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See & Do | India

A Jewel of a City Words by Sarah Khan

“Held this year from January 24 through 28 across sprawling grounds of Diggi Palace, the 2019 Jaipur Literature Festival lineup is one of the most impressive yet: Join the crowds descending to listen to Anish Kapoor, Colson Whitehead, Andre Aciman, Yann Martel, Chitra Bannerjee Divakaruni, Hari Kunzru, Jeffrey Archer, Molly Crabapple, and many more.”

Jaipur is lovingly called the Pink City, thanks to the rose-tinted sandstone buildings that define the city’s architecture, and with every step you’ll feel like you’re in the page of a guidebook come to life. But the Rajasthani capital is about so much more than fulfilling the clichéd fantasies harbored by the legion of wide-eyed tourists that follow a well-trodden path through India’s iconic Golden Triangle circuit. Here, you’ll find generations-old jewelers alongside chic cafés; and world-class art exhibitions next to flower markets that have been plying local temples with fragrant offerings for centuries. And for five days every January, the city becomes a playground for the global literary elite, as the Jaipur Literature Festival welcomes more than half a million visitors and parties go on late into the night. Whether you’re in town for the festival or not, here are the key places to experience Jaipur old and new.

Where to Stay

The former residence of the Maharaja of Jaipur, Taj Rambagh Palace ticks all the boxes for an Indian palace fantasy: grand architecture, alluring gardens where peacocks roam freely, and an elaborate welcome fit for, well, a maharaja. But on the other end of the spectrum lies another onetime royal abode, the impossibly chic Sujan Rajmahal—this modern Art Deco-style retreat is done up in an ultra-contemporary aesthetic, with a kaleidoscope of quirky wallpapers drenched in bold colors splashed on all the walls. For a more intimate stay, consider the lovely, design-centric 28 Kothi. With just five rooms, the home is a calming escape from the thrum of the city.

Where to Eat and Drink

Bar Palladio, set in the gardens of Narain Niwas Palace, and its sister, Caffe Palladio, not too far away, have settled on an unlikely Rajasthan-meets-Rome aesthetic—and it works beautifully. Conceived by Jaipur-based Dutch designer Marie Anne Oudejans, the stunning murals, delicate arches, and eye-catching color palettes—electric blue for Bar Palladio, and soft pastels for Caffe Palladio—set the stage for light Italian-inspired menus courtesy Italian owner Barbara Miolini. Get your pasta alongside your purses at Jaipur Modern, a stylish bistro attached to a concept shop featuring sleek fashion and accessories from Indian labels. And two of Jaipur’s can’t-miss landmarks, City Palace and Amber Fort, play host to restaurants that are far better than we’ve come to expect from museums. City Palace’s Baradari occupies the eaves and nooks of a time-worn courtyard in the heart of the palace, and Amber Fort’s 1135 AD is an over-the-top ode to Rajasthani opulence, set in a mirrored room where candlelight dances off each surface.

Other Activities

Jewelry is more than an accessory in Jaipur; it’s tradition. The city is home to some of India’s most illustrious jewelers, many of whom have been in the trade for generations; the recently opened Amrapali Museum is the brainchild of Amrapali Jewelers, and pays tribute to the mastery and workmanship that have thrived in the city for centuries with a collection of necklaces, bangles, anklets, and more, painstakingly sourced by the owners. As of late 2017, Madhavendra Palace at the 18th-century Nahargarh Fort on the outskirts of Jaipur has reinvented itself as one of the world’s most stunning galleries—from the palace’s courtyards, through the narrow hallways, and up to the rooftop with panoramic views over Jaipur, you’ll stumble across modern works by the likes of Bijoy Jain, Sebastiano Mauri, Asim Waqif, and Tanya Goel.

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