A city of contrasts, Hyderabad exudes an old-world charm of its own with the Old City (Charminar side), Hitech City (Cyberabad) and the other areas lying between the old and the new. The capital and the largest city of Telanaga, Hyderabad is home to stately mosques and noisy bazaars lined parallelly alongside swanky new office buildings and malls, and it is these very contrasts – these glimpses into the city’s rich past with inherent promises of an even better future –that make Hyderabad a city worth visiting. Maybe even more than once.
The city of pearls and biryani, Hyderabad is home to one of the most iconic landmarks – the charminar. Translating to ‘four minarets’, the grand edifice is built entirely out of limestone and granite, with four minarets on four sides, each of them facing a different street. The Charminar stands in a labyrinth of lanes crammed with shops, markets, stalls and shoppers – one of the best places to shop for the authentic pearls and relish the tasty biryanis, skewer kebabs and haleem (the smorgasbord of food that Hyderabad is known for).
The other side of Hyderabad – HiTech City or Cyberabad – is a stark contrast to the Old City. The area teems with grand malls, pulsating clubs, sleek restaurants and hi-rise buildings of the every-growing multinationals. Between the old and new lie the popular city areas of Banjara Hills and Jubilee Hills flanked on the northeast by secundarabad. Hyderabad and Secunderabad together are still referred to as the “twin cities”, though they are practically one now.
Hyderabad pulsates with a spectacular mix of people and traditions. Make a journey through this mind-stirring metropolis and be ready to be amazed, frustrated, confounded and thrilled, all at once!
An identifying feature of the city, Charminar is the most prominent landmark located right in the heart of Hyderabad. The monument was erected by Quli Qutub Shah to signify the founding of Hyderabad. As is evident from the structure, it was so named as it consists of four minarets. Although it lies right in the centre of the city with traffic and crowds milling all about it, Charminar certainly manages to hold the gaze. It is also famous for the market that sprawls around it and is called ‘Laad’ or ‘Chudi’ Bazaar.
Since the construction of the monument in 1591, Charminar has been synonymous with the culture of Hyderabad standing tall as a reminder of the glorious days of the past era. It is a massive structure which has four minarets which many believe stand for the first four ‘khalifas’ (Prophets) of Islam. Towards the north of the monument, there are four gateways known as Char Kaman which have been constructed in the cardinal directions. The structure was intended to serve as a Madrasa or a Mosque. In its present form, Charminar, along with Qutub Shahi Tombs and the Golconda Fort, has been added to the ‘tentative list’ of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Situated in the Western part of the beautiful city of Hyderabad at a distance of approximately 9 km from Hussain Sagar Lake, Golconda Fort is one of the region’s best-preserved monuments. The construction of this fort was completed in the 1600s and it is reputed for being the area where once, the mighty Koh-I-Noor diamond was stored. It is said that if you clap your hands at the bottom of the fort, the echoes of it can be heard right to the top! The architecture, the legends, the history, and the mystery of Golconda Fort add to its allure and make it one of the must-visit places in Hyderabad.
The mines here are known to produce some of the most coveted and popular gems ever known in the world such as Idol’s Eye, the Hope Diamond, Darya-i-noor and the famous Koo-i-noor.
In the evening, Golconda Fort comes to life with the light and sound show which showcases snippets from its regal past. The grandeur, the rise, and the fall of the fort are all spectacular in their own right. With its fascinating history, the place is definitely worth a visit.
Ramoji Film city
A place that is perfect for all the lovers of cinema and Bollywood! Set up by Ramoji Rao, the head of Ramoji group in 1991, Ramoji Film City is a spectacular getaway a little outside the city of Hyderabad. It is spread over 2500 acres and has been certified as the World’s largest Film Studio Complex by the Guinness Book of World Records. Ramoji Film City can accommodate 20 film units at one go and has various shooting locations including London Street, Hollywood signage, Japanese gardens, airport, hospital, landscapes and buildings as well as laboratories. Being one of the most popular places to visit in Hyderabad, one can reach Ramoji Film City through a number of packaged tours and buses that leave regularly from the city.
Ramoji Film City is a fun and diverse venue where you can indulge in a number of activities ranging from film city tours to adventure sports and toy train rides to a number of gardens. Smaller renditions of famous monuments in the country such as the Amer Palace are also present here. What’s more, you can also stroll through a number of other sets and settings such as royal courts and other locations that have drawn inspiration from different architectures throughout the world. If you decide to visit this destination, after all, be sure to keep aside an entire day for this fun-filled location!
Hussain Sagar Lake
Renowned as Asia’s largest artificial lake, Hussain Sagar Lake is one of the most popular tourist attractions located in Hyderabad. The lake itself was commissioned by Ibrahim Quli Qutub Shah in 1563 and is renowned for its monolith of Lord Buddha that stands right in its centre. Incidentally, this monolith structure is the tallest of its kind in the world! Hussain Sagar lake is also Called Tank Bund and lies on a tributary of River Musi. The attraction also has 3 km long dam wall and connects the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad. It is bordered by Indira Park, Sanjeevaiah Park, and Lumbini Park on 3 sides and is truly a relaxing and calming getaway from the city.
Although the Hussain Sagar Lake is popular for activities such as fish culture, water sports and boat rides, the major attraction of the lake is a monolithic Buddha statue situated right at the heart of the lake. The statue of Buddha was installed in the year 1992 and was inaugurated by His Holiness Dalai Lama himself. Standing at the Tank Bund, you can see the whole lake shimmering around you as the lights sparkle on the shore. Thus, the road is also known as the ‘Necklace Road’. Owing to its unique heart-shaped outline, the Hussain Sagar Lake has been declared as the ‘Heart of the World’ by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).
The Birla Mandir in Hyderabad forms a pleasant serene atmosphere and is a perfect place for those who wish to get away from the city life and immerse themselves in prayer and meditation. Created in 1976 by Swami Renganathananda from Ramakrishna Ashram and constructed by the Birla Foundation, the Birla Mandir has been a safe haven for all those looking for a few hours of peace amongst the glorious landscape. The Mandir is dedicated to the Lord Venkateshwara of Tirumala and is in fact modelled after and is the replica of the idol of Balaji of Tirupati.
The temple itself is located at the top of a 280 feet tall hill called the Naubat Pahad that overlooks both, Hyderabad and Secunderabad as well as the Hussain sagar lake and is one of the best viewpoints in the city, especially at night when the lights covering the Mandir illuminate the area and make it a beacon of hope that it is and has been since its creation. The Birla Mandir provides not only the view but also the unruffled tranquillity because the temple is entirely devoid of the sound of bells. This also makes it just the place to meditate or collect your thoughts. The main idol in the Birla Mandir is eleven feet tall and made entirely of white marble, approximately 2000 tonnes from Rajasthan making it a truly majestic sight to behold. The idol is also covered by a carved lotus canopy made of granite stone which vastly contrasts with the marble of the idol.
Statues of several other Hindu deities are also spread across the temple and given equal reverence. The temple of Buddha containing several paintings from his life and showing a vivid picture of his history and struggles is also a highlight of the Birla Mandir. Other important sites that should not be overlooked include the planetarium and the Birla science museum which are located at a walking distance from the Birla Mandir.
Sprawling over an area of 12.5 acres adjacent to Hussain Lake, Jalvihar is the largest water amusement park in Hyderabad. Besides the conventional slides and swings, the complex has three gorgeous party zones ideal for family parties and occasions. It also has rain dance, indoor game zone, dry rides and an enormous food court.
Once the seat of the Asaf Jahi dynasty, the Chowmahalla Palace was built in Hyderabad between the years 1857 and 1869. In essence, Chowmahalla can be literally translated to mean ‘Four Palaces’. The magnificent monument consists of two massive courtyards as well as a grand dining hall known as ‘Khilawat’. This splendid monument that once served as the official residence of the Nizams of Hyderabad during their reign still retains some of its past splendour. It is still the property of Barkat Ali Khan Mukarram Jah, heir of the Nizams and has been decorated with UNESCO’s Asia Pacific Merit award in 2010 as well.
The architecture of the Chowmahalla Palace is an imposing sight to behold. The facade itself is a delicate artwork of domes, arches, windows and meticulously carved out designs. The complex is elegantly embellished with gentle fountains, expansive lush gardens, numerous palaces, Clock Tower, Roshan Bangla and the Council Hall. The Courtyard here is a fairytale venue to hold the most exquisite dinner parties, with the palace standing firmly in the background.