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Sitting in the middle of India’s Southern peninsula, Hyderabad City is pretty much known only for its Biryani, Pearls and IT industry. But 400 years of history means Hyderabad has so much more to offer travellers to India and would make a great stop in a South India itinerary.
Hyderabad is an interesting mix of cultures, with the local Telugu culture historically being combined with Persian and Turkish cultures brought to the city by its founders- the Qutb Shahi kings. As one of India’s biggest Cities, Hyderabad also has residents from all over the Country, each adding their own culture into the mix. So in this India travel blog, here’s a Hyderabad travel guide to help you plan your visit.
Tourist Places in Hyderabad.
Things To Do in Hyderabad
The 600-year-old Golconda Fort is where the Qutb Shahi kings ruled from before they founded Hyderabad so it’s one of the top Hyderabad points of interest. Its central citadel, called Bala Hissar is the most popular with visitors, but the outer ramparts (including the Naya Qila extension and the Petla Burj bastion) are also worth seeing.
The Qutb Shahi Tombs
The Qutb Shahi Tombs, close to Golconda, are where Hyderabad’s founding kings are buried so add this to your list of places to visit in Hyderabad. The large necropolis has seven massive tombs, and many smaller tombs, mosques and other structures.
In the heart of Hyderabad’s Old City is the iconic Charminar, a four-minareted monument built by the city’s founder, Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah so it’s one of the popular tourist places in Hyderabad. The most romantic of the many theories about why it was built says that it marks the spot where Muhammad Quli first saw his future queen.
Chowmahalla (‘four mansions’) Palace in the Old City was built by the Asaf Jahi Nizams, the next ruling dynasty of Hyderabad after the Qutb Shahs. The palace was the residence of the Nizams, and is still owned by their descendants. It’s open to visitors, for a fee, of course, but it should still be on your Hyderabad sightseeing list.
The Paigah Tombs
Another one of the places to see in Hyderabad is 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.
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 but if you’re ok with this, then it’s one of the good places to visit near Hyderabad.
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 artefacts owned by a single person and therefore one of the historical places in Hyderabad. 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.
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. They’re on the edge of Gachibowli, one of Hyderabad’s fastest-growing suburbs, so they might not be around much longer and therefore should be on your list of places to visit in Hyderabad for one day.
What to Eat in Hyderabad
As far as things to do in Hyderabad go, as well as the many tourist places in Hyderabad, one of the best ways to experience Hyderabad during your travels in Hyderbad, is through the food in Hyderabad. So here are the popular foods to eat in Hyderabad and popular restaurants in Hyderabad to visit so you know what to and where to eat in Hyderabad.
Ask an Indian what they associate Hyderabad with the most and chances are they’ll say “Biryani”. This dish of meat and rice layered together and steamed is what Hyderabad is famous for, and you’ll find it on almost every street corner. The quality varies, of course, but it’s difficult to find bad biryani in Hyderabad.
Shah Ghouse and Shadab in the Old City, 4 Seasons in Mehdipatnam, Café Bahar in Basheerbagh and Biryaniwala in Banjara Hills all have good Biryani Restaurants in Hyderabad. If you’re in or around Hitech City, Shah Ghouse has an outlet in Gachibowli, too. Be warned, though: most Biryani places are quite basic.
While Biryani is traditionally made with goat meat, the chicken version is also popular (and cheaper). Some restaurants in Hyderabad also offer versions with only egg or vegetables, but chances are you won’t get those in more traditional local restaurants. Biryani is usually served with the local raita (a mixture of yoghurt, chopped onions and mint leaves) and mirchi ka salan (a rich curry made of de-seeded green chillies).
South Indian ‘Tiffin’
Despite its Islamic heritage, Hyderabad is just as strongly rooted in South Indian culture. And just like you’ll find a Biryani joint around every corner, you’ll find a South Indian ‘tiffin’ centre, too. These will serve the Telugu versions of traditional vegetarian South Indian staples like idli, dosa and vada (a fermented batter of rice and lentils, which is steamed, roasted and deep-fried, respectively), along with other quick eats.
For a larger meal, they might serve a Thali (platter)—an assortment of little dishes, served with rice which is a must-eat dish in Hyderabad. But watch out, because South India is known for spicy food, and Telugu food especially so.
Popular mid-range places for South Indian tiffin and thali in Hyderabad are Kamat Hotel (in Secunderabad and Nampally), Chutneys (in Secunderabad, Punjagutta, Abids, Jubilee Hills and Hitech City) and Minerva Coffee Shop (Himayatnagar, Somajiguda and Madhapur).
Another thing that Hyderabad is known for is Haleem, a rich porridge-like dish made from meat, semolina and spices. The ingredients a slow-cooked together over an open fire for hours until they finally form a thick, fragrant paste that is eaten with a spoon. If eating a whole plate of Haleem on its own seems too much, order a nahari kulcha (a square-shaped bread) along with it. The only catch is, Haleem is mainly made during the month of Ramadan, and very few places serve it year-round.
The Hotel Sitara Grand usually has haleem on the menu. But ask around in the Old City and you’re sure to find a place.
Khubani ka meetha
Khubani ka meetha (literally ‘apricot dessert’) is a typically Hyderabadi dessert made from stewed dried apricots, and served with either cream or ice cream. It’s sticky-sweet, and you’ll come to appreciate the dairy after a few spoonfuls. Khubani ka meetha is usually served during special occasions like weddings, but many mid-range and upmarket local restaurants that serve Hyderabadi or Telugu cuisine will have it on the menu. Jewel of Nizam, Zaiqa-e-Hyderabad and The Spicy Venue will serve it, but if they’re out of your budget, you might need to do some asking around. You could also try Meetha Miya, a shop that sells traditional Hyderabadi sweets.
Hyderabad is chock-a-block with modest little roadside cafés that serve tea, snacks and basic meals. They’re called ‘Irani cafes’, after the Iranian immigrants that started the first ones, generations ago. Most popular at these cafés (which most locals pronounce as ‘kafe’, like in ‘safe’) is the thick, milky, sweet Irani chai. If you’ve not sat down at a shared table at an Irani café to sip Irani chai while nibbling an Osmania biscuit, you’ve missed a typical Hyderabadi experience.
Best Time to Visit Hyderabad
When it comes to when to visit Hyderabad, the best time to visit Hyderabad is from November to January when the weather is the coolest. Day temperatures can still hit 30°C (85 °F) but evenings are quite cool, with temperatures at night sometimes dipping to 10 ° C (50 ° F). You could also visit Hyderabad during the rains in July and August if you don’t mind the occasional downpour and the resulting traffic jams. You should probably avoid visiting in summer—April to June as it can get miserably hot, with day temperatures going up to 43°C (110 ° F).
November is also a good time to visit Hyderabad because you’ll be able to experience the festival of Diwali (the ‘festival of lights’ celebrated across India). This is mainly a Hindu festival, celebrating the symbolic victory of good over evil and light over darkness. But because it’s so much fun, Diwali is celebrated by pretty much everyone everywhere in India, regardless of religion. Diwali is called Deepavali in Hyderabad and other parts of South India.
Where to Stay in Hyderabad
Hotels in Hyderabad
Being one of the biggest cities in India, Hyderabad naturally has lots of options to stay in, from a range of resorts in Hyderabad, five-star hotels in Hyderabad 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 of India.
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, a sort of hotel version of AirBnB, also has affordable rooms all over the City and are all available on Booking.com along with other hotels in Hyderabad.
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Best Areas to stay in Hyderabad
If you’re looking to experience Hyderabad’s heritage, it’s probably best to stay in the Mehdipatnam area. That’ll give you access to both the Golconda Fort and the Old City, but being one of Hyderabad’s older suburbs, Mehdipatnam is quite crowded.
If you’d prefer to focus on the Old City, the Abids (the ‘A’ is pronounced like in ‘apple’) area would be a good base, because it would give you access to the more central parts of the city, too. The Taj Mahal Hotel is a local institution and has been around for generations. Abids main road is one of the traditional shopping areas of Hyderabad and is, again, crowded.
If you’d prefer to be closer to Hyderabad’s exploding restaurant and craft beer scene, then Hitech City would be a good place to be. At the opposite end of Hyderabad from the Old City, this is the business and IT hub of the city. It’s much newer, more modern, and with a much more cosmopolitan vibe. It’s got lots of small eateries and bars and is next door to Jubilee Hills, where all the swankier restaurants and craft breweries are.
From ancient heritage to more modern pursuits, Hyderabad has lots to offer!
Despite being one of India’s largest cities there are still lots of Hyderabad attractions and Hyderabad tourist spots, and unlike the other big cities in India, the pace of life is still relatively relaxed.
So kick back at an Irani café and admire the view of Golconda Fort or the Charminar before heading to Jubilee Hills for a glass of chilled IPA and some thumping music!
Thank you so much for this guest post written by Irfan Quader from The Good Life With IQ blog!
To see more of my India blog posts to help you plan your trip see: