At the heart of the Pink City stands the magnificent City Palace. To reach the palace entrance, go through the small archway on the north side of Tripolia Bazaar just west of the junction with Chaura Rasta and follow the road as it veers round to the right, past the Jantar Mantar. The entrance is past here, on your left.
The palace was originally built by Jai Singh in the 1720s and has lost none of its original pomp and splendour. The royal family still occupies part of the palace, advancing in procession on formal occasions through the grand Tripolia Gate on the south side of the palace. Less exalted visitors enter through a modest gate on the eastern side of the palace that leads into the first of the palace’s two main courtyards, centred on the elegant Mubarak Mahal. Built as a reception hall in 1899, the building now holds the museum’s textile collection, housing some of the elaborately woven and brocaded fabrics that formerly graced the royal wardrobe. On the north side of the courtyard, the Armoury is probably the finest such collection in Rajasthan, a vast array of blood-curdling but often beautifully decorated weapons.
Past the Mubarak Mahal, an ornate gateway flanked by pair of fine stone elephants leads into the palace’s second main courtyard, painted deep salmon pink. In its centre the raised Diwan-i-Khas (Hall of Private Audience), an open-sided pavilion where important decisions of state were taken by the maharaja and his advisers. The hall contains two silver urns, or gangajalis, listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest crafted silver objects in the world, each more than 1.5m high with a capacity of 8182 litres. When Madho Singh II went to London to attend the coronation of King Edward VII in 1901, he was so reluctant to trust the water in the West that he had these urns filled with Ganges water and took them along with him.
On the left (west) side of the courtyard, a small corridor leads through to the Pritam Niwas Chowk, or “Peacock Courtyard”, adorned with four superbly painted doorways representing the four seasons. This courtyard also gives the best view of the soaring yellow Chandra Mahal, the residence of the royal family (closed to the public), its heavily balconied seven-storey facade rising to a slope-shouldered summit. When the maharaja is in residence his flag is flown from the topmost pavilion.
On the opposite (east) side of the Diwan-i-Khas courtyard, beneath a large clocktower, sits the ornate Sabha Niwas, the Hall of Public Audience (or Diwan-i-Am), bare except for a pair of thrones in the middle and portraits of various former maharajas around the walls. Beyond here is the small Diwan-i-Am courtyard, with a collection of old carriages tucked into one end.