Home » Inside India’s most romantic city, Udaipur

Inside India’s most romantic city, Udaipur

written by Jack Cummings April 13, 2017
Lake Pichola Udaipur India

You’ve probably heard the phrase ‘Venice of the East’ at least once before on your travels. It’s a term commonly batted around by tourist boards – everywhere from Malacca (Malaysia) to old town Manila (Philippines) – because it adds a sense of continental flare.

To me, the only spot that can truly own the name is Udaipur, a lakeside paradise of shimmering marble, oozing romance and a European feel you just can’t find anywhere else in India.

With the old part of the city tightly wrapped around the crystal clear Lake Pichola, the Venice comparisons flow deeper than just leisurely boat trips. The author Rudyard Kipling was one of the first to coin the phrase when discussing Udaipur in his 1899 work Letters of Marque. “If the Venetian owned the Pichola, he might say with justice, ‘see it and die’,” he wrote. That’s a slightly crude way of saying the place is impossible not to fell in love with.

City Palace Udaipur Kipling was right. Winding streets crammed with Mediterranean-inspired cafes, music shops and local craft stores give way to stunning lakeside views. The backdrop of the City Palace’s soft meringue-like roofs against the green hills was the perfect decadent setting for James Bond’s Octopussy. Several scenes of the 1983 blockbuster were filmed at the ‘floating’ Lake Palace – the very definition of a luxury hotel. It’s exclusively accessible by boat, so non-guests are only able to admire from afar.

With the constant horns and hustle, traveling across India can be exhausting in the burning heat. When I stepped off the train from Jaipur it felt like half a world away, even though both cities can be found within the same state of Rajasthan. Traveling with my girlfriend, one of the first things she remarked was how European the city felt, having been to Venice a few years earlier. No chaos and no army of auto-rickshaw drivers ready to greet you, just calm and peace.

For a few days we were able to immerse ourselves in this fairytale of a city, exploring its palaces, lounging on its rooftops and relaxing on the lake. Yes, Venice is world-renowned as a ‘romantic’ hotspot – but with a backpacker’s budget and crowds around every corner, for me, it fell short. Udaipur wins my heart every time.

Udaipur India

They’ve got it, so they flaunt it – which is why many of Udaipur’s activities are based around the lake, with four mini islands to explore.  The smallest (Arsi Vilas) used to house an armory, but is now home to a variety of exotic birds – including brightly colored kingfishers.

Visiting in the low season, our best option was to glide across the lake in a small chauffeured boat. If you squint, it could have been a gondola – with the added luxury of not having to duck under all those Venetian bridged. Intricate stone elephants carved into the wall greeted us on the approach Jag Mandir, a lake palace you can actually visit, where we sailed for an afternoon drink.

Lake Palace Udaipur

The Lake Palace

Disclaimer: I was amazed to hear the lake was actually artificially made and was first created for transport reasons, not pleasure. That said, it was constructed in the year 1362 AD – making it older than most cities in North America, so it seems pretty natural by now. Later generations fell in love with its unrivaled beauty, constructing what is now known as the Old Town and City Palace.

RELATED: EXPLORE UDAIPUR ON THIS 15-DAY SMALL GROUP TOUR

The food scene in Udaipur combines the best of East and West in its many restaurants and cafes. If you’re chasing romance, look no further than Ambrai – which is located right on the banks of Lake Pichola with prime views of the stunning Taj Udaipur and lit-up City Palace. It’s all white linen and silver service, but nowhere close to the same prices you’d fork out for a similar spot in Venice. One of our taxi drivers, Vinnie – a man who had driven his car all over India, said he would never forget a meal in such a place. He was right.

Dinner at Ambrai

While the menu at Ambrai has a large focus on Rajasthani cuisine, the European influence on Udaipur seeps deeper into the food on offer. It’s uncommon in India to find a place like the kitsch Café Edelweiss, a German-inspired coffee shop that belonged on a Munich backstreet. Expect to find bacon and egg sandwiches with cinnamon apple pie for dessert, alongside a good cup of chai, of course.

The curiously named Millets of Mewar gets a special shout out for being one of the only modern-style health food restaurants I saw on my trip, which wouldn’t look out of place near my home in East London. Taking a clean eating approach to Indian street food and beyond, Millets of Mewar champion local ingredients and well and truly deliver. The setting might not be directly on the lake, but their Rajasthani millet Thali is equally as unforgettable.

Jagdish Chowk Udaipur

Jagdish Chowk, a central town square

There’s a small but bustling marketplace in the center of town, but don’t expect a scene from Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice – the wares on sale in Udaipur are better. You’ll find hand-painted elephants or deities on fresh silk and small-carved ornaments. Not to mention the usual explosion of color in scarves and textiles that can be found on sale all over India.

But there’s more to do than just shop. When in India’s most romantic city, what could be more romantic than serenading someone on the local instrument? I took a sitar lesson from a teacher named Krishna who came highly recommended in a few guidebooks. There was a problem with the shutters in his backstreet shop, but he welcomed me into his own home down the road to practise.

The sitar is shaped a bit like a guitar, like the name suggests. With a wider neck and several more strings it produces a majestic high-pitch sound that suits the dramatic landscape of Udaipur. Needless to say it’s much harder to play a tune on.

Within an hour I could pull off a few scales, but I didn’t quite feel like a Rajasthani version of Romeo. But if he does really exist, he’d live in India’s answer to Venice.

Has Udaipur captured your heart? Travel there on Intrepid’s 15-day Rajasthan Experience trip.

 

Image Credits (top to bottom): iStock x2, Intrepid Travel, Hotel Amet Haveli, iStock, Ellie Pashley

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30 comments

Jim Corbett June 5, 2021 - 10:54 pm

Did you miss visiting Monsoon palace? That place gives you a 360 degree view of the entire city.

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Ravi February 16, 2021 - 3:34 pm

Its Brilliantly explained post. I have been to Udaipur once and you have included almost every must do things in Udaipur also you clicked some really awesome images. Thank you for sharing with us.

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Yugesh Choudhary February 13, 2021 - 3:49 pm

I love Udaipur. I never seen before such city. Udaipur mostly famous for its lake and its historical places. I would recommend everybody should explore Udaipur with his family.

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Dinesh January 28, 2021 - 10:23 pm

India is an assault to the senses, but well worth it. There is so much history and culture at every step. Loves to read about lake city.

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Jcr Cab December 7, 2020 - 3:21 pm

love this place!! amazing architecture and lakes.

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sr taxi December 4, 2020 - 5:51 am

Best Blog on Inside India’s most romantic city, Udaipur

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Zankaar Udaipur November 9, 2020 - 8:35 pm

I love Udaipur, it is one of best place to stay in India. I love the lakes, monuments and rich cultural heritage of Udaipur and your article explained the beauty of Udaipur very well.

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Sudhir Patel October 10, 2020 - 6:27 pm

udaipur is such a must visitng place in Rajasthan

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Sudhir Patel October 7, 2020 - 6:46 pm

such a wonderful images of lake city. great work

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Sunil Sharma April 22, 2020 - 4:21 pm

Great piece of information about my favorite place Udaipur. Keep up the good work and keep updating more articles like this one. Thanks!

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Santhi Sadda April 7, 2020 - 4:59 pm

Very informative and useful content. Thanks for sharing this with us.

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Sunil Sharma April 2, 2020 - 5:02 pm

Thanks for the info. Great Job Done. Keep it Up.

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Taxi Services in Udaipur January 14, 2020 - 10:42 pm

Udaipur is the best place to visit with family. It has all the best places to visit at the best price. Those who are looking for wonderful places for traveling it is right place. VNV tours is one of them to provide all the vintage taxis, cars and cabs at best price.

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Lucky Singh December 30, 2019 - 11:15 pm

Very nice blog. I truly agree Udaipur is India’s most romantic city in India. I loved this place.

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Mateshwari tours December 17, 2019 - 3:37 pm

Udaipur is one of the amazing places to visit. One can be lost in the beauty of Udaipur.

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jodhpur taxi December 13, 2019 - 3:17 pm

Great article and yeah totally agree with you guys its the Venice of the East. I too have written an article about the best sites and things to do in Udaipur.
Hope you agree with the list.

Reply
Mateshwari tours December 3, 2019 - 7:42 pm

Udaipur is an amazing place. One can be lost in the beauty of Udaipur.

Reply
Brian Giselle August 14, 2019 - 10:45 pm

Udaipur is best place is in India. It’s a beautiful place. I’ve enjoyed reading the post. It is a very supportive and useful post. I would like to visit the post once more of its valuable content. Thanks for sharing this blog.

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Dhanvi Tours July 2, 2019 - 10:14 pm

There is no city like Udaipur. I’m in love with this city.

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Swatantra Chauhan March 25, 2019 - 8:04 pm

One of the beautiful city of India, reminds me of Bond movie.

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Chirag Manghnani February 5, 2019 - 10:00 pm

The city is amazing and the best part about this city is old city. You will definitely love it

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Travel to Tibet November 30, 2018 - 11:15 pm

Wonderful places for traveling in India. Thanks for sharing with us. Hope you will update more travel blogs soon.

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Alfred Lepcha August 26, 2018 - 9:00 pm

I spent 10 years studying in Udaipur.
1985 to 1995.
One of the most beautiful cities around the world. So folks never ever miss Udaipur when you plan to visit Rajasthan. But make sure, the city have had a good monsoon rains.
The people there too are as lovely as the City itself.

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tejas sahu July 4, 2018 - 11:03 pm

i have been living in udaipur from past 3 years and believe me everyday i fall in love with this city

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Kinjal Mehta June 26, 2018 - 12:59 am

You write it really well. Thanks for sharing an amazing blog. I really appreciate your writing skills.

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Udaipur Rides May 17, 2018 - 8:39 pm

Agree with all of your points. You described Udaipur city very well.
Thanks for the wonderful information.

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Parvesh Jain September 7, 2017 - 12:03 am

Great article and yeah totally agree with you guys its the Venice of the East. I too have written an article about the best sites and things to do in Udaipur.

Hope you agree with the list.

Reply
Thomas James September 5, 2017 - 9:25 pm

love this place!! amazing architecture and lakes.. Thnx @padharoudaipur app and team for choosing the best for me to explore .. grt app #happy #missingudaipur ..thanks for sharing the pictures.. it literally took me back to udaipur…..

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Isla August 24, 2017 - 3:13 pm

I loved this city , my favorite place in India . This city had an app for booking of hotels , restaurants , events , tours , U name it they have it . That made stay and knowing around our way in the city very easy . I recommend Padharo Udaipur app for guys who plan to visit .
Happy Journey !!!

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Gopesh August 2, 2017 - 5:01 pm

Udaipur is one of the most romantic cities in the world.

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