Boasting a rich history and a thriving economy, Hyderabad has a remarkable and unique culture that offered a different perspective and enriched my first visit in the subcontinent. Read on for the top tourist places in Hyderabad I went to that you can also include in your itinerary!
After Kolkata, my next stop was The City of Pearls, Hyderabad. If you want to know what I did in Kolkata, specifically seven (7) affordable things you can do there, you can read the post here. If not, then let’s start our Hyderabad adventure. 😉
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Located on the Deccan Plateau, Hyderabad is the largest city and capital of the Telangana state. With a population of 6.9 million, it is the fourth most populous city in India, after Mumbai, New Delhi, and Bangalore.
In 1591, Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah of the Quth Shahi dynasty established Hyderabad. Interestingly, the dynasty which lasted from 1518 to 1687, was initially a Persianate Muslim Turkmen dynasty. The rulers eventually adopted Telugu culture and language.
From being ruled by the Mughals to serving as a princely state capital during the British colonial period, Hyderabad today serves as the Indian hub of pharmaceutical and biotechnology. Moreover, the capital is known as a tech city with many multinational companies having a presence in the area, specially within the HITEC City.
I flew to the southern state from the east because I didn’t think riding a train was the most convenient mode of transport. If you’re flying in as well and looking for an affordable way to get to the city center from the Rajiv Gandhi Hyderabad Airport, you can ride a bus just outside the airport. You have to pay at the counter before getting on, so don’t forget to bring some cash.
Originally the seat of the Nizams (monarchs) of Hyderabad, the Chowmahalla Palace features two courtyards, four palaces, various artifacts, vintage cars, and more. Its construction started in 1750, completed in 1880, and restored from 2005-2010 by Princess Esra. Blending Mughal domes and arches with Persian elements, the Chowmahalla Palace received the UNESCO Asia Pacific Merit award for cultural heritage conservation in 2010.
100% worth the trip! Chowmahalla Palace was so beautiful. I particularly liked the art motifs and designs! More importantly, there weren’t many tourists when I visited, and touring the compound easily took four hours of my time. It was big inside and there was so much culture to see. I’m sure history buffs and photography enthusiasts will find the Chowmahalla Palace interesting and charming.
Hours, fees, some tips
- The Palace is open every day from 10:00 to 17:00, except Fridays.
- Entry tickets range from Rs. 50 (Indians) to Rs. 200 (foreigners). There is a fee of Rs. 50 for camera equipment.
- The address is Khilwat, 20-4-236, Motigalli, Hyderabad, Telangana, 500002, India (you can easily search on Google Maps for the most convenient way to go there wherever you are in the city).
- I don’t think the Palace gets crowded so you can go there any time of the day. Bring water because you are going to walk a lot!
Around 700 meters from Chowmahalla Palace is the Charminar which is probably one of the most iconic landmarks not only of Hyderabad but also of India. The structure was built in 1591 to commemorate the eradication of cholera as well as the beginning of the second Islamic millennium year.
Charminar, which translates to “Four Pillars,” acted as the centerpiece of the old city. Showcasing Indo-Islamic architecture, the monument today is surrounded by busy local markets and serves as the site of various festival celebrations.
To get to Charminar, I rode an auto rickshaw from Chowmahalla Palace. It was a quick trip. The structure was easy to spot but the place was surrounded by markets and vendors. As a result, it was bustling and PACKED! I went up the towers and got a charming, sometimes solemn, view of the city as sounds from the nearby Mecca Masjid can be heard.
This was also the place where random people started to come up to me and asked for a selfie. Being Asian myself, I was confused at first, also apprehensive, but eventually decided it was harmless.
Hours, fees, some tips
- See here to read more about Charminar from the archives of the Indian government.
- The monument is open every day from 9:30 to 17:30.
- Entry ticket is Rs. 5 for Indians and Rs. 100 for foreigners.
- Charminar is very easy to spot, being at the center. You can easily search on Google Maps for the most convenient way to go there wherever you are in the city.
- I believe the surrounding area is usually very crowded. When I went up around 15:00 in the afternoon, there was a bit of a line, but it was not so bad. So, as always, try to go early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the heat and crowds.
Continue your trip to Mecca Masjid which is less than 200 meters away from Charminar. Similarly, you can see a beautiful birds-eye view of the mosque if you go up the towers.
Mecca Masjid is one of the largest and oldest mosques in India located in the heart of Hyderabad. Built between 16th and 17th centuries during the reign of Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah, the fifth Shahi Sultan of Golconda, the grand mosque has a capacity to accommodate 10,000 people at any one time.
In addition, the mosque was named as such because of the holy soil from Mecca, the holiest site in Islam, that was used to build its central arch. However, non-Muslims are not permitted inside the mosque but as a tourist, you can simply marvel at its grandeur from the outside or from the top of the Charminar, like what I did!
Hours, fees, some tips
- The mosque is open every day for Muslims. The grounds are open for non-Muslims and are free of charge.
- If you’re planning to go inside, wear clothes that cover your arms and legs. For women, bring a shawl or scarf to cover the head. Moreover, don’t forget to take your shoes off!
- You can easily search on Google Maps for the most convenient way to go there wherever you are in the city. Riding an auto rickshaw is the best option.
- The surrounding area is usually very crowded, so obviously, expect crowds. 😀
If you’re not pressed for time and have nothing better else to do, drop by for some serene break at the Taramati Baradari. A historical sarai (roadside inn for travelers/caravaners), the pavilion sits atop a hill on the banks of the Musi river. Used as an auditorium, the Taramati Baradari has 12 doors to allow cross ventilation and maximize acoustics.
There are many legends attached to the ancient pavilion. For instance, one is about Taramati, a favorite courtesan of the seventh Sultan of Golconda, Abdullah Qutub Shah (ruled 1626 to 1672). It is said that the prince constructed the hall for her so he could hear her singing voice, carried by the wind, from the Golconda Fort, two kilometers away.
Besides the historical spot, there is also a theater, auditorium, restaurants, gift shop, as well as a hotel. I went here via Uber straight from my hostel. Honestly, I didn’t find anything special except for the nice view on top of the hill, amid a peaceful and breezy atmosphere. I guess it’s a great place to relax, eat good food, and take photos.
An issue I encountered while here was the poor internet connection, even if I was using an Indian SIM card. My next destination was Golkonda Fort. I could’ve walked but Taramati Baradari (free entry, open every day, 11:00 to 18:00) was located on a highway. I eventually got a ride from the app after walking some two hundred meters away from the entrance. 😂 In short, Taramati Baradari might not be the best but it is definitely one of the things you can visit in Hyderabad if you appreciate beautiful architecture.
Serving as the capital of the Qutb Shahi dynasty from 1518 to 1591, the Golconda Fort is a historic fortress with a circumference of about eleven kilometers. Built by the Kakatiya Kings on a granite hill, the imposing structure grew to house beautiful palaces, gardens, a water supply system, intelligent ventilation, providing a unique and rich heritage to this now ruined city.
Historically and probably at its height, the territory of Golconda—being near diamond mines especially the Kollur Mine—was known for its diamond trade, producing the world’s most famous diamonds. Consequently, the word “Golconda” became synonymous for vast wealth by the 1880s.
I found Golconda Fort very impressive. Even though there was a bit of a crowd at the entrance, people dispersed once inside. Because of the way it’s built, and the materials used, it was relatively cool at some parts of the fort. I didn’t go up because I was already tired from the stress incurred at Taramati Baradari 😅 but I loved exploring the grounds which were enough for me.
Hours, fees, some tips
- The Golconda Fort is open every day from 8:00 to 17:30.
- Entry ticket is Rs. 15 for Indians and Rs. 200 for foreigners. There is a fee of Rs. 25 for camera equipment, while the price range for the Sound & Light Show is Rs. 60 to Rs. 140.
- Wear comfortable clothes and shoes especially if you’re going to hike up. Bring water to stay dehydrated!
- You can easily search on Google Maps for the most convenient way to go there wherever you are in the city. I got there via Uber.
- Entrance can get crowded but nothing to be worried about. I was there around 9:00 and got inside really quick.
Qutb Shahi Tombs
My last stop in Hyderabad was the Qutb Shahi Tombs. Close to the Golconda Fort is a park of tombs and mosques built by the kings of the Qutb Shahi dynasty. Being renovated by the Aga Khan Development Network since 2013, within the compound are 40 mausoleums, 23 mosques, a hammam, and several pavilions.
In addition, blending Persian and Indian designs, Qutb Shahi Tombs has been nominated to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The site is open every day except Fridays, from 9:30 to 16:30. Entry is Rs. 10 plus a Rs. 20 fee for a camera.
I rode an auto rickshaw from Golconda Fort to this archeological park. There wasn’t much visitors when I was there. As a result, it was actually quite serene. If you’re arriving from the Fort, then you’re already geared up with a comfy getup—there’s a lot of walking within the complex too.
To sum up, exploring alone in Hyderabad was a breeze. I just wish I learned a few Telugu phrases because I had a small difficulty communicating with some locals especially with drivers and the delivery guy when I tried ordering a special Hyderabadi biryani through the Swiggy app. If you want to know some of my funny food experiences plus the variety of meals I tried in India, read here!
What are your top tourist places in Hyderabad? Have you been in any of these spots? I’d love to know!