The LaLiT Grand Palace in Srinagar. Photo: Shireen Quadri
The ethereal LaLiT Grand Palace in Srinagar offers a royal experience
The LaLiT Grand Palace is a half an hour drive from the Srinagar airport. Located in one of the prime localities, the elite Gupkar Road, the property is surrounded by Himalayan range on one side and the magical Dal Lake on the other. One can enjoy the Shikara ride at the Dal Lake, which is at a five-minute walk from the hotel. The beautiful Indira Gandhi Memorial Tulip Garden is three-km away from the property while the Mughal Gardens — Chashme Shahi, Nishat Bagh and Shalimar Bagh — are not too far either.
Built by Maharaja Pratap Singh in 1910, the palace was called Gulab Bhavan and was a summer residence for the royal family. It was converted into a hotel and handed over to The Oberoi Group in 1954. Soon after, it became the summer getaway for many from Bollywood stalwarts to glamorous international celebrities, from diplomatic heads to top-notch millionaires. There are signatures of Indira Gandhi, Ratan Tata, the film crews of Yash Chopra’s Kabhi Kabhie, Shakti Samanta’s Kashmir Ki Kali and many others in the hotel’s guestbook. It is a known fact that Kashmir, also called the mini Switzerland of India, was widely used by filmmakers in the early ’60s, ’70s and ’80s as an exotic location until the political turmoil erupted. Kashmir was Yash Chopra’s favourite shooting destination. The King of romance shot many of his blockbusters here.
In between, the hotel underwent large-scale renovation. There were quite a few practical and innovative additions to its architecture. In 2008, the palace was re-branded as The LaLiT Grand Palace, Srinagar. Recently, the celebrities who have stayed in the grand palace’s Maharaja and Maharani suites include Salman Khan and Kareena Kapoor Khan, respectively. Each suite costs Rs 1, 75,000 per night.
As I arrived in Srinagar, a warm reception awaited me at The LaLiT Grand Palace. We checked into a beautiful room that opened into the well-manicured garden. We went to have our lunch at The Chinar Garden, a multi-cuisine restaurant set up under a century-old chinar tree right outside the main palace overlooking the Dal Lake. The restaurant also has an alfresco area. The staff was diligent and caring and the Kashmiri cuisine was delicious — gushtaba, yakhni and lamb kebabs. The garden had cannons mounted on an elevated platform and narrow flower beds blooming with multi-coloured tulips.
Part of the original building (top) of the property that houses Maharaja suite (above) and Maharani suite. Photos: The LaLiT Group, Shireen Quadri
The room was adorned with Kashmiri hand-woven carpets. There were some unusual, but pretty flowers in the vases. In the room, there was a King size bed, a settee, a study table, huge cupboards and a well-equipped bathroom with all the toiletries that you could possibly require. There was a sitting area inside as well as outside the porch that was connected with the gardens in the front. The mini fridge was well-stocked and there was a
tea maker too.
One of the rooms at the The LaLiT Grand Palace. The sitting area inside as well as outside the porch is connected with the gardens in the front. Photo: The LaLiT Group
If you have soaked in the surrounding and the cosiness of the room enough, you could head for a bit of shopping. Polo View Market, not too far from the hotel, has emerged as a popular shopping destination and you can shop here for some traditional Kashmiri handicrafts and textiles. You can also shop in the Lal Chowk area which is only 4 km away from the hotel. We came back for an early dinner at The Chinar. We had some delicious red Thai chicken curry and piping hot steamed rice. The hotel is beautifully adorned with some exquisite ethnic artefacts, handicrafts, carpets, lamps and chandeliers.
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