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. The Mughal influence not only stretches to the monuments and structures but Hyderabad’s distinctive cuisine as well, which includes star dishes such as Hyderabadi biryani, haleem, patthar ke gosht, Shikampuri kebab and desserts like shahi tukda and khoobani ka meetha. Here’s a guide to the best experiences for tourists in Hyderabad.
Hyderabad, the Pearl City of the Orient, seamlessly blends its rich culture and over 1000-year-old history with modernity in ways that few Indian metropolises would. The city as it stands today is born of a rich amalgam of Hindu, Islamic as well as Buddhist influences making up its enduring cosmopolitan spirit. Hyderabad’s magnificent monuments, beautiful nature getaways, outstanding cuisine, and vibrant old bazaars will captivate and fascinate you.
Best time to visit: October to March are the ideal months to visit Hyderabad.
How to reach:
By air: The Rajiv Gandhi International Airport is the nearest airport, located 30km away from the city centre. IndiGo operates more than 100 daily non-stop flights to Hyderabad to other key locations.
By train: There are three major railway stations in Hyderabad - Secunderabad Railway Station, Hyderabad Railway Station and Kachiguda Railway Station. Several popular trains such as Shatabdi Express, Hyderabad Express etc. run regularly from these junctions connecting Hyderabad to all other major Indian cities.
By bus: The city is well-connected to its neighbouring towns through a vast network of buses run by both state and private operators.
Getting around: Local buses and auto-rickshaws are the popular means of transportation to travel within the city.
Hyderabad’s famous biryani joint is frequented mostly by tourists. Save your biryani fix for elsewhere but drop by at breakfast for mutton kheema, gurda bhaji and roti.
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 Hyderabad chain is known for its chicken and mutton biryani, which still tastes as good as when it first made its name.
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).
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.
Named after the kangans (bangles) that constitute the wall décor, Kangan is located in Westin Hyderabad Mindspace, and serves excellent North Indian, Northwest frontier and Peshawari cuisine and typical Hyderabadi teas. Try the succulent galawati, seekh and barra kebabs, besides the midnight buffet.
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 exquisite Nizami delicacies in an ambience that matches–carpets, lamps, chandeliers, retro cutlery and culinary delights like apricot pudding and anokhi kheer, flavoured with a hint of onion!
Here, you’ll find a good mix of North and Southern cuisine, served to the accompaniment of live music and ghazal nights. Try their Kebabs Unlimited package every Saturday.
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.
Lepakshi, the Andhra Pradesh handicrafts emporium sells Nirmal paintings, Kondapalli toys, leather lamp shades, 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 such as GVK One Mall and Inorbit Mall, where you can find local and international high street brands.
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.
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 guests are welcomes by showering flower petals. 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 & Convention Centre Located right opposite Hussain Sagar Lake, between the IT hub and city’s sights and connected by a Sky Bridge to its sister hotel The Courtyard by Marriott, the food of this luxurious property is to die for!
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 annexe, the legendary TMH is a budget option despite the heritage tag. Besides its central location, the big plus is the famous vegetarian restaurant serving Udupi and Mangalorean fare–button idlis, masala dosas and Mysore bajjis!
Hyderabad’s undulating landscape gives it several 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.
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.
Go club hopping at Banjara Hills or take a long drive along the Necklace Road. 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.
Hyderabad has a vast Buddhist connection, and the Lumbini Festival is celebrated with great pomp and show at the Nagarjunasagar Dam, close to Hyderabad. The festival marks especially the importance of Buddhism in Telangana and celebrates its rich and ancient Buddhist heritage. It is, in fact, a kaleidoscope for tourists to the arts, crafts, culture, and cuisine of Telangana/Andhra Pradesh.
The Deccan Festival is one of the most popular festivals which is organised by the Department of Tourism, Andhra Pradesh. Celebrated around the month of February or March, this is a five day festival that echoes authentic Hyderabadi culture. The festival comprises a grand food, dance and music festival, in addition to the pearls and bangle fair.