Let imaginations run wild as you explore flamboyant doorways, hidden corridors and opulent courtyards of a bygone era. Set amongst compact homes and bustling streets, where motorbikes weave around plodding camels and impatient rickshaws brush past colourful saris, the many forts and palaces provide a sanctuary of calm.
Jaipur, affectionately known as ‘The Pink City’ due to the colour of the buildings in the old town, makes up part of India’s popular ‘Golden Triangle’. This is the capital of Rajasthan and it’s more than likely that you will combine your visit to Jaipur with Delhi and Agra (to see The Taj Mahal). Indeed, we visited both as part of Our Northern India Itinerary with young kids.
If this is your first visit to India with kids, ensure you read Twelve Tips for travelling India with young kids. Plan for early starts and late afternoons to beat the heat (especially if travelling outside of the winter months) and ensure you are stocked up on snacks and water (it can be difficult to get hold of once inside the forts and palaces).
Here are our top 5 things to do with young kids in Jaipur:
1. City Palace
Visit the City Palace, in the heart of the Pink City, as soon as it opens at 9:30am to avoid the tour groups. Marvel at the intricate pink architecture whilst the kids run around enjoying the open courtyards, gardens and hidden doorways. Within the grounds there is also a museum, art gallery, souvenir stalls and displays of royal clothing and historical weaponry. You may even catch a traditional puppet show, accompanied with live drumming and singing (the puppet with a detachable head had our boys in fits of giggles!)
[Open 9:30am to 5pm every day. Standard tickets for foreigners are Rs500 per adult, Rs300 per child aged 5-12 and FREE for children under 5]
2. Jantar Mantar Observatory
Across the road from City Palace is Jantar Mantar Observatory. More than just a collection of bizarre artwork, each structure is a specific and highly accurate instrument to measure astronomy, including the world’s largest sundial. Admittedly much of the explanations of instruments went over our boys’ heads, although they received a good lesson in shadows and loved exploring all the weird and wonderful shapes.
If visiting after City Palace, you will be approaching midday and it can feel brutally hot. There is no shade, so perhaps bring an umbrella and ensure you have enough water.
If the kids haven’t crashed yet, walk around the corner (or jump in an auto as it’s a bit of loop around to get there) to Hawa Mahal, which is probably Jaipur’s most recognised buildings, with it’s pink-honeycombed facade. There’s not much to see inside, but kids will love peeping through the little windows to the view below.
[Jantar Mantar is open Daily 9:30am to 5pm. Foreigner ticket is Rs200 per adult, children under 12 are free. Hawa Mahal is open daily from 9am to 4:30pm and prices are the same.]
3. Amber Fort and Palace
A 20 minute auto ride away, Amber Fort is best visited at 8am opening; again to beat the crowds and heat. For little legs, it’s a bit of an uphill walk to the entrance, so you may have to resort to shoulder-carrys if, like us, you don’t use a sling. Once inside, the kids will love exploring the maze of narrow staircases and corridors, which sometimes lead to an impressive elaborate courtyard, and other times a dead end.
There is a light show presenting the history of Jaipur and the Fort every night at 7:30pm.
[Open 8am to 6pm every day. Foreigner entrance ticket is Rs500 per adult, children under 12 are free. Evening light show in English is Rs200 per adult. ]
4. Nahargarh Fort
This majestic fort stands proud on the Aravalli Hills, overlooking the compact flat rooftops of Jaipur below. Time your visit for sunset; the view from the Palace rooftop is spectacular. The doors to the Palace close at 5:30pm, ensure you are there in good time to explore and climb to the rooftop. When the officious guards start whistling at you to get down, make a speedy beeline for Sunset Point to watch the sun sink below the hazy horizon.
There’s an open air food court for dinner and a couple of restaurants within the grounds, so it’s worthwhile hanging around for dinner. You will also find a new wax museum; this isn’t included in your entry ticket and we didn’t go in.
Ensure you’ve arranged for your auto driver to wait for you; we didn’t see any autos hanging around on leaving. Nahargarh Fort is about a 40 minute auto ride from the centre of Jaipur (it’s an 8km circuitous trip).
[Open 9am to 5:30pm every day. Foreigner ticket is Rs200 and children under 12 are free]
5. Chokhi Dhani
We unfortunately didn’t make it here on our visit, so turned to Georgina and family from Up 4 a Mission who visited on their recent travels. Georgina writes:
Chokhi Dhani is a mock traditional Rajasthani village, 15 km south of Jaipur. The entrance fee includes entertainment and dinner, a thali (which we chose), or a more expensive a la carte option. The gardens are lit by twinkling lanterns, and the floor is covered with sand; it feels a world away from the chaos of Jaipur. The various entertainers invite you to sit down and watch their craft, and encourage you to join in. The restaurant staff invite you in to sit down on cushions for dinner. They serve dish after delicious dish, there is so much of it, and there are plenty of non spicy options for the kids.
The entertainment was great; from traditional tribal dancers, to a puppet show, a magician, wrestlers, fire dancing, and more, plus horse carriage and camel rides, and an elephant. There is also a good children’s playground, split into different sections, all linked by caves.
Chokhi Dhani was one of our highlights of Jaipur, we would definitely recommend it, with or without kids.
[An Uber from Jaipur centre costs Rs 300, journey takes 30 mins. On the way back rickshaw drivers tried to charge Rs 800, so book an Uber if you can. Entry price is Rs700-1,100 per adult (depending on dinner choice) and around Rs400-500 per child over 3.]
Getting there and around
Jaipur is accessible by air, train, car or bus. We flew into Jaipur direct from Bangalore (it’s a 30 minute drive from Jaipur International Airport to the city centre) and then took the train on to Agra (check out Our Northern India Itinerary with young kids).
Train is always our preferred method of transport and there are numerous trains per day between Jaipur and Agra (3 hours 45 minutes on the Superfast Express), and Jaipur and Delhi (approx. 5.5 hours). You may also wish to head West from Jaipur to explore Udaipur (8-9 hours). Check the IRCTC website for up-to-date train times and ensure you book trains as far in advance as possible.
Auto is the easiest way to get around Jaipur. They are not metered, so ensure you have the correct price in mind before you flag one down. A good way to check prices (or even book autos) is using the Ola app. Alternatively, Uber is available.
Where we stayed
Jai Niwas – Just a 5 minute auto ride to City Palace. We had a lovely large family room with a double bed and two singles, plus double doors which opened out onto a secure garden. Staff were extremely accommodating. There were a few things broken in our room on arrival (kettle, fridge, aircon) and everything was seen to immediately. There’s a small restaurant onsite serving the standard Western and Indian dishes. If you ask, you can have dinner delivered to your room (which we always find easier with the boys). Do note, however, that there is serious maintenance work taking place with an entire two floors being added above the current building structure. This is likely to continue through to mid-2018.
Disclaimer: Jai Niwas gave us a discount on their room rate. All opinions and words are our own.
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