The principal attraction of the Old City of Jaipur is its City Palace, nearby Jantar Mantar, and much-photographed Hawa Mahal (Palace of Wind). Built by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh in 1799, Hawa Mahal (tel. 0141/261-8862; Rs 5 entry, Rs 30 camera, Rs 70 video; daily 9am-4:30pm) is principally a pyramid-shaped five-story honeycombed facade of 593 latticed-stone screened windows, known as jarokhas, behind which the ladies of the palace could view the city without being seen. You can walk along the corridors that line the windows, which are mostly one room thick, but the building's principal attraction is the facade, which is best viewed in the early morning from the street level (entrance from Tripolia Bazaar, Police HQ lane). Also within the city complex, opposite Chandra Mahal, is Govindji Temple (daily 5-11am and 6-8pm): The family temple of the Maharajas of Jaipiur and the most famous in the city it is dedicated to Lord Krishna, and installed here so that Jai Singh II could see his favorite deity from the Chandra Mahal. The Krishna image was brought here from Brindavan in the late 17th century; devotees are allowed only a glimpse of it seven times a day. You will notice that the temple is open sided and is more like a Mughal audience hall; the reason being that it was originally a palace pavilion but after Krishna appeared to Jai Singh in a dream here he honored the deity by converting it into a temple.
In the new part of the city lies Ram Niwas Bagh, the city garden, which houses a depressing zoo and aviary. At the heart of the garden lies the beautifully proportioned Albert Hall, which houses the Central Museum (tel. 0141/257-0099; Rs 35; daily 10am-4:30pm; cameras not allowed inside although from the top you'll pay another Rs 40). Designed by the prolific architect and past master of the hybrid Indo-Saracenic style of architecture, Swinton Jacob, this is of principal interest from an architectural point of view, and a slow circular turn around the building in a car will suffice for many. That's not to say that the exhibits are devoid of interest -- the eclectic collection covers a wide range from musical instruments to bottled organs, and the tiny terra-cotta figures demonstrating myriad yoga positions are worth a look. A short drive due south lies the even stranger Museum of Indology (tel. 0141/260-7455; Rs 40, Rs 100 camera, Rs 500 video; Sat-Thurs 9:30am-4:30pm), where an incredible selection of objects -- all collected in one lifetime by the writer Acharya Ram Charan Sharma "Vyakul" -- has been crammed into countless dusty display cases in every nook and cranny of his house. Like a journey into the mind and thought processes of the collector himself, the collection is as eclectic as they come, including a map of India painted on a grain of rice, misprinted rupees, a 180-million-year-old fossil, a letter written by Jai Singh, and the Gayatri Mantra written on a single strand of hair. It's a great shame more money is not available to edit and present this collection professionally.
On M.I. Road, near the Panch Batti intersection (where you'll see a statue of Sawai Jai Singh II) is Raj Mandir (tel. 0141/237-9372 or 0141/236-4438) -- one of the most over-the-top and famous cinemas in the country. This is the place to watch a Bollywood blockbuster, though you will need to book tickets in advance to avoid waiting in line for hours. If the film is a new release, book a day in advance (daily 10am-2pm and 3-6pm). If you don't want to sit through 3 hours of Hindi melodrama, request that the doorman let you in for a sneak peek; he may oblige for a small tip if the hall isn't packed. Or arrive a few hours before the film, purchase your ticket, and kill time over a coffee and a pastry across the street at Barista, while you browse books on Rajasthani art and architecture, magazines, and bestsellers.
City Escapes -- If the populous nature and heavy traffic of Jaipur gets to be too much, take a trip to Amber Fort, which can be covered in a few hours. Do bear in mind, however, that even here the crush of people can be exhausting, particularly over weekends; try to get here as soon as it opens or buy a ticket just before the ticket office closes which still gives you ample time, and space, to walk around in the softer light. Time allowing, you may want to include a visit to Jaigarh Fort (Rs 55 City Palace entry ticket includes Jaigarh; daily 9am-4:30pm), whose walls snake high above Amber, creating a crenelated horizon. Built for defense purposes by Sawai Jai Singh II, it has a number of buildings, gardens, and reservoirs as well as the world's largest cannon on wheels (the massive Jaivana cannon needed 100kg of powder to fire a shot) and the only surviving medieval cannon foundry, but its principal attraction is the panoramic view across Amber. You can walk to Jaigarh from Amber, a steep 20-minute climb. The path begins just below the palace entrance and branches off the windy road used by the mahouts and their two tonners. You'll arrive at the Awani Gate, and inside on your left is the museum. You can also drive (Rs 450 return from Amber village); take the same road to get to Nahargarh, arriving at the entrance near the Jaivana cannon.
On the way to Amber you'll see the turnoff for the imposing hilltop fort of Nahargarh. Also known as Tiger Fort, Nahargarh is the first of the three forts built by Maharaja Jai Sawai Singh of Jaipur in 1734 and commands great views over the city. Just below it is Gaitor (free admission, Rs 10 camera, Rs 20 video), a walled garden that houses the marble chhatris -- erected over cremation platforms -- of the Kachchwaha rulers. Needless to say, the most impressive one belongs to Jai Singh II. Farther along Amber Road you will see Jal Mahal, a lake palace originally built by Sawai Pratap Singh in 1799, who spent much of his childhood at Udaipur's Lake Palace. Sadly, Man Sagar Lake is dry from the protracted drought, stripping it of much of its romance. If it's romance you're after, take a leisurely drive to Samode Palace (lunch Rs 500) where, after touring Diwan-i-Khas and Diwan-i-Am, you can enjoy tea in the lovely courtyard, where bold sparrows will attempt to nibble your cookies. Or enjoy a dip and a drink on their spectacular new roof terrace infinity pool, and stay for dinner in their brand-new Indian fusion restaurant.
I'll Take My Ganges Water to Go, Thanks -- Inside Diwan-i-Khas are two huge silver urns, each weighing 345 kilograms (760 lb.). According to the Guinness Book of Records, these are the largest silver objects in the world. The Maharaja Sawai Madho Singh II, a devout Hindu, had these made before attending the coronation of King Edward VII in England to ensure that he had a constant supply of Ganges water to drink and to purify himself from extended contact with the "outcastes."
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.