The tour of India continued with our visit to Historic Hyderabad. Located in the Telangana state of India, the metro city is perfect blend of culture, history, and modernism. Known as an IT hub of India with new micro-cities and buildings; the charm of the old palaces and museums provide the balance to the city’s rich history and the promise of a bright tomorrow. This visit mainly focused on visiting the ancient sites while enjoying the new nightlife.
What to do there
We began our tour with a visit to Golkonda Fort. Located in the western region of Old Hyderabad, the fort’s name is derived from its location on a hill. Construction initially began in the 14th century, though after many regime changes the fort gained its prominence during the Sultan Quli Qutb-ul-Mulk’s reign in the 16th century. Today, the fort serves a testament of Persian influence and Persian architecture on the city. Many famous diamonds, such as the Kohinoor, were mined in the Fort.
The Ibrahim Mosque in Golkonda Fort
There are several distinct forts within Golkonda, some with mounted cannons in the bastion. The tour consists of a visit to the Royal apartments, halls, stables, mosques, temples, and gateways. The fort is famous for the acoustic warning system, triggered by a hand clap at certain regions that can be heard a kilometer away. This system was used to warn the royals and the bodyguards in the event of an attack.
You have to visit the guest bedrooms to listen to the whispering walls. Located beneath the king’s room, the walls of the guest bedrooms were built in such a way that a conversation can be heard in the king’s room. Try it by going to a corner of the wall, and asking some to whisper something in another corner; you’ll hear it perfectly clear. At Golkonda, even the walls have ears.
Hacking Tip: The fort is open daily, and I recommend getting a guide to make the most of your experience. You’ll find both ‘certified’ and ‘non-certified’ guides, though haggling is easier with a non-certified guide. Expect to pay different entry fees for citizens and non-citizens of India. There is a hike involved in the fort, so come prepared with comfortable walking shoes and some bottled water for the heat. I recommend finishing the lower areas of the fort before the hike, and visiting the fort early in the day when it’s less crowded.
Located close to the Golkonda Fort are the tombs of various kings of the Qutb Shahi dynasty. These tombs are visible from the fort, and a quick drive lets you experience the dome structures created to commemorate the life and death of the kings.
Tomb of Sultan Quli Qutb Shah
Built on a square base with a pointed arch on the dome, the tomb of Sultan Quli Qutb Shah sets the standard for his descendants. The mausoleums were once furnished with carpets and chandeliers, for royal visitors to attend, pray, and pay their respects. The mortuary bath, was later installed to facilitate the ritual washing of bodies prior to their final rest in the mausoleum.
Hyderabad is known for their famous Biryani, a mixed rice dish prepared with spices, meat, vegetables, and egg. Everyone has their opinion of the best biryani in Hyderabad, though I am partial to Biryaniwalla & Co. Located in Banjara Hills, try their vegetarian biryani, and you’ll feel centuries of history culture in each bite.
Hyderabad has a great brewery scene, and to taste it firsthand we went to Zero40 Brewing. Located in Jubilee Hill, the pub is great for spending time with your friends while enjoying a flight of the different beers they offer. A great way to end the first night in Hyderabad as we sat on the rooftop with American 70s rock music, and chugging some ‘Vincent Van Goat’ Weizenbock.
The next day we continued our tour of Old Hyderabad and stopped at Charminar. Named after the four intricate minarets that decorate the monument, the construction was complete in the late 16th century to mark the new capital of Muhammed Quli Qutb Shah.
The Capital of Old Hyderabad
One of the most recognized monuments in Hyderabad, Charminar is famous for its central location in the market. The mosque on the second floor is frequently visited, especially during major festivals. The structure continually goes through renovations and repairs.
After visiting Charminar, we made our way to the marvelous Salar Jung Musuem. The Nizam, beginning with the rule of Asaf Jah in the early 18th century, ruled Hyderabad until India’s independence in 1947. The museum is a collection of artifacts that were collected by Salar Jung III, that are donated to the city after his death. The museum has an amazing collection of paintings, carvings, furniture, and weapons from around the world. You can easily spend a day visiting the different floors and wings of the museum based on your interest.
Ivory Taj Mahal at Salar Jung Musuem
Hacking Tip: The museum also charges a different rate for citizens and non-citizens. I recommend setting aside at least 2-3 hours to completely experience the different regions and areas of the museum. You can explore the museum without a guide, though prepare to wait on crowds later in the day.
After the museum, we headed to Jubilee Hills for a quick bite at Lé Vantage Café. You will find Europe in Hyderabad, as the beautifully decorated café serves as a perfect spot for a lunch date. Enjoy the pasta or pizza options with wine as you unwind from the city tour.
Part of Paris in Jubilee Hills
The final spot on our list was checking out the Ramoji Film City. Recognized as the largest film studio complex in the world, the city contains sets from famous Bollywood and Tollywood movies. Set aside most of the day to truly enjoy the sets, stages, and amusement parks. A great way to end the trip for a movie buff like me, take time to enjoy Ramoji Rao’s gift to celluloid fans around the world.
One of the many period sets in Ramoji Film City
Additional things to do
To make the most of your trip, the following are additional sights to see in and around Hyderabad:
Chowmahalla Palace – Nizam’s four palaces, now a UNESCO Heritage site
Falaknuma Palace – grand palace known for its great restaurant
Makkah Masjid – one of the biggest mosques in India, located in Old Hyderabad
Hussain Sagar/Buddha Statue – a grand Buddha statue located in a heart shaped lake
The food scene in Hyderabad is modern and creative. Below are some of the spots worth checking out:
Roastery Coffee House – great ambiance for coffee and more
Fat Pigeon – casual bar scene with various options for bites
Vapour – pub with good brews and finger food
Mekong – vegan and vegetarian friendly Vietnamese and Cambodian restaurant
Jewel of Nizam – upscale Hyderabadi and Mughlai cuisine
Haiku – taste of Japan in a casual setting
How to get there
There are many ways to reach Hyderabad. The Rajiv Gandhi International airport serves both domestic and international flights. The airport is accessible by many international ports, so you’re just a quick flight away. Ride sharing options are ubiquitous in Hyderabad, so don’t worry about renting a car.
Hyderabad is know for it’s heat during the summer, so I recommend visiting during late Fall and early Winter to make the most of your trip.
Where to stay
There are plenty of hotels across Hyderabad that make it easy to enjoy the city. We recommend staying close to Jubilee and Banjara Hills, to truly enjoy the bustling city with great restaurant/bar options.
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