Udaipur, the City of Lakes, almost seems to go by the occasional nickname “the city of weddings” – thus the historic capital of Mewar Kingdom has become the great Indian destination to go. But even if it provides a cinematic backdrop for a clear-sky mehendi, or drone shots of a sangeet by the lake, this city has so much more to offer the ever-exploring traveler looking to add an notch in the belt of his vagabond. Rich in Rajasthani heritage with a magnificent network of lakes at its heart, the city is both halcyon and vibrant in its unique way, allowing you to enjoy the energy that suits you. Here is our guide to Udaipur city if this is your very first time …
Where to stay:
Not staying on or on glittering Lake Pichola would be like going to Vegas and staying on the Strip – it’s too good not to be the anchor of your vacation.
The Oberoi Udaivilas, a sprawling estate on the shores of the lake, is an architectural delight, its domes and interconnected hallways intended to contain a mirror of the city map of Udaipur itself and the seven lakes connected by canals. We recommend that you get the Kohinoor suite with private pool if you are going with a few people so that you can relax and dine in seclusion. Step out to dine at Suryamahal, their daytime dining area, and Chandni, their open-air terrace that comes alive at night with its majestic views of the waters.
The Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur, floating right in the middle of the lake, is also an exceptional experience. An airy boat ride takes you to the hotel, and once you arrive, you’re surrounded by the sparkling waters wherever you look. You can choose from private villas, bungalows and luxury suites, although it is better to choose a room with a view. Jiva spa is worth saving time for – who doesn’t need a safe and sanitized Pehlwan Malish after the year we’ve had?
If you prefer to have a view of the city, the Ramada by Wyndham Udaipur Resort and Spa features beautiful Mewar architecture and a spacious, secluded pool. The beautiful old world rooms and imposing building of LaLiT Laxmi Vilas Palace Udaipur are also a treat, especially in tandem with their private experiences – dining at the Maharana Courtyard is a must.
Where to eat:
The lazier among us will certainly be pleased with the plethora of restaurants in the hotels or resorts we live in for the next few days. However, it is almost the civic duty of an epicurean to sample the food and ambience of a few restaurants in town to really put your finger on his culinary pulse. A good place to start is the royal setting of Ambrai in Amet Haveli, with authentic dishes from Marwari and Punjabi. Upré by AD 1559 is a lightly dispersed multi-cuisine menu with stunning views of Pichola, while the rooftop restaurant Jaiwana Haveli makes war, simple Indian cuisine with a slightly less spellbinding view – albeit facing the lake. The heritage decor and sunny open spaces of the Rajasthani-Continental Royal Repast are a reward for not being on the lake. And, if you tire of all the richness of authentic Marwari dishes, Millets of Mewar on Lake Fateh Sagar does it with a healthy bent – with Korean and vegan menus to boot.
Where To Shop:
The city is full of stunning crafts and arts, if you know where to look. Hathi Pol Bazaar is full of folk art and local Rajasthani crafts, especially miniature paintings of Pichwai and Phad. Bada Bazaar does vibrant juttis, batik and bandhani while Sadhna Emporium is fantastic for embroidery and textiles. Shilpgram, a huge sprawling craft village, is full of local pottery, paintings and wooden furniture. Chetak Circle is a great market for souvenirs or trinkets to take home and commemorate the trip; think of puppets, wall decorations, lanterns and painted wooden boxes. Finally, if you are just looking for all that is inherently Rajasthani, Rajasthali, a government empire, is a safe bet.
What to do:
While many might choose the city for an idyllic and tranquil getaway, action (vacation) folks might like to spice up their days with a handful of activities. For this set, there is certainly enough to explore. The Vintage Car Museum is ideal for car enthusiasts, while the more adventurous could take the cable car from the City of Lakes. Saheliyo Ki Bari Garden makes great photos, as does the magnificent Monsoon Palace and the sunset over Fateh Sagar Lake. If you are in the mood for a trek, there is an Aravali nature trek, but also a trek that you can take to beautiful Tiger Lake – although this is not entirely conducive to settling in for a picnic. -nique. Could you try one out at Kumbhalgarh Fort, perhaps before their spectacular light and sound show?
Time to spend:
A city like Udaipur needs at least three days to really get a feel – a long weekend works wonders here.