Local insider Jonty Rajagopalan is an expert on Hyderabad, and
spends her time crafting customised tours of her city for
travellers from across the globe. Now, she's sharing her top tips
for what to see in Hyderabad, from off-the-beaten-path cultural
sites to the spiciest Andhra curries.
1. Why should people going on holiday to
India visit Hyderabad?
Hyderabad is perhaps the last undiscovered Mughal gem
of India. The Nizams of Hyderabad, known for their wealth and
grandeur, have left behind a city rich in architecture, crafts,
performing arts and a culture that is a fascinating mix of North
and South India. For food lovers, the city has a distinct cuisine
most well known for its biryani, kebabs and the spicy Andhra food.
The recently opened Taj Falaknuma Palace Hotel is also a
must-visit for any Indophile.
Palace, Hyderabad © Arvind Balaraman, Shutterstock
2. How long would you recommend staying in
the city to get a true feel for it?
A minimum of three nights is required to get a true
feel of the city. This ensures that the guests are able to enjoy
the city at a comfortable pace.
3. How have you seen Hyderabad evolve over
the last 10 to 15 years?
In the last decade or so, Hyderabad has been put on
the global map thanks to the strides made by the IT, pharmaceutical
and bio-tech companies. Thanks to these economic developments, the
infrastructure has also kept pace with the city getting good roads,
a world-class airport and several hotels across different price
4. For someone visting for the first time can
you recommend a shortlist of what to see in Hyderabad?
For a first time visitor, the Old City area is a
really colourful and vibrant experience. The lively bazaars as well
as the magnificence of the Chowmahalla Palace provide a great
insight into the city's glorious past. The Golkonda Fort with its
mindboggling acoustics systems is an architectural
Golkonda Fort, Hyderabad © Snehit,
5. What would you take visitors to see that
was a little more unusual and off the beaten track?
For those interested in visiting off the beaten path
places, the Paigah Tombs, the former British Residency and
Raymond's tomb are very interesting. We also visit homes of the
locals to share a meal with the family which is always a great
experience especially for those visitors who want to get a closer
feel of the local customs and habits.
Paigah Tombs, Hyderabad © Arvind
6. Hyderabad is a melting pot of different
religions and cultures - they all seem to peacefully co-exist in a
state of 'ganga jamani' - can you explain a little bit about
this and what impact this has had on the city?
Culturally, Hyderabad is actually the bridge city
that joins North and South. Throughout its history, Hyderabad has
seen a charming amalgamation of cultures especially that of the
North and the South of India. Both the dynasties that ruled this
city were responsible for bringing their own culture and blending
it with local influences. Religious divides are almost non-existent
among the locals and the sentiment of being a 'Hyderabadi'
supersedes that of being from any religious group.
Qutbshahi Tomb, Hyderabad © Snehit,
7. There are some wonderful hotels in
Hyderabad. Where would you recommend visitors book?
As of now most of the well-known hotels are those
belonging to the large national and international groups. Apart
from the magnificent Falaknuma Palace, the Taj group has four other
hotels to cater to their different customers. Hyatt group has a
couple of good hotels as well and Novotel and Westin hotels are
very conveniently located in the hi-tech city area for those having
business interests there as well. The Park Hotel also launched their flagship
hotel which is a world of all things contemporary.
Falaknuma Palace, Hyderabad
8. Hyderabad cuisine is noted for its use of
hot chillies - where would you eat to get a real flavour of the
city? Are there some really local places you would recommend
eating? Ones that are 'safe' but give to get a real feel for the
city? What are the key local dishes that visitors ought to
The most famous Hyderabadi restaurants serving
biryani and kebabs like pathar ke gosht
and shikampur would be Shadaab in the old city and Four Seasons in
Tolichowki. The other cuisine of the city, Andhra food, is
available in several places in the city. Southern Spice in Banjara
Hills and Spicy Venue in Jubilee Hills both live up to
their name! The must-haves here would be the gongura
mutton (lamb cooked in a sour sorrel leaves gravy),
palakura pappu (lentils cooked with spinach), chappala
pulusu (fish cooked in a spicy curry) and their wide array of
spicy pickles and condiments that go very well with plain steamed
9. Hyderabad processes many of the world's
pearls - where would you recommend going to purchase some? What
other specialities should we be looking to buy and where would we
go to find them?
Mangatrai Jewellers and Krishna Pearls have
several stores across the city and are very reliable as well as
cater to people with different tastes. The beauty of buying pearls
in Hyderabad is that the jewellers will accommodate your requests
of change of length, change of size of pearls then and there. The
most exclusive pearls are those from Basra, which are quite rare.
The pearls from South Sea and Tahiti are very special because of
their size and colour. You can also find very fashionable pieces of
jewellery where pearls are combined with diamonds and other
10. Have you got any real insider tips that
you would like to share on how to get the most out of and what to
see in Hyderabad?
The locals are very laidback and easy-going and one
of the main tips is to never try and visit the markets early
because most shops only open around 11 AM! The city comes to life
late but also stays open till much later. The best way to get the
most out of the city would be to adopt the same laid back attitude
like the locals and not fret over trying to get things done
quickly. The city is also very welcoming and people are more than
happy to interact with visitors. A simple smile and a hello will go
a long way in getting people to help you with anything in the
For more travel information you can find Hyderabad
featured on our itinerary; Exploring
the Deccan Plateau.