Udaipur: the city of lakes, palaces and love

Lake Palace. Udaipur. Photo: Pedro Sagüés

Udaipur: the city of lakes, palaces and love

November 18, 2010  |  India  |  4 Comments

I have just arrived from Udaipur, a captivating city in the heart of the Rajasthan -India- (“Land of Kings” in Hindi). Named in 2008 as the No.1 city to visit in the World’s best awards by Travel + Leisure magazine. Udaipur is often called the “White City” (getting its name from the hue of the buildings) or the “Venice of the east” for its romantic lakes and palaces that create a sense of aestheticism with their spiritual ecstasy. The city was founded and named in 1559 by Maharana Udai Singh II (Udaipur, means “City of Udai”).

In my opinion, the best places to visit in Udaipur are:

City Palace: Located on the banks of Lake Pichola and built entirely in granite and marble, this palace is the second largest in India (600m from side to side). It is a marvelous assortment of courtyards, pavilions, terraces, corridors, rooms and hanging gardens. The balconies of the palace provide panoramic views of both, the lake and the old city. The palace attracts thousands of visitors every day that also enjoy its Hindu architecture, paintings, decorative furniture and utensils, with no Muslim influence as it has never been conquered.

Boat ride on Lake Pichola:
Take a boat and get a close look at Lake Pichola’s wonderful palaces and havelis (rich merchant families’ private houses), many of which have been converted into hotels. I recommend taking the sunset boat that has an extra touch of romanticism. From time to time, during drought conditions because of lower rainfall and degradation of the catchment, the lake becomes dry.

Walk through the market:
You discover the “real” India when you meet people in the streets, buy at the local markets, get your hand henna-painted while to chat with the artist or enjoy a tea at the multiple tea shops… If you want to feel this, Delhi Gate area is the place to go.

Hotels: There are multiple amazing palaces converted into hotels.

  • The most renowned is the Lake Palace, built in 1743 by Maharana Jagat Singh II as his royal summer palace, it is made of marble and is situated on Jag Niwas island in Lake Pichola. The palace is now a luxury 5 Star hotel (listed in the top 10 best hotels in Asia) and was a central feature in the 1983 James Bond film Octopussy. The views from the hotel are amazing, especially from the restaurant at the roof. Only guests are allowed in the hotel.
  • A more affordable option is the Jaiwana Haveli, a small hotel located in the old city that offers great views of Lake Pichola. It’s clean and has very nice bathrooms.

Restaurants: I would suggest three restaurants:

  • Rajbagh: Good international/Indian buffet, great views of the lake and low price
  • Jag Mandir Island: Located in an 18th century palace, the restaurant serves good Indian food for 2500rp/pax (55$) while you enjoy great views of the City Palace and the Lake Palace Hotel
  • Sashi’s Cooking Classes: I haven’t been there but it has awesome reviews in Trip Advisor. It seems to be a fun evening with Sashi.

Shopping: The specialties in Udaipur are textiles, silver and paintings.

  • Textiles: I recommend visiting Royal Arts & Crafts, a warehouse full of beautiful textile. Located at Hathipole Gate
  • Silver: In multiple markets and stores you will find lots of artcraphs. The best knowned shops are Gem Arts Emporium and Silver Art Palace.
  • Miniature paintings: Brahma Arts, at the Lake Palace Road.

If you need a guide, contact Bholendra Singh. Great knowledge and excellent client service. Email: bholendrasingh (at) hotmail.com

Am I missing anything in this list of the “Best places in Udaipur”:

If so, please let me know. I’ll be happy to update my post.

Click on images to enlarge[nggallery id=”30″]
Photo credits: Pedro Sagüés