What makes a city special? Is it the iconic monuments filled with wonder and history? A familiar face that reminds you of home? The distinct tastes and smells that induce a warm memory?
For me, Hyderabad is not just a city, but a place which holds some of my most cherished memories.
Just being among the diverse population of the city gives me a feeling of warmth and hospitality that I have never felt anywhere else, and I feel that everyone should definitely experience this as well.
So, let me give you an experience of how it feels like being in my city, Hyderabad.
1. Old City
A tourist hotspot, the Old City, is a walled city of Hyderabad and is considered to be the heart of Hyderabadi Muslim culture.
It contains many landmark buildings, including the majestic centrepiece of the Nizam dynasty, the Charminar, which is said to have built by the then Sultan and founder of Hyderabad Quli Qutb Shah to celebrate the end of a deadly plague that ravaged the city.
You will see a strong Persian and Islamic influence throughout the Old City, and the best way to explore the markets is by foot which will leave you with an experience of what it feels like to be a Hyderabadi.
The streets of the Old city offer shopaholics everything they could ask for, especially jewellery, and in particular bangles and pearls. They say that a pearl isn’t real if it isn’t from Hyderabad—no wonder that the city is popularly known as the “City of Pearls!”
A visit to the Old City is incomplete without tasting its fantastic food. While the Hyderabadi Biryani is a well known cultural symbol of the city, what truly represents the spirit of Hyderabad is its famous Irani chai and Osmania biscuits.
My recommendation for a delightful cup of Irani chai would be at the Nimrah Cafe and Bakery which is right in front of the Charminar. For those who love Biriyani, Hotel Shadab is definitely the place to eat.
2. Numaish or the Nampally Exhibition
For me, the Nampally Exhibition is not just an annual fair, but a celebration of my childhood. It is the only fair in the world which is organised for 46 days at its 23-acre permanent venue in Nampally.
Even before you step inside the premises, you are surrounded by vendors selling soap bubble blowers, gas balloons and glowing toys which as a kid you just cannot resist. As soon as you enter the grounds, you’re greeted with the smell of freshly made popcorn filling up the air—and everyone knows it’s not a fair if it doesn’t have popcorn!
Whatever be your taste, the exhibition has something for everyone, making it an event which is deeply cherished and enjoyed by the city, every year.
3. Golconda Fort
Over the centuries, this city within a city has witnessed multiple dynasties. A crown of the ancient world unlike any other, it held immeasurable wealth under the monarchy of the Nizams. Amongst its infinite treasures were two of the world’s most famous jewels, The Koh-i-noor and The Hope diamond. The mines surrounding the fort were said to have produced these priceless gems.
Just one step inside the fort will transport you back into its illustrious past, and as you walk through its majestic corridors, you can experience its former glory still prevalent to this day.
4. The Single Screen Experience
Despite the luxury and service that the modern multiplex offers, the one thing that it cannot match is the old-world charm of single-screen cinemas. And there is no better place to experience the excitement of commercial cinema than Hyderabad.
Hyderabadis are absolutely crazy about movies—language no bar— and a movie-watching experience in a hall can sometimes result in an atmosphere more electrifying than a cricket match between India and Pakistan.
From 50-foot tall lifesize cutouts of their favourite superstars to the non-stop whistling inside the hall, Hyderabadis ensure an unforgettable experience every time one steps inside a single screen.
So make sure you add this to your bucket list whenever you visit Hyderabad!
5. Maharaja Chaat, Madhapur
My brother and I would save up our bus fare and hitch a ride home just to save money and gorge on the delicious chaat at Maharaja’s. Although it is now located in Madhapur, it was just a small bandi (eatery) near Jubilee Hills check-post and served some of the best cutlets and panipuris have ever tasted in my life.
We would walk almost three kilometres every week just to eat some of that amazing chaat, and seeing our dedication, Raju, the owner of the place, would sometimes treat us with extra panipuris!
I can now proudly say that the place has grown leaps and bounds, and is now considered to be one of the best places to eat chaat in the city. If you ever visit Maharaja’s, you must try the Aloo toast and the Aloo Tikki.
6. Hussain Sagar Lake
Built in 1563, the Hussain Sagar is one of the largest man-made lakes in the country. At the centre of the lake stands the tallest monolithic statue of Gautam Buddha which measures 58 feet long and weighs 350 tons.
Visitors can enjoy boat rides and the water sports around the periphery of the lake along with the added attraction of a public and amusement park.
What makes the Hussain Sagar even more unique is the fact that it has been recognised by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) as the largest heart-shaped mark on earth making it the ‘Heart of the World.’
7. Ram Ki Bandi, Nampally
This legendary roadside eatery is the place to be if you call yourself a ‘Night Owl.’ It dishes out mouthwatering dosas and other breakfast dishes as early as 3 am in the morning. Everyone from teenagers to film stars pop up at Ram ki bandi whenever they crave a midnight snack.
The best thing about the eatery? Everything on the menu costs less than 100 rupees, and the food is definitely a bang for the buck!
8. Rock Walks
Hyderabad is blessed with a unique landscape—spectacular rock formations which are about 2,500 million years old and are amongst the oldest and hardest rocks in the world.
A local initiative called the Society to Save Rocks regularly organises treks for nature enthusiasts on the weekends also creating awareness about the importance of protecting the ridges and granite hills of the Deccan plateau.
There’s also the Hyderabad Rockathon which has several different activities like rock balancing, bouldering, rock photography and rappelling which is held annually. So, if you are someone who loves such activities make sure you don’t miss out on the Rockathon in case you’re in town.
9. Eat Street, Necklace Road
Situated around the Hussain Sagar lake, Eat Street is to Hyderabad what Chowpatty is to Mumbai. With Hyderabad being a culturally diverse city, there is always a craving for different varieties food and your probably not going to find as many choices of food that you find at Eat Street.
The lakeside setting only makes it more special as you enjoy the cool evening breeze while gorging on some delicious food and some pleasant conversation with your loved ones!
10. Ramoji Film City
If you thought Hollywood is a big deal, wait until you see Hyderabad’s very own Ramoji Film City. Spread across 2,000 acres of land, it is the largest integrated film city on the planet. The recent blockbuster series of Baahubali was also shot inside Ramoji.
With live shows, set visits, and various other activities, it would certainly take more than a day to explore the city thoroughly, and if you’re lucky enough, you might just come across your favourite movie star!
While it might not accurately portray the spirit of Hyderabad, it indeed is something the city is proud of.
Everything I have described about Hyderabad so far is what I experienced living in the city. And although there are a lot of other places I would have loved to mention here, the best way to know more about my city is to experience it yourself.