12 Best Sights in Udaipur, Rajasthan

Lake Pichola

Fodor's choice

You can't leave Udaipur without seeing the stunningly romantic Lake Palace (Jag Niwas, now a Taj hotel), which seems to float serenely on the waters of Lake Pichola. A vast, white-marble fantasy, the palace has been featured in many Indian and foreign films, including the James Bond film Octopussy. Unfortunately, the palace's apartments, courts, fountains, and gardens are off-limits unless you're a guest at the Taj Lake Palace Hotel. The equally isolated, three-story Jag Mandir Island Palace occupies Jag Mandir Island at the southern end of the lake, and is open to visitors from 10 to 6 (take a boat over). This palace has an elegant restaurant, the Darikhana (it serves Indian and continental cuisine, and is only open for dinner), as well as a more casual all-day café. Built and embellished over a 50-year period beginning in the 17th century, Jag Mandir is made of yellow sandstone, lined with marble, and crowned by a dome. The interior is decorated with arabesques of colored stones. Shah Jahan, son of the Mughal emperor Jahangir, took refuge in Jag Mandir after leading an unsuccessful revolt against his father. Legend has it that Shah Jahan's inspiration for the Taj Mahal came from this marble masterpiece. One-hour motorboat cruises (Rs. 400 morning rides, or Rs. 700 for a sunset cruise), start at the City Palace including a stop at Jag Mandir, leave from the jetty on the hour (daily 10–6) check for the exact spot at ticket counter; book a day ahead during the busy season.

Bagore ki Haveli

It's fun to explore the many rooms and terraces of this elegant 18th-century haveli on Gangaur Ghat. It was built by a prime minister of Mewar. One-hour folk-dance performances are organized every evening at 7 in the outdoor courtyard (time may change, so check on arrival)—get there at least 30 minutes early for good seats.

Udaipur, 3130001, India
294-242–2567
Sight Details
Rate Includes: From Rs. 100, Daily 9.30–5; dance performance at 7 pm

Bharatiya Lok Kala Mandal

This folk-art museum displays a collection of puppets, dolls, masks, folk dresses, ornaments, musical instruments, and paintings. The museum hosts a 6 pm puppet show followed by traditional dancing.

Udaipur, 313001, India
0294-252–9296
Sight Details
Rate Includes: From Rs. 45, Daily 9–7

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City Palace

The sprawling maharana's palace—the largest in Rajasthan—stands on a ridge overlooking the lake and the view of the city and Lake Palace from the top is one great reason to come here. Begun by Udai Singh and extended by subsequent maharanas, the sand-color City Palace rises five stories tall, with a series of balconies. Cupolas crown its octagonal towers, which are connected by a maze of narrow passageways—which make for perfect snapshot opportunities. The City Palace is part of a complex of palaces—two have been converted to hotels and one houses the current titular maharana, Arvind Singh of Mewar.

The main entry is through the Badi Pol (Great Gate), built in the 1600s. Next head through the Tripolia Pol, a triple arched gate built in 1725, which provides the northern entry. The road between this gate and the palace is lined with shops and kiosks of big brands and small boutiques. There’s also a café.

The rooms and courtyards inside the City Palace Museum contain decorative art: beautiful paintings, colorful enamel, inlay glasswork, and antique furniture. Don't be surprised if you happen upon a fashion shoot in one of the colorful quarters. One of the more interesting features is the private bathroom of the maharaja on the third floor, which has a tree growing nearby and a grand padded toilet seat. It's useful to have the explanatory site publication, available in the book shop, or get an audio guide at the admission point. The hour-long sound-and-light show held at the palace's Manek Chowk chronicles the history of the House of Mewar—check ahead as timings can change without notice.

Udaipur, 313001, India
0294-252–8016
Sight Details
Rate Includes: From Rs. 300, Daily 9:30–4:30

Jagdish Temple

This 17-century imposing Hindu temple, the oldest in the city, was commissioned by Maharana Jagat Singh and is a major landmark in Udaipur's Old City for its architecture and height—the shikhar (or dome/spire) alone is 79 feet. It's usually abuzz with devotees and tourists, especially during the morning and evening aarti (prayer ceremony), when vendors set up makeshift flower stalls along the temple walls and sell offerings of marigolds. The temple is dedicated to Jagdish (an incarnation of Vishnu), and referred to as Jagdishji. Songs sung in his praise are often played through loudspeakers high on the temple's edifice. You're welcome to step inside, although the engravings on the temple's exterior walls are more interesting to look at. It's also one of the most central locations in the city, and an ideal location to use if you are meeting people.

Jagdish Mandir, Udaipur, 313001, India
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Daily, sunrise–sunset

Karni Mata Ropeway

Udaipur is one of the few places in India with cable cars, and these colorful gems will save you a 20-minute climb up to the scenic hilltop. You can take the ropeway (as it is called locally), to the top of Machchala Hill near Karni Mata temple and feast your eyes on the view of the city lakes and palaces. While it's a local destination, it's still relatively unknown among foreign tourists.

MLV Tribal Research Institute

Stop in here if you're curious about Mewar's tribal communities. The institute has a compact museum of tribal culture and a good library on tribal life and issues.

Udaipur, India
294-241–0958
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Free, Mon.–Sat 10–5

Neemach Mata

This hilltop temple in the new part of town is dedicated to the goddess of the mountain, also considered an avatar of Ambaji, and the climb to its summit (no vehicles are allowed) is rewarded by a beautiful view of the whole city and the Fateh Sagar lake. The shrine dates from the 17th century, although the building is newer. It's a steep, 20-minute climb on a paved, zigzag path, but you can pause often on the way up to take in the view (and catch your breath). Wear comfortable shoes and be respectful as it's an active temple.

Udaipur, 313001, India

Sahelion Ki Bari

Udaipur's famous Garden of the Maidens was founded in the 18th century by Maharana Sangam Singh for the 48 young ladies-in-waiting who were sent to the royal house as dowry. Back then, men were forbidden entrance when the queens and their ladies-in-waiting came to relax (though the king and his buddies still found their way in). The garden, on the banks of Fateh Sagar Lake, is lush with exotic flowers, carved fountains, a famous lotus pool, and monolithic marble elephants. The fountains don't have pumps. Designed to take advantage of gravity, they run on water pressure from the lakes. If the fountains are not working, ask one of the attendants to turn them on.

Saheli Marg, Udaipur, 313001, India
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Rs. 50, Daily 8–7

Sajjan Garh (Monsoon Palace)

High in the Aravali Hills just outside Udaipur, this fort–palace glows golden orange in the night sky, thanks to the lights that illuminate it. Once the maharana's Monsoon Palace and hunting lodge, it's now under government control and has lost some of its former glory. The panoramic view is spectacular from the fort's lofty tower, and locals claim you can see distant Chittaurgarh on a clear day. The winding road from the city to the top of Sajjan Garh, surrounded by green forests, is best navigated by car rather than rickshaw. On foot, it's a 45-minute uphill walk from the landing to the palace (or a taxi to the top will cost you Rs. 100 per person).

Shilpgram

This rural arts-and-crafts village near Fateh Sagar lake 5 km (3 miles) west of Udaipur contains a complex with 34 re-creations of furnished village huts (authentic right down to their toilets) from various states across India, including Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Odisha, with tribal relics on display. The town comes alive in late December with the nine-day Shilpgram Utsav Festival, when artists and craftspeople from around the country arrive to sell and display their works. Puppet shows, dances, folk music, and handicrafts sales take place year-round, however. There is a basic dhaba (eatery) inside the compound serving Indian food and tea.

Rani Rd., Udaipur, 313001, India
294-243–1304
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Rs. 100, Daily 11–7

Vintage and Classic Car Collection

The city's most elite wheels are found at the car museum, showcasing a small but gleaming selection of two dozen or so vintage (and still running) automobiles belonging to the local royal Mewar family. Look out for the 1939 Cadillacs, 1936 Vauxhall, and the 934 Rolls-Royce Phantom used in the Bond film Octopussy, which was largely filmed in and around the city. The museum is housed in the former Merwar State Motor Garage.

Lake Palace Rd., Udaipur, 313001, India
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Rs. 250, Daily 9–9