While many South Indian destinations like Hampi, Mysore and Goa are very popular, Hyderabad is relatively overlooked. I recommend this city to all history and architecture buffs, as well as those looking for Islamic influence in South India.
Many sights are located in the Old City, south of the Musi river. Go around 7 km north and you will reach the artificial Hussain Sagar Lake, in the centre of which stands a 17 meter tall Buddha statue. Around 5 km west of the lake is the area of Banjara Hills, a relatively upscale central neighbourhood comprising many hotels, malls and restaurants.
Hyderabad's Rajiv Gandhi International Airport around 30 km south of Banjara Hills.
Home to several dynasties across the centuries, and being the richest princely state prior to India's independence, Hyderabad is a treasure-trove of attractions.
A bustling warren of tiny streets packed to the hilt, with shops selling everything from pearls to footwear, the Old City exudes images of chaos and exoticism at the same time. The area is home to Hyderabad's most famous remainders of its past grandeur. The following is a non-exhaustive list of them, beginning from the north to the south.
Visit the H.E.H The Nizam's Museum to see many items owned by the Nizams (rulers, of the Asaf Jah dynasty, which ruled from 1724 until independence). Like many other museums in India, many items are of significant importance, and are very interesting, but the infrastructure isn't the top- when we went, the power was out and torches were being used! Nonetheless, to appreciate and get a sense of the history, make a visit here. All the items are in gold and/or silver.
Many of the items on display were gifts from dignitaries from various parts of the world. One of the most famous item is the Nizam's huge wardrobe- the Nizam never wore a piece of clothing more than once.
|The Nizam's wardrobe|
|Ceiling of the Khilwat Mubarak|
camera: Rs 50/50/100
About 4 km south is the Nizams' most opulent palaces of them all- the Falaknuma Palace, now a hotel operated by the Taj group. If you're not staying, you cannot just enter the hotel- you need a reservation at one of the hotel's restaurants. Once in, you can roam around the hotel or take a half-hour palace tour. Among the highlights include a snooker table built specially for the Nizam, the world's longest dining table, as well as the sheer opulence of the palace.
Unfortunately, photography isn't permitted in the interior.
|A chandelier at the Falaknuma Palace|
|The British Residency|
|The Birla Temple with its various shrines|
Located 8 km west of the Old City, Golconda Fort was the capital of the Qutb Shahi dynasty. The outer wall measures around 7 km- there's a lot to see inside.
|People walk up in the heat, against the backdrop of Hyderabad city|
You will then come across a mosque called Ibrahim Mosque, followed by a temple. And then you'll reach the final viewpoint- on one direction will be the fort, on another the city. The boundary walls can be clearly seen.
|Overview of the fort|
|Qutb Shahi Tombs|
Great photography spots
- Roads leading to Charminar (get the shots of Charminar along with the chaos of the streets)
- From the compound of Mecca Masjid (get the Charminar with the pigeons)
- Khilwat Mubarak, the main hall of the Chowmahallah Palace (capture the intricate designs)
- The compound of Birla Temple, with views of Hussain Sagar Lake
- Going to the highest points of Golconda Fort
We stayed in the Taj Deccan, located in Banjara Hills. Good quality, as you would expect from a business hotel of this standard. Walking distance to a few places in Banjara Hills.
Like many other Indian cities, Hyderabad is particularly renowned for some food items.
Nimrah Cafe, very close to Charminar and Mecca Masjid, is very famous for Irani tea. They also sell biscuits- another of Hyderabad's specialty.
Kebabs and Kurries, located in the ITC Kakatiya Hotel (in Begumpet, close to the western shore of Hussain Sagar Lake). Serves brilliant biriyani and kebabs.
Check out branches of Karachi Bakery and Bikanerwala, such as their branches in Banjara Hills (they are both next to each other). They serve lots of Indian sweets, snacks etc (and good macarons too).
The official and most widely spoken language in Hyderabad is Telugu. However, many people you will come across (such as in restaurants) will speak at least basic English. Do not expect autorickshaw (3-wheelers) drivers to understand English. Guides in tourist attractions may speak good English.
As Urdu is a relatively popular language here, and since Urdu and Hindi are very similar at a conversational level, Hindi speakers will not have a problem being understood in Hyderabad (which is often the case in smaller cities/towns in South India).
Walking, while a great way to get a feel of the city, particularly in the Old City, requires caution in Hyderabad. First, of course, is the weather. Summer sees temperatures beyond 40 degrees Celsius, and above 30 is the norm even up to October (I went in October and it went up to 36 C). Secondly, those pedestrian lights you see serve just for decoration purposes- many (such as in Banjara Hills) never turn green! Cross with caution, and like anywhere in India, do not expect any vehicle to give way.
Hyderabad lacks efficient public transport, and autorickshaws (who may not hesitate to rip off a non-local) are the often the best choice within the city. Taxis cannot be hailed off the streets. Nationwide brands of radio cabs include Meru, EasyCabs and Ola Cabs.
To hire a car + driver for a whole day, try Savaari.
Check in advance if the driver speaks English.
Hyderabad is served by the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport.
Last visit- Oct 2014
No of visits- 1