Most of the city lies on the south bank of the Tungabhadra River. The city was built around the original religious centre of the Virupaksha temple at Hampi. Other holy places lie within its extents, including the site of what is said to be Kishkinda where a Hanuman temple, the cave home of Anjana, Kesari and Shabari, a holy pond named the Pampasarovar are located. It also contains the cave home of Sugriva, the monkey king of the Ramayana.
The central areas of the city, which include what are now called the Royal Centre and the Sacred Centre, extend over an area of at least 40 km². It includes the modern village of Hampi. Another village, Kamalapura, lies just outside the old walled city, but is also surrounded by ruins and monuments. The nearest town and railhead is the town of Hosapete, about 13 km away by road. Hosapete also lies within the original extents of the old city, though most of the items of interest are within walking distance of Hampi and Kamalapura.
The natural setting for the city is a hilly landscape, dotted with numerous granite boulders. The Tungabhadra river runs through it, and provides protection from the north. Beyond the hills on the south bank on which the city was built, a plain extended further the south. Large scale walls and fortifications of hewn granite defended the centre of the city.
The ruined city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, (where it is called the Ruins of Hampi). In recent years there have been concerns regarding damage to the site at Hampi from heavy vehicular traffic and the construction of road bridges in the vicinity. Hampi is now listed as a "threatened" World Heritage Site, and is included in the 'UNESCO List of World Heritage in Danger: 1999'.
Contemporary descriptions depict a very large and highly-developed metropolitan area: recent commentators say,
The city flourished between the 14th century and 16th century, during the height of the power of the Vijayanagar empire. During this time, the empire was often in conflict with the Muslim kingdoms which had become established in the northern Deccan, and which are often collectively termed the Deccan sultanates. In 1565, the empire's armies suffered a massive and catastrophic defeat at the hands of an alliance of the sultanates, and the capital was taken. The victorious armies then proceeded to raze, depopulate, and destroy the city over a period of several months. Despite the empire continuing to exist thereafter during a slow decline, the original capital was not reoccupied or rebuilt. It has not been occupied since.
The buildings in the city are mostly built in the original native traditions of southern India, associated with the Hindu religion. Some of them show a certain amount of Islamic influence due the interaction with the Islamic kingdoms.
This surviving temple and temple complex is the core of the village of Hampi. Also known as the Pampapati temple, it predated the empire, and was extended between the 13th and 17th centuries. It has two courts with entrance gopurams. The main entrance with a 50 meter gopuram faces east into a ceremonial and colonnaded street, that exends for about 1 km to a monolithic statue of Nandi.
The temple is still in use now. It is dedicated to Virupaksha, an aspect of Shiva and his consort Pampa, a local deity.
The hill is situated to the south of Hampi village. It bears several small temples that predate the construction of Vijayanagara as the capital of the empire, some being as early as the 10th century. The hill was fortified when the main city was constructed, and a number of more recent temples, tanks, entrances, and gopurams exist on the hill, some of which were never completed.
This is a ruined temple, south of Hampi and Hemakuta hill. It was built by the emperor Krishnadevaraya after military campaigns in Orissa. The temple is contained in twin enclosures. Parts of the temple and its compound have collapsed, and while some restoration has been carried out, it is generally in poor condition. There is now no image in the inner sanctuary.
Also to the south of Hampi is this massive rock cut idol of Narasimha, the fierce aspect of Vishnu, 6.7 m high. Originally the idol bore a smaller image of Lakshmi on one knee; this had fallen off, probably due to vandalism. The Lakshmi statue is now in the museum at Kamalapuram.
Narasimha is depicted seated on the coils of Shesha. Shesha is shown here in a form with seven heads, the heads arching over Narasimha to form a canopy. The statue has recently been restored. The granite strap binding between his knees is a recent addition to stabilise it.
The donation of this work is ascribed to either Krishnadeva Raya, or to a wealthy merchant during his reign.
This is a natural cave, said to be the original home of the monkey king Sugriva, where Rama is said to have met him and Hanuman on his travels. The cave is marked by coloured markings, and the attentions of pilgrims.
This is situated to the east of Hampi, near the end of the colonnaded street that leads out from the Virupaksha temple. It is in the sacred centre of the city, and by a narrow point of the Tungabhadra river. This temple marks the spot where Rama crowned Sugriva. The temple is still in use, and the garbha grha contains statues of Rama, Lakshmana and Sita all carved out a single boulder.
Situated northeast of Hampi, opposite the village of Anegondi, this is one of the principal monuments of the city. It is dedicated to Vittala, an aspect of Vishnu worshipped in the Maratha country. It is believed to date from the 16th century.
In the front of the temple is the famous stone chariot or ratha. This is itself a miniature temple, carved out of a single rock, to resemble the temple chariots or rathas in which temple idols are traditionally taken out in procession.
One of the notable features of the Vittala Temple is the musical pillars. Each of the pillars that support the roof of the main temple is supported by a pillar representing a musical instrument, and is constructed as 7 minor pillars arranged around a main pillar. These 7 pillars, when struck, emanate the 7 notes from the representative instrument, varying in sound quality based on whether it represents a wind, string or percussion instrument.
The temple is the venue of the annual Purandaradasa festival.
This structure, the Tulapurushandana, stands to the southwest of the Vittala temple. consists of two carved granite pillars, spanned by a carved horizontal granite transom. This was used on ceremonial days, when scales were hung from the transom, and the Raya (the emperor) was ceremonially weighed against gold or jewels. The treasure was then distributed, to Brahmins or others in the city.
This extensive area consists of a small plateau, which starts about 2 km to the southeast of Hampi, and extends southeast, almost to the village of Kamalapuram. It is separated from the Sacred Centre by a small valley, now consisting of agricultural fields, and which carries irrigation canals or streams that join the river opposite Anegondi. A granite platform overlooks the Royal Centre. The Royal Centre contains the ruins of palaces, administrative buildings, and some temples directly associated with royalty. Little remains of the palaces except the foundations, as they were largely timber structures, for comfort. The temples and some of the other stone structures survive however, as do many of the surrounding city walls.
An aqueduct runs through much of the Royal Enclosure and into the Great Tank where water was brought for special events.The west end of the tank is overlooked by a platform shrine. The aqueduct also runs into the large stepped tank, lined in green diorite, with a geometric design that has not required restoration.
The temple stands in a rectangular courtyard, with entrances facing to the east. Reliefs showing daily life and festival scenes occur on the outer walls of the courtyard. Scenes from the Ramayana occur on the inner courtyard walls, and on the temple itself. There is a well-relief of baby Krishna on the walls.
The temple may have been exclusively for royal use. It is believed to be constructed at the site of Vaali's killing in the hands of Rama. It may have been a private shrine for royalty. It is unusual in that it has four black basalt columns in the mantapa (columned hall). The inner sanctuary of the temple is now empty.
This is also known as the Hazara Rama temple (temple of a thousand Ramas), due to the recurrence of images of Rama on the walls. Sometimes it is called the Hajara Rama temple (the Rama temple in the courtyard).
Also known as the Prasanna Virupaksha Temple, this temple is popularly known as the Underground Shiva Temple simply because the roof of the temple is at ground level.
The temple has a Garbagriha with an antarala and Aradhamantapa and a Mahamantatapa. The mahamantapa has pillared corridors that fuse with the pillared Mukhamantapa, making a larger pillared frontal Mantapa which also encloses a Dwajasthamba. The pillars of this temple are plain.
An inscription referring to this temple states that Krishnadevaraya donated Nagalapura and other villages for worship and offerings to the Gods for the merit of his parents Narsa Nayaka and Nagaji Devi.
At times the base of the temple is flooded and may be inaccessible. When it is accessible, masses of small insect bats may be found in the temple.
Other monuments and places of interest can be found outside of the above two major centers.
A number of modern populated towns and villages lie within the extents of the original city. These include;