India is home to the most magnificent vernacular architecture in the world and the royal palaces and luxury cabins bear testimony to this fact. These palaces-turned-hotels reveal a riveting story of the glorious Indian heritage and its cultural opulence. It’s no wonder that these destinations are bookmarked locales for fairy-tale weddings and high-octane events. Take a look at our top picks:
Taj Rambagh Palace, Jaipur
Once the private residence of the Maharaja of Jaipur, the grand Rambagh Palace was built in 1835. From being the abode of a particular prince’s nurse, a royal residence to a heritage property managed by the Taj group, the palace resounds with indulgent memories of the bygone era. The late Maharani Gayatri Devi overlooked its restoration and her exquisite taste is evident in the four-post beds, crystal chandeliers and splendid artwork. At the Palace, book a stay at the Sukh Niwas Suite to experience its gilded frescoes and richfurnishings. Indian heritage at its regal best!
Taj Falaknuma Palace, Hyderabad
True to its Urdu meaning, Falaknuma or mirror of the sky – the Palace is Hyderabad’s very own Buckingham. The former residence of the Nizam of Hyderabad, once the richest man in the world, itspells luxury, literally and in great detail. Built in the shape of a scorpion with a stinging tail, it is one of the best heritage properties in India. Festooned with Belgian chandeliers, exquisite nymph statues, gurgling fountains, marble staircases and unique murals, it is spread over a sprawling 32 acres. Its 60 suites were refurbished by Princess Ezra, the Nizam’s Turkish wife. From being ushered in a horse-drawn carriage to enjoying the round-the-clock services of a personal butler, Falaknuma offers the highest standards of royal hospitality.
Umaid Bhawan Palace, Jodhpur
Overlooking the historic blue city of Rajasthan, on Chittar Hill, sits Umaid Bhawan Palace – one of the largest private residences in the world. Constructed between 1928 and 1943, it is an epitome of Indian heritage, offering sweeping views of Jodhpur, its vast sand dunes, and the daunting Mehrangarh fort. With 64 luxuriously-appointed art deco rooms and 26 acres of verdant greens with prancing peacocks, the heritage hotel is a sight to behold. At the Palace, you can savour cuisines from around the world, visit the museum where an entire room is dedicated to Maharaja Umaid Singh or head to the Oriental Room that depicts scenes from the Ramayana, finished in black and gold by a Polish artist.
Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai
Having hosted kings and celebrities, this legendary harbor landmark overlooking the Arabian Sea has redefined Indian heritage since it was built 115 years ago. Its statuesque presence in the heart of Mumbai’s commercial hub, the property contains 560 rooms, 44 suites and ten of the city’s finest restaurants. To truly experience the charm of this sea-facing edifice, you can stay at one of the impeccably done-up suites in the Heritage wing. A blend of nostalgic elegance, rich history and contemporary amenities – the Taj Mahal Palace is a hospitality legend!
The Imperial, New Delhi
Revisit history within the walls of this iconic landmark in Delhi’s cityscape. Built by an associate of the renowned architect Edwin Lutyens, the hotel’s elegant architecture is reminiscent of the Victorian times. The pristine white façade shadowed by leafy palms makes it resemble an oasis amidst the Delhi chaos. Nothing less than a historic monument, it was here, that the likes of Nehru, Jinnah and Mountbatten voiced their opinions on the country’s partition. The luxurious suites featuring antique furniture, four-post beds replete with linen from Porthault, France make it one of the leading heritage properties in India.
Perched on top of a hill in charming old Shimla rests an ivy-covered cottage that was once the summer home of the Maharaja of Kapurthala. Almost a century old now, the house has been converted into a cozy heritage hotel. Chapslee offers five lavishly appointed suites, each with a character of its own. It serves cuisine, which is an amalgamation of royal recipes from North India, and offers an inviting stay in rooms adorned with chandeliers, beautiful tapestry and antiques that are reminiscent of the Raj.
The Lalit Great Eastern, Kolkata
One of the oldest hotels in India, The Great Eastern Hotel was built in 1840 to serve the ruling classes who frequented Calcutta, the capital of the erstwhile British Raj. From Elizabeth II to Nikita Khruschev, the Great Eastern has been a temporary home to many well-known personalities. The writer Rudyard Kipling who was once a guest at the hotel said, “The Great Eastern hums with life through all its hundred rooms. Doors slam merrily, and all the nations of the earth run up and down the staircases.” Now, as a five-star heritage hotel, it comprises 215 rooms, suites and a spa spread over 13,000 sq feet.
Ferrnhills Royale Palace, Ooty
Nestled in the pristine Nilgiri mountains, this heritage hotel drips with old-world charm. Built by an Englishman in the first half of the 19th century, it was acquired by the Mysore royal family to use as their summer residence. Made with Burmese teak, the hotel with 19 swish suites is reminiscent of a Swiss chalet surrounded by lush pine forests. It also features a stunning ballroom with a gorgeous ornamental ceiling entirely made of papier-mâché.
Brunton Boatyard, Kochi
Built on an old Victorian shipyard near the Cochin harbor, the heritage property boasts of earthy terracotta floors, lime plastered walls, antique furniture and high ceilings, echoing the harbor’s colonial legacy. Each of the hotel’s rooms including the bathrooms overlook the sea, adding to its vintage vibe. This waterfront estate is a perfect destination for today’s discerning traveller!
Bundelkhand Riverside, Orchha
Located on the banks of the Betwa river in Madhya Pradesh, this heritage hotel once served as a hunting lodge to the royal family of Orchha. Each of its 26 rooms, including its 17 riverside rooms have an eclectic interior – with delicate influences of the Raj and local culture. You can walk around 400-year-old monuments and relics, within the heritage hotel. Or even visit the Orchha wildlife sanctuary nearby.