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.
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…
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 you that many do not even realize that the twin cities of Secunderabad and Hyderabad together make for the capital city!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 Lucknow, Mumbai, Vadodara, Jaipur, and Kolkata.
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 :
Nikhil 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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
A bird enthusiast could head to the many lakes in the suburbs of Secunderabad. The nearest being the Safilguda lake. Fondly 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.
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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