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Hyderabad

The complete travel guide to Hyderabad

The complete travel guide to Hyderabad

Located at the crossroads of north and south, the royal city of Hyderabad is a delectable blend of tradition and modernity, a synthesis of Hindu and Muslim cultures and the home of arguably the best biryani in the country. Here’s a guide to the best experiences for tourists in Hyderabad.

What to see and do in Hyderabad

What to see and do in Hyderabad

Stretching around the banks of the Musi River, Hyderabad lies in the northern part of the Deccan Plateau and is dotted with small hills (the 672m Banjara Hill is the highest) and numerous artificial lakes like Hussain Sagar, Osman Sagar and Himayat Sagar created by damming the Musi. To the west of the city lies Golkonda, originally a hill of shepherds (Golla Konda) fortified by the Kakatiya dynasty and later the seat of the Qutb Shahi rulers. The Sound and Light Show at Golconda Fort is a good introduction to the city’s history. Follow this up with a visit to the majestic Qutb Shahi tombs nearby.

Most of the city’s historic and tourist sites lie in south central Hyderabad, including the iconic Charminar, built to commemorate the eradication of plague and the advent of the new millennia in the Muslim calendar. Hyderabad’s rulers also built the Mecca Masjid, where soil from Mecca was used for the bricks in the mosque’s central arch. Salar Jung Museum is a treasure trove that houses ‘one of the largest one-man-collections in the world’. If you are a museum junkie, also check out the AP State Archaeology Museum, the Nizam’s Museum, the City Museum and the Birla Science Museum.

Heritage buildings constructed during the Qutb Shahi and Nizam eras showcase Indo-Islamic architecture influenced by medieval, Mughal and European styles. Among the oldest Nizami buildings in Hyderabad are the Chowmahalla Palace, the royal seat of power with a Baroque harem and a neoclassical royal court and Falaknuma Palace, inspired by the style of Andrea Palladio, the Venetian architect, which is now a luxury heritage hotel. Everything from hospitals, colleges, universities, libraries and railway stations bear the architectural stamp of the Nizams. Continue on the Nizam trail to Purani Haveli, King Kothi and Bella Vista Palace. The Paigahs were highly influential senior aristocracy at the time of the Nizams and their tombs are architectural wonders, as is the slew of monuments built by them – Jubilee Hall, Paigah Palace, Asman Garh Palace, Basheer Bagh Palace, Errum Manzil and the Spanish Mosque.

North of central Hyderabad lie Hussain Sagar and Tank Bund Road lined with statues of luminaries where most of the city's parks and recreational centres are located – Sanjeevaiah Park, Indira Park, Lumbini Park, NTR Gardens, Buddha statue and Tankbund Park, with Birla Mandir and Birla Planetarium nearby. In the northwest are posh residential and commercial precincts  Banjara Hills, Jubilee Hills, Begumpet dotted with bars and restaurants. In the eastern part of the city is the world’s largest film studio Ramoji Film City while Shilparamam (an arts and crafts village) at Madhapur is another big draw for tourists. The Mughal influence also stretches to Hyderabad’s distinctive cuisine, which includes star dishes like Hyderabadi biryani, haleem, patthar ke gosht, Shikampuri kebab and desserts like shahi tukda and khoobani ka meetha.

The best meals in Hyderabad

It is believed Mughal emperor Aurangzeb’s invading army introduced biryani to Hyderabad. However, it was under the Nizams or the Asaf Jahi dynasty that Turkic-Persian flavours blended with Andhra spices of Telangana to evolve into the iconic Hyderabadi dum biryani, served with mirchi ka salan and raita. Locals swear by small eateries like Hotel Shadaab near Charminar, Cafe Bahar in Basheer Bagh, Parvez Hotel at Nampally and Hotel Sohail in Malakpet. Here’s our pick of where to eat in Hyderabad:

  • Paradise Restaurant, Begumpet

    Hyderabad’s famous biryani joint is frequented mosty by tourists, as city folk prefer smaller establishments. Save your biryani fix for elsewhere but drop by at breakfast for mutton kheema, gurda bhaji and roti.
  • Bawarchi, RTC Cross Road

    Another Hyderabad chain known for its chicken and mutton biryani, which still tastes as good as when it first made its name.
  • Dakshin, Begumpet

    A classy South Indian restaurant at the ITC Kakatiya, serving excellent thalis, coastal fare and regional dishes from Andhra, Telangana and Rayalaseema like natukodi koora, gongura mamsam, ragi sangati and royyala kothimiri karam (prawn fry in coriander masala).
  • Bidri, Tank Bund

    This restaurant in the Hyderabad Marriott Hotel and Convention Centre serves authentic cuisine from the riyasats (kingdoms) of Andhra, Hyderabad, Lucknow and Kashmir, with delicious biryani, kebabs and a terrific midnight buffet spread, so you know where to go after a night of partying.
  • Kangan, Hitech City

    Named after the kangans (bangles) that constitute the wall décor, Kangan is located in Westin Hyderabad Mindspace, and serves great North Indian, Northwest frontier and Peshawari cuisine and typical Hyderabadi teas. Try the succulent galawati, seekh and barra kebabs, besides the midnight buffet.
  • The Jewel of Nizam, Gandipet

    If you don’t mind the drive to Osman Sagar in the western part of town, the food and view will make up for it. Located in a 100ft tower at The Golkonda Resort and Spa, it serves excellent Nizami delicacies in an ambience that matches–carpets, lamps, chandeliers, retro cutlery and culinary delights like apricot pudding and anokhi kheer, which is flavoured with a hint of onion!
  • Deori, Hyatt Hyderabad, Gachibowli

    Here, you’ll find a good mix of North and Southern cuisine, served to an accompaniment of live music and ghazal nights. Deori is located in the Hyatt Hyderabad Gachibowli. Try their Kebabs Unlimited package every Saturday.
  • Sahib Sindh Sultan, Banjara Hills

    A tribute to the first passenger train service in India in 1853, the restaurant is set up like a train station–with tables on a railway platform and extra seating in the wagons of an elegantly appointed replica train with the restaurant name (after the three steam engines) in gold lettering. Beautiful decor, silverware, silk tapestries and exquisite Anglo-Indian dishes is what you can expect.
The best places to party in Hyderabad

The best places to party in Hyderabad

The IT and BPO boom allow Hyderabad and Cyberabad to coexist side by side, with an on the go, vibrant nightlife. 10 Downing Street or TDS at Begumpet is the city’s oldest party spot and still remains quite popular. If you want to go dancing, try Bottles & Chimney, also in Begumpet, which has DJs playing everything from hip hop and house to Bollywood on Saturdays, with a deck on the first floor for private parties and a great bistro on the lawns. The uber-stylish Kismet at The Park Hotel has a snazzy entrance through a tunnel with laser lights and visual projection screens. Altitude on Hyderabad Marriott Hotel and Convention Centre’s eighth floor terrace overlooks Hussain Sagar Lake and offers retro acoustic blues, classic rock and live fusion with specialty mocktails like Nawab’s Punch made of fruit juices, vanilla ice cream and condensed milk. Don’t worry, there’s also a cocktail menu for those that want something stiffer. The Playboy Club at Novotel Hyderabad has a great dance floor and a VIP lounge with a mini theatre plus a single malt and cognac library. Another option is Grill Room, a nightclub turned lounge, where you can smoke your hookahs in over 100 flavours including green apple, grape and mint.

Rooftop lounge bars are the rage, especially in the plush Jubilee Hills neighbourhood–Air Café, Vertigo the High Life, Fly High by LS, Over the Moon at Hotel Daspalla and the enormous Klub Trinity with a complete clubbing experience and separate sections called Star Gazer, Sun Lounger and Moon Walker, are your options! The Sky Lounge at Hotel Avasa in Hi-Tech City has a rooftop dance floor with a great view. Komatose at Holiday Inn offers a great Saturday Drunch (drinks and brunch). Drunken Poets Café at BKR Hotel in Kondapur has good live music. Hard Rock Café at GVK One Mall claims to serve the highest number of tequila shots in town and has live rock bands every Thursday. No matter where you go in Hyderabad, there are a lot of places to party–Café Reboot in Madhapur, the psychedelic Rain, which is packed on Friday and Saturday or the dark interiors of Spoil with the bartender performing flaming cocktails and flaring tricks–this is a city with a lot of options.

The best places to party in Hyderabad

Where to stay in Hyderabad

  • Taj Falaknuma Palace, Engine Bowli

    More a palace than a hotel, a private horse-drawn carriage transports guests from the gatehouse up the hill through spectacular gardens to the courtyard where flower petals are showered upon you. Feel like royalty as you indulge in an ittar bath or a Nawab-e-Khaas treatment at the signature Jiva Spa, dine at Adaa and do a tour with the in-house historian!
  • Hyderabad Marriott Hotel and Convention Centre, Tank Bund Road

    Located right opposite Hussain Sagar Lake and connected by a Sky Bridge to its sister hotel The Courtyard by Marriott, the plush property is centrally located between the IT hub and city’s sights. An added bonus, the food here is excellent, too.
  • Trident Hotel, Hitec City

    An upmarket business hotel with excellent service and choice of restaurants – from Italian, International and Nizami. There’s also the Ninety Six Bar and a Cigar Lounge!
  • Taj Mahal Hotel, Abid Road

    Located in an old colonial style building with a newer annex, the legendary TMH is a budget option despite the heritage tag. Besides its central location, the big plus is the popular vegetarian restaurant serving Udupi and Mangalorean fare–button idlis, masala dosas and Mysore bajjis!
Where to shop in Hyderabad

Where to shop in Hyderabad

Historically a pearl- and diamond-trading centre, Hyderabad is known as the City of Pearls. Even though it’s far from the coast, the city is the best place to pick up pearls and jewellery. Drop into the city’s traditional bazaars that have tantalised buyers for centuries–pick up lac bangles encrusted with coloured stones at Laad Bazaar near Charminar, Begum Bazaar and Sultan Bazaar. There’s a lot to buy here–bidriware (metalwork handicraft from neighbouring Bidar in Karnataka), zari and zardozi (embroidered textiles using gold, silver and other metal threads) and kalamkari (hand-painted or block-printed cotton textiles). Singhania’s, official textile suppliers to the Nizams, sell rare weaves like Jamevar, Banarasi, Bhagalpuri, Kota and Sambalpuri saris at their Banjara Hills outlet. Lepakshi, the Andhra Pradesh handicrafts emporium sells Nirmal paintings, Kondapalli toys, leather lampshades, Banjara embroidery, besides other local handicrafts. Evolution, Contemporary Arts, Crafts and Textiles in Punjagutta sells Andhra crafts, pottery, handloom fabrics and an eclectic range of furniture and wood sculptures. For more retail therapy, try any of the large malls like GVK One Mall and Inorbit Mall, where you can find local and international high street brands.

6E & Cheeky

Hyderabad’s undulating landscape gives it several vantage points to hang out–the boulders of Banjara Rocks, Durgam Cheruvu in Jubilee Hills or Moula Ali hillock are your best bets for a quiet evening outdoors. To enjoy Hyderabad at a slow Nawabi pace, take a heritage walk from Charminar to Badshahi or Purani Haveli or try the Chowmahalla Palace Walk. Discover little known facts about this fascinating city, like the tamarind tree in Osmania Park, which saved many lives during the 1908 floods. Go party hopping at Banjara Hills or take a long drive along the Necklace Road. Be it youngsters, midnight owls or party goers, all are attracted to Hyderabad’s ultimate nighttime treat – the biryani. Whether it’s local eateries or plush 5-star hotels with an extensive midnight buffet, you must remember to order the biryani. Pop into an Irani bakery in the old city like Nimrah Café and Café Niloufer to try Osmania biscuits and Irani chai besides local sweets and savouries – dilkhush, dilpasand, curry or egg puffs and luqmis (deep fried pastries filled with spicy meat or potato mixture). Another local tradition is to try nihari (trotter soup) at the crack of dawn. Don’t forget to visit the Chilkur Balaji Temple (known locally as the Visa God) – since people applying for an overseas visa often come here as it’s believed to make their wish come true.

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