Luxury Explorer Review

5-Star Hotel Review

Rambagh Palace

India

The former residence of the Maharaja of Jaipur, spread across 47 acres of magnificence

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Rambagh Palace

Location

Jaipur

Travel Information

Jaipur airport - 11km
Railway station - 4km

Top Tips

Perfectly positioned to discover the Pink City

5-Star X-Factors

The home of Jaipur's royalty until 1957, Rambagh Palace is elaborate, elegant and full to the brim of X-factors!

MORE REVIEWS OF
THIS PROPERTY

Larger than life
Pretty in pink

MORE REVIEWS OF
THIS PROPERTY

Larger than life
Pretty in pink

Larger than life

I was half expecting to be reminded of John Lennon in the majestic, marble-floored entrance hall of the 1830s built, 47-acre Rambagh Palace in Jaipur: the gemstones capital of India. After all, the country if not this exact hotel played host to John and his entourage on many occasions as the troubled star attempted to explore his spiritual life.

But if the larger-than-life portrait of former palace resident Maharaja Ram Singh, a late 19th century intellectual complete with identical Lennon specs, haircut and quizzical expression, sent goose bumps up my arms, then like the emerald-eyed snakes rising from their charmers' baskets in the marketplace five minutes away it was just one more example of India's unique and heady magic.

As I walked out of the 41 degree heat of the 'Pink City', Jaipur, and into the welcoming cool of the hotel where I received the traditional Hindu greeting of a bow, a kohl bindi on my forehead and a glass of something cold and pure (this time, mango juice) I understood the difference between a faux palace and the genuine article.

From the beautifully-manicured lawns and gurgling fountains that usher you through the palace gates, right through to the outsized chandelier that leads your eye up and up to the impossibly high entrance ceiling inside, the silk-covered sofas, subtle seating alcoves and unhurried ambience confirm that this is a true, Victorian-era royal residence, not a computer-generated fantasy of classic hotel design.

The Prince's Suite, where the John Lennon maharajah's son, Maharaja Man Singh II once laid his regal head, is a refreshingly masculine and unfussy apartment with deep mahogany furnishings, supersized sofas and small conference-capacity jacuzzi. Yet the ornate, deep buttercup silk drapes, the walk-in closet room and the plethora of delicate desks and bureaux as well as the many fragrant candles just waiting to be lit when dusk falls show distinct signs of a royal maharani's taste too.

Located at the far end of the hotel, close by the green and white striped Polo Bar that bears ample silverware evidence of the family's passion for the game, my suite nestles in what a house builder might term an 'exclusive development' of royal suites. It was far enough away from reception to guarantee privacy, yet close enough to below-stairs life to ensure delivery of hot coffee, croissants and scrambled eggs in the morning.

Princely proportions

My suite had its own doorbell and video entry phone, with an entrance lobby the size of a standard hotel double. The king-sized sitting room with bar area and large dining table leads to full-length French doors and a generous veranda, offering an undisturbed view of Wimbledon-green lawn, lily pond and swans, as well as an intoxicating scent of jasmine. The resident pair of peacocks that greet me the following morning will, I am told by my butler, perform a private dance for me if they see fit.

The luxuriously-appointed sleeping chamber bedroom being far too prosaic a word for this gem boasts an inviting pair of his and hers double beds with large matching ottomans and capacious bedside cabinets. By day, the beds are festooned with harem-style embroidered cushions, but by night, unseen hands have primped and plumped to reveal the softest mattresses and pillows beneath. I am tempted to recreate the story of the princess and the pea just in case I was born royal after all but I know that there is no need and that I will sleep perfectly.

Spicy delights

The following day, I am invited to dine at the hotel's Suvarna Mahal, or Golden Palace, restaurant once the royal family's banqueting room and now a testament to gracious dining and courteous service. The walls here are covered in ivory damask, the velvet chairs are exquisitely embroidered with the original Jaipur coat of arms and the alabaster lamps cast evocative shadows over the faces of the other diners.

Although the khansamas, or royal cooks, still keep their best recipes a secret, they serve a delightful Punjabi lunchtime speciality sweet water fish, cooked in a tandoor which I follow with a Rajasthani main course of laal maas. It's a delicious wake-up dish of lamb with chillies, served with lentils and corn bread, but its intensely pungent and exotic spices have the surprising effect of cooling down, rather than firing, already overheated western systems.

As I reluctantly leave my maharani lifestyle for the next stop, the concierge points to the peacocks. They are solemnly dancing for me.

Virginia Matthews

Pretty in pink

The desert state of Rajasthan is a land steeped in history, romance and irony. A tiny drop of rain transforms a tree from listless to lush while the architectural colours contrast with nature to mesmerising effect. It has fascinating history, with magnificent forts and palaces, and the unravelling of its legacy is one of the quests of the exploring luxe-trotter's cultural grails.

In 1727 Swai Jai Singh 11, a powerful maharaja, needed to repopulate his ever growing kingdom which was suffering from poor water supply and a general decline in health and safety. With his architect Vidyadhar Bhattacharaya, he founded the city of Jaipur adhering to the principles of Shilpa Shastra and it became the first planned city of India. To this day, Jaipur remains famous for its grid system layout with wide streets, straight roads and shops on either side.

It is one of the most beautiful cities in India because of its uniformed structure and pretty autumn pink colour, painted as such to welcome distinguished guests, such as the Prince of Wales in 1876. Since this time, the pink colour has been associated with joviality, hospitality and warmth symbols of the Jaipur and Rajput culture.

Prized possessions

In the early 70s, Rajasthan became a honey pot for the cultivated luxe-trotter. Indira Gandi persuaded the Rajput princes to give up their royal privileges in pursuit of an homogenous society. The aristocracy had to face the world of commerce in order to maintain a certain lifestyle and legions of monarchs suddenly found themselves in possession of one remaining glorious asset a remarkable palace. These palaces were swiftly turned into heritage hotels where visitors could indulge themselves in royal style and, in many instances, with the royal families still on the premises. The maharajas are famed for providing the most formidable hospitality.

More than 50 years after the end of their rule, people still talk in exotic terms about India's maharajas. They were synonymous with style, extravagance and exotica and they were trendsetters for the world of fashion, too. Their thirst for luxury sustained many western designers: Cartier, Louis Vuitton, Coco Chanel and Baccarat produced their finest works for these discerning aesthetes. They were a godsend for these purveyors of haute couture and fine jewellery during the Great Depression.

Today, when visiting this land of honey, the hotel-palace is one of the highlights and cultural fascinations of a visit. Jaipur, nicknamed the Pink City because of its rose tinted hues, from the walls of its enormous palaces, to the houses nestled pell-mell up the hills, is inspiriting.

It has a surfeit of glorious palaces and one that stands out as the most spectacular is the Rambagh Palace. For nearly two centuries, the Rambagh Palace has been home to generations of royals. In 1925 the palace was converted into the residence of the Maharaja of Jaipur, which subsequently became a luxury hotel in 1957. In 1972, Taj Hotel Resorts and Palaces took over the reins and it now shines as the brightest jewel in Jaipur's sparkling crown.

Rambagh Palace today

The palace has 79 rooms, including suites which were chambers of the former maharaja, now restored to their colourful past with rich silk drapes, period art and chunky wooden furniture. The facilities here are lavish and offer regal-style service from banqueting to all-night partying. It is here that you will hear the echoes of the Rajputana era, see the beauty of the lush exquisitely maintained gardens and stay as guests in authentic Raj-inspired style. High tea on one of the many terraces, overlooking the manicured gardens and palace surrounds, is a memory each guest can cherish for a lifetime.

In and around the palace you can preen yourself with spa treatments and enjoy an array of physical activities from yoga to private training. Sightseeing and excursions in Jaipur and surrounding areas can all be expertly planned with the experienced travel organisers at the front desk, even down to last-minute decisions.

For many, Jaipur is a shopping paradise showcasing some of India's finest silverware and jewellery. Sarongs and saris of all varieties are on offer, billowing an exotic display down the streets and surrounded by museums, palaces, forts and temples that enjoy eye-watering views of this mystical city in pink.

Sophie Marchant
Sophie Marchant


Luxury Explorer