India was once a diverse collection of princely states. And naturally, each one had its own collection of palaces. Those princely states may have been relegated to history, but many stately homes have since been converted into hotels. In-the-know travelers are checking into these properties to relax like royals — and now you can do the same. Here are a few of our favorites:
Boasting marbled corridors and majestic gardens, Rambagh Palace was once the hunting lodge of the Maharaja of Jaipur. Since its conversion to a hotel in 1957, the 45 rooms and 33 suites have welcomed guests with Raj-era aesthetics and modern luxury featuring plenty of mahogany, antiques, and rich fabrics. Guests are treated like royals, with the Jiva Grande Spa for relaxation, and the opulent Suvarna Mahal restaurant for feasting. No wonder former guests Prince Charles and Jacqueline Kennedy-Onassis felt at home here. For the full regal treatment, book the Rajmata Gayatri Devi Suite, inspired by the last royal who lived here.
Bhawani Singh Road, Rambagh, Jaipur, Rajasthan 302005, India.
A meticulous restoration transformed this 17th-century royal retreat into a decadent Mr and Mrs Smith boutique hotel. Best of all, its backcountry location amongst the Aravali Hills makes it the perfect stopover between Udaipur and Jodhpur. The 32 rooms each boast a unique personality, but all feature delicate arches, original murals, and antique furniture. Enjoy aperitifs in the lamplit courtyard; lounge in the frangipani- and bougainvillea-laced gardens; or unwind at the Narlai Spa. Best behave, though. Royals are still residents here.
Village Narlai, Rajasthan 306703, India.
Perched atop Chittar Hill, Umaid Bhawan boasts sweeping views of Jodhpur. The enormous yellow sandstone structure boasts 22 rooms and 42 suites, all decked out in sumptuous Art Deco style with wood panels, mirrored walls, and hints of local flair. Treat yourself to a Royal Suite, which comes with mirrored terrazzos and views of Mehrangarh Fort. You’ll also find plenty of Raj-era activities – billiards and croquet, anyone? – and modern relaxation at the Jiva Grande Spa.
Circuit House Road, Cantt Area, Jodhpur, Rajasthan 342006, India.
Once a royal pleasure palace owned by Maharana Jagat Singh II, this opulent property went commercial in 1963. The architecture is stunning, sure, but the real draw is its perch in the middle of Lake Pichola, which gives the hotel 360-degree views of Udaipur. No doubt this is why it is featured in the James Bond film “Octopussy.” Each room comes with plush carpets, rich fabrics, and bright colors that combine lavish modernity with elegant tradition. But nab the Grand Royal Suite and you’ll also find 24-hour butler service, and a private terrace. When you’re done ogling the views, indulge in Rajasthani cuisine at Neel Kamal; European dishes at Bhairo; and creative cocktails at the stylish Amrit Sagar bar.
Pichola, Udaipur, Rajasthan 313001, India.
Commissioned by His Highness Sir Ganga Singh Ji in 1904, Bikaner’s Laxmi Niwas Palace was once open only to the highest echelons of society – King George V and Queen Mary were guests. Hand-painted friezes, ornate filigree and detailed lattice screens are just some of the exquisite details here. Rooms are rendered in fin de siècle opulence, with authentic chintz, quirky objects d’art and Empire furniture. Top digs though, is Karni Vilas. Formerly a princely bedchamber, this marble-walled suite also features gold-covered teak ceilings, intricate wall panels, and an expansive his-and-her bathroom.
Opp Walchand Palace, Uttan Road, Rai Village, Mira Bhayandar, Maharashtra 401101, India.