A city that’s always bursting with life that comes alive on a canvas of colour and chaos – There’s something very special about Hyderabad. During my time in Bangalore, I had made many-a-happy-trip to the city. I had also spent my birthday in Hyderabad earlier this year and it was an awesome time.
Here are ten very awesome things to do Hyderabad – from exploring the forgotten lanes of the old city to enjoying the most delicious fare on offer!
1. Get lost in Old Hyderabad
Where: The many lanes that branch out from the Charminar
The heart of Hyderabad is the iconic Charminar – and a visit to the 400-year-old monument is pretty much a rite of passage through the city. Start by climbing up to the top of the Charminar for a bird’s eye view of the area around. Four well planned streets emanate from the Charminar – and around this has sprung up a bustling commercial hotspot!
Now that you have oriented yourself, waste no time in diving into the streets around the Charminar. There is just so much colour and chaos – you will feel more alive than you have in a while! Stop by the legendary Laad Bazaar and buy yourself some beautiful lac bangles.
The area around Machli Kaman (before Pathergatti) is renowned for its ittar shops – the air hangs heavy with the distinctive smell of perfume oils. Further down the street, stores selling strings of dainty pearls will catch your eye. Interestingly enough, this is where Hyderabad pearls first originated from. Read: Five Things To Do In Bombay (Before It’s Too Late)
Across the road from the Charminar, the grand mosque Makka Masjid stands tall. The central arch of the mosque has been built from specially commissioned bricked from soil brought from Mecca. For a fantastic view of the Makka Masjid, perch yourself atop the adjoining Charminar around Friday prayer timings – and you will be in for a visual treat!
2. Discover Secret Lake
Where: Durgam Cheruvu, Tucked in between Jubilee Hills and Madhapur
Perhaps one of the city’s most wonderfully kept secrets – the beautiful Secret Lake (also known as Durgam Cheruvu). The lake derives its name from its obscure location, discreetly tucked in between Jubilee Hills and Madhapur. The lake is a breathtaking place, surrounded by rolling granite rocks in the form of hills. It offers beautiful views and absolute serenity, right in the heart of the city. It is a welcome break from the hustle and bustle of city life. Read: A Peek into 5 Super Exclusive Private Islands
Interestingly, it served as the drinking water source for the residents of Golconda Fort during the rule of the Qutub Shahi dynasty in the 16th century. Today, it is an interesting place to go angling, boating, rock climbing, trekking—or to sit by the lake and just be.
3. Feast like a king!
Where: Biryani at Shadab (the the Chrminar) is a must-have
Yes it’s true – Hyderabad is a food lover’s paradise! Trying the plethora of Hyderabad’s delicacies is definitely a must-do for every traveler to the city. As a local adage goes – it’s not what you see in Hyderabad that matters, but what you eat!
Biryani lovers must stop by at the city’s best and most iconic biryani restaurants. The best known names are Bawarchi at RTC Cross Roads (And old name that never goes out of flavour), Shadab at Charminar (brilliant biryani in a nondescript little restaurant) or Hotel Madina at Pathergatti (often described as the ‘Mother of all Irani Cafes!’). If nothing else, drop by one of the various branches of Paradise Hotel – for a taste of Hyderabad’s biryani in a rather convenient setting.
Dine Hill, a rather popular restaurant at Banjara Hills, offers visitors the unique experience of eating authentic food in a giant thaal (a large, shared plate in true tradition). Dialogue in the Dark, an innovative concept restaurant at HiTech City, gives diners a taste of a world without sight – meals are consumed in absolute darkness. For those who love their beer and rock without too much other fuss, Club 8 remains the city’s favourite watering hole. Additionally, Banjara Hills and Jubilee Hills have countless interesting cute little cafes, bistros and eateries to choose from.
4. Explore India’s only Arab Street
Where: The neighbourhood of Barkas, Hyderabad
Here’s something that will interest the culture vultures. Nestled in the heart of Hyderabad is Barkas, India’s only authentic Arab Street.
As the story goes, the Nizam of Hyderabad was surrounded by hostile kingdoms in the Deccan. He hence only trusted the strong, well-built Arabs, who they recruited into their personal army. As the population of Arabs grew, they settled down in barracks on the outskirts of the walled city. Hence was born Barkas (A corruption of the English word “barracks”) a neighbourhood where residents can all trace their lineage back to the Arab peninsular – and authentic Arabic culture continues to flourish even today. Read: 6 Less Explored Countries To Visit In Asia
Explore the streets of the neighbourhood for some very interesting experiences. Head to one of the little eateries to savour piping hot Iranian dishes cooked as per authentic tradition. Don’t miss the harees, a sweet, delicious version of haleem. You will hear beats of Egyptian music resonate through the streets, and young children singing tunes of a Lebanese songstress. The homes look more like palaces, carefully decorated with calligraphic verses of the Quran and maintained to perfection. Men in Arab gowns sit about, sipping mint-peppered Suleimani tea in delicate cups. Read: 10 Best Breakfast Spots In Bangalore
5. Live the royal life
Where: The glorious Chowmalla Palace and Falaknuma Palace
The palaces of Hyderabad (and trust me, there are just so many!) are definitely among the most beautiful in the world. The grand palaces of the Nizams are majestic and marvelous – truly architectural and artistic masterpieces. The beautiful Chowmahalla Palace (formerly the official residence of the Nizams) is breathtaking in every sense. The Palace remains property of the Nizam’s heirs.
The spectacular Falaknuma Palace (meaning “mirror of the sky” in Urdu) is nestled on a hill high above the city and offers marvelous views. Interestingly enough, the Palace is designed in the shape of a scorpion with its stings spread out as wings. The Palace also has a 101-seat dining table, considered to be the world’s largest. The Palace has now been converted into a Taj Hotel.
Other beautiful palaces dot the entire city. The Nizam’s other palaces include Purani Haveli, King Kothi Palace (converted into a hospital), Chiran Palace, Bella Vista (now a college), Hill Fort Palace ( now a hotel) amongst others. The Asman Garh Palace is now an archeology Museum and the Paigah Palace houses the US Consulate.
6. Discover Spanish heritage
Where: The Spanish Mosque, Begumpet
The spectacular 106-year-old Spanish Mosque is one-of-a-kind in India. Located in the Begumpet neighbourhood of Hyderabad, the mosque was built by the Paigah Nawab Sir Iqbal Ud Daula. As the story goes, the Nawab visited Spain during his travels to Europe and was very impressed by the country. Inspired by the Cathedral-Mosque of Cordoba in Spain, he decided to erect a beautiful mosque. Read: These Monochromatic Pictures of Europe Will Give You Some Serious Wanderlust!
Those who love architecture will find the Spanish Mosque most fascinating. It displays a unique Hispanic (Moorish) style of architecture, which is seen nowhere else in the country. Towering above the mosque are spires (instead of the usual minarets or domes) which give a church-like appearance to the mosque.
7. Step back in time
Where: Paigah Tombs
History comes alive so beautifully at the glorious Paigah Tombs, where lie buried the nobility of the Paigah family. These magnificent white marble structures are decorated in stucco work and represent a spectrum of architectural styles – from Mughal to Greek, Persian, Rajasthani and Deccani style of architecture. The unique geometrical designs exhibit great craftsmanship.
Spend some time exploring the tombs and the surrounding areas, take in the thick air of history and heritage that hangs over them. Time seems to stand still here—take in the peace.
8.Explore Asia’s largest library
Where: Central State Library, Hyderabad
Hyderabad’s Central State Library is the largest library in Asia! It is located at Afzal Gunj on the banks of the River Musi, and houses over half a million books and magazines, including very rare palm-leaf manuscripts. The library itself is also a work of art, dating back to the late 19th century with an imposing, majestic architectural façade.
9. See the world’s tallest tricycle
Where: Sudha Cars Museum, Bahadurpur
Petrol heads will love visiting the Sudha Cars Museum in Bahadurpur, which houses an eclectic array of modified vehicles. The world’s tallest tricycle, shortest double decker bus and smallest bike are all on display at the museum. Additionally, the Museum houses some seriously wacky vehicles – cars and bikes in designs inspired by everything from basketball to desktop computers, fountain pens, billiards tables, flowers, brinjals, cameras, mushrooms and even a commode. Drop by for a fascinating day on wheels!
10. Celebrate Ramadan in Hyderabad
For a true view of the city coming alive in all its vivid colour, plan to visit Hyderabad during the Ramadan celebrations. You will see the city buzzing with festivities and cheer all around. The Charminar and the surrounding areas become a hotbed of activity all around. Thousands of small stalls spring up, selling a massive array of delicious Ramadan dishes, tantalizing desserts and beautiful trinkets. The energy and vibrancy of the place is tremendous! Read: Postcards from Pakistan
Do not miss out on tasting haleem, the dish that is synonymous with Ramadan celebrations. Walk by any iconic eatery and you will see massive brown pots ready to brew haleem! The best place to feast on haleem the legendary Pista House near Charminar – diehard fans swear by the haleem, travelling from far and wide to get a taste of it.
Apart from the usual desserts such as kheer and seviyon-ka-meetha, Hyderabad has some special Ramadan sweets as well.
Badam ki Jalli is a delicious traditional sweet, made from marzipan. Only a particular variety of local almonds is used to make this marzipan. The sweets have Urdu writings cut into pattern. Ashrafi is another special golden coloured sweet – made to look exactly like the special gold coins issued by the Nizam of Hyderabad during his rule.
This piece was originally published in Happy Flying, the in-flight magazine of Air Costa – March 2015
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