Shiv Niwas Palace is one of the best hotels in Udaipur and also its most central.
Part of the City Palace, the hotel is at the heart of the city within a city complex that tops the list of things to do in Udaipur. Its most premium rooms are as palatial as it gets and have stunning Lake Pichola views.
The royal family of Mewar still owns the hotel and lives in a smaller palace adjacent to it in the same grounds, you can feel the opulence of their heritage at every corner.
There are elephant paintings on the walls, beautifully manicured gardens and tall guards flanking Shambu Niwas, the royal residence. If you ever wanted to know how kings lived, you can get a good sense here.
History of Shiv Niwas Palace
Shiv Niwas Palace is a crescent-shaped hotel located on top of a hill and adjacent to the City Palace.
Owned by Udaipur’s royal family, the palace was built at the beginning of the 20th century for dignitaries coming to visit the Mewar Kings.
As the costs of maintaining the stunning properties within the City Palace became more untenable, the royal family decided to transfer the palace ownership to the family-owned HRH Group of Hotels and turn two of the palaces into hotels.
With the success of the Lake Palace which had been renovated and ceded to the Taj Hotel Group, the Maharaja decided to do the same with the City Palace complex and renovated both Shiv Niwas and Fateh Prakash in the 80s.
A second floor was also added to the main palace during that period and this is where the Terrace Suites are.
Arrival and check-in at Shiv Niwas Palace
Shiv Niwas Palace is part of the City Palace complex but it has its own entrance at the top of a short ramp through the back of the palace, the staff will then pick you and your luggage up from the gate on a buggy to bring you to the reception.
What is not apparent when you enter the property’s courtyard is that you are in fact on a hill and at the other end lies the lake, several meters below.
The reception hall is an opulent room with pictures of the Mewar family members, beautiful flower arrangements and authentic furniture pieces.
While the facade of the building is painted in the austere pastel yellow of Rajasthan, the interiors are ornate and over the top, not a single spot has been left undecorated.
Check-in formalities were completed while we downed glasses of the sweetest watermelon juice and nibbled on traditional Rajasthani sweets and snacks from a silver tray. Silver triangles of milk, sugar and almond disappeared from the tray as I filled the registration forms.
Shortly after we were shown to our Heritage Rooms, the luggage followed through shortly after. The staff gave us a quick tour of the room before handing us the key and heavy padlock.
The rooms at Shiv Niwas Palace
There is a huge difference between the various room categories at Shiv Niwas Palace.
While the entry-level Palace rooms are more adequately rated 3* (and not very palatial), the higher category ones are truly spectacular, so choose wisely.
Broadly speaking, there are three main room categories and they differ significantly from each other.
The 19 Palace rooms are located in a building that is below the ramparts and along the main entrance, just above the spa. These rooms don’t have particularly interesting views and mostly face the city and hills.
They have a covered narrow verandah with a desk and table and the main bedroom with either twin or double bedding and a separate bathroom.
While the rooms were fine, they were nothing special and rather worn out, even dated. The furniture was painted in pale yellow using large uneven strokes to make it look as if it was vintage, but it looked old.
Some of the floor tiles, original to the building, were chipped, and the bathroom was tired. They were clean but did not convey the same regal feeling of the rest of the building.
On the other hand, any of the higher category rooms were truly amazing.
The 8 Terrace Suites are one category above Palace rooms yet a world away. Located in the main palace, on the semi-circular part just above the swimming pool, these rooms come with a terrace and views over Lake Pichola.
They are much newer, brighter and have show-stopping views. The terraces come with sun loungers and colorful bougainvilleas and make for the perfect place to retire to when the constant honking becomes too much.
The next category are the 6 Royal Suites and the name could not be any more befitting. These uber spacious suites have three rooms, fake doors painted to ensure symmetry, period furniture and paintings of the royal family.
Inside is a fairytale, with arches that have been decorated with inlay designs, large bathrooms, windows spanning the width of the lake views and over the top upholstery. Everywhere I looked I let out a “wow”.
The 3 Imperial Suites are the highest level in luxury with white marble, inlays and stained glass chandeliers. Grandly decorated with original furniture, art pieces and family portraits, these are the rooms to book if you want to live like a Maharaja.
These suites come with an extra vestibule that looks into the pool and each of the rooms in the suite has its own entrance. I don’t think I have ever seen a room this sumptuous, one of them even has a marble fountain.
Pricing wise, you can estimate that each category is double, triple or quadruple the price of the entry-level Palace rooms.
Dining at Shiv Niwas Palace
Shiv Niwas Palace is part of the HRH Hotel Group complex which includes Fateh Prakash Hotel, Chowk Manek by the City Palace entrance and Jagmandir Hotel, so guests staying there have access to the dining venues at either of these hotels.
There are three dining venues at Shiv Niwas. Paantya is the main restaurant serving all-day dining in a beautiful room.
Breakfast is enjoyed indoors or at the few outdoor tables by the pool and consists of a small buffet with fresh fruits, juices, pastries, nuts, Indian snacks, cold cuts, cheeses and cereals plus a few made-to-order a la carte dishes.
There is a particularly romantic table that stands on its own balcony with the best breakfast views ever.
Panera Bar is adjacent to the Royal suites right by the pool, and is perhaps the most stunning bar I have ever seen.
The art and craft of Udaipur’s best artisans is demonstrated in the ornate inlay glasswork that adorns walls and columns. The lower level wildlife decorations with anything from kangaroos to tigers are incredibly detailed.
But perhaps the most stunning part is the small balcony above the hall which hangs over the sofas below. The same inlay work can be seen here but the extra perspective will leave you speechless.
Palki Khana (pavilion for palanquins) is a cafe located at one end of Manek Chowk, right by the entrance to the City Palace. It is mostly frequented by tourists and it closes as soon as the City Palace does, but makes for a great drink pit stop.
Shiv Niwas Palace guests can also dine at the outlets located in the sister properties and this is great news because Fateh Prakash Sunset Terrace has some of the best sunset views in Udaipur.
This bar and restaurant located just above the water on the shores of Lake Pichola directly faces the sunset and the Taj Lake Palace.
Surya Darshan Bar, also in Fateh Prakash Palace, serves afternoon tea for that extra dose of decadence.
Jagmandir Palace, also part of the complex, has a restaurant right by the water called Darikhana and with distant views over the City Palace.
They provide complimentary boat transfers if you wish to dine there. While external guests will have to spend a minimum of 4,000 rupees per couple, Shiv Niwas Palace guests don’t. The hotel also has a bar called Picholi with tables by the water’s edge.
I found the service at all the dining outlets to be great, and I tried almost all of them. The food was also of great quality and the staff members were able to adapt to my family’s palate and make food without any chili.
Activities and facilities at Shiv Niwas Palace
Shiv Niwas Palace has a few facilities on site but its real appeal is in the location and on what’s around it. There is a small gym and a newly added spa but the jewel of the crown is the oval pool located in the crescent shaped palace courtyard.
Tiled in sky blue with circular decorations and surrounded by a fence carved from white marble, bougainvillea crawling on the walls around it, and lemon frangipani flowers falling from the large trees around it, I can’t think of a more over-the-top hotel pool.
There is an adjacent fountain, white marble thrones and chaise longue and each of the sunbeds comes with their own set of sunscreen, water, cold towels, pool towels, aftersun and mat, it is difficult not to feel like a celebrity.
The pool makes for the perfect place to retire if you need a break from the busy city sightseeing. You can order drinks or simply freshen up and find real relaxation. There is sun most of the day but the buildings around it provide shade except for the peak hours of the day. You can also have breakfast, lunch or dinner around the pool.
Above the pool, along the Terrace Suites, there is an upper floor terrace with sunloungers, tables and chairs which makes for a great spot. The space has views over the pool courtyard below or the lake, on the other side.
There are also balcony seating tables along the corridors with chhatris and balconies with intricate designs that are perfect for photo ops.
Service at Shiv Niwas Palace
I found the service at the hotel to be quite accommodating and friendly. Traveling with a baby meant that we had a lot of requests and they were all fulfilled.
I also requested for a tour of the palace to see the other rooms and they obliged. We were also given late checkout to facilitate our onward travel and the restaurant staff were very helpful.
Hospitality staff in India are always of high standards and Shiv Niwas Palace did not disappoint.
The verdict: Review of Shiv Niwas Palace
Shiv Niwas Palace’s location cannot be beat. Together with Fateh Prakash, it holds the best location in the city hands down. It helps that its guests have direct access to the City Palace and Pichola Lake.
The upper category rooms are amazing, but avoid the rather nondescript entry-level Palace rooms that don’t do the hotel justice.
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