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Overview

Jaipur

Forget what the ad campaigns, tourist brochures and movie images tell you about forts and palaces and the romance of the desert because Jaipur, at its heart, is really and truly about just one thing: shopping.

Sure, all these other things play their supporting role, providing the allure, history and picture-perfect window dressing for the Rajasthani capital, but nothing reveals the inner character – the entire reason for being – of the city so well as its bazaars, and the business that goes on within.

It stands to reason, since the city was actually built with shopping in mind, as a planned commercial centre with wide, straight boulevards intended for ease of access to vendors selling their mind-boggling array of items. It’s the triumph of this plan that has led Jaipur to become the crowded, congested and sometimes scrappy destination it is today, where new visitors can sometimes feel disappointed at the rough edges and declare that Jaipur isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. And it’s true; if you come here expecting chocolate box beauty you can end up feeling a little cheated in the dirt and chaos. If, however, you come into Jaipur with a shopping list at hand, then you’ll forgive the city its sins and soon discover that it’s a paradise, with jewellery, crafts, textiles, kitchenware and household goods to rival anywhere in India.

You’ll need a strong constitution though: strong for the intense bargaining amid the bustle, but also for the food, because the best food is undoubtedly found on the street, where the delights cooked up on the stalls, carts and in the small cafes are rightly famed and impossibly tasty. Aloo tikki, kachori, samosa, pakora, lassi, chai, namkeen… the list could go on, and this is before you’ve even reached the sweets.

Having said all this, no introduction can be complete without talking about the architecture, the temples, palaces, forts and havelis that surround and fill the city and give it such a sense of identity. There are some incredibly beautiful buildings and sights in Jaipur, and beyond the usual spots of the City Palace, Jantar Mantar of the Pink City, and the Amber Fort that sits outside in the hills, the city is a treasure trove of heritage buildings and locations. With a number of these converted into hotels and guesthouse you can also get an incredible experience of living history throughout your stay.