Top 20 Things To Do In Hyderabad As Told By A Local

Today, 3.5 years into having adopted it as my home, Hyderabad is my favourite city in India and for me, one of the best places to live in the world. Why? For starters, I got my first job here, a lot of other firsts, my own home, and a whole lot of experiences that I’ll cherish for the rest of my life. However this blogpost is to help those who are at a loss about things to do here and to see the city beyond the Biryani and Charminar, which not to say, you shouldn’t try, by all means do, but to realise how much more this magnificent city has to offer. From housing some of the world’s top corporations to the biggest bungalows you’ll see, and yet being home to a rich, royal, glorious past, Hyderabad is the perfect symbol of modernity interspersed with history and heritage. While not a conventional choice for most travelling to or around India, Hyderabad manages to surprise and enthrall most everyone who visits and is probably one of the best hidden treasures in the country. It’s not for nothing that Hyderabad was included as one of the “Top cities to visit in 2013” in Lonely Planet.

Here are, (In my book) top experiences, which whether you’re a traveller or a local have to try when in Hyderabad.

1. Taj Falaknuma Palace

Falaknuma palace, Hyderabad

A jewel in the crown of Nizami Royalty, Falaknuma palace was owned by Qutub Asaf Jahi in the 17th century and recently expertly refurbished and renovated by the Taj group of hotels. In their own words “Retrace the steps of Nizams, European royalty, enchanting Begums, distinguished Heads of State and walk the walk of Kings through this Palace in the sky. 2000 feet above Hyderabad”
Right from the majestic archway entrance to the chariot ride till the main building everything spells luxury and class. The interior is particularly impressive and features the works of Florentine sculptors and a 100-seater grand Dining Table. You can only go for a High tea or a dinner and be willing to pay a fortune but having been there multiple times, I can truly say it was worth the money.
Where else in India could you be dining where the Royals once dined, smoke a sheesha, look at the galaxy of lights far out in the distance, down below you?2. Drive around KBR park

The KBR stretch runs in a circumference of about 11kms and the temperature automatically drops about 5degrees once you’re around the park. The entire Banjara and Jubilee hills ‘loop’ is spotless, clean and lush green with the trees from the park canopying the roads at times. My favourite part? The undulatory pattern of the roads, go a little fast and you feel like you’re on a rollercoaster. I have not been to SFO but I have a feeling that’s how driving around it feels too. Grab a midnight tea at road 10 or at some other stall enroute to complete the experience.

3. LaMakaan

Now, here’s one place I’v patronised over the years in Hyderabad. Usually I’m not a cafe person, especially if the cafe involves paying a 100 rupees for a cappuccino. And LaMakaan by no means is that. In their own words, Lamakaan is an inclusive cultural space that promotes and presents the best of arts, literature, theatre, debate and dialogue with a commitment to being open and accessible. Catch an amateur or a best-selling play or a Jazz gig at its stage against the backdrop of boulders, right in the centre of Banjara hills in an unpretentious setting.  If that doesn’t motivate you to go, the fact that a 10rs chai and 20rs samosa plate lets you sit in the cafe for hours over a book or in discussion with friends or strangers makes the place absolutely irresistible.

4.  Qutub Shahi Tombs: 

Qutb Shahi tombs, Hyderabad

 

Built by the Qutb Shahi Dynasty and tucked away in the old part of the city, close to the Golkonda fort, are these group of 8 main tombs and many smaller tombs. You can spend a whole day at this place, tomb-hopping, sitting in the well maintained garden with a book or just watching the world go by, children playing cricket at the cemetery.

5. An evening by the Osmania/Himayat Sagar lake

If you love long drives with friends in a car with good music as much as I do, you’d love this. These lakes are a bit apart from each other but both are wonderful to sit by, on a secluded corner on the boulders, late into the night, gaze at the millions of star visible in the night sky and just absorb all that nature has to offer, right in the city, yet away from it.

6. A dinner with live music and cocotails at Coco’s

Coco's Hyderabad

If you know me, you know that I would not miss out on mentioning this post. I’ve lost the number of times I’ve been here, maybe my 100 facebook check-ins and status msgs gloating about this place would help.
I’ve been here on dates, with friends, with strangers and when I have been a self-appointed tourist guide and one thing that’s remained common is everyone I’ve taken there has loved it! What’s not to love about a rooftop restaurant/bar with thatched roofs, pebbles for floor, low ambient lighting, great selection of drinks ( the ‘cocotails’ are a must-try) AND live music by some really really talented musicians?
Nothing. If that wasn’t enough, the place happens to be in Banjara hills opposite the KBR park, giving it just the perfect location and weather advantage.

7. Shopping at Shilparamam

Tucked in the middle of the concrete jungles of Hitech city and Kondapur is this sprawling traditional handicrafts and culture village. Lanes dotted with stalls selling everything from Pashmina shawls to Madhubani paintings to modern export-reject clothing, this place has it all, and at some really attractive non-showroom prices. Make sure to bargain the prices, but just a little. Whether you’re looking to do up your own house or buy gifts & souvenirs for people back home, a trip to Shilparamam would always see you come back loaded with bric-a-brac.
Even if shopping does not excite you much and/or you have a lot of time to kill beyond the shopping, you can catch a cultural show or go for boating in the mini pond in the park. The convention hall next door may also be holding an exhibition or a performance on the weekend.8. Golkonda Fort

 

While wikipedia is a better source for more complex historical details on this fort, suffice to say, this is a 13th century fort built by the Kakatiya dynasty, and was the main fort protecting the Qutb Shahi dynasty later in the years. Apparently, the Golconda fort used to have a vault where once the famous Kohinoor and Hope diamonds were stored along with other diamonds. 
Today, apart from making for a splendid sight for photography and sightseeing, it’s great for a hike on a Sunday, go all the way to the top if you’re feeling adventurous and catch the sound and light show in the evening to get a live sound tour of the place with  an expert.9. Birla Temple

Mostly all guidebooks include this as a must visit in Hyderabad and rightly so.
The temple is set atop a hill and will swoon you over with its delicate work on the white marble and just the sheer grandeur of it. Dedicated to Lord Venkat and funded by the Birla Family, the temple is as beautiful in the day as it is in the night when the it’s lit up. You can see the Hussein Sagar lake from the temple’s balcony and patio.10. The Google office

Hyderabad is home to the Indian headquarters of this corporate giant, among others, and true to its global reputation, the Hyderabad office does not fail to impress. Get hold of a Googler friend, and have them take you inside for a buffet lunch that compares to any gourmet restaurant, with at least a 50 dishes on any given day, live pasta counters, and all for FREE! Who said there’s no such thing as a free lunch? Take a tour around the office, come back impressed with the whole Non-office feel of the place. See art deco funky furniture from all over the globe, ‘hipster’ employees rushing about to meetings with redbulls and cappuccinos in hand, or just spot a facilities staff putting out a Rangoli for the upcoming festival or event at office. Realise that the coolest company online is even cooler, offline. 

11. Hussein Sagar Lake

You probably remember the lake as the lake with the ‘Big Buddha Statue’ and indeed it’s famous for that. However spend a whole evening or even a day here and you will see its quaint charm beyond the Buddha. In the evening, the reflection of the changing lights on the statue itself and from the buildings reflects in the waters of the lake, making it one of the most beautiful sights to behond and capture on the lens, if you will. Walk the boulevard around the lake or sit at the lawns by the lake, grab a tea or snacks or head to the famous ‘Eat Street’ to grab a bite, sit a table right by the lake and munch while you sit and admire the view beyond. If you’re feeling a bit posh, hop over to the next door Waterfront restaurant for a classy open air ambience with the same view of the lake.

12. Chowmahalla Palace

Chowmahalla palace, Hyderabad

Right near its more famous counterpart, Charminar, lies the palace residence of the Nizams themselves. As you enter through the humungous wooden gates to the palace, you walk through a never ending corridor around the central courtyard of the palace.
The palace itself, in all its yellow and intricate embellished walls looks elegant and grand and a visit inside it would confirm. Tall chandeliers hang from the ceilings while every inch of the walls is etched with delicate patterns and carvings. Some of the Nizam’s merchandize from back in the day, is on display for you to see how rich & opulent the Nizams actually were. Behind the palace is the Royal Garage with vintage cars like Rolls Royce, buicks and what were once, horse-drawn chariots parked, in all their historic glory and macho.

13. Midnight Snacking at DLF 

By this I don’t mean barging into the DLF office but actually the lane of small eateries opposite the building’s compound. They are open till late into the night and sell everything from Shawarmas, to kaati rolls to tea and coffee. Quite probably you could take care of those post party munchies for less than 100rs a person all while sitting in your car. A drive back into the city would entail passing the hitech city to transport you into another 1st world altogether with rows of modern buildings & offices and broad, well-maintained roads

14. A walk through old city during Ramzan

Night bazaar market Charminar Hyderabad

Come Ramzaan and the city goes into festive food.  Even though it’s a muslim festival, the food and festivities are enjoyed by everyone beyond the realms of faith. Expect to find a ‘haleem’ stall every 10 metres along the roads, the restaurants decked up with fairy lights and such and almost every place worth tis weight in gold putting out a special ramzaan special haleem and biryani while the ladies busy themselves with bangles and clothes shopping at the famous laad bazaar.

15. A walk in the KBR Park

While I earlier spoke highly of the drive around the park, the park itself is a wonderful place to spend a day or half. Hyderabad’s answer to NYC’s central park, if you will.  Established in 1994 in order to protect the biodiversity and richness of the area it is on, the Kasu Brahamananda Reddy National Park covers about 156 hectares of land right smack in Hyderabad’s Jubilee Hills and has hundreds of plant and bird species. The park provides an excellent and much needed breathing space in a concrete jungle! You might be even lucky enough to spot a few peacocks in monsoons. After you’ve burned off the calories jogging or running around the park, treat yourself with a healthy juice or a sub at one of the many eateries just along the park. 

16. Gorge on the famous Hyderabadi Biryani

Biryani is to Hyderabad what ramen is to Japan or pasta to Italy. Any true blooded Hyderabadi would tell you that a Hyderabadi experience is incomplete without a trip to the many Biryani joints in the city, especially paradise. And once you dig in the succulent, savory goodness of basmati rice, flavoured with saffron & other spices and layered with vegetables or meat with a spicy “Mirchi Salem” for gravy, you vouch for every bit of it.
Not only is Biryani the food ambassador of Hyderabad, but the city prides itself on being one of the highest consumers of it in the whole world. Apparently 6 lac packets of Biryani are consumed every day in Hyderabad, the number only shooting up during Ramzan and other Eids. Many upscale restaurants in the city boast of a ‘midnight biryani buffets’ making for perfect post-party plans. Flying back out of the town? Carry back a pack, for people back home and let them have a Hyderabad party in their mouths too. 17. Clubbing

Now the Hyderabad nightlife isn’t really comparable to say a New York or Tokyo or even Bombay. But the good part is, Hyderabad does stay open till midnight and some places even hours beyond it. The city is full of great clubs and lounges all around, most of them housed in 5 stars while some run independently. Some of my favorites are Aqua at The Park hotel, Sky Lounge at Avasa hotel, Rain in Jubilee hills, 10D for retro nights on Fridays, Cuba Libre in the GVK one mall for some Salsa and Over The Moon in Jubilee hills.
Dont be surprised to spot some of Hyderabad’s famous faces, expats, and models at most of these places. The drinks are rather reasonable between 200-400 a beer and the music is largely house and techno with some places that play hip hop and rock depending on the day of the week. 18. Eating out

Thanks to all its references, eating out in Hyderabad has come to be characterized by biryani but let that not trick you into believing that Hyderabad does not have outside-Biryani options!
Like the Biryani, Hyderabad is home to a lot of culinary delights of its own like the Haleem, the dessert “khubani ka meetha”, choicest of kebabs & shawarmas & of course the spicy Andhra Meals! 
On the other hand, you have restaurants specializing from Mexican, Greek, Italian, Lebanese, Japanese to the traditional Andhra meals to ‘Chinese bandis’ on the roadside for every occasion, time and budget. For some excellent buffets, try Westin, Novotel, the Park or the Taj hotels. 
A meal at the aforementioned Falaknuma palace might set back your pocket by a bit, but it’ll also be one of the most memorable meals of your life as will a take-away biryani or shawarmas from a hole in the wall.19. Adventure at Moula Ali & Bhongir Fort

This one is for the adventure buffs. 
The Moula Ali hill is home to a mosque called the Moulali Darga, built probably during era of Asif Jahi. Maula-Ali hillocks is largely rocky with undulating terrainm reachable by a flight of 400 stairs!
Join a meetup group GHAC or set off on your own.
Similarly, the Bhongir fort, an hour’s drive from the city, makes for an excellent choice for a trek or bouldering.

20 Go, go check off Charminar
Charminar hyderabad
And of course, cliched as it is, no Hyderabadi experience would be complete without a trip to the Charminar, 400-year-old structure,  in all its famed, crowded, and iconic glory. There are various theories regarding the purpose for which Charminar was constructed. However, it is widely accepted that Charminar was built at the center of the city, to commemorate the eradication of plague”, as Qutb Shah had prayed for the end of a plague that was ravaging his city and vowed to build a Mosque at the very place where he prayed. Today, old, defaced with graffiti and stained as it is, it is still the cynosure of Hyderabad, its most iconic mascot and quite the imposing structure it look like in the photos.Through a narrow stone stairwell, one can go on first level of the ‘Minar & gaze at the crowded old city beyond, with a view of the Mecca Maszid adjacent, the Osmania Hospital, rows and rows of autos and throngs of pigeons all over in the sky and ground and in between.

These were but my favourite things to see and do in Hyderabad. Of course the city has even more to offer and like a poem, it means different things to different people.
Set out to explore the city and run into its old world gems or its 21st century features and everything in between and maybe you would love it as much as I do.

P.s: All content and photos on this page are my own, and in no way can/should be replicated/copied or duplicated without my permission or due credits.

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1 Response

  1. Mayank says:

    Having lived in the city for couple of years, still not explored most of the listed places. Thanks for info though! must do it soon.


    Mayank (@thepotenza)
    (Found your link via twitter)