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This article was first published on March 15, 2016 and was republished in March 2018.
Hyderabad may seem like a city mostly visited by tech employees and businessmen. However, the city was the center for much Medieval history and the place where diamonds were first, and only, mined. The fairytale city is filled with stories of love, war, conquest and mysteries which make for the best things to do in Hyderabad in 2 days. Let this Hyderabad itinerary show you the best part of the city in just a weekend. And if you only have one day, scroll down to our itinerary for 1 day in Hyderabad or, if you are visiting for longer, let us inspire you with one more day where you can see what 3 days in Hyderabad could look like. Either way, the capital of Telangana is a wonderful city to explore no matter how long you are staying for.
- History of Hyderabad
- What to do for a weekend in Hyderabad
- Day 1: Historical city
- Day 2: Temples, tombs and parks
- How should you spend a 3rd day in Hyderabad
- Places to visit in Hyderabad for one day
- Where to stay in Hyderabad
History of Hyderabad
Hyderabad was founded at the end of the 16th century by the Golconda Dynasty, the Qutb Shahi dynasty, and it remained under their control for a century when the Mughals conquered it. The Mughal viceroy Asif Jan declared its independence in 1724 and created a new dynasty, the Nizam of Hyderabad, which give the name to some of the historical buildings and parts of the city. This chapters of the city’s history are some of the most romanticised and represented at the Golconda Fort during the lights and music show.
The Nizam maintained their dominion as a Princely state under the British rule and even under unionised India, the area remained under the Hyderabad State with the city as its capital, until 1956 when Hyderabad became the capital of the wider Andhra Pradesh State and the winter office of the Indian President. Today, Hyderabad is the capital of two states, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.
Both the Mughal and the Nizam attracted literates and thinkers to the city bringing culture and art with them both of which are visible throughout the city. As are the special economic zones with internet companies like my former employer, Google, biotech companies to the Genome Valley, and other manufacturing, financial and research institutions.
Today, Hyderabad is India’s fourth largest city with about 7 million people, and the fifth contributor to the country’s GDP.
What to do for a weekend in Hyderabad
Two days in Hyderabad is enough time to explore the city, take in its best sights and savour its famous dishes. Every time I used to go for work I managed to fit in a visit to one or two of the places listed here so I decided to put it all into a weekend itinerary and realised it fits in nicely. If you have a bit longer, you can explore the adjacent area on day trips from Hyderabad, I added some suggestions at the end of the itinerary. Meanwhile, let’s take a look at my suggested 2 day itinerary in Hyderabad.
Day 1: Historical city
The Salar Jung Museum is the third largest museum in India housing the biggest one-man collection of antiques in the world. The range of artefacts and art pieces dates back to the 1st Century.
The museum is named after Nawab Mir Yusuf Ali Khan Salar Jung III, former Prime Minister of the seventh Nizam of Hyderabad, who spent forty years of his life amassing a priceless collection which was originally exhibited in his palace, Diwan Deodi, and then moved to the present location in 1968.
Of note are a few art pieces from the Mughal Empire. A dagger and a jade fruit knife decorated with precious stones are believed to belong to Jehangir and Noor Jahan who had an epic love story. There are a few Indian Miniature Paintings like the ones I saw in Lahore.
Don’t forget that it is the niece of Noor Jahan is the woman for whom the Taj Mahal was constructed.
Open from 10am to 5pm and closed on Friday.
His Exalted Highness The Nizam’s Museum is located in the stately Purani Haveli (also the name of a Bollywood horror movie), a place where several Nizams were born and spent parts of their lives.
The Haveli was built by Mohammed Quli Qutb Shah, the founder of the city of Hyderabad, for his Peshwa (Prime Minister), Mir Momin. In 1777, Mir Nizam Ali Khan, the second Nizam, acquired the land from the descendant of Mir Momin to build a palace for his son, Sikander Jah, who eventually became the third Nizam in 1803. When he did, he moved to Chowmahalla, letting Purani Haveli lose its prime position.
There are over ten buildings in the Purani Haveli and perhaps the most impressive is the walk-in closet, a 176 ft long room made of Burma teak and built in two level housing the costumes worn in the 19th century.
Open from 10am to 5pm and closed on Friday.
Hyderabad’s most famous dish is biryani and Shadab is a safe pair of hands to sample the local dish and other typical delicacies.
The Chowmahalla Palace was the official residence of the Nizam when they ruled Hyderabad. Construction of the palace started in 1750 but took over a century to complete. It was built as a replica to the Palace for the Shah of Iran.
The Palace won the Asia Pacific Merit award for cultural heritage conservation in 2010 after restoration by the current Nizam opened it back to the public in 2005. The Palace is also available for private functions.
Open from 10am to 5pm and closed on Friday.
Possibly the most recognized icon of the city, Charminar, gets its name from the word for our towers in Urdu. The towers are ornate minarets attached by four arches with outdoor balconies and they face each direction. The area is filled with buzzing market stalls selling jewelry, especially gold bangles, vegetables and fruit, clothes and Pearls, a trade Hyderabad was known for.
You can climb up one of the towers through a narrow and steep set of stairs to the first floor for a glimpse of the market area, the Masjid Mosque and the main trade arteries. Well worth it.
The Archeological Survey of India believes that Charminar was built at the end of the 16th century to commemorate the eradication of the plague and lies at the center of Hyderabad and the trade route between Golconda and the port city of Machilipatnam. Don’t forget to walk around the market stalls.
Opens from 9am to 5,30pm daily
Take a cab to the Falaknuma Palace, today a fairy-tale Taj Hotel. Originally the residence of the Nizam, the Palace was leased to Taj Group who undertook a serious renovation project to turn the palace into a grand and ostentatious representation of how royalty used to live. This is possibly the best preserved piece of Nizam architecture and its a stunning hotel to stay at or even just to visit.
The hotel offers guided tours of the property with the Palace Historian on Saturday and Sunday at 4pm including high tea. Tickets can be booked through the Tourism Office here. Or contact the hotel directly to book The Champagne Palace Walk that starts at sunset with legends, love and war. Don’t miss the Palace Library, a replica of the one at Windsor Castle. You may also stay for dinner in its romantic balcony. Check out more photos of the Taj Falaknuma Palace here.
Day 2: Temples, tombs and parks
Chilkur Balaji Temple is an ancient Hindu temple of Lord Balaji visited by 75,000 to 100,000 devotees a week. What makes it unique is that it does not accept any money, it does not have a hundi, no green channel or any privileges for the wealthy.
The whole temple is run on the money collected from the parking fees. The temple fought and won the right to stay out of government control. There is only one other temple like that in India.
Opens from 5am to 8pm daily
Catch a cab or call an uber to go to Taramati Baradari, a historical caravanserai, an ancient inn where travelers could rest on their journey, that is part of Ibrahim Bagh, a Persian style garden built during the reign of Ibrahim Quli Qutub Shah, the second Sultan of Golconda in the 16th Century.
The name is believed to have been given by the Sultan after his favorite courtesan. Legends and tales speak of a courtesan’s singing that could be heard from the Fort.
Open daily from 11am to 6pm
You could walk the 4km to the Fort but it is much better to take a tuk tuk or cab as the roads are not suitable for walking easily.
Golconda Fort was the capital of the medieval sultanate of the Qutb Shahi dynasty (1518–1687) and the center of major wars and legends. The fort is today in ruins but it is well worth a visit to explore the beautiful past.
The Fort is well known for its magical acoustics which are leveraged for a daily 1h evening show of lights and music that tells the history of the fort in in a fairytale style. If you go, bring repellent, the fort is known for authentic plagues of mosquitoes that are invincible to the repellent. I used almost an entire bottle on me and my friend and they still managed to bite us despite being drenched in repellent with 50% DEET.
The Golkonda Fort used to have a vault that stored the once the famous Koh-i-Noor diamond. At that time, Golconda was the only place in the world where diamonds were being mined. The name has become associated with the diamond industry and it is synonym with a diamond that has almost no nitrogen. It is also the word that was being used from the Renaissance period and until today as denoting extreme wealth.
Opens from 9am to 5,30pm daily. After 5,30pm it is possible to enter if attending the Music and lights show that starts at 6,30pm. You will be able to wander around the Fort before the show but beware that the sun setting will take away all the lights and you will be in the dark in a rather dangerous area so be sure to head to the show area as soon as the rays dissipate.
Walk over from the fort (or the other way if you plan to see the show) to the seven tombs of the Qutub Shahi sultans. These structures are made of beautifully carved stonework, and surrounded by landscaped gardens. The domes were once covered in blue and green tiles of which few remain. In the centre of each tomb is a sarcophagus which overlies the actual burial vault in a crypt below.
Opens from 9,30am to 4,30pm every day
Paradise is synonimous with biryani and the oldest place to offer it in Hyderabad. They became so popular that rumors say they used to fly biryani to Dubai in a plane in the morning for it to arrive ready for lunch time. The one in Khairatabad is near next stops and also where the saga began in 1953 so great place to stop for lunch.
Take a cab to Birla Mandir, a 1976 Hindu temple built on a 85m hill called Naubath Pahad. The temple was constructed by Birla Foundation, which has also constructed several similar temples across India, all of which are known as Birla Mandir. The Birla family is known for owning an industrial empire.
Birla Mandir Temple in Hyderabad has many marble and granite sculptures and combines Oriya and South Indian styles. It is also beautiful at night when it is floodlit.
Opens from 7am to 12pm and from 3pm to 9pm.
Asia’s largest artificial lake is right next to Birla Madir and can be explored on a boating trip. It was constructed in 1562 AD during the reign of Ibrahim Quli Qutub Shah. Built on the tributary of River Musi to provide irrigation and water to the city until 1930 and it is one of the top things to see in Hyderabad.
The lake is open from 8am to 10pm.
Lumbini Park is in the center of the city and a good place for a stroll and a breath of fresh air. It was made tragically famous in 2007 when it was targeted by the Hyderabad bombings that killed 44 people.
The park is known for the boats, the lake and the multimedia fountain show that combines laser animation, live video, sound, rhythmic musical fountains and the largest water screens in India. The show shares historical and cultural aspects of Hyderabad’s past, present and future at 7,15pm everyday except for Mondays.
The park is open from 9am to 9pm daily.
Dinner will be at Barwarchi, another local restaurant serving traditional Hyderabadi, Indian and Chinese continental.
How should you spend a 3rd day in Hyderabad
What if you are coming to Hyderabad for 3 days instead of 2? How should you spend your third day in the city? There are lots of things to do in Hyderabad in 3 days, but an additional day also gives you the opportunity to venture out of the city and join a day excursion.
Let me give you some options for places to visit in Hyderabad in 3 days below.
For the first and second day, I recommend following the above itinerary. If you have an extra day, you can do some really cool things like exploring the world’s largest film studios. Here is the list of other things to do in Hyderabad and some day trips outside the city.
Ramoji Film City
A visit to the world’s largest film studios in Ramoji Film City is a fun experience for the whole family. The studio city’s pedigree was certified by the Guinness World Records Book and you can see the large sets, the stunts and live the “Lights, Set, Action!” moments on a day tour from Hyderabad. Check out this tour with trusted global tour company Viator that takes you there and which includes lunch.
MahabubnagarSangameswara Temple in Alampur. Image by Gs9here licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0
If you are not so much into movies or into fun, then maybe you prefer to spend the last of your 3 days in Hyderabad exploring some temples and ancient architectural pearls nearby like Mahabubnagar, also known as Palamoor or Rukmammapet. The current name comes from the name of a Nizam ruler. The area has a lot of temples like the Nava Brahma Temples in Alampur, Sri Ranganayakaswamy temple built in 18th century A.D in Srirangapur, Madhava Swamy temple in Kollapur, etc. This would be a day spent in cultural surroundings.
Bidar is 140 km from Hyderabad and technically in the state of Karnataka. The city is well known for its stunning fort which was built by Ahmad Shah in 1430 and is reason enough to visit.
Places to visit in Hyderabad for one day
If you only have a day, these is how I would suggest you organise the day and the best things to do in Hyderabad you should not miss:
Hyderabad’s most famous landmark is the four-faced tower in the middle of the old town, surrounded by market stalls and buzz. Make sure to go up.
Lunch at Hyderabad’s biryani institution, no trip to the city is complete without trying the most famous dish from the restaurant that is believed to have invented it.
Falaknuma Palace tour
Today an uber luxury Taj hotel, Falaknuma Palace is Hyderabad’s most beautiful building and one which will leave a mark. Try to join one of their champagne tours with the in-house historian or book in for afternoon tea and explore the grounds. Absolutely stunning.
Golconda Fort is the most beautiful part of Hyderabad and its history a fairytale of love, romance and war well worth a visit. Make sure to leave it for the evening so you can watch the music and light show where the story of the fort is explained.
Dinner at Barwachi
Barwachi is another great place to enjoy some more finger-licking Hyderabadi cuisine.
Where to stay in Hyderabad
Hyderabad is a lightly schizophrenic city when it comes to accommodation options. If you are visiting for business, like I always used to do, you will be looking for a hotel in Hitec City, the economic zone where all international companies have their offices. While there are a lot of fancy business hotels there, I would not recommend booking a room in Hitec city if you are going to explore the places that we mentioned in this Hyderabad itinerary because you will spend a lot of time stuck in traffic given that Hitec city can be 45 minutes to an hour away from Hyderabad’s Old Town. I would recommend that you book one of the accommodation options listed below because they are well located within closer reach of the main sights, even if they are spread a fair bit.
Below is the list of my favourite luxury hotels in Hyderabad starting, obviously, by the Crown Jewel and one of India’s best luxury hotels: Taj Falaknuma Palace.
Taj Falaknuma Palace
Taj Falaknuma Palace one of the most beautiful hotels in India, the Falaknuma Palace, today a Taj hotel, is a vivid image of the regal times Hyderabad lived during the Nizam Dynasty. The gardens, the ornate and sophisticated hallways and dining rooms, the balconies, the extravagant rooms, this is pure luxury with a nightly rate to match. If you ever wanted to know how the Indian royalty of yesteryear lived, this is your best chance.
With some of the best views in the city, The Park brings a much needed air of creativity and freshness to an otherwise rather boring hospitality scene. Enjoy the rooftop pool (if the haze is not too bad) and the colourful and innovative design by the same brand which authored the Burj Khalifa while you take in Hussain Sagar Lake views.
A hotel by the Indian luxury brand ITC, inspired by the dynasty of the same name in warm tones. The hotel’s location, near the Chief Minister’s Office, gives it a dose of dignitaries and class. Enjoy the lagoon pool or its mini library.
Grand and designed in a classic style with thick carpets, plush upholstery in golden and burgundy silks, the Taj Krishna may feel dated to some but it is a good affordable alternative to the other three options which are priced higher and to the three Taj hotels in the vicinity.