Hyderabad is a relic of Indian allure. Teeming with majestic heritage and striking mosques, it’s a living exhibition of the once decadent Nizam dynasty whose palatial estates and jewel and ivory-filled coffers enticed many a foreign merchant for trade.
Some of Hyderabad’s architectural landmarks are a result of its rulers’ lavish visions, embellishing the city with European-influenced facades. Today, the Telangana state capital owes much of its newfound prosperity and urban sprawl to the Indian software boom.
With the Nizam regime departed, the heart of the city has outgrown its medieval walls and spread into the 21st century, spawning a hi-tech enclave and e-business hub known as “Cyberabad”.
One of India’s most awesome mosques is located in the historical nucleus of the old city in Hyderabad. Charminar Masjid and its four minarets stand as a national monument that is just unmissable. Here you can use the tower as a marker to navigate your way to the opulent estates left behind by the Nazims.Stop by Purani Haveli and delve into the family history of wealth, walk-in wardrobes and possibly the world’s ultimate Scottish tweed suit collection.
In such a culturally vibrant country, Lake Hussain Sagar continues to exemplify Hyderabad’s Indian religious diversity. Out in the water stands the world’s tallest monolithic statue of the Buddha. Visit the waterfront at sunset to watch the dramatic silhouette it casts, or in the day, take a boat out and admire the white granite carved by 200 sculptors.
Just over 11 kilometres west of the city you'll find the stronghold of Fort Golconda, where along with its wondrous walls and bygone grounds of battle and siege, you might just stumble across the baobab tree, thought to be the biggest and oldest in all of India.
Eat and Drink
When on your Indian food tour, the Hyderabadi haleem is a must-try. Minced meat, cooked with ground wheat and lentils pummelled into a pulse is what we’d see as an eastern stew. Equally as simple and hearty, the lukmi pastry squares are delightful little puff pockets containing varying fillings, from intricately spiced vegetables to no-nonsense mutton.
Grab a table at the Paradise Food Court to try the local variation on biriyani and their kheema curry which they pride themselves on, or over in HITEC City, be sure to check out Dialogue in the Dark for an utterly unique dining experience. This restaurant infuses authentic Indian dishes with a peculiar and unconventional concept of having you dine in absolute darkness, which is proven to heighten your senses and enhance your tasting.
Where to Stay
Hyderabad has many zones but it is best to stay within a district of the central zone. Here you will find the best dining, shopping and entertainment the city has to offer. For upmarket stays Banjara Hills and Jubilee Hills are considered exclusive districts.
Punjagutta is also popular as it is close to the tourist attractions in the south zone and the new CBD area in the west zone. However, traffic can be manic in the central zone as cars are preferred over public transport, with Banjara Hills slightly less congested than other areas.
Among the swathes of Charminar, you might be able to hear the popping bops coming from within the bazaar. This is the rhythm of the Ittehad Vark shop and the wooden hammers men use to beat vark into silver leaf.
Watch how the edible foil is used to adorn Indian confectionery, and treat yourself to the curious-looking sweets. Follow your nose and it might lead you to an attar shop where you can have your own personalised Indian perfume concocted for you on the spot.
Further into Char Kaman you will almost definitely encounter the innumerable jewellery stalls that line the legendary Laad Bazaar, with stall owners beckoning you incessantly to buy their dubious pearls and supposed diamond-encrusted bangles.
Hyderabad Like a Local
Along the street alleys and lane mazes, go in search of Hyderabad’s esteemed Irani chai. Tea vendors and cafes abound in this city, yet the best are in the Shalibanda suburb among the old city locals. If you get yourself a cup here (Shah Ghouse is a top venue choice), there will always be the odd character curious and keen to hear of you and your country.