The most beautiful palaces of India

India has an unrivalled heritage influenced by a history that is several millennia old; the palaces are part of this cultural wealth. The palaces of Rajasthan (North West India), with their idyllic romantic setting, are the most famous; there are, however, several other ‘palatial treasures’ scattered here and there throughout the Indian continent … Here is my personal selection …

1 – Amba Vilas, Mysuru (Karnataka)

The Palace of Mysore sparkling with thousand of lights

My first favourite palace is the Amba Vilas of Mysuru (Mysore), surely one of the most beautiful and magical palaces of India. Located in Karnataka, South West India, this Indo-Islamic style structure was commissioned in 1897 by the Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV to the British architect Lord Henry Irwin. The ‘Durbal hall’ dressed in blue and gold is simply majestic and the illumination of the palace on Sundays and holidays is worthy of a thousand and one nights …

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The Durbar hall of Mysore palace. Credit: The Hindu

2 – Taj Palace, Udaipur (Rajasthan)

The lake palace of Udaipur during the sunset

My second favourite is the Taj Palace of Udaipur which appear to be floating over the Lake Pichola. The Jag Niwas, its real name, was built in 1743 by the Maharana Jagat Singh II as a summer residence. This magnificent building of 83 rooms has been converted into a 5-star hotel. The only way to visit it is to book a room there … if you can afford it … Surely one of the most romantic hotels in the world …

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The Swimming pool of the Taj palace of Udaipur – Credit : Taj Palace

3 – Chowmahalla Palace, Hyderabad  (Telangana)

The city of Hyderabad, located in the state of Telangana (central India), is still little known to tourists; it was nevertheless a pole of the Indo-Persian culture under the Golkonda and Nizams Muslim kings. The Chowmahalla Palace is one of the best examples of the legacy of these rulers. Its architecture harmoniously combines different architectural influences; it is one of the first examples of neo-classical European architecture in Hyderabad …

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The throne room of the Chowmahalla Palace

4 – Palace of Amber (Rajasthan)

Ganesh entrance

Amber, also called Amer, is the ancient capital of the Maharajas of Jaipur. The Palace of Amber built by the Maharaja Man Singh I on a hillside has beautiful entrance porches adorned with delicate floral motifs, harmonious symmetrical gardens and romantic pavilions. Of particular note is the ‘Sheesh Mahal’ (palace of mirrors) inlaid with small floor-to-ceiling mirrors. We easily imagine the magic of the place when it was lit by hundreds of candles …

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The palace of mirrors

5 – City Palace, Udaipur (Rajasthan)

The City Palace of Udaipur nighttime

The City Palace, the main palace of the city of Udaipur, is a huge complex of eleven small palaces started in 1559 by the Maharana Udai Singh. He established his principal residence after fleeing Chittorgarh invaded by the Mughals. Built in height, on one of the shores of Lake Pichola, this remarkable ensemble mixes Rajput and Mughal architectural styles. Each descendant has contributed to the expansion and beautification of this palace 250 meters long and thirty meters high …

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Aerial view of the City Palace of Udaipur

6 – Umaid Bhawan, Jodhpur (Rajasthan)

This imposing building is the current home of the Maharaja of Jodhpur, Gaj Singh Ji, and his family. It is one of the largest private residences in the world. The construction lasted from 1929 to 1943 and it is named after Maharaja Umaid Singh, who commissioned it. The only part you can visit is the small museum.. Only the small museum dedicated to the royal family is open to the public as well as the very chic adjoining hotel…

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Inside the palace

6 – Laxmi Vilas Palace, Vadodara (Gujarat)

The palace Lakshmi Vilas is the main attraction of the city of Vadodara in the state of Gujarat (North West India). It is a rather extravagant building of Indo-Saracenic style, mixing uncomplicated Victorian and Mughal styles. It was commissioned in 1890 by Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad III and designed by Major Charles Mant. Its construction took twelve years. This palace is the main residence of the current Maharaja and his family …

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Interior of the Lakshmi Vilas Palace

7 – Jai Vilas Mahal, Gwalior (Madhya Pradesh)

Jai Vilas Palace of Gwalior

The Jai Vilas Mahal is a fine example of European architecture, built at great expense by the Maharaja Jayaji Rao Scindia in 1874 and designed by the British architect Sir Michael Filose. It is particularly famous for its large ‘Durbar Hall’ decorated with gilded gold furniture, a huge carpet and gigantic chandeliers of more than three tons each. The current Maharaja of Gwalior still resides in a part of the palace and 35 pieces has been transformed into a museum …

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The Durbar hall

8 – Cooch Behar Palace (West Bengal)

Cooch Behar Palace is located in the city of the same name, in West Bengal (North East India). Buckingham Palace was one of the sources of inspiration for this palace built during the reign of the Maharaja Nripendra Narayan. The entire structure is 120 m long and 90 m wide and covers an area of more than 5000 m2. The ‘highlight of the show’ is the Durbar Hall, with a metal dome …

9 – Chettinad Palaces (Tamil Nadu)

One of the small palaces of Chettinad

Chettinad is surely the most surprising region of Tamil Nadu. It is located in the Sivagangai district and consists of 73 villages, Karaikudi is its capital. In the 19th century, the Chettiars, wealthy merchants, built sumptuous palatial houses  here in a daring and harmonious blend of Eastern and Western styles. This is unique architecture with a charm of its own, inviting travellers to stop awhile for a taste of culture…

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Inside one of the palatial houses of Chettinad

10 – Shekhawati Palaces (Rajasthan)

Chokhani double haveli in Mandawa

Another region, located in Rajasthan, has also palatial houses (called havelis) of great beauty: the Shekhawati. It was, in the 18th and 19th centuries, one of the most prominent regions of Rajasthan. Wealthy Marwari merchants built huge mansions there, decorated inside and out with sumptuous frescoes in which Hindu mythology mingles with scenes from daily life. These masterpieces have earned the region a reputation as Rajasthan’s open-air art gallery…

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Nadine le Prince Haveli in Fatehpur


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