Explore The Luxurious Side of Hyderabad

A couple of hundred years ago, a palace could belong only to royalty. Cut to the present, and money can buy you what once only belonged to the blue-blooded. Luxury has started to become more commonplace than ever before. When I first went to the (erstwhile) princely city of Hyderabad, I explored a number of its heritage sites. I did not dwell too much on their splendour then, as I was often distracted by how simple the common man was in this twin-capital (of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh). A few more trips (and almost half a decade) later, I would see a new side of Hyderabad…

Charminar’s Oft Overlooked Charm

I look up at the old city from Charminar's intricately done gate.

I look up at the old city from Charminar’s intricately done gate.

I had first clambered up the steep spiral steps of one of the four claustrophobic minarets of the Charminar in 2012 (read: Say ‘Hi’ to Hyderabad) when I was flush with the new money from my first cushy job. Not so much of a travel blogger then, I was more interested in having my pictures clicked from the viewing deck of this 16th-century mosque. It is now, after I’ve grown older (and hopefully, gained some maturity), that I wonder how much time the masons must have spent carving each window, each grill and each gate. I can now admire the intricacies of Mughal architecture. Despite the dull exterior of this neglected icon, I can imagine how centuries ago, this structure must have been an opulent place to pray.

Salar Jung’s Museum (Of Riches And Rapture)

Spotted at the Salar Jung Museum: gold rimmed wine glasses from Czechia - Is this what luxury is all about?

Spotted at the Salar Jung Museum: gold rimmed wine glasses from Czechia – Is this what luxury is all about?

Can a man be so enamoured with materialism to spend thirty-five years of his life collecting expensive trinkets from around the world? The Salar Jung Museum by the Musi River answered my question with a resounding “YES!” One of India’s only three National Museums, this house of art exhibits a baffling collection of paintings, sculptures, antique crockery, furniture, currency notes and coins, carpets, and just about anything you can imagine. Prime Minister to the 7th Nizam of Hyderabad, Salar Jung III gave most of his life to the pursuit of princely possessions. Undoubtedly a man of refined taste, he managed to own some artefacts that date back to the 1st-century!

Chowmahalla’s Enchantment

Chandeliers sparkle inside one of the grand halls of the Chowmahalla Palace.

Chandeliers sparkle inside one of the grand halls of the Chowmahalla Palace.

If you don’t get enough of luxury from a museum, there is a grand palace ready to floor you! Not far from Charminar, the Chowmahalla Palace is the 19th-century mansion that has served as the seat of power for two dynasties. The shimmering interiors of this grand palace are a testimony to how well it is kept even today. When you are in here, don’t forget to look up at the roof to marvel at the work on the ceilings.

The Grandeur Of Golconda

I pass through a tunnel as I explore the labyrinthine Golconda Fort.

I pass through a tunnel as I explore the labyrinthine Golconda Fort.

Sometimes, luxury lies outdoors. The outdoorsy part of me loves to hike and explore ruins that stretch far and wide. For those who get their high from climbing steps and gazing at panoramic views from beautiful vantage points, Golconda Fort makes for a perfect day-long getaway. Just 10km from Hyderabad, this citadel has enough to keep you (and your kids) occupied! Lose your way through its myriad tunnels or pose for your next Whatsapp display-pic from one of its viewing decks (which once upon a time, was used to keep an eye out for enemies and to fire cannonballs at any attacking army).

Revel By A River

Nagarjuna Sagar Dam - It takes a mighty structure to stop a river as mighty as The Krishna.

Nagarjuna Sagar Dam – It takes a mighty structure to stop a river as mighty as The Krishna.

The River Krishna is so powerful that during monsoons, it can cause flooding. To rein in this river’s power, use its water for irrigation and harness some energy to produce electricity, the Nagarjuna Dam was built across it. When all of the 26 gates of this dam are left open, the sight is one to watch! Interestingly, this dam also happens to be the second largest reservoir in the country (in terms of storage capacity). The water-starved stones (which never quite get to be the river-washed round pebbles) also make for a nice, crunchy walk during sunset.

Soak Up Some Stardust At A Film City

Aerial view of Ramoji Film City - where London, Paris and New York are side-by-side.

Aerial view of Ramoji Film City – where London, Paris and New York are side-by-side.

If the real world doesn’t excite you much, there’s an entire city of make-believe structures in glamorous guise. I’m talking about Ramoji Film City (read: RFC- A City Hidden in a Village). A little distance from Hyderabad, this village is where a lot of movies are shot. The place is replete with stunt-props and sets ready to be torn apart and rejoined in no time. You can fake scenes from Japan to as far as France in this little land of movie-fanatics.

Is There A Price For Peace?

Does the pristine white marble of the Birla Temple offer the ever-elusive tranquillity?

Does the pristine white marble of the Birla Temple offer the ever-elusive tranquillity?

Birla Temples across India are among the most expensive ones, mostly because of the generous use of fine marble and their ornate columns and domes. I do not believe in idol worship, but I like to take in the architectural finesse of such places. If you find the streets too busy, you can always drop in (albeit before 5 pm) and find your quiet space on the cool marble floors (or the garden behind). Sometimes, these little things carry more value than all the goods in a luxury store.

Stay Like Royalty – At The Taj

The palatial exterior of Taj Krishna seduces one's senses into submission. (Courtesy: Taj Krishna, Hyderabad)

The palatial exterior of Taj Krishna seduces one’s senses into submission. (Courtesy: Taj Krishna Hyderabad)

Where you stay on your trip makes a lot of difference to how you view a city. If you are serious about discovering the luxurious side of the city of Nizams, you should book yourself into a 5-star property, such as the Taj Krishna Hyderabad. Spread out like a palace of its own, this hotel is located in the upscale locale of Banjara Hills. After you have seen the richness of the city, sink in the riches of your own suite!

Make Your Moments Count

Precious moments are those that are shared with a loved one over a meal.

Precious moments are those that are shared with a loved one over a meal.

No matter how much wealth you have, you will be alone without somebody to love. If you do have a partner, make it a priority to travel with her/him. You will not regret the extra spend when you share a sweet evening by the Hussain Sagar Lake (read: All Roads lead to Hyderabad), holding your precious one’s hand as you polish off the eat-street’s munchies.

Let Your Food Reflect Your Lavish Taste

The glittering Firdaus Restaurant (Courtesy: Taj Krishna, Hyderabad)

The glittering Firdaus Restaurant (Courtesy: Taj Krishna Hyderabad)

A trip achieves its completion only when the local cuisine reaches your taste buds. Hyderabad is famous for its Mughlai cuisine, especially its biryani (which is very distinct from the ones in Lucknow or Bengal). The biryani at Paradise is overrated in my opinion. If you look deeper, you will discover other places for that authentic taste (and other Hyderabadi delicacies). On your luxury getaway, reserve a table at Firdaus, the Nizami restaurant at the Taj Krishna Hyderabad.

Have you seen Hyderabad any differently?

Do you enjoy a dash of luxury on your trips?

Let me know in the comments below! 🙂

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Say ‘Hi’ to Hyderabad

I’ve been to Hyderabad thrice now, and each time I discover something new about this place. My first trip to the ‘City of Pearls’ was in November last year when I flew down from Mumbai for a weekend with some friends. I did not know then that this city would tempt me to come back for more. The drive from the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport to the city takes a little more than 30 minutes, and the unusually light brown and yellowish colour of the rocks (from the Deccan Plateau) that man the gray 8-lane expressway (Outer Ring Road) contrast well against the light blue skies.

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 ‘Hyderabad’ literally means ‘lion’s abode’ in Persian, and the city gives you a royal visual treat. My first day began with a drive to Eat Street that runs along the Hussain Sagar lake which holds the waters of the River Musi. This place is perfect for a breezy-breakfast.

My next stop was the world-famous monument, Charminar. This facade with 4 towers (and hence the name), situated in the city-centre, was built in the 16th century in celebration of the second Islamic millennium year. The only way to get to the first level of the Charminar is to climb through the minarets. The inside of the minarets are very narrow, stuffy and dark, lit only by a couple of low-watt bulbs. The steps are very steep, and take frequent and sharp turns. You’ll do well to arrive in comfortable footwear. The climb seems endless, but once you see the sunlight seeping through the top, you’ll know you’ve almost made it. You realize that the climb is worth it as you see that the first level lends a lovely view of the entire city which is choc-a-bloc with black-and-yellow rickshaws and small shops.

Chowmahalla Palace figured next on my list. This awe-inspiring royal palace was the erstwhile official residence of the reigning Nizam, and now serves as a museum. The palace is well maintained as is evident from the sparkling chandeliers and floors. Even the royal gardens are well manicured and gleam like emeralds in the afternoon sun. Intricate designs adorn not only the doors and windows but also the ceiling. The museum houses various items of yore, ranging from currency notes & coins to royal blazons.

My day ended with a visit to the Birla Temple. Most Indian cities have a Birla temple, but this is by far the most beautiful I have ever seen. The temple, made of glowing white marble, is a magnificent place of worship and meditation. It is mandatory to leave all electronic gadgets and footwear outside the temple. The cool marble feels wonderful against your naked feet as the serene interiors draw your attention to the ornate carvings and Sanskrit-writings on the walls.

The foodie in me ensures that none of my trips to any place end without sampling the local cuisine and exploring the restaurant-scene. When it comes to Hyderabad, Cinnamon Fusion deserves special mention for its superior ambience and thoughtfully crafted dishes. This restaurant also has live music, thanks to a popular local band.

Apart from the star-hotels, the lion-city has many popular joints in Banjara Hills and Hitech City, of which Barbeque Nation, Village, Dialogue in the Dark (DiD), Rubaiyat and Nautanki Gali stand out for the unique experiences they offer.

My visit to ‘Dialogue in the Dark’ this February left me humbled and in awe of the visually-challenged experts who run this place. A stop here should be on your must-do list for Hyderabad as this is the only Indian city (among 20 worldwide) that offers such an experience. ‘DiD’ insists that you leave all your belongings (including wrist-watch & spectacles) with the guard before a visually-impaired guide takes you into a room that’s pitchblack, effectively rendering your visual faculties useless. In the dark-room, you are made to touch, smell, hear and feel various objects and effects, and let your ‘other’ sense organs work a little harder. The tour ends with a visit to the cafe where your order is prepared in the dark by people who cannot see (at least not in the traditional way), and you must consume your food without looking at it. This concept was first envisioned in Germany and has left many-a-diners with more respect for people with visual challenges.

I know I haven’t seen this city completely as I’m yet to visit Golconda Fort, Salar Jung Museum, Ramoji Film City and many other places of note. This only gives me more reasons to pay this city another visit. I might have been on a typical tourist-trail, but this incidentally happens to be the best trail to follow when you wish to “see-it-all” over a weekend or two.

Tips from the Traveller:-

  • Travel between October and February as Hyderabad enjoys its best weather during the winters and spring.
  • Carry a sturdy pair of shoes (preferably sneakers) for walking across the vast palaces & climbing sundry steps.
  • Pack a mix of contemporary (for the city-restaurants/clubs) and conservative (for the mosques and temples) clothing. A scarf/shrug should suffice for a weekend-trip.
  • Hire a cab (Ola Cabs/Meru/Tab Cab) for the full-day as this is the safest and most convenient way to travel across the city. The city-buses don’t ply everywhere and the auto-rickshaws tend to over-charge.
  • Don’t forget to buy some pearls for yourself or your family and friends! The quality and finishing on pearl jewellery is remarkable in Hyderabad! Cauvery Pearls remains my favourite jeweller for their elegant and modern designs. They also offer corporate discounts! 🙂
  • DO NOT leave Hyderabad without buying some boxes of assorted biscuits, cookies or chocolates from Karachi Bakery! If you remember this only at the airport, fret not, they have a kiosk at the Arrivals area and also before the Boarding Gates.

Last but not the least, remember to tell me about your trip to Hyderabad! Seri?