A Little Exploration… The Beautiful Palaces of Udaipur, India

Last updated on August 18, 2023

Udaipur oozes charm and I found the city an utter delight, particularly after bidding adieu to the less-than-charming streets of Ahmedabad the previous week. Tight streets create a maze through the city and towering buildings blot out the sun.

The Lake Palace in Udaipur from rooftop restaurant
The Lake Palace in Udaipur from a rooftop restaurant.

My cousin and I found a gorgeous guesthouse with rooftop views of the lake, a new friend at the shop next door, and a good pace of life. I loved Udaipur enough to spend several extra unplanned days in the city—we felt we needed a full week to relax in the city’s gardens, eat our weight in thalis at Natraj Lodge, and just enjoy new friends and new experiences.

Slowing down to soak in the vibes of Udaipur’s lakes and palaces was also an effective way to both avoid travel fatigue and to keep our travel budget low—transportation and travel days add extra costs. Although, I also admit that the dollar is quite strong, so even on a splurge day, I am often below my anticipated round the world budget.

View over Udaipur, one of India’s loveliest cities.

That will change, however, when I reach places with the larger tourist attractions—the Taj Mahal and the Golden Temple—but right now the focus is on soaking in Indian food, culture, and the pace of life.

Udaipur’s Three Palaces

The hotels here sport gorgeous rooftop restaurants, which is part of what make the city so downright lovely. It’s a city with a lake, and that makes for prime sunrise and sunset viewings, and afternoons in Udaipur are best spent on a rooftop patio with a lassi and a breeze.

The city boasts are three main palaces, each one interesting with a story and history: Lake Palace, City Palace and Monsoon Palace. But note that there are several notable palaces-within-palaces in this pretty city.

The City Palace

The palaces of Udaipur, India
The City Palace in Udaipur, India is among the more intricate and opulent palaces in India, and is worth a visit.

The City Palace sits on the edge of Lake Pichola, and it’s the largest palace in Rajasthan, which is India’s arguably most tourism-heavy one of the states. This palace is the most iconic landmark in Udaipur—it houses a magnificent complex of courtyards and luxurious rooms, terraces and towers, galleries and gardens, all of which overlook Lake Pichola.

The palace was built over centuries and features a blend of Rajasthani and Mughal architectural styles. The City Palace museum is worth a quick wander—and I don’t usually love museums.

My cousin and I considered saving the small rupee entry fee and skipping the museum, but that would have been silly. Both of us were happy to have spent the $3 fee to see everything up close and learn more about the city’s history, and gain insights into the lives of the erstwhile Maharajas of Udaipur.

mosaic peacock udaipur city palace
A gorgeous mosaic peacock adorning the City Palace in Udaipur.

The museum showcases some of the oddest and random arrangements of well, stuff. From a room highlighting olden-time fans (this random fan photo is for my dad since he collects and restores antique fans!) to a peek into the throne-room, it was bizarre. The peacock is the state bird of Rajasthan and dozens of intricate peacock mosaics adorned the structure.

Plus, the views of the Lake Palace and two islands in the lake is beautiful from this spot—dozens of terraces and cupolas within the palace offer views of the surrounding mountains and palaces. I ended up taking way more pictures than I had anticipated, and I enjoyed it more than I anticipated as well!

This is, by far, one of the most gorgeous palaces in India, with so many intricate details, like delicate mirror work and scalloped-edged windows still a testament to this remarkable architectural marvel.

And if you’re feeling spendy, many of the most stunning hotels in Udaipur are actually converted palaces with the City Palace.

The Lake Palace

Lake Palace from the Monsoon Palace at sunset
Views of the Lake Palace from the Monsoon Palace at sunset.

The Lake Palace, as the name would suggest, is the palace surrounded by Udaipur’s partly natural, partly man-made Lake Pichola. Also known as the Jag Niwas, this stunning white marble palace was built in the 18th century as a summer retreat for the royal family.

Although you can take a boat to the luxurious Lake Palace Hotel, the lake was low when I visited since it was the tail end of India’s dry season. Instead, my cousin and I chose a new restaurant each night and watched the moon rise over the Lake Palace while we gorged on the flavorful spread of Indian dishes.

The Monsoon Palace

City Palace in Udaipur, India.
A woman looks out over the lake at the City Palace in Udaipur, India.
monsoon palace sunset
I used an empty window seat to watch the sunset over the mountains.

With two of the three main palaces explored, my cousin and I packed a few snacks and hired a rickshaw for the 30 minute ride to the Monsoon Palace, also know as the Sajjan Garh Palace.

The thing is, the Monsoon Palace is nothing to write home about in and of itself—when I visited in 2009, the state government was still restoring the palace. It was empty inside, which has me curious about what it will become.

sunset at Monsoon Palace udaipur
Sunset views of the Monsoon Palace.
Posing for a photo at the Moon Palace in Udaipur, India.

But, the Monsoon Palace is built on a mountain, with views of Udaipur on one side and the rolling hills and mountains on the other. Locals had advised that we stay for sunset, so we settled in on a ledge with our snacks for primo seats and views.

The Monsoon Palace was peaceful. It was a lovely way to end our visit to Udaipur. And even though a dozen or so other tourists had the same idea, everyone was there to relax. It’s a quiet, tranquil setting. One Indian man near my perch meditated on a ledge for the 45 minutes before sunset.

me and my cousin watching sunset from the monsoon palace
My cousin and I enjoyed watching the setting sun cast an orange glow over the city during sunset from the Monsoon Palace outside of Udaipur.

Once the sun dipped over the horizon, we used our waiting rickshaw for a moonlit dinner on the lake. After the frenetic pace of India in my first days in Mumbai and Ahmedabad, life is pretty darn good right now. I always try to remember how lucky I am for the remote work that has allowed me to take this trip. It’s a charmed life, and one I am grateful for every day.  :)

The town is beautiful. I’m not on a high budget for this trip, but in Udaipur there are no bad views. Every window of the hotel, the restaurants, the shops—they afford the chance to gaze at mountains, lake, and palaces. It’s stunning and I understood quickly why every rooftop functions as a restaurant, cafe, or hotel. Udaipur is a place where you want to linger and soak in the atmosphere.

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Reading:  Alchemy of Desire by Tarun J Tejpal
Music:  Mama Mia Soundtrack
Next step: Leaving soon for Kathmandu!