Hyderabad is a great place to spend a few days in, with all its interesting history, bustling streets, and a happening night life. Not to even mention the cult like status of its most famous dish, the Hyderabadi Biryani! With so much on offer, you can be sure you won’t run out of things to do in Hyderabad.
So, you might be wondering how to spend your time there, well there’s much to be seen and the following are my suggestions for a two day itinerary.
Things to do in Hyderabad – Day 1
Head over to the Charminar area, where you can experience one of the best images of India’s history, busy markets and masses of people milling about their daily business. The place is incredibly charming and while exhausting with so many living beings moving around, producing sounds and smells, it’s a must visit.
While the most famous sight is the Charminar itself, I found the area as a whole of more interest. The monument at the end of the day is not that interesting and you’ll be done with looking at it in 10 minutes or less.
The real treat is to get lost in the shops, alleyways and observe the street merchants that go about their business. There’s food everywhere you turn and a famous place to drink a cup of chai is the Nimrah Cafe and Bakery. They make some awesome Osmania biscuits there as well, which are even sold at the Hyderabad International Airport.
If you’re looking for something sweet, a place called Milan Juice Centre is located really close to the Charminar monument. They have incredible tasty punch and we came there to have some custard apple punch again the next day.
Just next to the Charminar, you can find the enormous Mecca Masjid, which is one of the biggest mosques in India. The bricks were made from soil brought all the way from Mecca, thus giving the structure its well deserved name. There have been reports of female tourists not being allowed to even enter the courtyard, when their clothes were judged as too skimpy or tight. Do keep that in mind when planning to visit the place.
A testimony to the Nizams of Hyderabad’s wealth, the Chowmahalla Palace is where these rulers were administering the state from – it’s a short 10 minute walk from Mecca Masjid. To this day the palace remains in the hands of Mukarram Jah, a descendant of this royal family. The last reigning Nizam, Asaf Jah VII (1911-1948) was considered to be the richest man in the world during his time.
The Nizams had a curious taste, reflected in their architecture and acquisition of all sorts of items from all over the world. As they were close allies with the British, much of that culture seems to have rubbed off on them as well. This can be clearly seen in the palace as you stroll around looking at various portraits and pottery. However that doesn’t mean they’ve completely gone Western, as both Indian and Persian influences can be felt everywhere you look.
After you’ve gotten your dose of sightseeing in the area, you just have to do one final thing here – stuff your mouth with biryani. A visit to Hyderabad is just not complete, until you’ve had your fair share of mutton biryani, which is arguably the most famous place in India to try this dish. Be warned, the portions are HUGE, so do yourself a favor and share the portion with at least another person.
One of the most famous joints in town to have it at is the Shadab Hotel (for people not familiar with India, it’s not actually a hotel, just a restaurant). It’s an old favorite among locals and considered as the most iconic place to munch on the dish. We liked it as well, but to the shock and horror of other people we spoke with, we said the best place we’ve had a biryani at, wasn’t in Hyderabad at all (it was in Doha, Qatar). It’s sacrilege to say that, so be careful with your opinions :D.
To finish off your day, completely change the scenery and say bye, bye to these old neighborhoods. Your next destination is Jubilee Hills, which will basically be a 180 degree turn and a completely different image of Hyderabad will appear before you. This is where the young, cosmopolitan and financially well-off crowd comes to have fun.
Some of the pubs there will blow you away with their sheer size and offer. Two of the well known places to go for a pint are Ministry of Beer and Prost. The former has a ridiculous amount of different Belgian brews on offer and the latter produces its own stuff as well.
Since I moved to India, I’ve been missing wheat beer like crazy and I was extremely happy to find it at Prost. Not that you can’t in other places, but when you’re asked to pay 8$ for a 330ml of Hoegarden, it kind of sucks to say the least. In Prost, the price was far better as I mentioned they brew their own, so I got a pint for about 4.5$, which is much more acceptable.
Day 2 of Hyderabad sightseeing
Start of your day by heading to the massive Golconda Fort, which served as the capital of Qutb Shahi dynasty between 1518 and 1687. Try to not visit over the weekend, when the place can become quite overrun. Also do go there in the morning, before the sun gets too strong as there’s a lot of walking uphill involved.
The place also offers great views of Hyderabad and you can easily just linger around for hours, as many young Indian couples do in search for a quiet spot of their own.
The grounds are also popular with the Indian film industry and we got to see a movie being filmed ourselves. I’ve no idea which actress I took a picture of :).
Qutb Shahi Tombs
Your next stop will be the Qutb Shahi Tombs, located about 3km away from the fort. As the name suggests, the Qutb Shahi dynasty erected these over sized graves to rest in the afterlife. Interestingly enough, the place is practically devoid of tourists, which is rather bizarre considering the structures are so beautiful and well preserved. Situated among greenery, away from the hustle and bustle of Hyderabad, they were our favorite sight to behold on our trip.
After you’re done with these two Hyderabad attractions, you’ll most likely be ready for some lunch. While there are scores of good restaurants in Hyderabad, we personally thoroughly enjoyed Rayalaseema Ruchulu. I’ve fallen in love with Jeera Rice there and from now on I keep ordering that dish everywhere I go. Unfortunately no other restaurant has measured up since and I’m longing for the day when I get to eat it again prepared the same way as there!
Next up is another complete change of scenery, as you leave the historical attractions behind and visit Lamakaan. This place gem of an open participation cultural centre – a concept that is well known in the West, but far less so in India. Here you’ll have the alternative crowd gathering, discussing and presenting all sorts of things. When we visited, I actually had a talk there, but what followed was far more interesting. Two activists from the Indian state of Chhattisgarh were talking about how the Indian Government is killing adhivasis and maoists there (link goes to another set of activists in this case, but the issue is the same).
A disturbing account by any measure, but highly worthwhile to listen to, as this often goes unreported in Indian media. The gist of the story is that corporations aided by the Govt are trying to squash dissent in rural parts of the state. It doesn’t come as a surprise that they are rich in natural resources. Their tactics more often than not turn criminal, with assassinations and torture being very much part of the game.
Lamakaan as a place where such things can be said in public, is a beacon of true democracy and definitely warrants a visit. While topics like that might not be a daily thing, there’s much of interest going on at any point.
Besides that, the grounds are really enjoyable and their samosas mouthwatering, making this a great place to hangout in Hyderabad.
A map of the best places to visit in Hyderabad
(click on the little star next to the title to save the map)
If you feel like making your schedule more busy or planning on staying longer in the city, there’s a lot more to be had. The following are some of additional things to do in Hyderabad:
–Birla Mandir: a modern Hindu temple made of white marble, which was built in 1976.
–Ramoji Film City: supposedly the largest film city in the world, although if you’re not Indian, chances are this place won’t be for you. I personally find these kind of places tacky.
–Salar Jung Museum: A one man collection of antiques from around the world, which Salar Jung accumulated throughout his time as the Prime Minister of the Nizam State of Hyderabad.