My Experiential Travel Guide to Hyderabad, The City of Nawabs

When I visited Hyderabad twice this summer for a visa, I thought that I would not write about this city. Not because it didn’t have enough archaic domes, stone-carved mosques, vast green lawns around centuries-old tombs, skeptical animals running in the rare thickets, crows and pigeons clouding the grey sky, flaky flavorful pastries crowding old bakeries, robust fort walls that sprawled through the city, ginger tea being sold at every nook and corner, and historic buildings standing bright and beautiful as proud queens amongst the hustle and bustle of an old bazaar.

But because the city was orthodox as per my ever-widening and independent taste. Men ogled women freely, while their wives roamed around the city fully-clad. Hoards of men crowded the corner shops and the streets while the women were not to be seen. I even saw an old Muslim man point out to me and tell his son that the style of clothes I was wearing (a pink top and three-fourth jeans) weren’t decent. Though delicacies sent out a spicy fragrance in every corner of this Nawabi town, we had a hard time finding delicious vegetarian food.

travel guide hyderabad

 

travel guide hyderabad

 

travel guide hyderabad

 

travel guide hyderabad

Then I decided against my intuition of not writing a travel guide about Hyderabad. After all, a writer’s job is to let everyone know the reality, the good and the bad while writing it in a manner that even a tragic tale becomes a golden and epic story (think Romeo-Juliet, a couple whose fatal story every other romantic pair wants to relive).

Also, as you would see, Hyderabad was so much more than the hypocritical society. And if we are talking about not being perfect, let me tell you that men stalked me and called me out even in the artistic lanes of Paris and London.

So, here we go.

Also read: My Love and Hate Relationship With the Colorful India – A Story and Memory Postcards.

 

travel guide hyderabad

 

travel guide hyderabad

 

The bustling city of Hyderabad was a mix of quaint corners and rustic biryani and Irani tea joints outside which people crowded as honeybees swarm around their nest. Walking around was a different experience even for me — a small town Indian girl — who has seen enough old Indian cities.

Read through if you want to get a taste of the cultural heritage of Hyderabad.

Make Golconda fort a part of your itinerary — Doesn’t matter how many forts you have seen, each Indian fort still has something unique to offer. The fascinating part of this fort, for me, was its nine walls which sprawl through the city, as if they still protect it from the invaders. Though one of the building was closed due to renovation, we climbed up a temple, and then to the canyons at the top, and could see the shining city, the Qutub tombs, the Charminar, and the sinewy walls of the forts from up there.

Not many people know that the famous and disputed diamond Kohinoor was mined from one of the mines of the Golconda region of Hyderabad. The diamonds excavated from the mines of Golconda proved lucky for the Qutub Shahis, who ruled Hyderabad up to 1687, and the Nizams, who ruled the city until the independence, when the Indian constitution integrated the princely state of Hyderabad with India.

We went to the fort at 9 am to avoid the heat, but the Nawabi sun glowed us on so hard that we were sweating in no time. To my surprise, though the venue promises to be plastic free, vendors freely sold small plastic bags of water to quench the thirst of the tired visitors.

The fort would be crowded on holidays, so maybe try visiting on a weekday. Make sure you take water and some food which you can enjoy at a shaded corner of the fort. Walk at your pace, look at the stone carvings and the intricate architecture which was designed to bring in fresh air from all the directions to keep the fort cool in the sultry weather.

 

travel guide hyderabad

 

travel guide hyderabad

 

travel guide hyderabad

 

travel guide hyderabad

 

Relax in the Qutub Tombs — The idea might sound strange, but the Shahi Qutub tombs offered the peace that we were desperately searching in the bustling town. Seven graves and a large open area around them, in which only a few people strolled or relaxed, were perfect to spend a scorching summer afternoon and to see the golden sunlight scattering off the tops of the intricately carved domes, while pigeons gave a dramatic appearance whenever we craned our necks to look up.

The tombs are surrounded by dense landscaped gardens which host tall trees, and you can freely walk around catching butterflies, listening to the chatty parrots, and tracing the cuckoo as she sings and flutters from one tree to another. We also found some muddy paths in between the dense foliage; if we were only a bit more silent, we could have seen that family of animals that ran when we stumbled onto one of those paths, which was probably their everyday walkway.

We spend around three to four hours in those tombs, ate some guavas that we brought along, watched the sky going orange from grey, and breathed in peace. Take along some water and a bedsheet and some sandwiches or buy some samosas from the street and savor them as you enjoy these quaint beauties.

Also Read: The Historic and Breathtaking Angkor Wat – Wrapped in a Photo Essay and Mystical Mythology

 

travel guide hyderabad

 

travel guide hyderabad

 

travel guide hyderabad

 

travel guide hyderabad

 

travel guide hyderabad

 

travel guide hyderabad

 

Absorb the grandeur of the Chowmallah Palace — Visiting the palace could be a clichéd thing to do, but we wanted to see the grandeur and the lifestyle of the Nizams, who lived in the Chowmallah palace during their ruling years from 1700’s until the partition and also hosted their royal guests in the palace. Now the mansion is a public museum which the eighth Nizam inaugurated in 2005.

Some parts of the four mahals were for dancing and entertainment, while some were to offer the best views of the city to the guests. Large fountains and lawns adorned the mahals from all sides, and pigeons freely bathed and splashed around in the water fountains, while a few cats drooled over the fresh pigeons.

The exotic cars used by the Nizamas are now on display in the palace, and you can also see the glass chandeliers, weapons, porcelain, jewelry, and many more royal remains in the museum.

 

travel guide hyderabad

 

travel guide hyderabad

 

travel guide hyderabad

 

Charminar and the Lad Bazaar—We got a chance to see the Charminar on the independence day when it was lit with the freedom lights and stood gloriously amongst the crowd and the surrounding Lad bazaar.

As per Wikipedia and the history book of Hyderabad “Days of the Beloved,” Qutb Shah constructed the Charminar in the year 1589, on the very spot where he saw his future queen for the first time. While laying the foundation of Charminar, Qutub Shah, an early poet of Urdu, recited this prayer in Dakhini Urdu,

 میرا شہر لوگوں سے مامور کر
راكهيو جوتو دريا میں مچھلی جيسے

Which reads like this in English,

Fill this city of mine with people as,

You filled the river with fishes O Lord.

In the Lad Bazaar, you would find yourself surrounded by embroidered clothes, glass bangles, colorful silk dupattas, gold, silver, and artificial jewelry, artistic bags, hand-stitched footwear, paintings, colorful umbrellas, and stalls of Nizami food, sugarcane juice, fruits, chaats, shawarmas, and so much more.

The market is lit at night, and hundreds of people head to the market for an evening meal or to purchase a pair of golden earrings to match their white salwar-kameez or to drink a glass of fresh sugar cane juice or to gorge on some kulfi while walking around the imposing Charminar. To each its own.

If you visit this bustling part of the town, make sure to get a cup of the Irani chai from the cafe behind the Charminar and sip it while watching the old and the new Hyderabad live in peace together.

Also Read: Peru – In the Golden Foliage of Poetry and Pictures.

 

travel guide hyderabad

 

travel guide hyderabad

 

travel guide hyderabad

 

travel guide hyderabad

 

These were the main historical places that I visited during my 4–5 days visit in Hyderabad. We also went to Hussain Sagar, for we stayed nearby, but the enormous amounts of plastic that people had thrown around the lake disappointed us.

And as I always say, walk around to see the real city. Go to the malls, stroll in the streets, take a rickshaw and let the driver drive you to unknown places without any specific destination in mind, look at the map and find the green areas or the nearby hills and climb one of them, and needless to say, follow the food.

 

travel guide hyderabad

 

The food scene of Hyderabad —

Though Hyderabad is famous for the rich Mughlai and Nizami food, I could only taste so much as I had recently turned a vegetarian, and the Hyderabadi biryani joints and Mughlai places don’t offer much to a vegetarian.

But an even bigger problem was finding a restaurant while walking, partly due to the heat and partly due to the rare vegetarian restaurants. We walked and walked, and all we could find was chicken and mutton biryani places and corner joints selling keema naan or seekh kebab. Or swarms of men drank Irani chai outside shabby restaurants with dusty fans and faded wooden benches and chairs. Of course, we sat in some of those places, if not to eat, but to at least drink some chai and watch the Hyderbadi crowd.

And many times we searched for a place on Zomato and then walked to it or took a cab.

One such place was Lamakaans, which was close to the GKV Inox in Banjara Hills. Lamakaans was a rustic community place which encouraged arts, theatre, social work, and entrepreneurship. Big Gulmohar trees overshadowed the huge mud complex of the cafe in which stacks of chairs and tables were kept; Entrepreneurs and artists and college friends came, assembled their chairs, and sat and drank tea and ate samosas, or just thought and stared the sky or at the floor.

We gorged on the tasty and cheap khatti dal, aloo bonda, rice, samosa, chilly bhajji, nimbu pani, and tea under a tree.

We also ate at a fancy place called the Jewels of Nizam (in Golconda hotel) where we enjoyed naan, khameeri roti, buttermilk, and two Mughlai sabjis while two maestros played classical tabla and sitar. But I wouldn’t say that the prices matched the service, ambiance, or food of the place.

Santhosh’s family Dhaba’s name popped up in Zomato when we looked for a vegetarian restaurant, but the place was anything but a dhaba. The methi Chaman and the green peas and mushroom curries that we ordered swam in golden oil, and as I tilted the plate to serve the gravy to my friend, the oil dripped on my hand and the tablecloth. On top of that, the toilets were broken and dirty.

We also ate at the food court of the GKV Inox as we saw two movies back to back in the Inox for cheap as Hyderabad has a rule on the ticket prices. While I was dreaming about Tom cruise, much to my friend’s dismay, we gorged on a vegetarian uruvachari biryani, noodles, and gobhi Manchurian. The biryani was delicious, like all the other Andhra food.

Chutneys is a popular South Indian joint, and we ordered breakfast from there, but I spilled a plateful of dosas and green and red chutneys on my salwar and had to change right before our US visa interview. Of course, I ate the rest of the chutneys, and they tasted authentic and delicious.

Cafes and bakeries were in abundance in the city, but we couldn’t eat at most of them for the food was mostly non-vegetarian. Like the favorite Shah Ghouse cafe which we skipped when we saw the menu and the men crowding the entrance and the insides. But we did eat local delicacies such as veg puff, mushroom patty, cream rolls, potato patty at the small corner side bakeries.

While leaving for our bus, we ate at a South Indian street food joint in the Lad bazaar and drank sugarcane juice. Oh! how I miss the fresh, pure, and mildly sweet sugarcane juice of Hyderabad.

Also Read: What Made Me Become a Part-Time Chef Even Though I had a Regular IT Job.

 

travel guide hyderabad

travel guide hyderabad

 

traveling guide hyderabad

 

Places to stay —

We booked Treebo hotel, but the hotel chain doesn’t allow unmarried couples to stay, so we canceled and booked the Shobha serviced apartments which are right opposite the US consulate office ( in case you are visiting for obtaining a US visa). The breakfast was okay, but the manager and the staff were lovely.

Also Read: How to Score a US Tourist Visa on an Indian Passport – The Real Process and the Broken Myths

General tips —

Internet was a little slow in Hyderabad, and amongst the two of us, I won most of the competitions. Be patient.

We had trouble finding toilet paper. So take yours.

If you wish to spend your last evening at the Charminar and the Lad bazaar and before leaving Hyderabad and are thinking where to brush and freshen up before your travel, you can go to a quaint CCD in the  Bazaar, as the market doesn’t offer any other clean bathroom.

 

travel guide hyderabad

 

Do visit the city, walk around in the streets, and indulge in the Nawabi flavors of biryani, kebabs, and chai or the spicy Andhra meals if you are a vegetarian like me. And let me know how you liked the place.

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travel guide hyderabad

Have you visited Hyderabad or are planning to go there? Would love to hear your experience in comments.

*Note: This post contains an affiliate link; if you choose to click through and make a booking, I will earn a little bit at no extra cost to you. It is entirely up to you if you decide to make the booking.

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  1. Pingback: How to Apply for US Tourist Visa from India – The Real Process and the Broken Myths - Let's Look at It Differently

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