[no_toc] By: Katja
Exploring Jaipur with Kids
Jaipur is the fairytale capital of Rajasthan, India’s most romantic and fabled state. Founded in the 18th century by the Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II, the city is famous for its whimsical palaces, fanciful observatories and dusty pink buildings. Today the centre is a busy urban hub yet it still contains magical pockets and lots to enjoy with kids. Here’s how to enjoy Jaipur with Kids.
Some of our favourite things to do in Jaipur with Kids
- An elephant safari where kids can wash, feed, paint and then ride an elephant through the countryside.
- The Elephant Festival that is held annually in March. This Technicolor parade of painted elephants, camels and horses marks the start of the equally vibrant Hindu festival of colours, Holi. It’s worth noting that the Elephant Festival has been cancelled in previous years owing to animal welfare issues. Make sure you check in advance if it is happening or not.
- Holi, the festival of colours marks the start of spring, which\a is great fun to celebrate with the family.
The Pink City’s Highlights
The main sights are within the old part of Jaipur and in the neighbouring town of Amber. The city streets can be chaotic with kamikaze auto-rickshaws, camels pulling carts, speedy motorbikes and honking cars. Take care if walking with small children; a backpack or baby carrier will serve you well. Many of the main sights in Jaipur’s pink city are grouped together so you can hop from one to the other.
The Palace of the Winds
The pink honeycombed Palace of the Winds (Hawa Mahal), one of Jaipur’s most recognised buildings. It was built in 1799 so that the women of the court could view city processions without being seen. There’s little inside today but it’s fun to peer through the miniature windows onto the streets below and little kids in particular seem to enjoy opening and closing the dozens of tiny shuttered windows.
Open daily 9am-5pm. Audio guides and guides are available.
Fun for the whole family is Jantar Mantar, a wonderfully whimsical 18th-century observatory built by Maharaja Jai Singh. It’s a mind-boggling complex of 14 giant instruments constructed to measure time, predict eclipses, track the location of stars and more.
The complex is one of five built by the Maharaja and is the largest and best preserved of them all. Even if you can’t work out what the instruments do, they are fascinating to discover. Some of them are still used by astronomers today, for example to work out the most auspicious date for a wedding. There’s no shade so avoid the midday sun.
Open daily 9am-4.30pm. Children under 7 free. Next to City Palace entrance.
The City Palace
The impressive City Palace is right in the heart of the Old City and is a vast complex of courtyards, gardens and palace buildings. The outer wall was constructed by Jai Singh but much of the building occurred over the centuries resulting in a blend of Rajasthani and Mughal architecture. There’s a café on site so stop here for a banana lassi and a snack before exploring the extensive grounds.
Palace highlights include two enormous solid silver urns that were created to carry holy Ganges water for the Maharaja’s trip to England in 1902 and a collection of royal costumes that incorporate those worn by Sawai Madho Singh I. History says that he was 2m tall and weighed 250kg, he’s also believed to have had 108 wives! Don’t miss the Maharani’s Palace, home to the most impressive collection of weapons in the country.
Open daily 9.30am – 5pm.
The ancient settlement of Amber (or Amer) was once a city itself but is now part of Jaipur. The main reason to visit is to see the magnificent 16th-century Amber Fort. The thick sandstone walls hide a vast palace complex divided into four sections, each with a grand gate and courtyard – kids should try and find the magic flower fresco. Arrive early to beat the crowds and lose yourself in the maze of halls, gardens and temples. Elephant rides are possible up the ramparts although we don’t recommend this owing to animal welfare issues.
If you’re feeling particularly energetic, hike the steep climb up the hill from Amber Fort to Jaigarh Fort, otherwise known as ‘Victory Fort’. Built in 1726 to protect its lower neighbour it’s home to the world’s largest cannon on wheels and some pretty fantastic views.
Open daily 8am – 6pm.
Anokhi Museum of Hand Printing
Perfect for budding Vivienne Westwoods and Alexander McQueens is the Anokhi Museum of Hand Printing, a small textile museum located in a beautifully restored 16th-century haveli. The museum showcases the history and tradition of hand-blocked printing and kids can even create an original block print t-shirt or scarf. There’s a small café here for drinks (but no food).
The Indian festival of Holi heralds the arrival of spring with an explosion of colour. Celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and other religions, this vibrant ritual is one of India’s most exciting and fun-filled festivals. On the day of Holi itself, everyone wears a white kurta (a long, cotton shirt worn over trousers), which soon end up covered in colourful paint. The rules of ‘playing Holi’ are very simple; throw as much paint and coloured water on as many people as you can. The streets can be a little crazy on this festival day so it’s best to choose a family-friendly venue to celebrate. We particularly enjoyed our time at the Diggi Palace Hotel, which holds its own celebration for guests.
Jaipur is the shopping capital of Rajasthan, so it’s well worth exploring the many bazaars. There are dozens of markets and the colourful Pink City is still loosely divided into traditional artisan quarters. Johri Bazaar is the place to go for gemstones and jewellery, Bapu Bazaar for traditional Jaipur textiles, jootis (traditional leather shoes) and perfume and Chaura Rasta for books and stationery. In addition you can find markets for gem cutters, miniature painters, silversmiths, stone carvers, bangles, Rajasthani puppets and more. You’ll even find camel nose pins and an auto rickshaw horn (the ultimate kiddie souvenir!) if you look hard enough.
Be aware that the bazaars and alleyways are crowded and narrow. If visiting with little kids then a kiddie backpack (or infant carrier) will work much better than a pushchair or stroller.
More things to do…
See the sun rise over the dusty Aravalli hills on a Sky Waltz Balloon Safari (ages 5+) followed by a bountiful breakfast at the Samode Palace Hotel.
Catch the stars of the National Geographic Channel’s television series, Monkey Thieves, at the Temple of the Sun God, an 18th century complex 10km from Jaipur. The resident rhesus macaques converge at dusk, earning the temple its more popular nickname, The Monkey Temple.
It’s worth spending more time in Jaipur for the shopping alone. Some of our favourite shops in Jaipur include Ridhi Sidhi Textiles (9 East Govind Nagar, Amber Palace Rd) for multi-coloured Rajasthani sun umbrellas, quilted bedspreads and printed fabrics. Hot Pink (Narain Niwas Hotel, Narain Singh Rd) stocks fashion by leading Indian designers and occasionally cool kids’ t-shirts as well as rakhi (friendship) bands for siblings.
The Gem Palace is Jaipur’s best-known address and the place to go for baubles, birthstones, birthday gifts or just to treat yourself. Amrapali sells affordable day-to-day pieces as well as red carpet attire and beautiful kundan jewellery. Brigitte Singh (+91 (0)141 2530229) is a designer whose textiles are sold in high-end shops around the world. Her most famous design is on show in the V&A Museum in London. By appointment (and serious enquiries) only.
Where to Eat in Jaipur with Kids
The following are some of the places that we enjoyed with our kids (note that very few, if any, restaurants offer dedicated children’s menus):
Samode Haveli Hotel: This 180-year-old palace has been transformed into a luxury family-friendly hotel with a good restaurant. Meals are served in the breezy main courtyard or in the intimate dining room covered in delicate miniature paintings. The dinner menu offers Rajasthani and traditional Indian cuisines along with International dishes. We particularly enjoyed the thalis when we visited.
Diggi Palace Hotel: This 200-year-old ancestral haveli is a mid-range hotel with one of Jaipur’s prettiest gardens. Dine on the lawns and enjoy a traditional thali or a simple grilled cheese sandwich. Service can be slow but the grounds are great.
Mosaics Guesthouse: This petit hotel on the outskirts of Amber is a lovely place for lunch (but you must call and book ahead!). Lunches are planned daily according to what’s available at the local market and typically vegetarian food is served. With advance notice chicken and lamb as well as Italian pastas and pizzas are available. Enjoy lunch on the terrace with views of Amber Fort in the distance.
Anokhi Cafe: The popular Anokhi chain has a great restaurant that serves simple, fresh meals such as sandwiches, pizzas and salads. They also do a good range of juices and great cakes.
Peacock Rooftop Restaurant: This popular restaurant receives consistently good reviews, particularly for its tandoor dishes.
OTH (On The House): One of the few places in Jaipur that serves American style breakfasts and burgers – a great option if you need a break from curries!
Where to Stay in Jaipur with Kids
The following hotels are all ones that we have personally visited and recommend for families. We have more suggestions in this post.
One of the few heritage hotels located within the walls of the old city, this 180-year-old palace has been beautifully and sensitively restored and now operates as a luxury family-friendly hotel. Check rates and reviews on TripAdvisor
Hotel Diggi Palace
The hotel is a 200-year-old ancestralhaveli located close to the old walled city. There are 70 rooms housed within several two-storey buildings, separated by sun-filled courtyards and lovely gardens. Check current room prices and reviews on TripAdvisor
Royal Heritage Haveli
This hotel sits within a 200-year-old haveli that started life as a shooting lodge. It’s a charming place to stay and its owners are equally lovely; Pradip and Angelique are committed to offering their guests a memorable experience rather than just another night in another hotel. Check current room rates on TripAdvisor
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