A bohemian travel guide to the twin cities of Secunderabad and Hyderabad, India

I convinced myself that a bohemian travel guide to the twin cities of Secunderabad and Hyderabad is needed, as this cosmopolitan city that is widely known as the ‘City of Pearls’ is more than just another place to be ticked off a traveller’s bucket list!

‘Golconda, Biryani and Charminar- ticked. Okay, I am done with a visit to Hyderabad’. I always read and hear such statements made by visitors about this wonderful city called Hyderabad and cringe- I do, as people often think this is all that Hyderabad, the capital city of Telangana and erstwhile capital of Andhra Pradesh has got to offer to its visitors!

These places are a must-visit, no denying that. But, if one has time on hand then it is wise to go beyond these touristy places and indulge in some slow travel to make a visit to Hyderabad an indelible experience. And, yes, please look beyond the biryani!

You may also read my local tips about Hyderabad contributed to Google’s travel platform called Touring Bird.

https://www.touringbird.com/hyderabad/activities/insider_tip/Meenakshi%20J.

A bohemian travel guide to the twin cities of Secunderabad and Hyderabad

I thought why not give a glimpse into the off-beat trails of the twin cities to my readers, being a Hyderabadi myself. I have walked and traversed ‘chappa-chappa, gully-gully’, meaning- every corner and every lane, of this wonderful place for all these years. Hence, here is an off-beat experience of a virtual tour across the twin cities of Secunderabad and Hyderabad with some right captures through my lens! Remember, this is a Hyderabadi’s guide to the twin cities

travel guide to hyderabad

A brief history and geography of Hyderabad!

The capital city of Hyderabad is a combination of two regions- Secunderabad and Hyderabad, widely referred to as the twin cities. Geographically, they are demarcated by the man-made Hussainsagar Lake or ‘Tank Bund‘.

If Hyderabad is reminiscent of its association with Nizams, then, Secunderabad is synonymous with the British. Without sounding boorish, let me inform that many do not even realize that the twin cities of Secunderabad and Hyderabad together make for the capital city!

travel guide to hyderabad

And, we old-time Hyderabadis have seen it all – the communal riots, weeks of curfews, division of the state purely for political reasons and many other hurdles. The twin cities have stood the test of times enduring all.

The Old City trail

Let me start our day at the iconic Charminar, else it would be sacrilege on the part of this Hyderabadi travel blogger! Well, my dumb humour apart, but truly an early morning walk between 6:30-7:00 am around Charminar is what I suggest. It is calm, sparsely crowded and one can savour a perfectly brewed Irani Chai biting into some flavoursome Osmania biscuits amidst a right nip in the air.

Charminar

Explore the lanes and by-lanes around Charminar, which otherwise get crowded as the day progresses, with shoppers trickling in and vendors opening the shutters of their shops and kiosks. Colourful shutters, vintage architecture and an old world charm of this area are sure to captivate and entice a traveller.

travel guide to hyderabad

If planning to buy clothes or sarees, then head to Madina bazaar preferably post 11 am; if you are on a lookout for bangles or jewellery, then come back either early or late evening, to be bedazzled by the glitter of Lad Bazaar.

travel guide to hyderabad

Indulge in flavours of the bygone

Meander your way towards the Char Kaman around Charminar, for breakfast at Govind Ki Bandi, or to the nearby Moazzamjahi market and dig into an insane variety of dosas at iconic Ram Ki Bandi. New IT hubs of Cyberabad and Gachibowli may all be about malls and high-end food joints, but we Hyderabadis vouch by our quintessential mobile food-kiosks. Easy on pockets and stomach and rightfully satisfies the taste buds!

While in the old city area, you may want to tick-off the various circuits that I have mentioned with maps, at the end of the Old City Trail.

travel guide to hyderabad
Shopping area around the Charminar

travel guide to hyderabad

Read about my friend- Atul’s experience at Govind Ki Bandi

Shop and binge while in Hyderabad

If you are at the Moazzamjahi Market then stroll around this buzzing place for sure. It is a shopping arcade from the time of the Nizams. The arcade houses -grocery shops, earthenwares and fruit-shops apart from a plethora of ice-cream vendors selling freshly churned in-house icecreams. The most popular of these shops is the ‘Famous Ice-cream‘.

The market, named after Prince Moazzam Jah, the second son of the last Nizam Mir Osman Ali Shah, was constructed aeons back using rugged granite stones, replete with a clock-tower to flaunt.

Right opposite Moazzamjahi market is the legendary outlets of Karachi bakery and Hameedi Confectionary & Co. Head straight and ask for their specialities- Iranian and Dakhni delicacies of Lukhmi, Jauzi halwa and the likes.

Finding Street Art in Hyderabad
Painting  pots the indigenous way!
travel guide to hyderabad
Clock Tower of the Moazzamjahi Market

From here, you may head towards the iconic Koti area and indulge in extensive shopping around the Badi Chowdi and Sultan Bazaar; grab some second hand-books at throwaway prices and visit the British Residency aka Women’s college, Koti. Else, opt for a visit to the Birla Mandir and Birla Planetarium.

Off the beaten path ventures

Sudha Cars Museum

If travelling with kids, then make time to visit the Sudha Cars Museum (mentioned as part of the Family trail 1 map), which has an amazing and unbelievable collection of automobiles and rightfully finds a mention in Limca Book of Records, Guinness World Records and has been featured on Ripley’s Believe it or Not!

bohemian travel guide to secunderabad and hyderabad
WikiMedia Commons
bohemian travel guide to secunderabad and hyderabad
Wikimedia Commons

Tryst with the British Residency

Travellers should visit the British Residency converted into the present day Women’s College at Koti, for its neoclassical architecture style,  40 feet high Corinthian pillars, chandeliers believed to be procured from King William IVth’s palace and its close resemblance to the White House.

The residency was built in 1803 for the British Lt Col James Achilles Kirkpatrick who is infamous for his penchant for Mughal styled costumes, hookah and betelnuts. The heritage structure boasts of a Palladian-styled north facade and an Indian-styled south front with long latticed corridors. James has been immortalized by William Dalrymple in his popular novel White Mughals: Love’s Betrayal in Eighteenth-Century India, as the protagonist around whom the story is built.

bohemian travel guide to secunderabad and hyderabad
Source : WikiMedia Commons
travel guide
Source: Shetty Manisha [CC BY-SA 4.0 ]
travel guide to hyderabad koti
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Gaze at stars and planets

If you are into stars, planets and the cosmos – well, I am not suggesting a visit to an astrologer but a visit to one of the well-equipped planetariums in India. I have been to a couple of other planetariums and science museums in the country, and, by far, the Birla Planetarium in Hyderabad is the best. The one in India’s capital city-Delhi is a bit drab and a downer.

travel guide to hyderabad
Art Gallery and Birla centre

travel guide to hyderabad

Natural History Gallery

The B.M Birla Science Museum has got a participatory science projects section apart from arts, archaeology and a ‘dinosaurium‘ that are sure to keep adults and children, engaged for a long time. Do not miss catching a glimpse of the Kotasaurus – a dinosaur fossil belonging to the Lower Jurassic age, counting back to 160 million years. The fossils were excavated from a village named ‘Yamanapalli’ of the state.

Kotasaurus
Kotarambabu [CC BY-SA 4.0} (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]
Birla Science Museum
balajijagadesh [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]

Birla Mandir

Do not ignore a visit to the Birla Mandir (temple) which is in the vicinity of Birla Planetarium. While exploring this area, do realize that you are on the historic Naubath Pahad!

A decade back, Birla Mandir perched high on a hill-top offered a panoramic view of the twin cities to visitors and devotees. One could see a lot of greenery around the Golconda and Qutub Shahi tombs in contrast to the bustling traffic around the heritage monument of Charminar, on one side. The other side offered a bird’s eye view of the serene Hussainsagar Lake dotted with the Mahendra Hills and Moula-Ali dargah hills far afar. All this is just past glory, as now what one sees is just concrete jungle on all sides!

travel guide to hyderabad
ambrett [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)]
travel guide to hyderabad birla mandir
Nikhil B/Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

In case, you are hungry post a long walk inside the Birla Planetarium and Museum, then, hop into the age-old Kamat Hotel ( beside the Reserve Bank of India building) for a perfect lunch.

Hyderabad boasts of a number of parks. Some of them have state museums, nurseries, children’s park, jogging track et al. Perfect for a family weekend. One such patch of greenery is the Public gardens that also has the Telangana State Archaeology Museum in its premises.

Public Gardens and Telangana State Archaeology Museum

Public Gardens also known as Bagh-e-Aam(Bagheaam) or Bagham was built in 1846 during the Nizam regime. It was the first park thrown open to the public in the city and hence, the oldest park in the twin cities. Post-1980 it started being called as Public Gardens.

The state archaeological museum inside the premises of the Public Gardens is a rich repository of antiques and artefacts. It has some unique finds of the Kakatiya dynasty as well as Buddhist site ruins.

The main attraction is its Egyptian mummy of Princess Naishu which was brought in 1930 to Hyderabad. It is one of the six Egyptian mummies in India, the others being in LucknowMumbai, Vadodara, Jaipur, and Kolkata.

Birla Science Museum
Wikimedia Commons

From here head towards the iconic TankBund that demarcates the twin cities. The road that goes left around the lake is equipped with modern amenities and entertainment centres. Lumbini Park, NTR Gardens, Eat Street and IMAX could be visited on this stretch to have a fun-filled evening with kids and family. You could also indulge in some street art on the necklace road or laze around manicured lawns of Sanjeeviah Park.

You may want to have a closer glimpse of the Buddha statue on an island in the middle of the Hussain Sagar Lake. For this, head towards the Lumbini Park from where there are boats available to ferry visitors to the statue.

Read about where to find street art here :

Finding street art in the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad

hussainsagar lake
TankBund on a lazy evening

travel guide to hyderabadNikhil B/Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

Recommended Circuits while in the Old City area of Hyderabad :

Family Trail 1

Family Trail 2

Family Trail 3

Family Trail 4

Slow travel across Secunderabad

If you are a heritage and history lover, wanting to indulge in some non-Nizami architecture, then opt for the road on your right around TankBund (under the Secretariat flyover) as you descend the planetarium.

This 2km stretch that joins Secunderabad and Hyderabad is dotted with statues of ancient Telugu poets, literary figures and freedom fighters who belonged to the once united Andhra Pradesh.

A slow walk, reading the informative rich plaques on each of the statues is akin to indulging in a quick course on Andhra Pradesh history and literature. Many of the statues were ruthlessly vandalised by the present TRS govt (ruling the state of Telangana) demanding the formation of a separate state, a few years back. However, I see most of them being restored now, but, they look stripped off their past glory.

travel guide to hyderabad tankbund
Alluri Seetharamaraju – Freedom fighter ( Source : Wikimedia Commons)

One can find families spending their weekends and evenings on the lawns of this stretch. This was also the go-to place for our family picnics, many decades back. There is an old Krishna temple in the vicinity that brims with devotees on weekends.

At the fag end of the tank-bund is the now neglected Saidani Maa tomb, one of the few tombs built for a commoner during the Nizam era. I have always found the gates locked, the road running close to the structure choco-blocked and the heritage structure in dire need of restoration. However, the onion-shaped dome has always kept me intrigued even from outside!

Travel guide to Secunderabad
A vintage capture of the tomb (Wikimedia Commons)

Mark this tomb as the starting point of our Secunderabad tour. A better option would be to indulge in some slow travel across Secunderabad.

As a heritage lover, you could indulge in some colonial architecture as well as Rajasthani homes on the MG Road. The James Street Police Station is over a hundred years old and so are the homes adjoining the structure. There are numerous stories behind some quirky names of localities of the twin-cities. I shall save that for another post!

travel guide to hyderabad

travel guide to hyderabad
Malani’s old home turned into office space

travel guide to hyderabad

Travel guide to hyderabad
Ornate door

A right turn into the lane opposite to the James Street police station leads one to the R.P.Road. Explore the shops for some vintage chandeliers and likes or stop at the ancient 200-year-old Ujjaini Mahankali temple to pay your obeisance. And, just adjacent to this is the famed General Bazaar, perfect to indulge in some retail (wholesale) therapy. Do not forget to pamper your sweet tooth at one of the handfuls of Bengali sweet shops tucked away in a ginnel.

travel guide to secunderabad
Vintage architecture
travel guide to hyderabad
Colourful doors!

Brave the traffic to cross a thoroughfare, meander through the Old Jail Road and take a stroll around the Pot Market area, which is home to many old jewellery shops. Adjacent to this is the famous Monda Market of Secunderabad. It is basically an open market that sells fruits, vegetables and everything under the sun that is unavailable in other markets of the twin cities.

Binge into some delectable street chaat here- the crispy Irani samosas to the very famous cutlet and aloo-toasts of the Pot-Market area.

aloo toast hyderabad
Chaat shop!

Wind up this walk with a visit to the digitally active 200-year-old Shri Ganesh temple. Situated bang beside a mosque, nearby to the Secunderabad railway station is the Ganesh temple- that has witnessed the British Invasion as well as the freedom movement. This contemporary temple is revered by locals and is the first Telangana temple to go online.

While here, soothe your senses with some Irani chai and delectably crispy samosas at the Alpha Hotel nearby to the Secunderabad railway station.

Secunderabad is India’s first railway station with an automated parking system and is one of the largest railway stations in India.

Irani chai
Irani chai and Osmania biscuits
Ganesh temple
Digitally active Ganesh temple!
travel guide to hyderabad
A glimpse of the Secunderabad Railway Station

Secunderabad debunks the notion of street art with a display of the IG tagged ancient Cheriyal Paintings and of bygone Telugu era, that adorn the metro line pillars and underpasses at various places. Stroll around the Regimental bazar to buy knick-knacks and freshly baked cookies from the hole-in-the-wall bakeries.

street art
Cheriyal painting finds a larger canvas

A bird enthusiast could head to the many lakes on the suburbs of Secunderabad. The nearest being the Safilguda lakeFondly called the ’Mini Tankbund’, this lake has become a breeding island for migratory birds and is the best place to go bird-watching for free in the Secunderabad area.

bird watching hyderabad
Nadimi lake

Obviously, this isn’t a complete guide but just a bohemian travel guide to the twin-cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad. I shall keep updating this post with interesting places to visit and indulge, as often as possible.

Hope this guide comes handy for travellers heading to explore Hyderabad. Do share your feedback, queries(if any) and experiences in the comments section.

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A comprehensive travel guide to the twin cities of Secunderabad and Hyderabad, Telangana , India | Asia | India | Telangana | Hyderabad | Architecture | Photography | TravelGuide | Family Travel | #travel #indian #incredibleindia #photography #asian #familytravel #photography #archilovers

 

A comprehensive travel guide to the twin cities of Secunderabad and Hyderabad, Telangana , India | Asia | India | Telangana | Hyderabad | Architecture | Photography | TravelGuide | Family Travel | #travel #indian #incredibleindia #photography #asian #familytravel #photography #archilovers

 

A comprehensive travel guide to the twin cities of Secunderabad and Hyderabad, Telangana , India | Asia | India | Telangana | Hyderabad | Architecture | Photography | TravelGuide | Family Travel | #travel #indian #incredibleindia #photography #asian #familytravel #photography #archilovers

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29 Comments

  1. Hyderabad that I had visited three years back had nothing that you mentioned😁😝 On a serious note, I now wish to revisit twin cities and discover the real gems! Wish you had written it three years back; it would have saved my money that I will have to spend in visiting it again😉

    1. Haha…Anagha. I guess you experienced what first time visitors to Hyderabad, usually tick-off their list, which is very much valid. These reccos are more for repeaters and slow travellers :p Much thanks for dropping in by the blog!

  2. I must say its very elaborately written and helps to explore the city beyond the touristy traps. Well, I totally agree with you where you say that people need to know Hyderabad beyond Charminar and Biryani. I can say I have seen a lot of places beyond it but yet not as wholesomely as described by you . Will save your post for my next visit.

  3. I have never been to Hyderabad so yes, Charminar and Golconda fort is all I can think of when I say hyderabad. This is such an awesome experiential guide. Thanks for introducing me to these unsung beauties of Hyderabad. I would also love to visit the Ramoji film city when I go there.

  4. Firstly the pictures are great. It feels like you brought the reader along on this trip. Another thing is Im a foodie and the Irani samosa and chai made me hungry as with the street food picture. All in all a really comprehensive guide to Hyderabad.

    1. Thank you so much and cheers to being foodies 😀

  5. I had never heard Of Hyderabad until I read this article. What a mind opener!Would love to go bird sighting in the Secunderabad area!

    1. Glad you liked the write-up…Thanks 🙂

  6. I love that you started this guide early in the morning on the Old City trail. First, it’s great to beat the heat and tourists, as you suggested. Also, it’s ideal to see the historic side of a city. I think that formulates a great understanding of why cities function in certain ways and help understand their customs and culture. I love all the vintage vibes from these two cities. A fantastic guide!

    1. Thank you and yes, you are right when you say that cities function in a certain way to understand it better 🙂

  7. So cool that the twin cities make up the capital city, together. 🙂 I would love to visit the public gardens as well as go check out the Egyptian mummy of Princess Naishu in the museum.

    1. Thank you and hope you get to visit this part of India soon 🙂

  8. Indrani says:

    Visited just once and have covered most of these sights. Yet I always had a feeling my journey was not complete there. Your post proves exactly that point to me. I need to explore Secunderabad more.

    1. Hope you get to explore the twin very soon and if I am there during your visit, shall take you around, Indrani 🙂

  9. Wow, so many gorgeous buildings, some are so colonial looking. The Sudha Cars Museum looks like fun and a great family friendly activity.

  10. Hannah says:

    The Birla Mandir temple is so striking. And bird watching in Safilguda lake would be a peaceful pastime, after eating some yummy crispy Irani samosas first of course!

  11. A digitally active temple and a dinosaur! I missed these two interesting aspects while in the city. My fave memory is from the Chowmohalla Palace. A peek into the lives of the Nizams was fascinating.

  12. I love checking out temples and viewpoints and I would love to check out the Birla Mandir the most on this blog post. My kinda thing to do on the road. Would also love to check out the automobile museum.

  13. Francesca Murray says:

    I’d love to try Iranian Chai from the Alpha Hotel! That sounds yummmy. The Pot Market also looks like a lot of fun

  14. I visited Hyderabad a few years ago and was truly amazed at the history. The Nizam was a larger-than-life character who sure was one of the richest men in the world at the time. It’s a city certainly worth visiting for its rich history but it would be good if more funds are allocated to restoring the beautiful buildings.

  15. My main knowledge of Hyderabad is only from its name being given to such food dishes as the style of biryani, so great to learn about what makes it and its twin city so worthwhile to visit. I love that you take us through the old city historical sites, including foodie highlights and what and where to shop. Other ideas such as car and science museums also appeal. Then on to Secunderabad, and that amazing tomb plus the quaint bazaar area!

  16. Wow!absolutely enjoyed reading this article. Even though I stayed in the city for around 8 years, couldn’t visit all that you mentioned. I hope, there is a part 2 for it as iam expecting to see salarjung museum, chowmahalla palace, taramati bardari, durgam cheruvu

    1. This is such an informative post. Hyderabad for me too was only Charminar and Biryani from Paradise. I would love to visit it again to explore the other heritage sites and try out different dishes. Loved the tips on shopping too

  17. I am sure as a local you can provide the best insiders view of Secunderabad and Hyderabad. We always like to get started early, so a start at the Charminar would be ideal. Especially if we can find mobile food kiosks for breakfast. Although I would want to finish up at the Hameedi Confectionary. That would give me the energy to head to the Birla Planetarium next. But I would not want to leave without a visit to Brirla Mandir.

  18. Thanks for this fun tour, I love old and historic places so I’m more drawn to the old city, markets and fascinating neighborhoods that you have shown and walking down those places is a fun discovery tour in my eyes and photography interest.

  19. Tom Bourlet says:

    That is one hell of a comprehensive guide! I tip my hat. The Birla Mandir looks amazing, I’d love to visit some time

  20. Thanks for this detailed guide! I moved to Hyderabad recently and would love to explore both the cities and try some of the delicious street food.

  21. Angelica Kajiwara says:

    You had me at Chai and biscuits! Sounds like the perfect way to spend an early morning. I know my three little ones would love the automobile museum. We’d have to stop by, for sure. Thank you for sharing your adventures.

  22. Probably the most elaborate post on Hyderabad on the internet. I myself didn’t know so much about the city. Thanks for the information and for mentioning me too 😇

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