Hyderabad’s 400-year history means the city has lots to see and do, not to speak of its rich and varied cuisine. Here’s a quick guide to help you plan your Hyderabad itinerary.
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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. And with tons of things to add to your Hyderabad itinerary.
Infographic: Options for your Hyderabad itinerary
There’s far more to see and do in Hyderabad than a single chart or infographic can can cover. But you need to start somewhere, so here are some of the top things you can do here. Want more details? Keep on reading.
Note: This doesn’t capture ALL the things to do in Hyderabad. Just some of the main ones.
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A few more details
Here’s a little more about some of the things covered in the infographic, so you can decide which to add to your Hyderabad itinerary.
Some of the top sights in Hyderabad
These are some of the most interesting things see in Hyderabad. And if you’re pressed for time and looking for places to visit in Hyderabad in one day, a few of these should definitely be on your list.
1. Golconda Fort
Golconda Fort is where Hyderabad’s history begins; it’s where the Qutb Shahi kings ruled from before the founding of the city. It’s central citadel, called Bala Hisar, is the most popular with visitors. But if you’re looking for more offbeat things to do in Hyderabad, the outer ramparts (including the Naya Qila extension and the Petla Burj bastion with its ornate cannon) are definitely worth seeing.
Also read: The amazing outer ramparts of Golconda Fort
2. The Qutb Shahi tombs
The Qutb Shahi tombs (also called ‘the seven 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. They say a secret tunnel was used to transport the bodies from Golconda Fort to the necropolis, several kilometres away.
And if you’re looking for places to visit in Hyderabad in the evening, the Qutb Shahi Tombs are beautiful at sunset.
3. The Charminar
The heart of the Old City, and probably the most famous thing in Hyderabad, is the Charminar. This four-minareted monument was built by the city’s founder, Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah, though why he did so is still debated. 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.
4. Chowmahalla Palace
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. This is one of the less-known attractions of Hyderabad, but will probably feature on any organized Hyderabad tour itinerary. It’s open to visitors, but for a fee, of course.
5. 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. Personally, I would say a visit to the Paigah Tombs is one of the best things to do in Hyderabad, especially if you’re looking more offbeat things to do in the city.
6. Falaknuma Palace
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.
7. 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. A look at this museum is one of the more popular activities in Hyderabad, at least for visitors from out of town.
8. 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.
9. 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. Another offbeat thing to do in Hyderabad, a visit here will let you appreciate some of the city’s natural heritage while it lasts.
10. Birla Mandir
Perched on the Naubat Pahad hill overlooking the Hussain Sagar lake, the Birla Mandir temple 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. The temple is especially beautiful at night, when the white marble glows in the spotlights. If you’re visiting in the day, though, you might want to wear socks: the marble floor can get uncomfortably hot.
Eating out in Hyderabad
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 seemingly-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.
But that doesn’t mean the city has nothing to offer vegetarians. On the contrary, vegetarians in Hyderabad are spoilt for choice.
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.
Shopping in Hyderabad
The main shopping district of Hyderabad is traditionally Abids Road (the ‘A’ is pronounced like in ‘apple’), but there are other places you can 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 an explosion in craft breweries and lounges on road numbers 36 and 45 in Jubilee Hills over the last few years. If you’re not sure of where to go, going brewery-hopping on road number 45 will let you sample what’s on offer.
Also read: IQ’s veg review: Olive Bistro
Activities in Hyderabad
Besides the heritage, food and shopping trails, Hyderabad has other ways to keep visitors happy. If you’re looking for adventure sports in Hyderabad, you could check out the GoKart tracks at Runway 9 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.
Where to stay in Hyderabad
Being one of the biggest cities in India, Hyderabad naturally has lots of options to stay in, from a range of five-star hotels down to very basic lodges. What it doesn’t really have, though, is the travellers’ hostels that are common in places that are on the major tourist trails. Search for ‘hostels’ in Hyderabad, and you’ll instead find lots of places that are targeted at working professionals, and which rent out shared rooms on a monthly basis. Luckily, Hyderabad is waking up to AirBnB, and you can find some very affordable deals there. OYO Rooms also has affordable rooms all over the city.
Planning a visit? Here’s a list of hotels in Hyderabad on TripAdvisor.