Visitors to Jaipur continue to marvel over its picturesque palaces, princely forts and enchanting temples. There’s little doubt that the Pink City does appear magical, almost fairytale-like at times, be it the way the walled city lies encircled by deserthills with fortresses snaking over its contours, the striking oleander pink of its architecture, or its bustling bazaars filled with block-printed textiles and flawless colored gemstones. But this cultural capital can only truly be appreciated through the richness of its history, which when combined with its beauty weave together like the clutches of fine Rajasthani tapestries you’ll find throughout your visit here.
But to really know Jaipur is to understand the legacy of the late Gayatri Devi, an Indian princess once described by Vogue as “a dream in sari and jewels.” Gorgeous, full of charm and married to the dashing Maharaja of Jaipur, Jai and Gayatri attracted a glittering international crowd to India including none other than First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, who lived with the glamorous couple for several months during her visit to the country in the 1960s. Read on for our modern guide to retracing Mrs. Kennedy’s steps, which promises to lead you to the most majestic sights inside the Pink City.
— By Dylan Essertier
WHERE TO STAY
A little history: In 1958 the Maharaja (queen) Devi and Maharani (king) Jai chose Rajmahal Palace as their private residence, which is where they hosted the First Lady for several months during her visit to Jaipur in 1962. Recently, the palace transitioned into a boutique hotel, with the current royal family entrusting Sujan, one of India’s most elite hoteliers as well as their friend designer Adil Ahmad to modernize Rajmahal while still honoring its rich legacy. The result is an exuberant mix of interiors, with suites that read like a guest list of who's who of the international elite. To really live like Mrs. Kennedy, stay in Rajmahal’s incredible Kennedy Suite, where intricate chandeliers, turquoise and pink flowered wallpaper, velvet couches, and a sprawling marble bathroom fit for the most elegant of travelers await.
WHAT TO DO
Polo Bar at Taj Rambagh Palace
Jai was an internationally renowned polo player. As Gayatri Devi explains it in her memoir A Princess Remembers, ‘In Jaipur, our lives revolved around Polo. In the late afternoons, after the heat of the day was over, I used to drive out to watch Jai playing or practicing.” When Mrs. Kennedy came to town she often attended polo matches with the royal couple at the sprawling Rambagh Palace (which is just down the road from Rajmahal). To live like Jai and Jackie, head to this palace-turned-hotel’s Polo Bar, which you’ll find filled with polo memorabilia and signature cocktails inspired by the beloved royal sport.
WHERE TO SHOP
Inside the Gem Palace’s guest book you can actually see Mrs. Kennedy’s signature. Apart from peeping this incredible artifact, a visit to Jaipur’s most famous jewelry hub means the chance to browse a selection of handcrafted jewelry that promises to take your breath away. Think headdresses inlaid with thousands of rubies and emeralds the size of baseballs. Even if you’re not in the market for a necklace worthy of an Indian queen or American first lady — trust us, it’s still worth a visit. Oh, and for something a little more wallet-friendly head to Jaipur’s Amrapali, which offers a selection of stellar costume jewelry.