Budget: Arya Niwas. Our homebase for long term stays in Jaipur. The tiny rooms are basic and comfortable, but the real reason we stay is for the excellent, cheap cafeteria (what? seriously!) that serves up delicate paneer parantha with tamarind chutney for breakfast. Randomly has a superb selection of textile books in the gift shop and a sweet wicker chair-appointed garden.
Mid-range: Alsisar Haveli. Romantical, magical respite from the chaos. This gorgeous haveli (historic family mansion-turned-hotel) is our happy place: secret staircases, ornately-stenciled arches, a pool, and hidden courtyards abound. Superbly charming alternatives include Diggi Palace (slightly cheaper; home of the Jaipur Literary Festival) and Samode Haveli (more expensive and luxurious).Luxury: Oberoi Rajvilas. The difference between Oberoi hotels and Taj hotels in Rajasthan: Oberois are all crisp cotton and luxurious understatement whereas Taj hotels are all silk tassels and theatrics. These two have a hold on the luxury hotel market in India and you can’t go wrong either way. That said, the Oberoi Rajvilas is the most magnificent hotel experience we've ever had (note that it’s a solid 30-minute drive from Jaipur).
Anokhi. The be-all, end-all for high quality hand block prints. Don't come home without a kaftan or quilted bedspread. An ever-changing collection of artisan-made jewelry is one of the best in town. Don’t miss lunch at the attached cafe (see below). 2nd Floor, KK Square, C-11 Prithviraj Road, C-Scheme, anokhi.com
Khadi Ghar. (Also called the khadi bhawan). Your autowala or taxi driver should know where it is. Buy natural-dyed homespun linen and the thin cotton saris on the left as soon as you walk in. The prices are fixed by the gov't so there's no bargaining but the prices are fair. A vibrant haunt off the beaten tourist track in Jaipur. Opposite Niros Restaurant, MI Road, no website
FabIndia. The mothership: beautiful home goods, traditional Indian prints, superb chutney, teas, etc. We love our FabIndia camel hide tote bags and suggest snagging one while they’re still making ‘em. Women’s kurtas and men’s linen shirts for days. B 4 E- Prithviraj Road, C-Scheme, fabindia.com
Hot Pink. Bring your rupees because you’re going to want everything inside the whitewashed bungalow at Narain Niwas Palace. We swoon for the wild colors and whimsy of their designs (our recent favorite is a neon green mustache-patterned gents’ button-down). FUN TIMES. Bring mom. Kanotha Bagh, Narain Singh Road, hotpinkindia.com
EATINGAnokhi Cafe. Our lunch spot in Jaipur (well...THE lunch spot in Jaipur) and blessed oasis of calm after a dusty day exploring the city. All produce is grown on the organic farm where Anokhi block printing is done. Iced coffee, sweet lime soda, and musselman curry are musts. The only spinach salad we’d eat –with confidence– in India. 2nd Floor, KK Square, C-11 Prithviraj Road, C-Scheme, anokhi.com
Sahu Chaiwalla. The most famous chai in Jaipur, and our vote for the best chai in the sub-continent. Our head printer’s friend has been running this stall for over 40 years, and his coal-boiled milk is what keeps the crowd coming from dawn to midnight. 365 Chaura Rasta (adjacent to the Shah Bldg).
Rambagh Palace. If you splurge on one meal, do it at sunset on the marble verandah of the imperial Rambagh as dancers sway to tabla music and peacocks strut the grounds. Have your future read by the Maharaja-appointed palmist after dessert. One chance to dress up (and expect Western prices). Bhawani Singh Road, tajhotels.com
Ganesh. For the intrepid, there are a few veg and non-veg holes-in-the-wall worth the adventure on top of the wall in the Pink City; Ganesh is a reliable crowd-pleaser for local flava. The paneer butter masala mopped up with parantha is just what we want after a long day spent printing in Bagru. Old City, Nehru Bazaar, between two tailor shops and up the pink stairs, Tripadvisor
Lassiwala. There are a few imposter Lassiwalas (literally, "yogurt guys") all in a row; the original lassiwala is on the left as you face them. Order the regular lassi (if chikoo is in season don’t miss it!) drink it, die and go to heaven, then smash your terracotta pot with aplomb in the alley like your fellow Jaipurians. If jet lag has you up early, a 7:30am lassi makes for a lovely treat to start the day and you’ll beat the crowd. 312 MI Road
Mediterraneo. Best brick-oven pizza in Jaipur when you need a break from Indian food. Hard to find, but worth it: to the right of Arya Nivas, proceed up the super-sketchy six flights of stairs (either solo or guided by a gentleman in a reflective vest you may find in the stairwell) to the lovely rooftop cafe with a great view of the city lights. Order "special chai" and they'll bring you a beer in a teapot. To the right of Arya Niwas, Behind Amber Tower, Sansar Chandra Rd, Tripadvisor
WHEN IN DOUBT
Our best advice for the maximum experience? Follow the locals and eat at any crowded hole-in-the-wall restaurant or food cart. If there's a crowd, the food is likely a) delicious and b) prepared freshly. Rajasthani food is simple, spicy, and for the most part vegetarian. A few recommendations if you’re flummoxed on what to order:
- Veg Thali. A sampler of half a dozen or so curries, chapatis for dipping, and cooling cucumber raita.
- Samosas and chaat. Reliable, satisfying snacks on the go (and a good introduction to street food).
- Butter chicken. Marinated overnight in a yogurt, spices, butter and tomato puree...the most divine of chicken dishes.
- Veg dishes. Palak paneer (creamed spinach with paneer); chana masala (chickpea curry); aloo gobi (potato & cauliflower curry).