“A museum of cults and creeds, customs and culture, faiths and tongues, racial types and social systems… a museum not of dead things and material objects, but of living communities and spiritual systems, each evolving along its own lines”
A small mosque that adorns the top floor on the western side, the Charminar is Hyderabad’s most iconic landmark. Constructed in 1591, this beautiful structure derives its name from four intricately carved minarets, the ‘Four Minars’, each soaring to a height of 48.7m above the ground . This architectural marvel is situated in the heart of the city and is surrounded by markets that are a shopaholic’s heaven (more on that later). It is characteristic of Islamic architecture: powerful and unyielding from a distance, yet romantic and rich in detail as one closes in. Illuminated at night, the magnificent monument looks even more stunning.
Laad Bazaar- Chudi Bazaar
The Laad Bazaar or The Bangle Market is one of the city’s oldest and most colourful markets. Beginning at the foot of the Charminar, it consists of a huge array of Lehengas, Shararas, Pearls, immense yards fabric of all kinds, zari, mehendi, saris, dry fruits, spices, oysters, books, bangles of every kind and color imaginable, ethnic footwear and what have you. Shops in Laad Bazaar have been around for decades, even centuries, in some cases with many being run by the same family for three generations. An absolute must for those who want the local experience.
The heart of Hyderabad, the Hussain Sagar or Tank Bund is a much celebrated tourist attraction. Of course, any giant water body in the middle of a city is bound to draw attention, but the Hussain Sagar adds to its eye-grabbing value in the form of the enormous statue of Buddha that has been painstakingly erected in the middle of the lake. Surrounded on all sides by things to do and places to go, the Necklace Road that curves around the lake is one of the most popular hangouts in the city. A visit to Hussain Sagar is usually followed up by a quick stroll through Lumbini Park, NTR Garden, a snack at Eat Street (Minerva coffee shop is highly recommended) and a calm evening spent watching the sun set at Birla Mandir. The famous IMAX screen is also housed in the Prasads multiplex nearby.
A visit to Golconda and the neighboring Qutb Shahi Tombs is a must. Even though it is located in the outskirts of the city, the view of the city from atop the hill makes the trip well worth it. If the stones of this fort could talk they would have some tales to tell – this is where the city of Hyderabad traces its roots to, where the world’s biggest diamonds, including the Koh-i-Noor, were mined and where cannons used during Aurangzeb’s siege today flank the gates. Be sure not to miss the sound and light show that starts at 6:30 pm.
Ramoji Film City
Set in the outskirts of Hyderabad, the Ramoji Film city is a perfect way to lose yourself in a dream world. Every imaginable film set and location has been constructed on every inch of the 1000 acres this theme park rests on. A range of shows, such as a re-enactment of Sholay, are on at various times. If you’re in luck, you might even be Tollywood’s next big thing.
The beautiful Mecca Masjid is located just a hundred yards away from the Charminar. So named because the central arch was built from bricks brought in from Mecca, this magnificent edifice took nearly 80 years to build. The main hall of the Masjid is 75 feet high and 220 feet wide and 180 feet long. It accommodates ten thousand worshippers at a time, making it one of the biggest mosques in the country. The great hall has three walls, each with five arches that show the tourist attractions in Hyderabad. A huge pond and beautiful courtyard complete the serene picture.
You couldn’t possibly have planned to come here without setting some time aside for the Hyderabadi Biryani! Here’s a guide to our finest:
The aptly named Paradise hotel in Secunderabad is a 54-year-old homage to the city’s love of Biryani. If offers great Hyderabadi cuisine in a variety of settings, ranging from takeout to the opulent ‘Persis Gold’ and biryani so good, surrounding offices order in by the truckload.
If you are in the Charminar area however, few places could give you more authentic Hyderabadi food than Shadab restaurant on High Court road. A haunt for those in love with the old city, bustling native crowds, the lilting aroma of spices, crowded seating and the sound of whirring fans on a warm day make Shadab a culinary adventure. Few other things could make you feel more like a Hyderabadi. And then there is the biryani itself, which connoisseurs declare past compare.
Lastly, Bawarchi. A crowded dim lit restaurant on RTC-crossroad with waiters bumping into each other is a rather unlikely place to enjoy biryani, or so they’d have you believe. When the food arrives, you’d have to be mad to think of anything else. A perfect place to blend into the crowds and enjoy your biryani with red chilly gravy.
Famous Ice Cream
While the Moazzam Jahi Market is worth a visit by itself because of the history and culture (more importantly the tea, the furniture and the spices), Famous Ice Cream parlor takes the trip to a whole new level. Situated defiantly in the middle of a hectic crossroad, it is always bustling with people and yet accommodates everyone. The fresh fruit ice creams come in all flavors from chickkoo to musk melon to custard apple and mango, and will keep you going back for one generous helping after another.
In the same locality as Famous is that most crunchy heaven of baked goodness- Karachi Bakery, a 50 year old landmark in the city. Some say the bakery is more iconic of the city than Charminar itself. The pastries, cakes, brioche, foccasia are to die for. The biscuits, which come in flavours from fresh fruit to kaju are among Hyderabad’s major exports (no seriously, they sell them in the airport). Don’t bother asking for directions, just follow your nose.
Palaces & Museums
Salar Jung Museum
One of the three national museums of India, the Salar Jung museum is located on the southern banks of the Musi river, at Darushifa. It has a collection of sculptures, paintings, carvings, textiles, manuscripts, ceramics, metallic artifacts, carpets, clocks, and furniture from Japan, China, Burma, Nepal, India, Persia, Egypt, Europe, and North America. The museum’s collection was sourced from the property of the Salar Jung Family. The paintings of Ravi Verma are a visual delight as is a musical clock bought from Cook and Kelvy of England kept in the clock room. If you have a day to spend in the city, few places would make it as memorable as this museum.
Large Venetian chandeliers, rare furniture, grand marble staircases and gurgling fountains, priceless statues, stained-glass windows, unique sketches and murals encased in ornate frames, a world-class collection of crystal as well as the Mughal, Rajasthani and Japanese gardens – the former residence of the Nizam of Hyderabad makes you feel like you’ve walked right into history. Nestled in the heart of the city, this palace was built in 1894 and has since been used by the truly affluent. The Palace Library, a replica of the one at Windsor Castle, home to the rarest of manuscripts, books and one of the most acclaimed collections of the Holy Quran in the country, all of which were selected and brought back by the Nizam himself, is certainly a collector’s envy.