best things to do in vadodara

Top Things to do in Vadodara – [ Laxmi Vilas, Tambekar Wada ]

It’s March 8th, 2015.  We’re on the train, two miles outside of Vadodara, Gujarat, India.  We were scheduled to arrive on time.  Unless you’ve been on an Indian train you won’t understand our excitement at this.  But as I said.  That was two miles out.  We inched in 25 minutes late and arrived in our latest new state.  Gujarat. And we’re starting in Vadodara – here’s the top things to do in Vadodara.

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Where to Stay in Vadodara

There are a host of places to stay in Vadodara – here’s our pick of the luxury places to stay in Vadodara, mid-range places to stay in Vadodara, and budget accommodation in Vadodara.

Vivanta Vadodara: The Vivanta Vadodara hotel is a five-star hotel with 86 rooms which are all equipped with free WiFi, air-conditioning, an LCD TV, mini-bar, electronic safe, coffee/tea maker, a private bathroom with a bath and shower, an iron/iron board, and selected rooms have a balcony where guests can enjoy the view of Vadodara. You can also enjoy a fine-dining experience or comfort food choices with Vivanta’s specialty restaurants, the Mynt and Kai Asia. This luxury hotel in Vadodara also offers spa services and has a fitness center available for guests. The Vivanta Vadodara Hotel is a perfect place for a luxury escape to Vadodara. See room rates and availability here.

Welcomhotel by ITC Hotels, Vadodara: Welcomhotel by ITC in Vadodara is located just 16 minutes away from central Vadodara. This fabulous hotel in Vadodara has 133 rooms which include six suites with each room having a flat-screen TV, a seating area, a kettle, a private bathroom with bathrobes, slippers, and free toiletries.  There is free WiFi throughout the hotel.  Vadodara’s Welcomhotel also provides guests with a year-round outdoor pool, a terrace with a view of the pool, and a free private parking space. This top hotel in Vadodara also has an on-site restaurant, the Peshawri, and the WelcomCafe Sambay where dining options are available 24 hours a day. Vadodara’s Welcomhotel also has laundry and dry-cleaning services, a fitness center, and currency exchange services. Welcomhotel is a fantastic place to stay when in Vadodara. Check rates and availability here.

FabHotel Raj Palace I, Vadodara: The FabHotel Raj Palace I is located at Ghee Kanta Road right in Vadodara. This three-star Vadodara hotel’s rooms have a flat-screen TV, air-conditioning, a private bathroom with hot and cold water, clean towels, free toiletries, a wardrobe, a seating area, and an in-house kitchen. A la carte or vegetarian breakfasts are provided and there is also free WiFi throughout the accommodation. The FabHotel Raj Palace I is a popular budget hotel in Vadodara. Read more reviews and check room rates and availability here.

Known for it’s Asiatic lions, vegetarian food and the fact that it’s a dry state we’d arrived in Vadodara, where we’d be staying for two nights.  

First stop, though, after the cloakroom (left luggage here in India) at the station was breakfast and the best aloo paratha to date.  That I would eat what I’d previously consider “curry” for breakfast each day would have been so foreign to me 10 months ago.  Now, I positively look forward to it and am somewhat disappointed if I’m offered toast on a morning.

Breakfast in Vadodara

Getting to Laxmi Vilas Palace from Vadodara

Now, a 3 kilometer hike to our first stop.  The Laxmi Vilas Palace, home of the current Royal Family of Vadodara and a glorious haven of peace here in Gujarat.  Vadodara as a whole is pretty quiet.  While there are lots of auto-rickshaw drivers at the station, only a couple ask us where we want to go.  And they take no for an answer pretty quickly.   This is nice.  I could get used to it!.

It could of course be because English is much less used here.  We see very little signage in English, mostly Gujarati, but there are no – yes zero – male Indian stares.  A policeman says hello as we cross the road.  I look around suspiciously before I realize he’s just being nice.  Another traffic cop stops the traffic for us, so we can cross a different road.  I must have clicked my Ruby Slippers, because clearly I’m in Oz.

Entrance to Laxmi Vilas Vadodara

Thirty minutes later we arrive at Laxmi Vilas, having signed in at security and bought our 170 INR tickets – which include an audio tour, which you can also download off the web.

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I am DEFINITELY in Oz.  After the rip off audio prices of Jaipur this is so nice. (no need to use our Audio Guide Budget Hack here)

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And so is the Palace.

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And the audio tour is great.

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The staff are friendly.  So long as you’re not walking on the wrong bit of grass and they’re whistling at you.  Or yelling if you try and take photos inside the palace.  (it’s funny to watch other tourists try and work slightly outside the rules and the results).

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Laxmi Vilas Palace History

The palace was built in 1890, famously its architect killed himself before completion as he was convinced that he’d miscalculated and that the foundations wouldn’t hold the building.  (they did).

And it’s quiet here.  We’ve seen maybe 20 other people – two westerners, all others are Indian tourists.  All this place needs is a nice little cafe, nestling under the tress, serving a good pot of Darjeeling Tea and I’d never move again.

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Searching for Tambekar Wada

Still, we have to move on.  We’re going in search of Tambekar Wada – a traditional wooden house with a couple of rooms that have paintings.  I say going in search, because most of the TripAdvisor reviews say “it’s pretty hard to find” – but then no details of how to find it (a new pet hate) and one review that someone wrote of the wrong place.

It ends up being a walk down some of the back streets of Vadodara.  We find the red brick Clock Tower.

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And then, almost giving up and heading back to the station, we spot her just out of the corner of our eye.

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Yet we’re still not sure.  There is a sign from the Archaeological Survey of India, but it’s not particularly legible.

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How to Find Tambekar Wada, Vadodara

The gate looks bolted, but we head on through and find the caretaker.  She’s an older Indian woman, with little to no English and she waves us to follow her.

Tambekar was the house of a wealthy merchant and it’s been preserved in this state of decay for some time now.  It looks nothing from the outside, even the ASI sign has seen better days, but follow the caretaker up the stairs to the first and second floor and it’s a treasure trove of old glories.

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You’ll want your camera out from the first – even the old shutters are crying out to get captured for posterity.

Tambekar Wada is a three-storeyed building – a typical Maratha Mansion, it was once the residence of Bhau Tambekar the State Minister. The paintings inside are around 140 years old.

Map of Tambekar Wada Location

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We take shots of where the building is – and post them up to TripAdvisor – while the guest book that we sign indicates that around 6 people a month get to visit, I imagine there’s a host more that never even find the place!

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And then, we’re done, back to the hotel and a Gujarati Thali – which is the best damned thali we’ve had in our current 3 months in India.  Heaven.

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