Seeing the Sights at Taj Falaknuma Palace, India
Palaces are almost always visually beautiful from the outside, and some are more impressive than others (think Buckingham). If you’ve ever wondered what it’s actually like to stay in a real palace, stop now and plan this once-in-a-lifetime experience. I recently joined Jodi Leblanc of Taj Hotels and Resorts in visiting Taj Falaknuma Palace in Hyderabad, India. It is easily one of the most magnificent palaces known to king and man alike, and, after a 10-year meticulous renovation, is now a hotel like no other you have ever been to. It’s really difficult to even explain how grand I felt waking up and spending the day experiencing palace life. “Pinch me” happened repeatedly. General Manager Girish Sehgal is beyond charming; his vast knowledge and enthusiasm is infectious. We walked through the palace at sunset hearing stories of polo-playing princes, long lunches preceded by Martinis, and beautiful princesses in billowing silk. This was a time when the Taj Falaknuma Palace Nizam (name given to the monarch of the state of Hyderabad) was the richest man in the world, and his luxurious lifestyle reflected that in every way. The experience of staying here is a “must do” for the world traveler.
Seeing the Sights: Maya Cayaba of Altour; Richard Beck, Classic Travel Service; Nisrine Elouggouti, Etihad Airways; Amy Kaminski, Fischer Travel; Ashley McCreath, Ovation Travel; Nancy Sheahan, Frosch Travel; Jodi LeBlanc, Taj Hotel & Resorts; and Vivian Peres, Ventours International Travel.
The Taj Falaknuma Palace sits high up at 2,000 feet and commands attention from all directions. The driver pointed “There’s the palace,” and as we came closer it seemed to rise up in front of me, much like the island of Manhattan does when you approach it from the east. Dramatic and a bit intimidating. The name of the palace, Falaknuma, means “mirror of the sky”. When you see it in person it’s easy to understand why it’s called that. It’s laid out in the shape of a scorpion, and took 10 years to build and 22 to decorate. The seventh Nizam of Hyderabad, Mahboob Ali Pasha, resided in the palace from 1895 to 1911. After his death, the family would not return, but it was used for heads of states, including the Duke of Windsor and other monarchs.
The Durbar Hall can comfortably host up to a hundred guests, making for a spectacular royal setting to any event.
In 1995, the royal family of Hyderabad leased the palace to the Taj Group of Hotels and Resorts. The Taj renovation is astounding. The palace treasures—the largest collection of Venetian chandeliers, grand marble staircases, priceless marble statues, figurines, objets d’art, stained glass windows, portraits and paintings—have been lovingly restored. The walls and ceilings are decorated with magnificent frescos. Lush draperies adorn the windows. One of the dining rooms has the longest dining table in the world, and the library is said to be a replica of the library at Windsor Castle. Feel like a game of billiards? This is the original, and the only other one like it is in Buckingham Palace.
This luxurious hotel has all the modern conveniences you would expect. You can easily spend days exploring the museum quality public rooms, and in between use their world class spa, or lounge by their lushly landscaped swimming pool; meander through the vast gardens, stables and manicured croquet lawns. Even the gift shop is like no other and filled with one-of-a-kind palace memorabilia that you won’t find anywhere else.
The Nizam Suite is a self-contained oasis of luxury, with a private pool and Jacuzzi, and ornate furnishings.
There are five room types and one Grand Presidential Suite that has its own swimming pool, larger than most family home pools. Even the beautiful entry level luxury room is spacious by most hotel standards.
The Taj Falaknuma Palace rooms overlook private courtyards and some afford city views. The historical suites are the original rooms in the palace and have wood floors, exquisite artwork and restored antique furniture. The Royal Suites are each unique in their decoration but all have separate sitting and dining rooms. Fantastic international dining as well as gourmet Indian specialties are served in several beautiful venues and accompanied by local musicians that further embellish the other worldly experience of a by-gone era.