Before traveling to India for my first time, I solicited the help of two young entrepreneurs named Hopie and Lily. The sisters are also the founders of Block Shop, a textile company with operations in Jaipur and Los Angeles, and based on their colorful, design-heavy Instagram feed, I knew they would steer me in the right direction with suggestions for my final weekend in India. I’d be spending it in Jaipur (also known as “The Pink City”), which has become an international destination for visitors and expatriates with a fondness for design, architecture and history. It did not disappoint.
Where to Stay:
“I think you MUST stay at 47 Jobner Bagh,” emailed Hopie, “I’d book it immediately. It is truly a magical haven.” Bagh means garden in Hindi. Indeed, the moment we passed through the hotel’s gates, we were transported to a serene oasis. Formerly a private residence, the hotel has been recently and charmingly restored into a boutique guest house. The whitewashed walls are covered with jasmine vines, bursting with color and aroma. The rooms were comfortable with plenty of space to unpack and unwind. Breakfast in the garden and sunset on the roof are not to be missed.
If you want to go grand, Hopie’s second recommendation was to stay in the Kennedy Suite at the SUJÁN Rajmahal Palace. We spent one night in the room where Mrs. Kennedy stayed while visiting the royal family in the early 1960s. The palace is still family-owned but has been transformed into a stunning Relais & Chateaux property. The exterior is pale pink, the official color of Jaipur and the color of welcome, and the property has no less than forty-six custom wallpapers throughout, all inspired by the history of the palace and Jaipur.
Where to Visit:
Both hotels are centrally located. 47 Jobner Bagh is just a short drive to the walls of the Old City, past the famous Hawa Mahal palace, a must-see.
The Jantar Mantar is a collection of monumental astronomical instruments built in the 18th century, including the world’s largest stone sundial. With these extremely accurate instruments, employing just light and shadow, the royal family used astrology to help determine arranged marriages.
The City Palace has been partially made into a museum, showcasing art, handicrafts, weaponry, clothing and photography from various eras. Should you start to suffer from museum fatigue, there is a modern café right inside, aptly named The Palace Café.
There are two ways to visit the Amber Fort: by foot or by elephant. We opted for a little exercise and hiked up the old stone steps, weaving in and out of elephant traffic as we ascended to the fort, set atop a hill above the city. Peeking into the apartments of the former maharaja’s many wives was especially thought-provoking.
Bagru, located just outside of Jaipur, is an area dedicated to block printing the old way, by hand with natural dyes. We visited two operations: Studio Bagru, and Block Shop’s collaborator, Bagru Textiles. Learning how these artisans sustain and protect their techniques in the 21st century was fascinating.
Where to Shop:
We worked our way through as much of the Block Shop ladies’ list as possible:
Idli: “Indo-French high-end fashion; expensive but the chicest designs in Jaipur.” A little Palm Beach meets Jaipur.
Tokree: “Our friend Sanyukta Singh’s whimsical shop; a pure delight.”
Saurashtra Oriental Arts: “Kantha quilts for days,” plus woven shirts, quilted jackets and vintage tapestries. Be sure to budget plenty of time.
Where to Eat & Drink:
28 Kothi: Another gem of a guest house-meets-hotel, 28 Kothi features vegetarian fare using seasonal, local ingredients. On the Saturday while we were in town, the menu featured a home-style Rajasthani Thaali, which was prepared “keeping the international palate in mind.”
Rambagh Palace: The verandah is a classic spot for high tea. Check out the polo bar; the sport originated in India.
What to Read:
The Love Guide to Jaipur
Indian Summer: The Secret History of the End of an Empire
A Princess Remembers: The Memoirs of the Maharani of Jaipur
Main image: @barpalladio
All other images: Etta Meyer