Shimla will always be a remarkable relic of the British Raj in India. A piece of heritage worth preserving before it is swallowed by the relentless and often mindless calls for development. Despite unruly construction and unchecked tourism, Shimla still has some of the beauty of a city beloved as the ‘queen of the hills’, and the reason why the British bequeathed upon her the prestige of being their summer capital. The names of lanes, boulevards, avenues and key attractions of Shimla are a throwback to the days of the Raj as are the mansions built here in the 18th and 19th century. They continue to be a storehouse of British history, architecture and people’s stories of that era.
From wallpaper dulled with age, priceless crystal, wall high tapestries, photographs, furniture and rugs – this is a living museum preserved with love and a sense for sharing with those who appreciate a sense of vintage.
Know Your Host
Chapslee was originally built in 1828 by Dr Blake, a surgeon in the East India Company. It was purchased by Raja Charanjit Singh of Kapurthala in 1938 as his summer residence. His grandson Kunwar Ratanjit Singh decided to open Chapslee to receive guests, and now it is his great-grandson and namesake...
Chapslee was originally built in 1828 by Dr Blake, a surgeon in the East India Company. It was purchased by Raja Charanjit Singh of Kapurthala in 1938 as his summer residence. His grandson Kunwar Ratanjit Singh decided to open Chapslee to receive guests, and now it is his great-grandson and namesake who looks after Chapslee and her guests.
Chapslee, just a short walk from the Mall road is a splendid heritage building, the first in Shimla and one of the earliest heritage buildings to have been converted into a hotel. Yes, Chapslee has been operating as a small hotel since 1973, the eighth heritage hotel in India! It is committed to preserving not only the heritage architecture and maintaining its iconic structural dimensions and style, but also the sense of timeless traditions attributed to Shimla from the days of the Raj. This is clearly visible in preserving traditions such as the silver service, sit down dinners, Christmas celebrations, slow cuisine, high tea and quiet conversations, of all which provide a glimpse into the past.
If you are looking at ‘renovated’ heritage you are likely to be disappointed. However, if you love a sense of the old, then Chapslee is for you. Instinctively run your palms over fabric, wood and, paper, let your eyes pick on designs on chintz, sliver and, crystal to get a feel of the bygone era. The five Chapslee suites of various sizes and design are warm and spacious where daylight streams in gently. Low light has preserved the priceless artefacts and tapestries. Little wonder that time stands still as you move from your suite to the gallery or walk up the stairs; in awe each time as you look at the rugs and chandeliers from above or as you run your fingers over the silken smooth mahogany banister.
Dining at Chapslee is best understood by experiencing it. A gourmet, Kanwar Ratanjit Singh put together a collection of recipes from the royal houses in North India and made them his own. The cuisine continues to be talked about as the highlight of one’s stay here for its unique, authentic and delectable flavours covering the Indian, Anglo Indian and Continental palate. So much so that it was included in Chef Anthony Bourdain’s series Parts Unknown.
From wallpaper dulled with age, priceless crystal, wall high tapestries, to photographs, furniture and rugs – this is a living museum preserved with love and a sense for sharing with those who appreciate a sense of vintage. Mrs. Singh, wife of late Kunwar Ratanjit Singh who doggedly preserved a lifestyle much of it lost in time, is your regal host. An evening by the lively fireplace spent with her is to be regaled with stories of some of the last British gentry who were her friends. Her precise memory of places, timelines and anecdotes often told while pointing to some object d’art around Chapslee are personal accounts told in an unconscious British accent and a great deal of wit and eloquence.
Chapslee is like a sparkling seductress at dusk. Candlelight and mood lighting renders a particular mystery to the collections and photographs preserved over the years. The old wallpaper glows and there is the hush of long forgotten moments, of people, and conversations. Dinner in particular is ‘throwback’ time when you live a moment of the ‘Raj’, while the day is for lounging in the lawns or in the conservatory with liveried tea service at your call.
Beginning or ending at Chapslee are walks that can be themed according to one’s own eclectic interests. There are several interesting walks to choose from; for history buffs several trails with experts await. Three to four days spent in Chapslee will be a real 'exclusive affair'. Take your pick. Morning or late afternoon walks along the ridge, lanes or looking at well preserved buildings and learning about their historical significance, and leisurely multi-course lunches followed by tea set out in the garden. Dress for dinner, have a drink in the beautiful hall, meet Mrs. Pronoti Singh and follow it with a formal dinner by the candlelight in the gracious dining room. And if you are celebrating your birthday or anniversary, at Chapslee, it will be a moment to frame!
Chapslee is for those who love all things vintage and history. With just five rooms, it is perfect for intimate get togethers and celebrations.
Chapslee closes after Christmas and reopens in March.
Chapslee is an embodiment of Living Heritage. The family continues to fervently uphold and give a glimpse in to the heritage where the past lives on in small elements. Here is a chance for travellers to experience mindful living in an almost museum-like experience; where much of the past continues to thrive. This serves to create awareness and respect for the past and continue to create value. A well-presented heritage concept has the ability to engage travellers and appreciate it for what it is, our past as great inspirations or a history never to be repeated.
Safe Garbage Disposal: Garbage generated is passed on to the local municipal agency.
Water Conservation: A underground tank for water harvesting has been constructed.
Sensitive Destination Discovery: Although in a busy hill station, walks are encouraged to discover the Shimla beyond the modern town it has become. Guided walks both through the city and the forests are a treat for guests.
Heritage Preservation: Chapslee was made in the local “dhajji” style, comprising mud, grit and wood. It is a living museum with every inch and object a story to tell. Any renovation and maintenance is done keeping the heritage story intact. The heritage preservation is further seen in the cuisine at Chapslee, keeping the recipes from the royal family recipes a part of the stay experience.
Human Touch: In an age of modernism, the family continues to showcase an era that is otherwise slipping away from collective memory.
The RARE Sustainability Quotient is a self-audit tool that is used by our hotel partners to measure, document and assess their planet and people friendly practices and is based on the RARE Touchstones.
by 769deenaf on 01/10/2023
I had a wonderful stay at Chapslee with my daughter. As we were on a sentimental visit to Shimla since my mother had spent many a...
by TrevorLewis235 on 11/29/2022
We have just enjoyed the most amazing, welcoming stay at Chapslee that was beyond our wildest imagination. Everything from the moment you enter Chapslee is of the very highest standard. Our room was...
by alexanderR4372NR on 10/25/2022
The unique, historic house "Chapslee" is a true gem of Shimla and it is fascinating that the Singh family opened their house to guests in the 1970s. The attention to every detail, the elegant and...