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Hyderabad was founded over 400 years ago, but even before that, the region saw the coming together of many different cultures and traditions. Persian, Turkish and Arabian ways were first introduced to the local south Indian Telugu and Kannadiga way of life under the Qutb Shahi kings. Trade, and the Mughal empire brought north Indian influences with them. The arrival of the British in India, and their tug-of-war with the Nizams of Hyderabad, introduced western concepts.
Today, Hyderabad is a modern metropolis and one of India’s fastest-growing cities, a proverbial melting pot of cultures and languages from all over India and the world. But still underpinned by its twin Hyderabadi and Telugu cultures, with their own languages and cuisines, yet coexisting side by side.
Hyderabad itineraries and things to do: A ready reference
There’s far more to see and do in Hyderabad than can be covered in a single chart or infographic. But you need to start somewhere, so here are some of the top things you can do here. Want more details? Scroll past the infographic.
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Hyderabad itineraries: A few more details
Here’s a little more about some of the things covered in the infographic.
Golconda Fort is where the Qutb Shahi kings ruled from before the founding of Hyderabad. It’s central citadel, called Bala Hisar, is the most popular with visitors, but the outer ramparts (including the Naya Qila extension and the Petla Burj bastion) are also worth seeing. (Google Maps location)
The Qutb Shahi tombs
The Qutb Shahi tombs, close to Golconda, are where the Hyderabad’s founding kings were buried. The large necropolis has seven massive tombs, and many smaller tombs, mosques and other structures. (Google Maps location)
The heart of the Old City is the Charminar, a four-minareted monument built by the city’s founder, Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah. The most romantic of the many theories about why it was built? That it marks the spot where Muhammad Quli first saw his future queen. (Google Maps location)
Chowmahalla (‘four mansions’) Palace was built by the Asaf Jahi Nizams, the next ruling dynasty of Hyderabad. This was the residence of the Nizams, and is still owned by their descendants. It’s open to visitors, but for a fee, of course. (Google Maps location)
The Paigah Tombs
The peaceful Paigah tombs are hidden away in the bylanes of the Old City, all but forgotten. The foremost noble family under the Nizams were the Paigahs, and many generations of notable Paigahs were laid to rest in the family’s private necropolis. (Google Maps location)
Past Charminar and towards the edge of the city lies the hill-top Falaknuma (‘mirror of the sky’) Palace. This sprawling European-style palace was built by one of the prime ministers of Hyderabad, and later sold to the ruling Nizam. It’s now a luxury heritage hotel, and one needs to have at least a meal reservation to enter and look around. (Google Maps location)
The Salar Jung Musueum
Also in the Old City is the slightly chaotic but interesting Salar Jung Museum, supposedly the world’s largest collection of art and artifacts owned by a single person. The nobleman Salar Jung III spent his life expanding his collection, and they say the museum only has a fraction of what he actually collected. (Google Maps location)
The BM Birla Science Museum
Part of the BM Birla Science Centre, the Science Museum is an interesting place to spend a few hours. Its interactive displays and the dinosaur section are especially popular with kids, though it has lots more to see. It’s also right next door to the planetarium and the impressive Birla Mandir temple. (Google Maps location)
The Fakhruddingutta rock formations
Hyderabad was once known for its spectacular natural granite formations. Over the years, most of these have disappeared. The formations at Fakhruddingutta (also called Khajaguda) are some of the most impressive of those that remain. (Google Maps location)
Perched on the Naubat Pahad hill overlooking the Hussain Sagar lake, the Birla Mandir is not just impressive in itself, but also has a great view of the city. Spread over 11 acres, the temple is made entirely out of white marble, and houses an 11-foot tall idol of Lord Venkateswara. (Google Maps location)
There are lots of good places to eat in Hyderabad, with plenty of different cuisines from across India and Asia to choose from. Middle Eastern and Italian food is also becoming more popular. But the local Hyderabadi and Telugu cuisines are still the most popular, of course.
Of all the things to eat in Hyderabad, the city is most famous for its biryani. For those not in the know, biryani is dish of rice and meat cooked together (though there are vegetarian versions too), and is different from the similar pulao/pilaf. Hyderabadi cuisine, in general, is rich, fragrant and meaty, and has its origins in the cuisines of Persia and Afghanistan that were preferred by its erstwhile rulers.
The local Telugu cuisine, on the other hand, has its origins in the areas surrounding Hyderabad. Fiery and flavourful, this cuisine has a huge variety of vegetarian, meat and seafood dishes, many of which can even be classified as from the coast or from inland. If you’ve not tried Telugu food before, make sure you follow the locals’ example and finish your meal with some curd/yoghurt and rice to douse the flames.
While the main shopping district of Hyderabad has traditionally been Abids Road (the ‘A’ is pronounced like in ‘apple’), there are other placed to go for souvenirs. Laad Bazaar, also called ‘chudi bazaar’ (‘bangle market’), is just off Charminar, and is famous for its traditional laquerware. And its crowds. The area around Charminar is also known for its affordable pearls. Just make sure you know how to spot the real thing.
The Shilparamam crafts village in Hitech City features traditional handicrafts from all over the country. Kalanjali is known for its high-end traditional clothes and handicrafts, while the APCO Cottage Industries Emporium stocks affordable clothes and linen, all made from the traditional hand-woven ikat textile.
Hyderabad’s nightlife is mostly centered around Jubilee Hills and Hitech City, with road numbers 36 and 45 in Jubilee Hills seeing an explosion in craft breweries and lounges over the last few years. If you’re not sure of where to go, going brewery-hopping on road number 45 (Google Maps location) will let you sample what’s on offer.
Also read: IQ’s veg review: Olive Bistro
Besides the heritage, food and shopping trails, Hyderabad has other ways to keep visitors happy. If you’re a speed junkie, you could check out the GoKart tracks at Runway9 and the airport (RGIA). The Jalavihar water park is a good place to cool off if the heat gets to you, and so is Snow World, an indoor frozen landscape with artificial snow! The Wonderla theme park can take you for any number of rides (ha ha). And if you’re a space explorer at heart, you can check out a show at the BM Birla Planetarium.
400 years old and one of India’s major cities, Hyderabad has plenty of things for visitors. Heritage sights, delicious food, lots of shopping and great nightlife are all on offer, so start exploring. This post is just the tip of the biryani.
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