The best thing about dating my bae(and now marrying him) is that he is the most giftable person on this earth. I know for one thing that I don’t have to spend my life thinking about what to gift him on special occasions. Last year, a staycation at The Roseate, Delhi was what became the ideal gift for him. This year, you know what it is!
So, this year was bae’s first birthday after we vowed to be man and wife. This time the birthday was in a complete rush. We had just got married and returned from our honeymoon, so another trip was out of question. Then bae had to leave for the US in the next 10 days, and he had a lot to wrap up in his office.
We wanted to make Hyderabad our home, but during our individual stints in Hyderabad, we never got an opportunity to explore it together. So, I decided to bid goodbye to Hyderabad in a complete Rohan Raizada way – I gifted him a staycation at the Taj Falaknuma Palace.
I am always delighted by the hospitality of the Taj group. I will be covering this fantastic property in two parts – the history and then the service of this place.
But first, if you are planning to visit Hyderabad, make sure you are making this trip between September and March. The weather is pleasant then. I have always maintained that whenever you decide to book a 5- star luxurious hotel, try to avoid booking it through a travel agent(Expedia, Booking, Make My Trip etc). Book by directly calling the hotel, especially when you have some occasion to celebrate. You can get the best deals or the best packages at better prices.
History and Architecture
Falaknuma literally means like the sky(heaven). I completely agree with it. I have been to this place for various occasions – drinks, dinner but living there was a different experience. Even when you go to dine there, you get a guided tour of the Palace. However, the residential guests get a pretty detailed guided tour, and that is exactly when you can ask all your questions if you are a history enthusiast.
I love doing it because it is always a good feeling to know a place li’l more. So basically, my trip to Falakhuma became more about me knowing this place than my bae and his special day. Just kidding. Or am I?
It is a huge property, approximately 13 hectares (i.e., roughly 14 lakh square feet) in area. It stands tall, around 5km from Charminar, a signature monument of this beautiful city of Hyderabad. This is, undoubtedly, the most magnificent heirloom I have ever seen!
Built in the shape of a scorpion with spread stings, this Palace took almost 10 years to build. Why a scorpion? Because it’s Sir Viqar’s star sign. His Palace, his say. Yes, it is super elaborated in designs with Italian marble flooring and stained glass windows. This is because the Prime Minister of Hyderabad, Sir Viqar-ul-Umra, in the late 19th century was a fan of the European style of architecture and wanted to build a residential complex for himself inspired by that. He was also the brother-in-law of the then Nizam, Mehboob Ali Khan. Him and the Bank of Bengal, jointly, was the source of the money and loan required to build this Palace. That is a li’l fact, in case you are wondering if PMs can be that rich!
The entrance of the Palace is exquisite. An utterly white structure which shines like a diamond. The entrance leads to a beautiful great hall, which has some illustrious frescos. They are not just a treat to the eyes but also illusions. They keep on changing as you move along the hall.
It is built at an elevation of 2000 feet. Away from the heart of the city, yet so close to it. The iconic Gol Bangla, from where the whole city of Old Hyderabad is visible was the place where the PM lived after the completion of this Palace.
The Palace has many of the artefacts preserved. The Grandfather clock, which still tells the right date, the furniture – everything is kept with all the manuscripts and the precious stonework.
Not just that, the statues and other pieces of furniture are standing tall and strong – even today.
Then comes the library which has the most exquisite collection of English, Hindi, Urdu and Persian books. Not just that, it is the home to the first-ever edition of the Encyclopedia Brittanica. Oh, I loved this place for that! Also, everyone in this place which looks after something or the other has a royalty of their own. You might want to read about the librarian here! I promise you it’s one of the most exciting stories I have come across.
Sir Vaqar was very clear that this Palace has to be the most magnificent Palace of his time. The English designers designed two identical billiards table. One is placed at the Buckingham Palace, London and the other one, here.
My favourite room in this Palace is the dining hall, which has been in the news lately for being a host to PM Modi and Ivanka Trump. This hall is huge. With 101 seats, a tall ceiling and unusual paintings, this place actually made the song “Hotel California” play in my head automatically. I mean this hotel is so good to be true that you will believe that maybe you are trippy enough to imagine something like this. I am not kidding.
And finally, the ballroom is a magnificent one with a little over 30 Venetian chandeliers ornamenting it. It does look like a set of some British-era movie.
After living in this magnificent place for almost half a decade, Sir Viqar handed over the Palace to the sixth Nizam of Hyderabad, Mir Mahbub Ali Khan. I am so amazed by the grandeur of the royal heritage of India. Imagine travelling to Europe, loving the architecture and then hiring an English architect to build the house of your dream. And then finding someone who loved it even more so that they buy it for a magnificent amount. Legends say Sir Viqar took 20 Lakh Indian Rupees from the sixth Nizam in 1897. That is a lot of money!
The Nizam used this Palace to provide with a royal stay to all his royal visitors, who rightly deserved it. And even today, it is the place where India hosts its notable guests.
The Palace lacked maintenance after the 1950s. It was on its way of becoming just another palace into the wilderness of Indian regality. The Taj Group of Hotels leased it in 2000 and with the help of Princess Ezra, the first wife of the present (titular and pretend) Nizam of Hyderabad, Mukarram Jah, restored it to what it is today. It was reopened as a luxurious heritage hotel in November 2010.
It is so beautiful to listen to the hotel guide when he tells you about the way each and everything in the Palace was restored.
The service is unmatched. The moment you enter the Palace, you are treated like a Nizam. I mean my bae must have felt like the birthday boy after he saw his ride to the main Palace.
And once you start moving towards the reception, you are being led by a flag bearer, and suddenly there is this rose petal shower. Trust me, at that moment I really felt as if we are being shot for some high-end Bollywood song music video.
Right after the check-in, we decided to take the tour of the Palace, which was guided with a lot of information which I think I have shared correctly. The tour ends with a traditional Qawwali performance in the main garden area. I am not a qawwali and Sufi songs fan. However, the vibes of the place are not complete if you don’t listen to this performance.
Anyhow, the rooms are pretty amazing. They all open to the central garden.
Since it was Bae’s birthday, they have arranged extraordinary li’l things to celebrate.
The bathroom, as I have always said, is my judgement criteria for any hotel room. Here is was marble-floored, huge and too royal to be accurate, complete with a deep soaking tub.
We decided to go for our dinner at the Gol Bungalow only, from where the well-lit city of old Hyderabad can be seen, with another round of Qawali performance. But this time they sang a birthday song for Bae in a completely Sufi style. It was lovely!
The food is delicious. The pure taste of the cuisine of the Nizam’s kitchen can be tasted only here. And I tell you that after living in Hyderabad for almost a year and after tasting food from almost everywhere!
The chef personally comes to you and tells you the dishes you must try. They prepare things according to your tastes too. Not all of them, but yes, some of them.
The breakfast spread is pretty amazing too. It’s usually a mix of English and South Indian cuisine. And with a touch of Taj Group’s fantastic hospitality.
The other services – the swimming pool and the spa are good too. I was running late, so decided not to go for the spa. However, it is a beautiful property to explore otherwise too!
I have been to some of the finest luxury hotels in India, and I loved each one of them. But I have never stayed in a real palace with such excellent service! My goodbye to Hyderabad and Bae’s first birthday after our wedding was made memorable by this place. Thanks!
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