Reviewed by Victoria
Why you’ll love Jaypee Palace
I don’t usually lean towards big resort-type hotels, but due to a lack of decent alternatives in Agra, I took the children to Jaypee Palace (part of the Jaypee Group), having heard good things about its child-friendly attributes from various friends and parenting networks.
Inspired by Agra’s Mughal architecture, imposing red-sandstone walls lead the way to the hotel’s fortress-like entrance where guests are ceremonially greeted with a customary teekah and a chilled welcome drink. The garden-facing façade is glass-paneled and bears less resemblance to a Mughal stronghold and more, perhaps to Delhi Airport, or so my son suggested as we traipsed along one of the lengthy glass-flanked walkways from the main building to our room (he also wondered why there weren’t any travelators or electric buggies in the long corridors).
It is this abundance of space though that makes Jaypee Palace such an attractive option for families, particularly those with small kids who need to be ‘let off the lead’ and tossed a ball to occasionally. Parents can unwind in the gardens, by the pool, or in Tamara, the hotel’s in-house spa, where strained backs from carrying weary children around the sites all day can be treated with a soothing Ayurvedic massage.
Why the kids will love Jaypee Palace
Whilst Agra’s key sites are likely to impress a child of any age, there does come a point when all they want to do is head back to base and jump in the pool. Fortunately, Jaypee Palace is only 3 kilometres from the Taj Mahal, making it a convenient resting point (and even toilet stop) when sightseeing.
For young kids, there is a playground (that includes a rather rickety looking tree-house) and twenty-five acres of well-maintained gardens to run around in. A small crèche is available for babies although this is unsupervised.
Older children might enjoy the squash and tennis courts, putting green and, horror-of-horrors, a ‘leisure mall’ which includes a bowling alley, pool tables, electronic games and a disco. I don’t have teens yet, so I have yet to understand why hanging out in a window-less basement, in a city that houses two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, is considered a bonus, but I include this information should it be helpful to those of you that do.
NB: The Taj Mahal is closed on Fridays.
The upside to most chain hotels in this price bracket is that there are no nasty surprises when you reach your room (and no particularly exciting ones either). The 341 rooms in Jaypee Palace are well-maintained, comfortable and relatively spacious, and are all cooled by the central A/C system. The ‘Mughal inspired’ décor is modern and functional and includes a flat-screen TV with a large selection of channels (although we found the kids’ channels to have poor reception), minibar, kettle and safe. Wi-fi is available but chargeable. Most rooms offer views of the gardens.
Out of the 341 rooms, 15 are Suites and 40 Executive Rooms. Like many hotels in India, there is a strict one-extra bed only policy per room.
Best rooms for families: We stayed in one of the base-category rooms on the ground floor which opens out, via sliding patio doors, to the garden which made it easier for the children to come and go. Outside each room is a semi-private terrace area with a small table and couple of chairs. A baby monitor is unlikely to stretch from any of the rooms to the hotel’s restaurants but room service is offered.
Jaypee Palace’s has plenty of dining options which should please families with fussy eaters. Choose from the following restaurants:
The Grand Buffet: Indian & Continental buffets. Open for breakfast (7am – 10am), lunch (12:30pm – 3pm) and dinner (7.30pm – 11pm).
Paatra: North Indian. Dinner only (7:30pm – 11pm)
C’est Chine: We’re not sure why this Chinese restaurant has a French name, but according to the hotel’s website it serves ‘authentic Chinese cuisine in the backdrop of design that will make the dining experience simply unforgettable.’ It is open for lunch (12pm-4pm) and dinner (7:30pm – 11:30pm).
The Pavillion Café is open 24 hours and serves both Indian and Continental.
The Tapas Bar has a selection of imported spirits and wines and is open from 12pm to 12am.
The poolside Aqua Grill is only open during peak season from 7pm to 11pm.
When we visited we had lunch in The Grand Buffet which included salads, pasta, roasted veg and potato dauphnoise as well as a good selection of Indian dishes, and chocolate profiteroles for pudding. We had an early kids dinner in the Pavillion café – a generous sized cheese toastie.
For Kids: There are no dedicated kids’ menus but kid-friendly fare is available in most of the restaurants. Room service is available.
Activities for Parents: Swimming pool, gym, spa (with Jacuzzi and Turkish bath), astrologer, barber shop, tennis, squash, putting greens, jogging track and leisure mall.
Activities for Kids: Leisure Mall which includes a bowling alley, electronic games and children’s crèche area. 25 acres of gardens and a playground.
Air-conditioning, babysitting, common rooms, cots, doctor on call, 1 extra bed per room, kids’ activities, laundry service, pushchair friendly, shops, spa, swimming pool, travel desk, wheelchair access, Wifi.
When to go:
The best time to visit is from November to February when the city enjoys sunny skies and daily temperatures of around 24C. December and January can be chilly with temperatures dropping to 7C. Fog is not uncommon around this time as well.
From March onwards the mercury begins to rise and the summer months of May and June see temperatures reaching 40C and beyond. The monsoon rains fall from July to August resulting in marginally cooler temperatures but high humidity.
The Taj Mahal is closed to visitors every Friday.
Location & Travel:
Jaypee Palace Hotel is approximately 3km from the Taj Mahal in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India. Commercial flights to Agra’s Kheria Airport have long been suspended. At the time of writing only charter flights are available.
The main railway station is the Agra Cantonment station. From Delhi, the shatabdi (express) trains take approximately two hours. The Taj Express trains take approximately 3 hours although it’s not uncommon for trains to be delayed along this route. Numerous trains ply the tracks between Delhi and Agra but you should still book tickets well in advance. A recently opened high-speed rail link now connects Agra with Jaipur.
Agra is 190 km from Delhi and a good drive takes 2.5 hours to the outskirts of Agra on the excellent Yamuna Express road. However, Agra is a very congested city, so we advise leaving at least 3.5 hours if you are driving to the airport for example. Tip: Leave Delhi/Agra early (i.e. no later than 7am) to avoid rush hour.
1) If driving to Agra from Delhi, it’s worth leaving early (e.g. 6am) to beat the rush hour traffic
2) Ask for a ground floor floor that overlooks the garden.
3) Download The Official Tour of the Taj Mahal App (check on itunes to see if it’s available where you live)