India’s history and lore are filled with stories of the opulent lives and extravagant exploits of the Maharajas. But while the days of the royals might be long gone, vivid remnants of their lifestyle still remain in the form of several breathtaking palaces and heritage buildings that have been converted into luxury hotels and stay options. Here are some of the best palaces that you can stay in and experience a regal lifestyle unlike any other.
When it comes to exclusivity and opulence, it doesn’t get any better than the Taj Lake Palace in Udaipur, Rajasthan. Built in the 18th century as a winter palace by the Maharana Jagat Singh II of Rajasthan’s Mewar Dynasty, this exquisite floating palace features white marble walls, pillared terraces, numerous gardens and even a lily pond. In 1971, the deteriorating palace was taken over by the Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces Group and turned into a luxury palace hotel. Located in the middle of Udaipur’s Lake Pichola, the only way to get to the property is through a short boat ride from the Badipal guest jetty.
Taj Falaknuma Palace, Hyderabad
Hyderabad’s Falaknuma Palace is often associated with the opulence of the Nizams of Hyderabad. However, what many do not know is that the 19th-century structure was originally owned by the Nizam’s Prime Minister before being transferred to the Nizam. The exquisite structure was taken over on lease by the Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces Group and renovated into a luxury heritage hotel in 2010.
Umaid Bhawan Palace, Jodhpur
Jodhpur’s Umaid Bhawan Palace is the closest you can get to experiencing a British-era Indian palace while still retaining the advantages of staying in a modern hotel. The compound still houses the residence of the royal family of the Rathore dynasty and is counted among the largest private residences in the world. The palace also has a dedicated hotel wing managed by the Taj Group of Hotels featuring 64 uber-luxurious guest rooms. The entire structure is built with sandstone and marble and spreads over an incredible 26 acres, with more than half of it being manicured gardens. Built in the mid-19th century, the palace is known for its embrace of modernity, while still upholding Rajasthani traditions.
Samode Palace, Jaipur
One of the three landmark historical structures associated with the Maha Rawals of Samode, this palace boasts a history dating back to the 16th century when the outer structure was built as a fort. The fort was converted into a beautiful palace in the early 19th century and is today one of the best heritage hotels in Jaipur, run by the Samode Group. The palace’s architecture is unique because it is one of the few structures to incorporate both Mughal and Rajput design sensibilities.
Laxmi Niwas Palace, Bikaner
Rajasthan is home to several former princely states such as Bikaner. One of the most prominent heritage palace hotels in Bikaner is the Laxmi Niwas Palace, which was once the royal residence of the state’s Maharaja Ganga Singh. Constructed in 1896 in an Indo-Saracenic style of architecture, the exquisite structure is built entirely with red sandstone and features beautiful pillared halls and courtyards. The palace was later converted into a luxury hotel and is currently managed by Golden Triangle Forts and Palaces.
Taj Usha Kiran Palace, Gwalior
Suite Hotel, Chain Hotel
This historic palace was originally built in the early 20th century as a guest house for the Prince of Wales. However, it was later acquired by Jivajirao Scindia of the Scindia Dynasty, one of the most prominent royal families in India. The palace was then converted into a luxury hotel by the Taj Group of Hotels and is one of the most popular luxury heritage hotels in Madhya Pradesh today. The palace is best-known for its traditional character and still retains several aspects of its original construction such as rosewood elevators.
The Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai
Suite Hotel, Business Hotel, Chain Hotel
This legendary sea-facing property in Mumbai was not built by any Indian Maharaja but has nonetheless hosted more royals than any other luxury or heritage hotel in India. Often considered the crown jewel of Mumbai’s skyline, the Taj Mahal Palace is one of India’s most iconic structures and also the first hotel in India to have electricity. It was constructed in 1903, making it one of India’s oldest hotels. Its architecture mimics the luxurious palaces of historic India and Europe and its opulence has attracted the elites of various generations, ranging from the last Viceroy of India, Lord Mountbatten to US President Bill Clinton.