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Home > Must-Visit Heritage Properties: Experience Conservation Architecture At Its Best

Must-Visit Heritage Properties: Experience Conservation Architecture At Its Best

10 heritage Indian properties that have become a playground for architects and designers

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What makes heritage properties such an exciting endeavour for design firms is maintaining their historic beauty while turning them into contemporary buildings made for modern life. This combines the process of conservation and preservation with the actual work of building hospitality spaces for that represent luxury and the best of Indian architecture. These 10 heritage spaces – some of which back a whole thousand years – have been turned into contemporary hotels, homestays and travel destinations. Fully equipped with modern amenities and oozing with opulence, these places should be at the top of your list if you wish to experience travel, luxury, and culture all at once. 


Umaid Bhawan by James Park Associates

Umaid Bhawan Palace | Source: Shutterstock

Built between 1928 and 1943, in an architectural style that blends Indo-Saracenic, Classic Revival, and Art Deco themes, Umaid Bhawan Palace is one of Rajasthan’s prides. Standing tall near Jodhpur’s Mehrangarh Fort, the palace is home to Jodhpur’s erstwhile royal family, and is currently the world’s sixth-largest private residence. Along with a family museum, lush gardens spreading over 26 acres, and majestic views, to stay at Umaid Bhawan is to experience true royalty. 

James Park Associates worked towards maintaining the palace’s historic beauty while converting it into a resplendent hotel. Today it holds 347 rooms, art deco-style suites, rejuvenating spa rooms, and gastronomical experiences that cover Rajasthani, pan-Indian, European, and Mediterranean cuisines. JPA ensured that the palace contains its original history and beauty; it retained the building’s rare palm court marble, high-ceilings and art deco aesthetic, while adding elegant Victorian furniture and opulent upholstery, grand crystal chandeliers and fine carpets throughout the interiors. The design firm thus created a unique environment for guests from all over the world.


RAAS by Studio Lotus

RAAS by Studio Lotus | Source: Shutterstock

Perched at Mehrangarh Fort’s foothills, RAAS is a 1.5 acre property cocooned in the heart of Rajasthan’s Walled City, Jodhpur. Built in 1459 by the Rajput ruler of Rathore clan Rao Jodha, Mehrangarh Fort is a stunning piece of history that holds intricate carvings, expansive courtyards, and rich details inspired by both Rajputana and Mughal architecture. It only made sense, then, for the architectural firm Studio Lotus to pay tribute to these opulent styles of architecture and design while turning RAAS into a heritage holiday destination. The Studio Lotus team added other details inspired by 18th century haveli architecture: stone lattices, locally crafted furniture and cabinets in sheesham, and poured in situ pigmented cement terrazzo on floors, walls and as furniture. Materials were locally sourced and crafted by over a hundred regional artisans and master-craftsmen. 

As a result, 40 rooms have been built over three contemporary buildings – all the while preserving the beauty of medieval Rajput architecture. Every room (except for the Garden Room) overlooks the captivating Mehrangarh Fort. The hotel boasts a a stunning entrance flanked by an azure pool, and its lavish rooms are fit for royalty, with Rajput design details and pink sandstone interspersed with polished black terrazzo and flashes of Jodhpur blue. With five dining experience options serving a variety of local and international cuisines, this hotel creates a refined atmosphere marked by luxury, while connecting us to a regal past.  


Taj Faluknama by WATG

Source: Shutterstock

Having finished being constructed in 1893, Hyderabad’s Faluknama Palace is a 131-year old testament to the grandeur of India’s modern history. Building began in 1884 by Nawab Sir Viqar-ul-Umra, who was the sixth Nizam’s uncle as well as the Prime Minister of Hyderabad. Falak-numa quite literally translates to “Like the Sky” or “Mirror of Sky” in Urdu. Spread over 13-hectares and just 5 km away from the city’s iconic Charminar, the Faluknama Palace is a crucial part of Hyderabad’s cultural history. 

WATG and Wimberly Interiors collaborated with the Taj Group to conceptualise a design that paid homage to the palace’s heritage while seamlessly blending modern elements. Taking forward the opulence of Hyderabad’s Nizams, Faluknama’s interiors were uplifted with rich fabrics, captivating medieval artwork, and intricate ceiling details inspired from the Victorian era. Elevated at 600 m above sealevel, the palace is a sprawling hotel that comprises 60 luxury rooms and suites, fine dining options that marry South Indian and international cuisines, and an expansive courtyard that is befitting for royalty to stroll in. This is the best of luxurious living and South India’s welcoming hospitality, all in one royal experience. 


Six Senses Fort Barwara by Mitchell & Eades

Built in the 14th century, Fort Barwara is nestled in the heart of Rajasthan’s ancient city, Sawāi Mādhopur. A majestic fort that comprises two palaces and two temples, it was originally owned by the royal Rajasthani family — dating back more than 700 years. Today, it stands as a luxury heritage hotel by Six Senses, home to guests from all over the world. To preserve the fort’s quaint architecture and carry on its regal legacy, Melbourne-based interior architecture & design studio Mitchell & Eades was called upon for this conservation project. 

With 48 luxury rooms, a relaxing spa and pool within its quarters, right outside the hotel lies the Chauth ka Barwara Mandir, and Ranthambore National Park is a 30 min drive away. Mitchell & Eades aimed to make heritage a sensorial experience, which they accomplished through Indian and Mughal-inspired design details, textiles and furnishings, and restored paintings. The hotel’s spa is cocooned inside the fort’s temple, and rooftop dining options offer a breathtaking view of Rajasthan’s natural landscape. If you want to escape urban noise and unwind in a serene oasis, stay in one of India’s oldest heritage monuments. 


Bal Samand Lake Palace

Source: Jodhana Heritage Resorts

Five kilometres from Rajasthan’s blue city Jodhpur lies the stunning Bal Samand Lake. Built in the 12th century for the purposes of acting as a water basin, the lake extends widely and is circumferenced by serene greenery. Jodhpur’s Maharaja Jaswant Singh I constructed a grand redstone palace in the 17th century that flanked this lake. There are many factors that set this property apart; Bal Samand Lake is said to be the first human-made one – demonstrating remarkable civil engineering from India’s past. Additionally, the palace has extraordinary Rajput architecture, terraced gardens, and intricately carved paintings and sculptures. 

Source: Jodhana Heritage Resorts

Straight out of a fairytale, the palace has now been converted into a heritage hotel, welcoming guests to stay at amidst romantic history. Its 60 acres comprise 36 luxury rooms, fruit orchards, manicured lawns, and flower gardens, making every corner a photographic marvel, a scenic lookout point, a relaxing reading nook. Dining options are available peppered around the palace’s dense gardens, and calming walks can be taken through the property’s boulevard that extends along the lake. 


Gogunda Palace by Michele Guetta, Manesh Ganjawala and Deepa Shah

Originally a war-related strategic fortress, the gleaming, ochre Gogunda Palace was first constructed in the 16th century. Its history is as rich as its architectural style; Gogunda was once the capital of Mewar, and in 1567, Maharana Udai Singh and his family sought refuge there from Akbar’s powerful army. Soon becoming a sanctuary for royal life, the palace fortress witnessed celebratory and tumultuous moments – wars against empires, and even Kunwar Pratap Singh’s coronation (who later became Maharana Pratap Singh). Historical lineages, national narratives, and ancient memories are therefore embedded in the palace’s four walls.

Mumbai-based sisters and businesswomen Payal Gandhi Kothari and Meghal Gandhi Pandya took it upon themselves to restore this 500-year old building. Their aim was to maintain its authenticity while imbuing it with modern facilities and amenities. They onboarded R. Serafin and Michele Guetta for conservation, Manesh Ganjawala for interiors, and Deepa Shah as project coordinator. Today, the hotel houses 40 grand suites and rooms, each one inspired by Rajput royalty and aesthetic beauty. The Raj Tilak and Palace suites, once belonging to the actual royal family, have grand interiors perfected with intricate wall patterns, antique furniture, and plush furnishings. Other suites and rooms are rich with Mewari art, glass and marble tiles, colourful interiors, hand-painted Shekhavati murals, and opulent upholstery. Gogunda Palace offers a unique holiday experience; with a spa, heritage walk tours, royal hi-teas, vintage car rides, village wanderings, safaris and more, it makes for the ideal vacation from modernity, back to a regal past.


Belgadia Palace by Spaces and Design

Photography by: Vivek Das & Talib Chitalwala | Source: Spaces and Design
Photography by: Vivek Das & Talib Chitalwala | Source: Spaces and Design

An 19th century, Victorian-style hill-top palace that was built in Odisha’s Mayurbhanj district, the Belgadia Palace is one of Eastern India’s most culturally significant architectural buildings. Odisha’s Maharani Sumitra Devi Bhanj Deo ordered the palace construction to begin in 1804, making it a matriarchally ordained structure. With inspiration taken from Victorian, Greek, and Indowestern architecture, it was constructed largely keeping the Buckingham Palace in mind. The Belgadia Palace is  a nostalgic revisit to India’s Kalinga period, and is surrounded by Odisha’s natural countryside. 

Photography by Vivek Das & Talib Chitalwala | Source: Spaces and Design

It was Maharajkumari Mrinalika & Akshita M Bhanj Deo’s dream, as the 48th generation of the Bhanj Dynasty, to open up a part of their home to global guests. They wanted to make sustainable tourism centred around social impact a prominent economy in the rural region. A part of the palace has been converted into a restored boutique hotel comprising 11 luxury rooms and suites. Vibrant and colourful, these interiors are plush with antique furnishings and grand chandeliers, while some rooms even open up to lush green verandahs. Explore India’s lesser-travelled heartlands by staying at the Belgadia Palace, all the while revelling in luxury. 


Villa Palladio by Barbara Miolini, Marie-Anne Oudejans and Vikas Soni

Source: Villa Palladio team
Source: Villa Palladio team
Source: Villa Palladio team

Possibly one of the most unexpected heritage conservation projects, Villa Palladio has become internationally famous for its unique architectural and design styles. Originally belonging to the royal Kanota family and built by nobleman Abhay Singh in 1960, the palace’s original structure was made in Rajasthani heritage style, with open pavilions, scalloped arches, courtyards, turrets, and fort-like walls. The converted heritage hotel opened in 2022, and has since proven with its eclectic aesthetics that sophisticated designs can be found in vibrant colours, as opposed to the usual subdued palettes. 

Source: Villa Palladio team
Source: Villa Palladio team

Swiss-Italian Jaipur resident Barbara Miolini, founder of Bar Palladio, Dutch designer Marie-Anne Oudejans, and artist Vikas Soni worked together on turning this simple structure into one of the most talked-about heritage design projects of the 21st century. Miolini was inspired by 16th century Italian architect Andrea Palladio, and merged Indo-Mughal styles with his aesthetics to create the hotel’s unique, blended design. With 9 opulent rooms bright with colour and design, these interiors have a variety of striped walls, marble floors, stained-glass arches, and furnishings that have all been locally made and sourced. A true celebration of India’s unique architectural heritage.


Ahilya Fort

Perched above Madhya Pradesh’s serene River Narmada, Ahilya Fort is located in Maheshwar, Madhya Pradesh. Named after Maharani Ahilyabai Holkar, who ruled there from 1765-1796 and built Ahilya Wada, it was once home to her personal residences, offices, and darbaar audience hall. In the year 2000, her descendant Prince Richard Holkar – also the last Maharaja of Indore’s son – converted his home in Ahilya Wada into a guest residence. Today, this stands as the Ahilya Fort Hotel, a luxurious haven of hospitality that houses luxury at its finest.

With 19 expansive rooms and an unparalleled scenic view of Maheshwar’s riverfront, living at this hotel is a chance to experience 18th century royalty, with the best modern amenities. Guests can spend their days amidst 3 acres of lush green courtyards, sparkling fountains, and gardens that link to other pathways in the Wada. 


Jehan Numa Palace by Design Consortium

Source: Jehan Numa Palace team

Situated on the slopes of Bhopal’s Shamla Hills, the Jehan Numa Palace is a regal 19th century residence that originally belonged to the Nawabs of Bhopal. General Obaidullah Khan ordered its construction in 1890, which was done by marrying British colonial, Italian renaissance, and classical Greek architecture. The princely estate became a government hostel post-independence, and in the early ‘80s, acted as the Geological Survey of India’s base. Nestled amidst green landscapes and floral abundance, this palace has remained one of the grandest pieces still functioning from India’s recent history. 

Source: Jehan Numa Palace team
Source: Jehan Numa Palace team

General Khan’s grandsons, Nadir and Yawar Rashid, took it upon themselves to preserve the property. Mansi and Harshit Jholapura of Design Consortium were approached to conserve and convert the palace into a heritage hotel, and it was deemed as central India’s first Heritage Grand Hotel. Today, the glorious hotel hosts 100 rooms, of which 6 are luxury suites, each one intricately designed. Its gleaming white facade matches its splendid interiors: vintage colonial furniture, marbled floors, portraits and paintings. The property also houses a courtyard, riding track, swimming pool and multicuisine restaurants. Guests experience palatial delights, heritage architecture and luxurious hospitality, along with unique, curated holiday experiences. Royalty for the modern age.


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