At the foothills of the Zabarwan mountain range and overlooking the picturesque Dal Lake, The Lalit Grand Palace Srinagar is one of the foremost luxury properties in India. It was built in 1910 by Maharaja Pratap Singh and was home to the royal family of Kashmir for many years. It was then known as Gulab Bhavan. In 1998, at the height of the insurgency, The Lalit Hospitality Group bought the property and restored its grandeur. It houses 113 palace rooms and suites, and 10 cottages.
The scenic landscape of Kashmir changes with the seasons, and if you like the outdoors, then summer (March-June) is the best time to visit. Here are some reasons to visit the royal property.
Enjoy a meal at The Chinar Garden
The Chinar GardenThe Lalit Grand Palace
Chinar is the tree of the valley, found across Kashmir. Its leaves change colour with the seasons from deep-green in summer to blood-red, mauve, amber and yellow in autumn. It has inspired Kashmiri poets, fuelled romance, and provided shade for devotees in the many shrines it harbours. The wide girth of the tree trunk also served as a bunker in the years of militancy in the early ’90s.
Gandhi tree at Chinar gardenKaro Christine Kumar
At Grand Palace Srinagar, there is an iconic chinar. In 1947, Mahatma Gandhi met with the ruling king Maharaja Hari Singh and Maharani Tara Devi, under this tree, in the crucial period before independence. It was Gandhi’s only visit to Kashmir.
Wazwan meal at Chinar GardenRumela Basu
In the summertime, buffet meals at the palace are laid out on the gardens that are dotted by the chinar trees. Guests can also enjoy a traditional wazwan, prepared by a waza or cook, who has been with the palace for 22 years. “The wazwan is traditionally based around mutton, and all the dishes are made from some part of the meat,” says executive chef Vijay Dubey. In the evenings, don’t miss the golgappas and chaats, especially when the chef hails from Delhi!
Take a tour of The Maharaja Suite
Spread across 4,000 sq ft, The Maharaja Suite is as luxurious as it can get. There are four bedrooms with king beds made of deodar wood and warm sunlight radiating through sheer curtains, exquisite artwork, and a stunning view of the Chinar gardens. A stay for a night at this extravagant suite is Rs 3,50,000. This is not surprising since the hotel sees diplomats, government heads, celebrities and jet-setting millionaires check in.
Doubles start at Rs 18,000 for a Deluxe Room with the ongoing summer promotion. Check out the website for more details.
Get a drink ’cause it’s hard to get
Dal BarKaro Christine Kumar
In Srinagar, alcohol is served only in star hotels, and there are just four wine shops in Kashmir (though Jammu has a few more). That makes it terribly hard to find a drink when you want one! So, if you’re the type who likes to unwind over a swig ’n’ sip, then swing over to the Dal Bar at the Grand Palace for a Dal Iced Kehwa on a hot summer day (yes, Srinagar is hot in June at 30°C), and a Grand Rum Toddy in the snow-covered winter months.
Take a nature walk
Apples at the hotel's orchardRumela Basu
A walk from the hotel’s main gate on Residency Road to the lobby is a good five minutes. The pathway is lined with apple orchards and other fruit-bearing trees, a delight to behold for urban dwellers unaccustomed to this bounty. Apples, apricots, peaches and plums make it to the fruit baskets in the rooms, while jams and preserves are used to garnish desserts. The trees are also host to a range of migratory birds. Carry a book and curl up under a shady spot. The benches across the property are often occupied by couples who wander into the gardens, despite the hotel’s best attempts at shooting down Cupid’s arrows.
Down memory lane at Durbar Hall
Graceful and luxurious, this 2,000 sq ft hall has high ceilings and elegant carpeting and is ideal for grand weddings, conferences, and cocktail receptions. The carpet itself is 300 years old, and the balcony you see in the image was the actual durbar, where the maharanis would stand.
Check out the artwork and artefacts in the hotel
- The ceiling of the lobby is a beautiful golden hue, and made of carvings of wooden pieces fitted together in geometrical patterns without the use of nails. The traditional artwork, called Khatamband, can also be seen in some heritage houseboats in Kashmir.
- The Maharaja Suite has a framed piece of fabric from the shawl worn by the Maharaja.
- heck out the samovar in the Palace Wing. It is traditionally made of copper and heated with coal, to make Kashmiri kahwa
Get filmi like the Bollywood stars who visited in the ’90s
The Palace Wing used to be called the Bollywood Wing for many years. From the ’60s to the late ’70s, numerous Bollywood films were shot on the property (and in Kashmir), including the superhit song from Bobby starring Dimple Kapadia and Rishi Kapoor. “When the stars would come to shoot in places like Gulmarg and Pahalgam, they would invariably stay here. In fact, Shammi Kapoor was a big fan of this place, and there’s even a garden dedicated to him,” reveals chef Dubey.
Check out this video featuring Amitabh Bachchan and Rakhee in Kabhi Kabhie (1976) shot in the hotel’s banquet room.