Jaipur sightseeing tour - a locals guide
Last week I shared my favorite places to stay in Jaipur from the most budget-friendly, to custom built for royalty. This week I want to share my custom Jaipur sightseeing tour, where I share all my favorite places to hang out, eat, and visit in the Pink City.
The Pink City is a driving city. There are cars, tuk-tuks, buses, and motorbikes. There aren't any subways or rail systems like Delhi. That being said, I would not recommend a car rental. I drive in India, but it took me years to feel comfortable. Traffic laws are basically nonexistent, and locals are always looking to scam foreigners for money by bumping your car and then demanding money for damages (trust me, it happens A LOT).
If you are in India for a short time, spare yourself the headache and hire a taxi service. Taxi tours are easily available via a quick google search Agra Taxi is a popular one. But, if you are looking for safe and reliable transportation (especially if you are a woman traveling alone) feel free to contact me and I am happy to give the information of my driver that I have used for years and has driven countless people I have referred to him.
India now also has Uber and their own service Ola. These drivers are unvetted and can sometimes be dangerous. I personally have never had an issue. But, I have heard stories of drivers tampering with the locks on the doors and abducting people. So, remember to use caution.
Places to See
Let's start our Jaipur tour with the best places to see. I have ranked them in order of my personal opinion, from must see, do not miss, to you're not missing anything if you run out of time and don't get a chance to visit.
Also known as the Amber Fort, is not technically in Jaipur. It's right outside the city walls, in Amber. This is where literally everyone who comes to India takes a photo. Seriously, it's one of the most popular Instagram photos of India. This is probably also because Jaipur tourism brings in an estimated 1.8 million tourists per year!
Amber fort is built high up on a hill with a view of Maota Lake. Back when Amber was still the capital of the state of Rajasthan the Maharashtra rulers and their families lived here. From 1592 the fort remained the state capital headquarters and was then moved to Jaipur in 1727.
The Amber Palace is a place to get lost in, wander, and explore with its winding corridors and secret passages. BUT, PLEASE DON'T RIDE THE ELEPHANTS! Look out for the four main courtyards. The first, closest to the entrance is the Jaleb Chowk. This is where soldiers would gather. The second is Diwan-e-Aam (Hall of Public Audience). It is recognizable by all of the pillars. This is where Maharashtra would hold court. The third, Diwan-e-Khas (Hall of Private Audiences) also known as the Sheesh Mahal (Hall of Mirrors). And, the forth Palace of Man Singh was made for the women of the fort (read the kings many wives).
Panna Meea Ka Kund - Stepwell
If you continue along Ajmer Road right behind the Amber Palace is the Panna Meea Ka Kund stepwell. If you are going to the Amber Fort there is no reason not to stop by the Chand Baori stepwell. The stepwell is only about 5 minutes away and takes about 10 minutes to walk around and take photos.
What are stepwells?
Instagram and travel photography have made stepwells iconic with their staggering geometric stairs. But, what exactly are they? Stepwells are unique to India alone. The stepwells are essentially large reservoirs of water. Around the edge of the holes are stairs all the way down to the bottom. The stairs allow people access to the water no matter the water level.
Stepwells were crucial to survival in India. This is because the Indian weather is cyclical and split between dry and wet seasons. During the wet season, the stepwell collects water, and during the dry season that water can be used.
Don't get taken for a ride
Taxi drivers will tell you they know a better stepwell, a more secret one. One that no tourists ever go to. They are just trying to rack up your miles so you have to pay them more. I have been to stepwells all over India. And, TBH they are all kind of the same. So, stay focused. There is so much to see in Jaipur. The Chand Baori stepwell is great and convenient, so you don't waste time driving around in the car in search of something "more local"... whatever that means.
Also known as the Palace of The Winds. Another iconic monument to the architecture of Jaipur City. The pink palace has 954 windows also known as Jharokaas! It was originally built as an entertainment building for the royal ladies of Jaipur. Back in 1799 when the palace was built women had to follow the rules of Purdah. This meant they could not be seen in public without a face covering. All of the windows and intricate lattice design let the women observe the world below them without being seen.
One of my favorite facts about the Hawa Mahal is that there are ramps everywhere. The women's dresses were so heavy from being adorned in jewels and diamonds they had to be pushed around in wheelchairs!
Around the corner from the Hawa Mahal is Jantar Mantar. If you are into astrology this is an absolute must.
It is another one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites and features the world's largest stone sundial. The 19 larger than life astrological instruments allow the observation of astronomical positions with the naked eye.
While the park is cool to just walk around, I would definitely consider getting a tour guide to explain how each instrument works, and the importance of astrological tracking in Hindu history and culture. Did you know that the traditional wedding season is based on the movements of the cosmos?
The City Palace is also close to Jantar Mantar and Hawa Mahal. The Palace was built in 1727 when the capital of Rajasthan became Jaipur. And, to this day, the royal family (who are thought to be descendants of Lord Rama) still live in the palace.
Taking a tour through the city palace is a visual guide through Jaipur's rulers. One of my favorite displays at the City Palace is the pants of Maharajah Sawai Madho Singh I. He was 250 kilos, 550 lbs, and said to be 7 feet tall. His pants are the biggest I have ever seen.
Albert Hall is the state museum of Rajasthan, and also the oldest museum. This is more of a traditional museum setting, and the works include paintings, jewelry, carpets, ivory, stone, metal sculptures, and crystal carvings.
The temple Birla Mandir is a Hindu temple. And, is one of many Birla temples. If you did not know, the Birla family is one of the most famous business families in India managing the Birla Group. The temple is a dedication to Lord Vishnu and Goddess Lakshmi. Solid marble carvings make up the entire structure of the temple.
The Water Palace. A floating palace in the middle of a lake that looks like a dream on Instagram. But, IRL it's kind of too far away to appreciate and a bit of a tourist trap. If you secluded palaces on lakes are what you are after, then make a trip to Udaipur - Rajasthan's City of Lakes, instead.
Aka, Galta Ji. Don't go here. I always try to avoid animal tourism. But, A lot of travellers have been reaching out to me asking about the Monkey Temple. I thought it was unfair to tell people not to go without ever checking it out myself. So one Sunday in Jaipur with nothing to do, I decided to visit. And, what a mistake.
If you love monkeys, yes, these guys are adorable. But, they are a bit vicious and unpredictable. A monkey eating a chapati sneezed on my face. Rabies can be transmitted through saliva and the eye (I had no idea). And, did you know that animals can transmit rabies before they display symptoms of the disease. So, I had to go on a course of 5 rabies shots in the time of 28 days. Finding the shots, and adequate medical care was challenging. The shots were brutal and had me feeling sick for the entire month.
I will tell the details of the ordeal another time because I learned a lot and think it could be useful for others who find themselves in an emergency animal situation.
But, in terms of visiting here. It's not worth it. If you are here on vacation the last thing you want to be doing is navigating the Indian medical system.
Where to Eat
Don't forget to refuel on your Jaipur city tour. These places are some of the best food Jaipur has to offer.
Getting good coffee in India is almost impossible. Amazing teas are readily available. But, for a really good cup of coffee...Well, that's a rare find. Curious Life is one of those special coffee gems. The coffee shop that serves up all day breakfast, lots of vegan options, and delicious fresh OJ is a staple for me in Jaipur. Seriously, I eat there at least one meal a day.
Playing an ironic playlist of everything from MGMT to Britney Spears this cafe feels more like Brooklyn than India. And, did I mention they roast their own beans on site?
Anokhi Cafe is a strange place if you ask me. The people eating there are almost exclusively tourists wearing head to toe block print outfits. This is not an authentic Jaipur spot. But, it is one of the only places in India that I trust to eat salad at. For whatever reason eating leafy green salads is a dangerous game in India. I would say salads have been responsible for about 90% of the times I got food poisioning, and for that reason I avoid them. But, Anokhi is known for the tourist belly friendly kitchen.
Perfect of quick bites and Indian sweets. This is a local place, you probably won't see many tourists here. But, it's completely safe. Some of the staff doesn't speak English. But, don't let that discourage you. When I first started coming here I would just order what the person in front of me did. It was a fun way to try lots of new dishes. But, you can always play it safe with a dal fry, a paneer dish, or sev puri.
You can't go to Jaipur without visiting Tapri. I take all my guests here. There are a few locations, they are all adorable. And, they all have the same menu. Actually, I think I have had everything on their menu! Here is what to order. Gourmet Maggie noodles, Behl puri, idli, cheese toasty, and if you are feeling adventurous try their nachos. They have crushed up corn chips, mustard, sev, olives, tomatoes, onion, and cheese. Sounds kind of weird, right? Mustard nachos? But, I swear. They are really good!
On The House. Part coffee shop part cafe. This spot is perfect for a working lunch. Most restaurants in Jaipur do not have WIFI. OTH is one of the only places that does. And, it's pretty fast too. Fill up on pasta, pizzas, and even a decent take on Mexican food. Typically Mexican food in India is complete garbage. These options will not be what you will find in the states, but they are still pretty tasty.
A bit fancier, they even have a local farm to table menu. This menu has lots of gluten-free and vegan options. From the quinoa pad thai to the space cake which is a baked zucchini and quinoa patty with fresh goat cheese, everything on the menu is elegantly served with careful attention to ingredients and presentation.
Nibs Choco Cafe
Sweet tooth? Stop by Nibs for some of the most decadent chocolate creations in Jaipur. Like their chocolate dessert pizza. Nibs also serves food, similar to what you will find at OTH. But, seriously all the desserts are amazing.
For a night out on the town Palladio is a favorite of everyone in Jaipur. In fact, I don't think I have ever been there without running into someone I know. They are best known for their extensive signature cocktail menu and small tapas-style bites.
Next to bar Palladio is Shikaar Bagh . Here there are elevated Indian classics like paneer tikka lababdar (Indian BBQ Cheese) and bhindi nimboo churan (crispy lady fingers aka okra).
If you are want to go shopping, check out my Secret Guide To Jaipur Shopping.
Where to Stay
For hotels in Jaipur at every budget, take a look at the Best Hotels in Jaipur post. I went to them all, so you don't have to.
24 hours in Jaipur
I know there is so much to see in India, and for many, it is a once in a lifetime trip. So a lot of people tend to only spend 1 day in each city. If that's you, and you only have one day to tour Jaipur, here is my itinerary of musts for a jam-packed full day in Jaipur experiencing only the best of what the city has to offer.
So, skip the overpriced Jaipur sightseeing package, and follow my one day tour of Jaipur!
Start out with breakfast at Curious Life for coffee, omelets, and fresh juices
Then head to the pink city to start your Jaipur local sightseeing at the Hawa Mahal and Jantar Mantar. Be careful once you get into the pink city you are fair game for locals to try and sell you Jaipur guided city tours. Skip them, instead hire a guide for each site.
Do a little shipping around the markets, Bapu Market is one of the best.
Then break for lunch at Tapri. If you're with a group try and share this way everyone can have a little bit of everything.
Head up to the Amer Fort, and on the way stop at the stepwell. But, remember to check the closing time of the Amer Fort. Depending on the time of year it may close early. If you miss the day time hours, the fort re-opens at night. Now, if your goal is Insta worthy photos, this might not be the best option for you, but I promise it will still be a really cool experience wondering the ancient palace by moonlight (yes, there are lights too).
Head back into town for long and leisurely dinner at Palladio, where you can decompress and reminisce about your day.
And there you have it, my one day Jaipur tour!
In town for one more day? And not sure what to do? I would recommend setting up a block print workshop in Bagru.
Coming soon, beyond Jaipur - Ranthambore Park, Udaipur, Jodhpur, Ranakpur, Pushkar, tour Jaipur Agra and more!