Jaipur: Rosanna Falconer’s unbeatable guide to India’s most intoxicating city

In our first of many expert-written, insider travel guides, Rosanna Falconer reveals everything you need to know about Jaipur — India's Pink City — from when to go, to where to stay.

Rosanna Falconer is a creative consultant and textile designer, whose debut table linen collection — inspired by the Pink City of Jaipur — launched last year. The former business director at Matthew Williamson, today she counts TikTok, Habitat and Salvatore Ferragamo among her clients.

Rosanna’s first trip to India, back in 2012, saw her journey to Goa with her then boyfriend George. A second trip saw them venture further afield to the Andaman Islands. And the third — on their honeymoon — to Rajasthan.

To say that they fell in love with the region is something of an understatement.

In the short space of time since their wedding, they’ve returned four times — the first time for a six month stint — basing themselves in Jaipur each time.

What draws you to Jaipur?

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The colours, scents and sounds. Every sensory experience feels like the volume has been turned up five notches. It’s intoxicating.

When is the best time to visit and how long should I stay?

The period from Diwali to mid-December will mean you see the city at its most exciting.

The weather is balmy, plus it’s wedding season. But I also love the Kite Festival of Makar Sankranti in mid-January — when kites fill the skies over the Old City (above) by day, and fireworks and lanterns illuminate everything by night. It is a cold time of year so the tourist sites are quieter too.

At least three nights are required to do the city justice, but my ideal would be 10 — mixing time in the Old City with some in the rugged Aravalli Hills, out of town.

What’s the best way to get around?

Auto rickshaws are now on Uber which is a game-changer! If you’re going for a short period, I do recommend a driver just in terms of convenience.

Where should I stay? 

I’ve just curated a travel itinerary with Wix Squared which suggests things to do in the city centre and beyond its confines, in the tranquil countryside. 

In the Old City, I love Samode Haveli with its peaceful, interconnecting courtyards and characterful rooms. Room 115 (the sheesh mahal) is the most distinctive, magical suite I have ever stayed in. 

RAAS Rajmahal Palace is as magnificent and regal as the name suggests — we started our honeymoon here.

And just outside of the city, boutique hotel Villa Palladio (above) is like stepping inside a jewellery box. Think candy stripes, floral frescoes and perfectly manicured topiary.

If you have time, I urge you to journey out to Amanbagh hotel (it’s a 90-minute drive). It is the most serene and impeccably-run hotel I have ever visited.

Best breakfast, coffee, lunch, cocktail and supper spots 

Breakfasts at any of the hotels I have mentioned are superlative, but for a view of the city waking up, I love the Wind View Cafe (above). Take a seat on its roof terrace and watch the world go by over a sweet, strong masala chai. For strong espresso, I head to Kafeville which opened just a few months ago.

Go for lunch at the Veranda Cafe of Taj Rambagh Palace. There is a delicious, light Indian menu to savour while peacocks strut across the lawns. You will likely find yourself staying on for afternoon tea too!

For cocktails, it has to be the iconic Bar Palladio (above) — the first stroke of brilliance from dynamic duo Barbara Miolini and Marie-Anne Oudejans. There’s an inescapable buzz about it from 4pm everyday. And if you’re lucky enough to score an early invitation, the duo’s latest venture — members’ bar Polo Palladio — is open from March at the Rajasthan Polo Club.

Lastly, venture back into the Old City for dinner at The Johri. It’s housed inside a restored 19th-century merchant’s haveli. I love the Amritsari chole (a Punjabi-style chickpea curry) with a side of jackfruit and water chestnut vegetable biryani.

What should I do whilst I am there?

It’s almost impossible for me settle on just a few highlights. In an ideal world, I’d persuade everyone to move to Jaipur for six months — like I did! 

My perfect day in the city would always begin with a dawn walk — the heady scents of Phool Mandi blooms (above) lingering in the air and the vegetable market already in full swing. Next up, the Chandra Mahal at City Palace — my itinerary includes access to the Palace’s private apartments. It’s best to be there when the doors open at 9.30am.

Twin a trip to Amber Fort (above) with lesser-known Nahargarh Fort. The views across the city are unbeatable and the interior colour palette inspired.

The sheer vibrancy of Jaipur can be overwhelming. If you need some respite, head to Sisodia Rani Gardens. The Mughal gardens, fountains and pavilions — with a palace at its heart (above) — are  four miles from the city centre. They were built in 1728 by Maharajah Sawai Jai Singh II for his second wife — a princess from the Sisodia Rajput clan of Udaipur.

The road leads onwards to Villa Palladio — so it’s  a good stopping point if you are staying there!

A place only the locals know about

Spice Court restaurant in Civil Lines was recommended to me by local friends who have been going since it opened in 2004. It is the best Rajasthani cuisine I’ve found in the city — whether you get a takeaway or dine in the bougainvillea-lined courtyard.

Anything to avoid/not worth the hype

Elephant rides up to Amber Fort. Due to the heat, lack of herd and the hard ground, their welfare has been called into question in recent years. Plus it’s just a 10 minute walk up the ramparts with equally breathtaking views to be found on foot.

What should I bring home with me

Joyful, block-printed pieces from PDKF Store at City Palace. Whether you choose a patchwork quilted jacket, elephant toy or set of coasters, you can be sure you are nourishing a brand with exemplary social ethics: all proceeds go to the Princess Diya Kumari Foundation. The women of the foundation make the designs — empowering them and preserving traditional Rajasthani techniques.

Rosanna Falconer’s 12-night ‘Gems of Rajasthan’ itinerary with Wix Squared costs from £5,800 per person, based on two people travelling together. The price includes nights at Samode Haveli (Deluxe Room), Chhatra Sagar (Luxury Tent), Rohet House (Suite), Rawla Narlai (Grand Heritage Room) and Devigarh (Garden Suite), on a B&B basis, an English-speaking driver, private guides and personal shoppers, and access to the places and experiences as recommended by Rosanna. It excludes return flights from the UK. 

Call 020-3808 6383 or visit Wix Squared for more information and to book.

Click here to read our review of Amanbagh hotel.