May 30, 2017
Hyderabad is a city of riches, though not easily recognised on the surface.
Firstly, there’s the richly spiced biryanis (a rice and meat dish) the city is famous for. Secondly, this south Indian city, known as the `City of Pearls’, was once one the wealthiest of the princely states of India and today still has an infatuation with pearls. And then there’s the royal tales and legacy that remains from its wealthy former rulers, the Nizams of Hyderabad, with the last Nizam said to have been on of the wealthiest men in the world at one stage.
Mostly overlooked by foreign visitors travelling in India, there’s plenty to see and explore in this city. Spend some time here with our expert local guides and you will come to learn about the royal legends and tales, and the inside secrets this city holds.
Today, Hyderabad has two landmarks. The first being Charminar in the old city and the second, the more recently and lavishly restored Falaknuma Palace, now a luxury palace hotel by Taj Hotels.
A visit to this intriguing city should include both. Having recently visited Hyderabad again ourselves, here are our tips on what to see and experience in 48-hours in Hyderabad during a tour of India.
3 p.m. Start you exploration of Hyderabad with a visit to Golkonda Fort. Ideally explored in the late afternoon, when the heat of the day is passing. Just a short drive from the city, discover the ruins and standing fortress with one of our guides who will reveal to you the stories of this archaeological treasure and nizam who once lived here.
6 p.m. Hyderabad is famous and proud of its biryanis. There are two well-known local restaurants where you can sample this rice and meat dish – particularly the mutton variety. The most famous of all is Paradise, with several outlets in and around Hyderabad, and the second in the old city is Shadab, both recommended by local foodies. We’ve tried both. Paradise is an institution of this city and known by all and tried by foreign and domestic travellers alike coming to Hyderabad. If you visit Shadab head up to level three to the air-conditioned dining restaurant. We recently ate mutton biryani, paneer tikka, chicken and fresh breads there. The food is tasty, though the décor very basic.
8 a.m. The place to stay in Hyderabad is certainly Falaknuma Palace. Once the residence of the Nizam, this lavish and spectacular palace was extensively and grandly refurbished over a decade by the former Nizam’s wife and opened in 2010 as a part of the Taj luxury palace hotels.
The Taj palace hotels are some of the grandest and most opulent hotels in all of India, and to stay at any of them is indeed a chance to experience true royal splendour. They are once in a life time stays that you will remember forever. Falaknuma feels more like a palace than a hotel. The restoration is authentic and has managed to uphold its regal atmosphere, while allowing guests to still access the antiques and treasures the palace holds. The service and staff are outstanding.
Start your day here during your stay with the complimentary daily yoga provided by the residence yoga teacher. Practice on the lawn by the pool overlooking the palace, or choose to head inside into an air conditioner practice room. (We did both while we were there.) An ideal way to start your day.
9:30 a.m. After your sun salutations and stretches during yoga, indulge yourself with champagne breakfast on the terrace of the magnificent Gol Bungalow – one of the palace’s most striking and famous features – with its stunning stained glass dome ceiling. Overlooking the sprawling city of Hyderabad below, linger over breakfast with all the usual fare you’d expect at a luxury hotel, plus some local delicacies. There’s the Hyderabadi breakfast trotter soup, as well as the green lentil dosa.
11 a.m. This morning is really all about you spoiling yourself, and enjoying the wonderful palace hotel. The hotel’s JIVA spa is the place to be for the next few hours. Book the Nawab-e-KHAAS, or Regal Splendour package, and truly allow yourself to be pampered. The palace’s signature treatment, inspired by the city’s princely heritage, includes a foot wash, an exfoliating body scrub, a light facial and a restorative body massage. This two and a half hour treatment will shake off any jetlag you might have and leave you truly relaxed.
3 p.m. Head into the old city of Hyderabad this afternoon to explore its fascinating sights and streets with a guided city walk in the area surrounding Charminar. Begin by climbing the 57 stairs to the top of the four-sided Charimar – where you can take in the city below from all sides. See the gates and the mosques of the city from up high. The walking tour will also show you Mecca Masjid, the homeopathy hospital, and the laad bazaar or bangle market, before concluding at Chowmahalla Palace, which you can explore. Take the time to stop for chai and snacks at Nimrah Cafe – one of the city’s busiest and most popular snack shops. Have the salted buttery biscuits, veg puffs, local cakes and hot, milky, spiced tea.
7 p.m. Tonight experience a royal feast with dinner at your hotel. Savour traditional local Hyderabadi cuisine at Falaknuma Palace’s Adaa restaurant. We feasted on hung curd, biryani and tamarind gelato there, overlooking the lights of the city below. Our tip – ask for a table outside on Gol Bungalow.
8 a.m. We can’t say no to a gentle yoga class when we travel – particularly in such a fabulous setting as the palace lawn. If the stretching is too much for you, why not start the day with a swim in the fabulous pool.
11 a.m. Though options for shopping in Hyderabad aren’t as contemporary or abundant as places like Mumbai and Delhi, there are a few places you can visit if you want to browse some Indian boutiques. (Quite different from the markets and bazaars near Chaminar with their inexpensive shopping and trinkets.) The more middle class and upmarket area near Banjara Hills is where you will find most of the shopping. Here you will find Elahe – a very upmarket boutique for Indian formal and glamour wear. A few doors down you will also find Anokhi (known across the country for its affordable block printed home wares and cotton clothing), Ritu Kumar (ladies fashion) and Amarpalli (jewellery). While you are at Banjara Hills, stop at the Kalakriti Gallery and café. You can have a coffee or cool drink and see their impressive collection of Indian miniature paintings inside the gallery. If its pearls and jewels you are after – Mangatri Jewellery is one of the best-known boutiques in town where locals shop for pearls and diamonds.
3 p.m. – One thing you’ll notice about staying at Falaknuma Palace is it’s an experience and destination within itself. There’s so much you can see and do at this wonderful hotel during a stay. Begin the afternoon with high tea on the Jade Terrace. Enjoy scones, finger sandwiches, savouries, local sweets and shortbreads and cups of tea upstairs on the verandah.
5 p.m. One of highlights of a stay at Falaknuma is the champagne heritage walk offered each day. Lead by palace historian Prabhakar Mahindrakar, discover some of the history behind the palace rooms and artefacts and the stories of those that have lived in its walls. Mr Mahindrakar has worked at the palace for a long time and knows it inside and out. He’ll show you little details you won’t see for yourself walking through the palace and reveal to you knowledge gleamed over many years. Sip chilled champagne and explore this fabulous palace. A true highlight.
6pm – Once the palace tour has concluded, head to the lawn at Falaknuma for the nightly sufi music performance. Lose yourself in the mystical and magical sounds of these local musicians as the sun sets.
These are some of the many wonderful things you can discover in Hyderabad during a visit during a holiday in India, based on our first-hand experience.
Hyderabad can be incorporated into any custom made journey by India Unbound. It is also one of four cities include in our unique itinerary – Four Gems of the South. You can read our other city guides here.