Of course you know Jodhpur, but do you know JDH? This Urban Regeneration project is aiming to restore the Walled City of Jodhpur to its former glory, breathing new life into this ancient place, and helping to restore culture and commerce both to its often-dilapidated streets.
When we opened our store in Jodhpur last year, part of this citywide restoration, we made copious notes on our time in the Blue City, adding to these each time we returned. These are Nico’s field notes to the Blue City.
At Raas. Gorgeous, in the thick of the action and with impeccable service, this design-minded property marries the old and new seamlessly. Their rooftop bar is a particular favourite: sip on a gin cocktail while you watch the fort start to glow with light (cool as a cucumber is a good pick, refreshing, mildly salty and with a kick).
Umaid Bhavan Palace is another worthy choice, the home of the king and the site of a museum that walks you through the history of this city’s royal family. If you want to live like a king, pick Umaid Bhavan. If you want design and decadence in equal measure, RAAS is for you.
At your hotel, just to start. Don’t go nuts and leap headfirst into the Lal maas (as we did). Instead, take your time taking a toe-dip into Rajasthan’s densely spiced, delicious and decadent fare and your stomach will reward you.
We found that the Rajasthani food is really where it’s at, while other more internationally-inflected menus lacked a little something. Some trip highlights include tandoori jhinga at Raas, the Rajasthani thali at Chokelao, an open-air restaurant atop Mehrangarh fort (yes, we said on the fort) with views that will rival the procession of treats on your plate. As is the case in most of Jodhpur’s establishments (bar the five-star hotels) they serve only wine and beer. The onion kachori at Janta Sweet House came highly recommended by guides and taxi drivers alike and they were right to champion it. These large fried orbs contain a caramelised onion filling and make an excellent snack, or meal if your appetite is pint-sized. Gulab jamuns are a Jodhpuri speciality but not all the gulabos we sampled lived up to their promise. Janta Sweet House, however, delivered again.
If you’re wandering around the market in the day, stop at Cafe Royale for a cold coffee or refreshing lemonade and a chat with the brothers who run it, Nimish and Hritik. It is diminutively-proportioned but ideally situated to stop in for some respite from the heat while exploring the area around the clock tower. We sat, cold coffees in hand, and watched the markets unstoppable bustle for an hour before setting off again, fortified by caffeine and cold beverages.
Stepwell Cafe is fantastic for an evening visit; watch the sun go down over the stepwell as you sip on wine. You’ll see Jodhpuri youth leaping off the highest points into the deep waters below, heart in mouth, and then you’ll see international visitors do the same with GoPros strapped to their heads. The stepwell’s recently had a monster cleanup and what was once a swamp is now a playpool, albeit an architecturally incredible one. The food menu is limited and fairly basic, but we’d go again (and again) for the view and for the vibe. Visitors in months coming will also be able to go to Halfway House, a brand new cafe that is named for its location, exactly halfway between the fort and the clock tower. Jharokha 360 sits atop the new shopping hub that is Moon House, facing the stepwell, and has excellent wraparound views of the city, the fort, and Umaid Bhavan palace in the distance. Right opposite is Gypsy where the Rajasthani thali came highly recommended by the sources we’d come to trust most-our taxi drivers, but sadly we were out of dinners and missed it this time.
…Jodhpur in the morning and in the evening. Do yourself a favour and make like the locals in the afternoon: head indoors for a siesta until the sun dips a little. As the weather cools the afternoons are less brutal so take a call based on what time of year it is.
Wear trainers. Jodhpur has a little bit of a garbage problem and patches of the streets are often littered with all sorts. You don’t want to explore on foot in flimsy sandals, we promise.
Mehrangarh Fort is the obvious focal point of the city, both visually and for the space it should occupy on your itinerary. It is a vertiginous climb, and those who are infirm or differently abled might want to give this one a miss. For the others, a bottle of water is handy companion as you wander around this one kilometre stretch of citadel, looking at cannonball impressions from past battles, shrines and coronation thrones, or marvelling at the architectural differences between the bits erected in the 16th century and those of the century following (the fort was built in the 15th century, but those original structures have not survived). Pay particular attention to the incredible interlocking build techniques on the intricately latticed stonework. As you head out, skip the main shop, next to Palki cafe and instead descend a level to another where you’ll find cool block-printed cotton skirts that pair well with tank tops, are a steal, and will serve you well both here in Jodhpur as well as back home.
Rajasthan has long had one shopping destination, and it isn’t Jodhpur. But while Jaipur might still beat every other city for its preponderance of gems and other twinkly takeaways, Jodhpur has its own treats.
Bibaji Churiwale is a Jodhpuri Institution; the bangle maker for the royal family sits on Churi lane (bangle lane) Alongside other bangle sellers, but he is the one to go to. They don’t bargain, not even a bit, so don’t bother, but allow yourself some time to properly peruse the shelves because there is a lot in there. We bought some fantastic faceted glass bangles in jewel tones of emerald, topaz, garnet and turquoise. Wear them one at a time or stacked high.
Moon House is Jodhpur’s new shopping hub and with good reason, that’s where you’ll find us! We jest (just a little anyway), yes you’ll find Nicobar, but you will also find the Good Earth store, a jewel box of cavernous proportions with which you cannot help but fall in love. All Good Earth stores are pretty impressive, but this one is truly incredible, and a fitting ode to the city in which it resides. Their modern Mughal designs are contained in a gorgeous home with walls festooned with Pichwai paintings, and their homewares sit atop marble and brass shelving that is as covetable as the treats they hold.
Across the road is Forest Essentials where you’ll find all-natural beauty products that borrow their formulations from the wisdom of Ayurveda, but all finessed into high-functioning formulas with lovely packaging. Their body butters and sugar tamarind scrub are divine and will leave your shoulders gleaming like no other. An excellent bit of indulgence and an even better gift.
Of course there is more, but some things are best discovered in person, so use this as a springboard for your explorations and then add to these notes. We’d love to hear from you and hear your own Jodhpur secrets.