The first images that come to most people’s mind at the mention of Hyderabad, span across a plethora of places and characteristics that have defined the city over the centuries. From the grand Mughlai architecture and classic tiny lanes criss-crossing across the old city, to the tantalizing street-food stalls and imposing modern infrastructure, Hyderabad is a shocking blend of everything old and a lot of new; almost like a classical painting layered on top of a modern art backdrop. This analogy is down to its understatedly rich timeline, which starts with the Qutb Shahi dynasty that ruled the province for nearly a century, succeeded by the Mughals who eventually became the famed Nizams of Hyderabad and moving onwards from the British rule to the modern-day city - now home to some of the biggest corporates in the world.
It is no wonder then that Hyderabad is starkly different from any other cosmopolitan city and offers much more than just large shopping centres, crowded pubs and the occasional historical site. As a tourist, it is easy to feel lost in the vast cultural expanse of the city, but filter out the general noise and what you are left with is an entire universe of experiences for anyone and everyone. And here’s a concise little guide we have put together to help you take the dive.
1. Charminar : An icon that represents Hyderabad, the Charminar was constructed in 1591 CE by Qutub Shah and is today one of the largest tourist attractions of the city due its historical significance and nostalgic and artfully simplistic architecture. The Charminar forms a city centre to the old Hyderabad region, also making it easier for tourists to explore the gullies of the original city.
2. Begum Bazaar : Situated just a couple of kilometres away from Charminar, is the largest and oldest marketplace in Hyderabad. Established yet again during Qutb Shah’s time, Begum Bazaar offers retail and wholesale deals on all household items and commodities. From jewellery and apparels to curtains and sheets; they sell everything here at some of the cheapest prices. But what truly marks this place is the throwback to the undiluted experience of old Hyderabad.
3. Birla Mandir and Birla Science Museum : A Hindu temple and a truly marvellous piece of architecture, the Birla Mandir was constructed in 1976, with 2000 tons of pure white marble. Apart from the gripping stature of its architecture, one of the temple’s defining characteristics is the absence of traditional ‘bells’ – an element that was purposefully left out to make the temple’s atmosphere peaceful and suitable for meditation. And oh how it succeeds at that! Situated about 200 metres from the temple is the Birla Science Museum. It comprises of a museum, planetarium, science centre, art gallery and a dinosaurium. Worth a visit for kids and adults who want to delve into anything from science and space, to art and dinosaurs!
4. Salar Jung Museum : One of the three National Museums of India, the Salar Jung Museum is an art museum that houses paintings, carvings, manuscripts, sculptures, furniture and other artefacts from around the world and is also considered one of the biggest one-man antiques-collections in the world. The priceless collection was put together by Nawab Mir Yusuf Ali Khan Salar Jung III (1889–1949), who spent over 35 years, and a significant portion of his income to bring it to how it is today. It is said that over the years, a lot of artefacts were stolen or lost and that the collection today is only half of what it used to be.
5. Qutb Shahi tombs : This grand collection of 21 domed granite tombs is located in the Ibrahim Bagh, close to the Golconda Fort. The Qutb Shahi tombs is where seven Qutb Shahi rulers were buried. Along with the kings, some of their favourite family members, courtesans and physicians were also laid to rest here. The site is beautiful and the history behind it all, even more so. The architecture of the tombs is a unique combination of Persian, Pathan and Hindu styles. One of the most striking tombs here is that of Mohammed Quli, the founder of Hyderabad.
6. Ramoji Film City : The starting point for all modern-day attractions in Hyderabad, Ramoji Film City is a certified go-to place on the list of all tourists. This is down to several interesting facts and characteristics of the place, foremost being its sheer size – at 2000 acres, Ramoji Film City has been certified by Guinness World Records as the world’s largest film studio complex. Plenty of regional films of different languages and films from some international film industries are shot and produced here. It also film city is also a largely popular recreation centre and offers attractions ranging from tours of the film sets to an amusement park with fun rides and games.
7. Necklace Road : When it comes to settling down for the evening after a day of shopping and exploring in Hyderabad, there is no better destination than this long stretch of road, which skirts the Hussain Sagar Lake. Named after the Necklace Road in Mumbai’s Marine Drive, this Necklace Road connects the Sanjivaiah Park to the NTR Gardens located at the opposite end of the lake. What make this a brilliant evening-spot are its beautiful lawns, the lake-side restaurants, recreational parks and great views of the city. From Snow World to Jalavihar, the Necklace Road is speckled with amusement parks and recreational places that guarantee a fun time.
1. Secret Lake (Durgam Cheruvu) : This 83 acre freshwater lake derives its name because of the secretive way it is tucked away between the localities of Jubilee Hills and Madhapur. Back in the days of the Qutb Shahi dynasty, it served as a source of drinking water for residents of the Golconda fort. Today, it is has been deemed as a place for light recreation and relaxation, by the tourism department. The lake has boating facilities and is also a fishing zone, which essentially makes for a great combination! In addition to this are the rock garden and artificial waterfalls that add to the beauty of the place; and the 2 kilometre walkway along with the lakeside restaurants and cafes make this the perfect location to stretch out and relax after a long day – for residents and tourists alike!
2. Golconda Fort : Arguably one of the most wonderful tourist destinations in Hyderabad, the Golconda Fort has a long, rich and intensely exciting history. It served as a capital to the ancient kingdom of Golconda from the 14th to 16th century, before serving as a capital to the Qutb Shahi dynasty from the 16th to 17th century. In its existence, the fort has been home to the Koh-i-Noor and Hope diamonds, which were placed in a vault in the fort along with several other priceless diamonds and precious gems. The fort itself has been listed as an archaeological treasure on the Archaeological Survey of India’s official ‘List of Monuments.’ Apart from its astounding history, the Fort’s architecture hides all sorts of wonders and secrets – from absolutely genius acoustics and ventilation, to its beautiful gardens and buildings within, and thousands of other marvellous elements that also include famed and legendary secret vaults and tunnels underneath its foundations. All of this makes the Golconda Fort an absolute priority on literally any tourist’s list of destinations.
3. Snow World : An artificial snow-themed amusement park, Snow World is a fun place for kids and adults alike. The artificial snow along with the activities inside, such as sleigh-sliding, ice skating and the artificial snowfall, are quite enthralling. The park is known for the technology they employ in creating and maintaining the artificial snow on a daily basis and the measures taken to make sure that the park not only remains fun, but also safe for everyone.
1. Mount Opera : Located about 35 kilometres from Hyderabad, Mount Opera is a theme park and resort that aims to offer the perfect weekend getaway experience for anyone and everyone. That’s probably why their list of activities is not limited to a pool and play park, like most other resorts. Instead, what they have in store for their customers ranges from a pool to an entire water park, and from a play area to a full-sized amusement park. Add to this an indoor games arena, a night street for all your partying needs, an amphitheatre, and rooms and cottages to make sure you have somewhere to stay, and it’s not hard to see why this goes in the list of weekend getaways.
2. Leonia Holistic Resort : If it’s a more relaxed and peaceful weekend you’re looking for, then this might just be the answer. Leonia is located amidst plenty of greenery and natural rock formations, and makes for an excellent revitalization destination where you can find some peace and quiet away from the madness of city life. The resort offers luxury suites and villas along with excellent hospitality and service – all of which is bound to make your experience there nothing short of beautiful and memorable. Leonia also has one of the best spas in any resort and provides treatments that are not just meant to comfort and spoil you, but are also legitimately therapeutic and scientific in nature.