Symbolized by the Charminar (Four Towers), a 16th-century mosque and monument on the east bank of the Musi River, Hyderabad is a modern Indian success story, now nicknamed "Genome Valley" for its numerous biotechnology companies.
This hilly metropolis once went by another nickname, the City of Pearls, thanks to its part in the global pearl and diamond trade. In fact, the ancient markets of Laad Bazaar and Begum Bazaar, which snake down narrow streets near the city’s iconic landmark, are still hotspots for gold, jewelry, and brass.
As you explore, you’ll no doubt come across other examples of ornate architecture from the founders of the city (the Qutb Shahi dynasty) standing tall amid the chaos of daily life in Hyderabad. There is so much history and culture to pack in here that you’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to sightseeing. Must-visit places include the medieval Golkonda fort and Birla Mandir, an 85-meter-high Hindu temple made of white marble.
To get a feel for the Persian influence on the city, spend a morning at the Chowmahalla Palace, built in 1869 and possibly modeled on the Shah of Iran’s Tehran abode. Iranian bakeries and the sweet chai drink can also be found all over the city. Don’t forget to visit the Hussain Sagar lake, in the middle of which stands an impressive monolithic statue of Gautama Buddha.
Over on the north bank is a city firmly rooted in the present. You'll find parks and rail terminals here, as well as upmarket shopping districts such as Jubilee Hills, which is packed full of international brands and boutiques. And, of course, life doesn’t stop at sunset. From posh lounges and clubs to English-themed nightspots, Hyderabad is a hive of activity after dark.