When commercialization began in India, several royal forts, havelis, and holiday homes all around the country were converted into hotels and resorts. As time wheeled in the direction of development and luxury, these accommodation options gained in popularity and gradually became some of the best haunts for luxury and history seekers.
From the Mughals to the Rajputs, each era is distinctly marked in the cultural heritage of India by the beautiful fortresses, palaces and the temples that have been bestowed upon the country by the great kings and rulers of yore.
1. Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai
What’s the history? It was built in 1903 and pre-dates even the Gateway of India which was built 21 years later in 1924.
What’s unique? Taj Palace was turned into a 600-bed hospital during World War I, from 1914 to 1918.
2. Umaid Bhawan Palace, Jodhpur
What’s the history? It was built by the ruler of Jodhpur, Maharaja Umaid Singh. The construction began in 1929 and was completed in 1943.
What’s unique? It is one of the world’s largest private residences. It is the principal residence of the former Jodhpur royal family. A part of the palace is managed by Taj Hotels which is open for guests.
3. Ajit Bhawan, Jodhpur
What’s the history? It is known among the most iconic heritage hotels of the world. The red sandstone architectural grandeur was built in 1927 for Major General Maharaj Dhiraj Ajit Singh, the younger brother of Maharaja Shri Umaid Singh of erstwhile Jodhpur State. It was later on introduced as a heritage hotel.
What’s unique? This palatial property is touted to be India’s first Heritage Hotel. The palace is still home to the royal family and is open to all as well.
4. Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur
What’s the history? It was built between 1743 and 1746 as a pleasure palace of Maharaja Jagat Singh II from the royal dynasty of Mewar of Udaipur, Rajasthan. It was formerly called Jagniwas, after its founder. The property is now turned into a hotel.
What’s unique? It is encircled with the crystalline waters of Lake Pichola and encased in marble.
5. Brijrama Palace, Varanasi
What’s the history? It is an 18th century Royal House of Nagpur, with touches of Maratha style of architecture. Maharaja Saheb of Dharbhanga in the early 20th century converted it into Dharbhanga Mahal.
What’s unique? Brijrama Palace on Darbhanga Ghat is known to be one of the oldest buildings on the Varanasi ghat. It is now one of the best luxury heritage hotels in Varanasi. However, One of the first elevators in India was installed at this property. The palace is accessible through a boat that one has to go on-board from Mahishasura Ghat.
6. Neemrana, Alwar
What’s the history? It was built in 1464 and became the third capital of the descendants of Prithviraj Chauhan III, who had fled Delhi in 1192 after he was vanquished in battle by Muhammad Ghori. In 1947, Raja Rajinder Singh of Neemrana Fort moved down to Vijay Bagh as the façade of his Fort-Palace crumbled and its ramparts began to give way. For 40 years he tried to rid himself of his liability but there were no takers.
What’s unique? The current owners had bought the ruined fort for Rs 700,000 in 1986 and restored it into a heritage hotel in 1991.
7. Amet Haveli, Udaipur
What’s the history? It was built during the rule of Maharana Jagat Singh II of Udaipur between 1734 and 1752. Which is one of the finest examples of Rajput architecture and is situated on the Western bank of Lake Pichola in Udaipur.
What’s unique? Maharaja Jagat Singh was also the builder of the famous Jag Niwas which is presently known as Lake Palace. All the stonework and raw materials for the construction of Lake Palace were ferried from the open land situated next to the present day Amet Haveli.
8. Haveli Dharampura, Delhi
What’s the history? It was built in 1887 in the city of Shahajahanbad, the old city built in 1648 by the Emperor Shahjahan. Though, part of it was added later in the 20th Century. Its distinctive architectural features can be attributed to the late Mughal style. It is situated in close proximity of the historic Jama Masjid, having direct access though Gali Gulian.
What’s unique? It is one of the many Havelis that were built by the courtiers of Shahjahanabad during the Mughal and late Mughal period. However, Most of these Havelis got ruined with time, but this Haveli was fortunate to see the light of the 21st Century.
9. Royal Heritage Haveli, Jaipur
What’s the history? It was built in the 18th Century by His Highness Madho Singhji of Jaipur. After 150 years, the property was converted into a heritage hotel. It still beholds the old world charm and therefore, wins the hearts of the guests wanting to live life like a king.
What’s unique? It is now owned by Maharaj Jai Singh of Jaipur and run by his niece Angelique and her husband, Pradip.
10. Ratan Vilas, Jodhpur
What’s the history? It was built in 1920 by Maharaj Ratan Singhji of Raoti, a royal from Jodhpur and one of the finest horsemen and polo players of his time.
What’s unique? It has been converted into a heritage hotel by Maharaj Bharat Singh, the grandson and R.K. Brijraj Singh, the great grandson of Maharaj Ratan Singhji. However, it still continues to be their residence as well.