Ahhh, Hyderabad. For four months last year my friend and I called this city home. Even as India’s fourth largest populated city, it presents itself as one of their most diverse, providing me with a whirlwind of new experiences. There is such a traditional feel in Old City with beautiful historic architecture. In other parts of the city you can see India transforming right before your eyes; nowhere else will you see such a contrast of old and new. If you have the chance to visit you will have a cultural experience like no other.
Here, I will share with you the must-see gems of the “City of Pearls.”
First, you will need somewhere to stay-
The Marigold Hotel– Located just 10 minutes (*estimate for the chaotic indian traffic) from City Center and GVK One Mall.
- Continental breakfast
- In-house restaurant
The Marigold Hotel is perfect for first time visitors! This was the first bed we slept in after arriving in India and The Marigold made our transition very smooth. We were so worried about sticking out as the cliche foreigners but as soon as we walked in the door an exceptionally friendly staff welcomed us and we found plenty of other travelers so we had no problem blending in. As far as food goes, we ate out as much as possible on our first days, but I will say the Marigold Hotel breakfast spread was amazing! Though there was plenty of indian cuisine I was too nervous to try much at first so I stuck to the cereal, yogurt (curd), and a wide selection of fruits offered. Overall, I would highly suggest the Marigold Hotel as a ‘safe bet’ stay.
The Park Hotel- On Necklace Road, situated on the Hussain Sagar Lake.
- Continental breakfast
- 2 Bars
- 2 In-house restaurants
This is definitely a luxury hotel for a couple of reasons.
- The spaces are so luxuriously designed that you would never have to leave you own room. It was almost comical how fancy this place is (we were so enthused that we had a fun photoshoot.)
The bathroom is spacious and functional; there is a stall for the toilet, a shower and bath, and a walk in closet with an iron and safe (the bed is so ridiculously comfortable that we decided to work from home) and to top it all off our room had a beautiful view of the lake.
2. This hotel is perfect for those who enjoy a little social release. Outside on the patio they have a pool with a walk up bar, infinity edges, and cabanas around the side. At night they play music and the place comes to life! The only downside to this hotel is the price.. (it’s a little high but on the right website you can find a great deal.)
Charminar- Located in Old City.
This centerpiece of Hyderabad is a must see. Not only is it intriguing to see a piece of Indian history but there is plenty to do in the surrounding city. The structure itself only takes 15 minutes to tour. There are stairwells in the minarets that lead to the top where you can view artwork and the market below. Admission for Indians is 10rs (about 60 Indian rupees are worth 1 US dollar) but admission for tourists is 500r. These raised prices are standard around the country but still quite cheap, at about 7USD.
Surrounding the monument is a large market with a lot to browse. There you can find fresh sugar cane juice, cheap clothing, snacks, and, best of all, cheap jewelry! Of course I was determined to do some jewelry shopping in the “City of Pearls”. I perused around the stores quite a bit until I found some pearls to suit me. A good bet would be to visit the government mandated jewelry stores as they are certified but still very reasonably priced.
(Quick Tip: In these government mandated stores the gems may be real but be sure to check on the quality of the metals (I ended up buying fake silver which quickly faded.)
Shilparamam- Located in Hi-Tec City (about an hour- hour 1/2 drive from Old City).
This is the perfect destination to purchase souvenirs and gifts for the folks at home. There is a small admission fee that grants you access to endless stalls of handmade crafts and clothing. This market is set in a nice park with plenty of entertainment for the family.
Golkonda Fort- Located on the outskirts of the city.
Another historical site, the Golkonda Fort was home to the Qutb Shahi dynasty. A tour of the fort can take up to a couple of hours as there is plenty to explore on the grounds. It is quite a hike to the top but easy enough to bring the whole family. Ideally, set aside a whole day for this one as it is a bit far from the city.
For those feeling a bit homesick, the malls were our safe haven! GVK One and In-Orbit Mall have some western comforts like Starbucks and MAC while also hosting some of my favorite Indian clothing stores. Make sure to check out Shoppers Stop!
Chai Tea & Osmania Biscuits-
While these tasty treats are available virtually anywhere in Hyderabad, my suggestion would be to grab these while shopping in Charminar. The cafes there have an authentic atmosphere while providing the most delicious mid-day snack. If you’re looking to take some back to the hotel or back to your home country then stop by Karachi Bakery. This place has so many choices of Indian sweets and they do not disappoint. The boxed osmania biscuits sold there stay fresh for up to two months. I took some home and enjoyed sharing them with friends and family while telling them about my trip!
Biryani at Paradise-
Paradise Hotel (another word for diner) is world famous for their biryani (a traditional Indian dish made with spices and basmati rice.) This stuff is delicious! Even though I was not a big fan of the traditional rice dishes, biryani was my exception. It comes in lamb or chicken and is enough to feed up to 3 or 4 people.
Side note: Jess’ favorite Indian dishes.
Tandoori Chicken is my all-time favorite. Do not miss the opportunity to eat an entire chicken in one sitting. Close second is butter chicken with garlic naan. And please do not forget to have some dosa (an Indian snack perfect for lunch.)
For three and a half months of my time in Hyderabad I didn’t think this type of thing existed.. Do you enjoy going out with friends and dancing until 2am? Well forget that. In Hyderabad they party until dawn. I am not exaggerating.
Olive Bistro- Located in Jubilee Hills.
This is a great place to sit and have dinner with friends. Our coworkers took us here the first night they arrived and we enjoyed pizza, pasta, and drinks. Once you finish dinner you can head upstairs to their bar/lounge. It is an outside bar with an overlook of the city. With a nicely decorated patio and great resident DJs for entertainment, Olive is the place to be.
Over the Moon- Located in Jubilee Hills
OTM is a great place to go and socialize! They have great drinks including cocktails, wine, and shots if you’re feeling wild. There is a small dance floor and plenty of seating for when your feet need a rest. Here we met residents, and Tollywood actors, and other tourists. I recommend setting aside a long night for this one; it is open until 5am and sometimes later. You can even catch the sunrise on the rooftop!
Rendezvous- Located in Gachibowli
After living in the Old City for 3 1/2 months we were invited to the afterparty for DJ Tiesto. We didn’t know what to expect but we pulled up to see about 100 people in line. Once we got a friend to pull us inside I was absolutely shocked. There were at least a thousand people inside, a giant stage with a DJ and lights, a huge cabana with tables and couches, a dance floor, and even a pool. We knocked back a few drinks and headed out on to the dance floor for one of the most fun nights of my life! We danced for hours upon hours. This place was more lively than anything I’d even seen in the states. If you want to get out and dance, I highly recommend Rendezvous for a night out!
Hyderabad has so much to see. I could write an entire book on this city alone, but this guide to a short-term stay will have to do. If you’re lucky enough to take this trip please send me an e-mail about your experience, I’d love for you to share your memories with me.