hills. The palace is furnished with murals illustrating hunting scenes and the romantic legend of Krishna and Radha, while the terraced Mughal gardens are dotted with fountains and frequented by prancing peacocks and monkeys. Stop by on your way down the Bharatpur-Agra road. It's often used as a reception site for local wedding parties.

Jaipur, India
Sights Details
Rate Includes: Rs. 200, Daily 8–6