Nestled in the cosy embrace of the Aravalli mountains and Lake Pichola, Udaipur’s ubiquitous charm persuades even the most cynical traveller. Gorgeous palaces, heritage hotels, alleyways abounding in antiquity, awe-inspiring architecture, a rich arts and crafts scene, culinary delights—all of these topped with Rajput regalia make the erstwhile capital of the Mewar Kingdom a treasure trove. Udaipur is where travellers from across the world gather, giving the city a vibrant and multicultural vibe. The city’s unique location ensures that it’s as much of a delight during the monsoons as it is in winter, and that is why the City of Lakes warrants more than one visit. By Ananya Bahl
Peppered with tranquil lakes, manicured gardens, and majestic monuments, Udaipur is a dream come true for the discerning traveller.
When a destination is given monikers like ‘City of Lakes’ and ‘Venice of the East’, you have to check out its lakes. The pièce de résistance of Udaipur’s landscape is the sprawling Lake Pichola, an artificial freshwater lake, which is surrounded by palaces and heritage hotels. A boat tour on its waters is mandatory. Next, explore the Fateh Sagar Lake, which is also an artificial lake and is home to Nehru Park and Udaipur Solar Observatory. Other waterbodies to visit here are Doodh Talai Lake, Swaroop Sagar Lake, Rang Sagar, and Govardhan Sagar Lake.
Located on the banks of Lake Pichola, the sprawling City Palace complex is home to heritage hotels, cafes, and a museum. Maharana Udai Singh II began construction of this complex, which was then expanded over the course of 400 years by his descendants. Visit Saheliyon ki Bari, with its manicured gardens, fountains, a lotus pool, and marble elephant statues. It was built for Maharana Sangram Singh’s queen and her 48 maidens. The Jagmandir Island on Lake Pichola was built by Maharana Karan Singh II in 1620. Today, it is a hotel with delightful restaurants and can be accessed by boat from the Rameshwar Ghat. The Ahar Archaeological Museum is home to cenotaphs of more than 200 maharajas of Mewar. The Monsoon Palace, or the Sajjan Garh Palace, is a great place to catch a sunset.
Sajjangarh Biological Park is a zoological centre which is a great tourist attraction for kids. Head here to see tigers, sambars, hyenas, lions, Indian porcupines, ostriches, and more. Those who would like to finish their Udaipur itinerary with a prayer can head to the Jagdish Temple in the city centre or the Karni Mata Temple at Doodh Talai Lake.
Udaipur’s cultural ethos—both classic and contemporary—is kept alive by a calendar of lively events throughout the year. The Udaipur Polo Festival, held annually at the Chunda Polo Club, is a carnival with a fierce game of polo that sees some of North India’s best players. The Udaipur Light Festival has been celebrated every year since 2012. It is an initiative to bring together locals and visitors to celebrate Diwali, and has witnessed performances by famous musicians. The Udaipur World Music Festival hosts classical and contemporary musicians from across India and countries like Spain, Israel, Switzerland, Iran, Indonesia, South Africa, and Portugal. It is usually held in February across multiple venues like Hotel Amet Haveli, Fateh Sagar Lake, and the Gandhi Ground. The Mewar Festival is celebrated annually in March to welcome the spring season. The whole city is bathed in colour, and cultural processions and events are held. It coincides with the Gangaur Festival that is celebrated by the city’s women.
A multitude of museums in Udaipur showcase the Rajputana culture of the erstwhile Kingdom of Mewar. The City Palace Museum should be your first stop to understand the history of Udaipur. Built by Maharana Bhagwat Singh, it showcases miniature paintings, silver artefacts, personal belongings of royal families, swords, artillery, and antiques. For connoisseurs of the finer things in life, The Vintage and Classic Car Museum is a veritable pitstop. More than 20 vintage cars are exhibited at this venue that is located close to the Garden Hotel.The museum at Bagore Ki Haveli is where you can explore the history of the haveli architecture in Udaipur. Step into this restored home to see the way the rich once lived—chambers of royal ladies, dressing rooms, bathrooms, living areas, bedrooms, worship spaces, and recreation rooms are still preserved here. The lifestyles of Bhil, Mina, Garasia, Kathodi, and Saharia tribes have been showcased at tribal museum of Shilpgram. For a dose of history that goes beyond the Rajput rule, visit the Ahar Archaeological Museum.
WINE & DINE
Whether it is a traditional thali, a meal with a lakeside view, or a good cuppa in a contemporary setting that you crave, Udaipur has you covered.
The Bedla family runs Royal Repast and leverages its expertise in hosting royal events to serve up sumptuous Rajasthani fare. Think flavourful mutton gravies, chicken cooked in mildly spiced yogurt, and sinful desserts. For a wholesome thali, look no further than the restaurant at the Garden Hotel.
A must-stop is Palki Khana, a lovely Art Nouveau cafe located at the Shiv Niwas Palace in the City Palace Complex. Have a delicious dinner here post the Mewar Light and Sound Show at the City Palace. A vintage villa that also works as a cafe is what you get at 1559 AD. Inspired by the year Udaipur was founded, it is the favourite hangout of locals who flock here for its fresh bakes and coffee. The quirky Udai Art Cafe is perfect for coffee and crêpes along with a dose of art.
Meals With A View
For a gorgeous meal with waterfront vistas, head to Upré. It is located in the Lake Pichola Hotel and serves up delectable kebabs and Rajasthani delicacies. Make sure to reserve a table on the private terrace. Designed as a tribute to Chetak, the horse of Maharana Pratap, is Tribute, a restaurant that overlooks the Rang Sagar Islands. Not only is it ideal for a delicious meal but also for birdwatching.
The Library Bar is a haven for lovers of whiskies, vintage wines, and time-refi ned cognacs. Designed like a den with fine art, books, and collectibles, it also has an inner courtyard where Rajasthani folk music and dance performances are showcased every evening. Head to Udai Kothi’s Baro Masi, which is a rooftop bar with panoramic views of Lake Pichola, a super tapas menu, and signature drinks like the Kothi Cup and No Hangover Mojito. The Picholi Bar at Jagmandir Island Palace is a historic venue serving a variety of drinks along with views of Lake Pichola and the City Palace.
Udaipur serves as an artist’s canvas as well as muse, offering plenty to take back home.
The city’s bazaars brim with local handicrafts, which are worth the haggle. Head to Bada Bazaar for silver jewellery, souvenirs, handmade jootis, bandhani saris and fabric with batik work. Chetak Circle brims with dancing puppets, handmade paper, pottery, traditional lanterns, and a lot of other handicrafts. Ghanta Ghar Bazaar, spread out near the Clock Tower of Udaipur, is famous for minakari, kundan, and polki jewellery. For just about anything under the sun, head to Bapu Bazaar.
Visit Beyond Square for tables inlaid with marble and thekri work, pichvai paintings, silver chairs, decorative art, and furniture made of agate stone. Bougain Villaea is an art gallery comprising two floors and a bamboo garden with sculptures. Buy handicraft work by contemporary Rajasthani artists here. The House of Things sells handpicked home decor items such as curios, table linen, cushion covers, etc.
Shilpgram is a crafts village where you not only buy traditional handicrafts but also see the artisans at work. It hosts a crafts mela every December. The Sadhna Emporium by the Seva Mandir NGO works with the tribal people of Rajasthan, and sells handwoven bed covers, table linen, and bags.