The secret of the Hyderabadis

If you're a history buff or very, very serious about your food, head to the city of Nizams

Men break their fast near the Charminar monument, Hyderabad, August 20, 2010

Have a meal with the Charminar as the backdrop © AFP

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What is it about Hyderabad that makes nearly every batsman emerging from there such a treat to watch? There must be something about the city that can make a young Hyderabadi boy look so languid and graceful while tearing a cricket ball to ribbons with his bat. Something the locals keep hidden away from any visitors.

Let us take a whirlwind tour of the city, stare at that iconic Charminar, peek into the houses of the Nizams, stroll through those heavenly food streets in the old city, try on a pathani suit in Sultan Bazaar, paddle in the Hussain Sagar Lake and look deep into its waters.

For somewhere, we must find the Grand Hyderabadi Secret. Druid Getafix isn't the only one who can stir a magic potion. So can the people, here in Hyderabad, miaan.

Weather

Hyderabad is usually very hot for most parts of the year, except the winter months. The best time to visit is between October and March. In April and May temperatures can go up to 45°C during the day, so wear a cap or a floppy hat, dress in cottons and carry water while travelling around the city.

Getting around

It is easier to hit Dale Steyn for a six than find a Hyderabadi tuk-tuk driver who agrees to go by the meter. The usual fare is Rs 16 for the first 1.6 kilometres and Rs 8 for every successive kilometre, so use that while calculating how much to bargain for. It is difficult to find cabs standing, so the best thing to do would be to book a cab in advance.

Hyderabad has two stadiums, but the one currently in use for the IPL and international matches is the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Uppal, an eastern suburb of the city. It is approximately 13 kilometres from the city centre and about ten kilometres from the railway station. Autos, buses, cabs all ply to and fro, so reaching the ground will not be a problem. However, keeping in mind the city's obsession with the game, leave for the stadium a few hours in advance as traffic jams are commonplace a couple of hours before the game begins.

Where to Stay

Unfortunately, the closest to the stadium you can stay in a good hotel would be about ten kilometres. But there are plenty of options

High-end There is no hotel better in Hyderabad than the Taj Faluknama Palace (from Rs 21,000, 15kms from the stadium). If you want to experience how the Mughal royalty lived, this is a good place to start. A horse-drawn carriage takes you past the sprawling gardens to the hotel's doorstep. It has a museum, a royal dining room with a 100-seater table, and library that has an impressive collection of books, some over a hundred years old. Then, there is the Park Hyatt (Rs 10,500, 17kms), which has lavish buffets and good wine stocks. The ITC Kakatiya (Rs 9500, 14.5kms) is centrally located, and is a great property with a spa. Their biryanis and kebabs have been voted among the best in the country.

Mid-level The Novotel Hyderabad Airport Hotel (Rs 6050, 10kms), as the name suggests, is fairly close to the airport, so if you want to stay far from the madding crowd, this is probably the best option. The Westin Hyderabad Mindspace Hotel (Rs 8400, 25kms) is a fabulous hotel in the business district, has spacious walkways, manicured lawns, a well-equipped gym and spa, and one of the best pool bars in the city. The Leonia Holistic Destination Hotel (Rs 6000, 14.5 kms), situated very close to the Hussain Sagar lake, has pools, playing courts, auditoriums, and is like a city in itself. Other recommendations are the Taj Deccan (Rs 6200) and The Park, Hyderabad (Rs 7000).

Devotees offer prayers to the sun during the Chhath festival on the banks of the Hussain Sagar lake, Hyderabad, November 19, 2012

Hussain Sagar lake © AFP

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Budget The Justa The Residence Hotel (Rs 2600, 15kms) is also located close to the Hussain Sagar lake. Its rooftop restaurant gives you an expansive view of the waters. Try the sizzlers. The Ohris Banjara Hotel (Rs 3350, 15kms) is in the centre of the city, has clean rooms, good service and highly recommended food. Other value-for-money hotels are Katriya Hotels and Towers Hotel (Rs 2300, 15kms) and Re:gen:ta One Hyderabad Hotel (Rs 4200, 29kms), which is far from the stadium but has spacious rooms and a nice bar called Salsa.

Where to eat

The Hyderabadi biryani is famous the world over so it would be a shame to leave the city without trying that or the Irani chai that vendors sell on Patter Ghatti street. Try the tea with a buttery nankahtai (an Indian cookie) or the flaky puff-pastry called khari. Explore the city - go to its old part for the street food and head for Banjara Hills or the lake area if you want a romantic dinner. Hyderabad has options for all.

High-end There are a number of good restaurants in the Banjara Hills area. Khaan Saab serves excellent Indian non-vegetarian food. Try their tundey kebabs and burani parantha. Peperoncino is an Italian restaurant with an open terrace and spacious inner seating. Zafraan Exotica, serving Indian good, has great ambience, with woodwork, an artificial waterfall with pebbles and candle lighting. The best restaurants in the Jubilee Hills area are Urban Asia (serving Thai and Chinese cuisines), Via Milano (Italian), and So - a pretty restaurant with open rooftop terrace seating - perfect for a romantic dinner.

Mid-level Designed like a dhaba Angeethi (Banjara Hills), also has a paan (betel leaf with spices) shop, a well, and a "quack" selling herbal remedies for "marital problems". Give the medicines a pass and try the Indian food instead. The interiors of Ohri's Serengeti (Banjara Hills) have been designed to resemble a jungle but the food is not African. They serve Peshawari and Lucknawi cuisine, and have a good wine list as well. Malgudi (Begumpet) serves food from the four south Indian states, and some of their dishes can't be found in any other restaurant.

Budget If you really want to get a flavour of Hyderabadi street food, go to the Old City area. For breakfast, head to Pragati Gully in the alleys of Sultan Bazaar (Koti area). For a perfect Nizam-style biryani lunch, try one of Madina Hotel (in Patterghatti), Bawarchi (near RTC crossroads) and Paradise Restaurant (Parade Grounds, Secunderabad). The third is one of the oldest restaurants in the city serving biryani. Vegetarians, head to Chutneys (in Nagarjuna Circle) if you like south Indian food.

Where to party

High-end Park Hotel's Kismet is arguably the most happening club in the city. Centrally located, it has a colourful entrance and foot-tapping music. The alcohol is moderately priced (Rs 185 for a pint of beer), so it is not surprising that the place is always bustling with people. Bottles and Chimney, in Begumpet, is one of the oldest pubs in the city and one of the most popular. What stands out here is the outstanding food and the huge space, especially at the bar. If you are a house music lover, head for Banjara Hills' Rain on the seventh floor of Shangri La Towers.

Mid-level Xtreme Sports Bar is the undoubtedly the best of its kind in Hyderabad, with outlets in, both, Banjara Hills and Jubilee Hills. They have large screens to watch the match on, and on match days the bar is packed. Try the flavoured martinis, the Elvis Lamb, the Xtreme Chilli Corn Pepper and the Buffalo Wings while you are there. For beer lovers, a pint here costs you only Rs 99. Rush Sports Café and Bar (Hitech City) has a bowling alley, X Box consoles and pool tables, and good music. Mix Pub (Himayat Nagar) has neon lighting, discs suspended from the ceiling and snazzy interiors - all giving it a futuristic spaceship look.

Budget There are a number of bars and pubs in Hyderabad that won't burn a hole in your pocket. The better ones among these are Sparks and Torque in Begumpet, H20 in Amrutha Castle Hotel, Fashion - a hip lounge bar in Banjara Hills, and Hydrate - a chic bar in Hampshire Plaza.

Must-Dos

Go on a heritage walk, probably the best way to understand Hyderabad's rich history. The Andhra Pradesh Tourism Department conducts four walks in the Old City, each well-planned, informative and entertaining. The first three walks start at Charminar and end at Chowmahalla Palace, Badshahi Ashurkhana and Purani Haveli respectively. The fourth begins at the Central Library and ends at City College.

Take the Ramoji Film City tour. Thirty-five kilometres from Hyderabad, Ramoji Film City is spread over a thousand acres and is one of largest film cities in the world. It is visited by thousands of people every day and has become a "hot holiday destination". A package deal includes to-and-fro transport, a guided tour, entry into a number of colourful shows such as the "Spirit of Ramoji", "Wild Wild West Show", "Variety Show" and "Street Show". There are rides, walks past woods, lakes and hills, a stunt performance put on by professionals, and, if you are lucky, you might even get to see (and perhaps be part of) a real movie scene being shot at the venue.

An artist performs with fire during the final procession of the eleven-day traditional festival of Bonalu, Hyderabad, July 16, 2012

A fire perfromer during the Bonalu festival © AFP

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Visit the Hussain Sagar lake. It's a popular hangout place, frequented by youngsters and families in the evenings. A number of decent restaurants are lined up on its sides, especially on Necklace Road. You could take a boat ride in the lake, and also visit Lumbini Park, an amusement park with rides, waterfalls and an impressive musical fountain with tunes from popular Hindi and Telugu films.

Do visit the Golconda Fort and Chowmahalla Palace, besides the Charminar, of course. The fort has a Sound and Lights show every evening, but if you want to attend the one in English, choose from Wednesday or Sunday. Besides these historic monuments that symbolise Hyderabad, you can also visit India's third largest museum - Salarjung, which has a collection of 43,000 art objects and 50,000 books and manuscripts, making it the biggest one-man collection of antiques in the world. The man? Nawab Mir Yousuf Ali Khan Salarjung III (1889 -1949), who spent 35 years of his life in compiling this awe-inspiring collection from all over the world.

Hyderabad is the land of the bazaars, so go to Sultan Bazaar for the clothes, Laad Bazaar for the exotic lacquer and bangles market and Ameerpet for a wholesale experience.

All information is accurate to the best of our knowledge at the time of publication, but please make sure and confirm it independently as required. All prices are in Indian rupees. Hotel prices are for double rooms. Prices are indicative and subject to change

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More in Hyderabad

Where to

  1. Ohri’s Serengeti

    The interiors of Ohri's Serengeti (Banjara Hills) have been designed to resemble a jungle but the food is not African. They serve Peshawari and Lucknowi cuisine, and have a good wine list as well.

  2. Re:gen:ta One Hyderabad Hotel

    Re:gen:ta One Hyderabad Hotel (Rs 4200, 29km) is far from the stadium but has spacious rooms and a nice bar called Salsa.

  3. Xtreme Sports Bar

    Xtreme Sports Bar is the undoubtedly the best of its kind in Hyderabad, with outlets in Banjara Hills and Jubilee Hills. They have large screens to watch the match on, and on match days the bar is packed. Try the flavoured martinis, the Elvis Lamb, the Xtreme Chilli Corn Pepper and the Buffalo Wings while you are there. For beer lovers, a pint here costs only Rs 99.

Must Do

Golconda Fort and Chowmahalla Palace  

The fort has a Sound and Lights show every evening, but if you want to catch the one in English, choose from Wednesday or Sunday. Besides these historic monuments that symbolise Hyderabad, you can also visit India's third largest museum - Salarjung, which has a collection of 43,000 art objects and 50,000 books and manuscripts, making it the biggest collection of antiques in the world that belonged to one man. The man? Nawab Mir Yousuf Ali Khan Salarjung III (1889 -1949), who spent 35 years of his life in compiling this awe-inspiring collection from all over the world.

Tips for Travellers

Hyderabad is famous for its pearl jewellery, but if you're going to shop for them, it's best to go with a local who knows the reliable shops.

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