India’s 10 best heritage hotels

21 January 2015 (Last Updated January 21st, 2015 18:30)

India is blessed with outstanding historical buildings some of which have been converted into luxury heritage hotels each displaying unequalled architectural style. Designbuild-network.com picks the 10 best in terms of décor, grandeur and unique guest experiences.

India’s 10 best heritage hotels

Taj Lake Palace

Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur, Rajasthan

Taj Lake Palace (formerly, Jag Niwas) is a floating fantasy on the beautiful Lake Pichola situated in Udaipur city in the state of Rajasthan. Built between 1743 and 1746, it served as a pleasure palace for Maharana Jagat Singh II, the 62nd successor to the royal dynasty of Mewar.

The palace, resting upon a 16,000m2 natural foundation, was converted into a luxury hotel by Maharana Bhagwat Singhji in 1963. Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces took over the management of the hotel in 1971 and restored the palace. Further restoration was undertaken in 2000.

The hotel's 66 rooms and 17 suites offer amazing views of the lake and the Aravali Hills. Each room is adorned with mosaics, fine artefacts and embellishments, richly coloured paintings and ornately carved furniture. Shambhu Prakash, the 1,734ft2 grand presidential suite with high curved arches, exudates a combination of Rajasthani and European grandeur combining delightful decor with amenities such as signature spa, spa boat, swimming pool, and dining.

The Oberoi Grand, Kolkata

The Oberoi Grand, popularly known as the Grand Dame of Kolkata, is located near the central business district of Kolkata. The heritage hotel was originally the private residence of a Colonel Grand in the early 19th century and was the first hotel to be acquired by Rai Bahadur M.S. Oberoi, the founder of the Oberoi Group.

The large white building, featuring columned verandas and balconies on the upper floors and a stucco facade, is a magnificent illustration of British architecture. The 200-year old wooden handmade piano and the iconic, grand chandelier in the hotel's lobby stand out.

The Oberoi Grand offers more than 13,000ft2 of banqueting space and the biggest pillarless ballroom in the city. The suites and rooms feature a king-sized bed, plush wall to wall carpets, and bathrooms with full length bathtub and shower.

Taj Falaknuma Palace

Taj Falaknuma Palace, Hyderabad

The Taj Falaknuma Palace, sitting 2,000ft high on a hill top in Falaknuma, Hyderabad, is often called the 'Mirror of the Sky'. The palace is managed by the Taj Group of Hotels Resorts and Palaces under a lease agreement with the Royal Family of Hyderabad.

Designed by British architect William Mard Marret, the scorpion-shaped palace was built in 1894 by Sir Nawab Vikar-Ul Umra, the Prime Minister of the then princely state of Hyderabad. The palace is embellished with grand marble staircases, antiques, large Venetian chandeliers, rippling fountains and gardens.

The Taj Falaknuma Palace has 60 elegantly refurbished and adoringly restored rooms and suites. All the rooms offer signature luxury amenities reminding guests of the richness and extravagance of the Nizams.

Rambagh Palace, Jaipur, Rajasthan

The Rambagh Palace, also operated by Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces, is situated in Bhawani Singh Road in Jaipur. The palace was built in 1835 as the home for a handmaiden of the Queen and later transformed into a royal guesthouse and hunting lodge.

The facility was renamed Rambagh, after Maharaja Sawai Ram Singh II. It was later converted by Sawai Man Singh II into a magnificent palace depicting Mughal and Rajasthani architecture. It was home to the royal family until it was converted into an upscale hotel by the Taj group in 1972.

The heritage hotel has 79 rooms and refurbished suites that were used as the chambers of the Maharaja. The rooms, with unique opulent furnishings, rich fabrics and silk drapes, are furnished with four-poster beds, wardrobes and luxurious bathrooms.

Taj Mahal Palace

Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai

The Taj Mahal Palace hotel overlooking the Gateway of India is located in Colaba, Mumbai. The hotel, built by Jamsetji Tata, was opened to guests in December 1903. A new hotel tower named the Taj Mahal Tower was constructed adjacent to it in 1973. The two buildings that make up the hotel portray different architectural styles.

The heritage hotel underwent complete renovation and refurbishment in the late 1990's. It was attacked by Lashkar-e-Taiba militants in November 2008. The partially damaged sections were reopened in December 2008 and full operations were restored in August 2010.

The hotel offers 560 rooms including 44 suites blended with old-world elegance and modern convenience. The venues and guest rooms are decorated with Belgian chandeliers, Anglo-Indian inlaid furniture, Mughal-influenced Jali designs and modern-day sculptures.

Samode Palace, Jaipur

The Samode Palace, located in Samode village, about 42km north of Jaipur, was originally a fort built in the 16th century that was converted into a luxury palace in the early 19th century by Rawal Berisal. The heritage hotel is operated by the luxury hotel group, Samode Hotels.

The 475-year-old palace is a magnificent example of the best of Rajput and Mughal architectural styles. The palace was restored and transmuted into a premium palace hotel in 1987. The majesty of the hotel is well-defined by bougainvillea-covered courtyards, quaint narrow staircases and lounges with fascinating arches, dazing mirror work, and delicately painted walls and ceilings.

The Samode Palace offers four royal suites, 20 deluxe suites and 19 spacious rooms equipped with modern amenities. The rooms are luxuriously furnished with four poster-bed and finely carved couches and Jacuzzi.

Samode Palace

Nadesar Palace, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh

Built in the late 18th century, on the banks of the river Ganges in Varanasi, the Nadesar Palace is named after the Indian goddess Nadesari. The luxury heritage hotel is operated by Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces.

The palace was acquired by Maharaja Prabhu Narain Singh, who embellished the walls of its luxurious suites with his artistic collections and decorated the rooms with refurbished pieces of original furniture.

The palace offers four luxurious Palace Rooms, four Historical Suites and two Royal Suites furnished with a living room, a master bedroom and a dressing area. The guests at Nadesar Palace can also experience a Royal Buggy ride, walks, yoga, spa therapies, excursions, and other delights.

Umaid Bhavan Palace, Jodhpur, Rajasthan

The Umaid Bhavan Palace, located amidst 26 acres of lush gardens in Jodhpur, was built by His Royal Highness Maharaja Umaid Singh between 1928 and 1943. The palace was converted into a luxury hotel by Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces in 2005.

The palace is also known as Chittar Palace as it used the local Chittar sandstone for construction. The building was constructed by applying a special system of interlocking with no mortar binding. Its golden-yellow sandstone design was influenced by the architectural styles of the East and the West.

The rooms and suites of the Umaid Bhavan Palace feature art deco-inspired décor and antique furniture. Guests can experience the modern conveniences like fitness centre, pools and a billiard room, while indulging in décor from princely times.

Jai Mahal Palace

Jai Mahal Palace, Jaipur

The Jai Mahal Palace, situated in the 18-acre, attractively landscaped Moghul gardens in Jaipur, was built in 1749 and was the home of the then Prime Minister of the princely state of Jaipur. The palace hotel is currently operated by Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces.

The palace's design portrays Indo-Saracenic architecture. The lobby, rooms and suites were elegantly restored to offer a mix of regal and contemporary appeal. The immense complex of regal rooms, pavilions and bewitching colonnades create an atmosphere of regal lifestyle.

The Jai Mahal Palace features 100 rooms including six suites. The rooms feature colonial style furniture, miniature paintings, gold-imbued fabrics, and fashionable bathrooms with luxury fittings and showers.

Jehan Numa Palace, Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh

The Jehan Numa Palace, nesting on the slope of Shamla Hill in Bhopal, was converted into a heritage hotel in 1983 by the owners Nadir and Yawar Rashid, the grandsons of General Obaidullah Khan.

The design of the palace's white structure represents the blend of British Colonial, Italian Renaissance and Greek architectures. The arched paseos, columned verandas and verdant lawns give the guests a glimpse of the regal palace.

The palace hotel has 100 rooms including six suites that offer natural and striking views. The luxury rooms are furnished with local stones, colonial furniture, indigenous art and craft, and images of royal ancestry. Guests at the Jehan Numa Palace can enjoy a royal living experience coupled with modern-era amenities.