Mumbai, previously known as Bombay, is the most populous and one of the biggest cities in India. Called the city of dreams, Mumbai is not only the powerhouse of Indian business, industry and trade but also the financial and entertainment capital of the country. It is the perfect blend of modernity and tradition, and you’ll see people from all walks of life here. It is no exaggeration to call Mumbai the ‘New York City’ of India — the character and vibe of Mumbai is unlike any other.
Having lived here for three years now, these are my top recommendations for anyone who is visiting Mumbai.
Experience the old school charm of South Bombay
South Bombay, which is basically old Mumbai, boasts of some incredible architecture that is a mix of Gothic and contemporary styles. Taking a walk around Fort and Colaba will make you feel like you’re transported back in time and the British influence on buildings is very evident from the colonial era. Whether you’re walking and exploring on your own or are on a heritage tour, Mumbai’s colonial-era buildings are worth witnessing. One building that particularly stands out is the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, which is the main railway station in Mumbai and is indeed an architectural wonder.
Visit Gateway of India
Gateway of India is the most iconic tourist spot in Mumbai and is basically an arch that was built during the 20th Century in Bombay, to commemorate the landing of King George V and Queen Mary. It is located on the waterfront overlooking the Arabian Sea. Many years later, the last of the British troops left India through this gateway. Right opposite the Gateway of India is the stunning Taj Mahal Hotel, which is a gracious landmark of Mumbai.
Enjoy the Arabian Sea
There are various promenades in Mumbai where you can just sit, relax and enjoy the sea breeze and the magnificent views. Marine Drive is the most popular promenade and is one of Mumbai’s star attractions. If you’re visiting Mumbai, walking along Marine Drive, and watching the sunset as you sit on the ledge with your feet dangling should be a must-do on your list. The ambience here is charming and intoxicating, and you can easily spend a few hours here. On one end of Marine Drive is the Girgaum Chowpatty, which is one of Bombay’s famous beaches where you can also find some incredible local Indian street food. Other famous promenades in Mumbai include Carter Road and Bandstand in the lush suburbs of Bandra.
Take a Day Trip to Elephanta Caves
Elephanta Caves, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are a network of caves sculpted from basalt rock on Elephanta Island, which is an hour-long ferry ride from Gateway of India. The ferry ride offers some great views of Mumbai’s coastline, and it takes about 4 hours to visit the island and the caves. The caves are rich in history and are known to be from the 6th or 8th century. During my visit, I hired a tour guide, who took us through the caves and narrated the story of how the caves came into being.
Explore the suburbs of Bandra
Bandra, the ‘Queen of Suburbs’, is the hipster suburb of Mumbai and has a very laid back vibe to it. A locality that houses some of the most popular Bollywood stars, it also has some of the cutest cafes and restaurants. The beautiful Mount Mary Church overlooking the Arabian Sea is visited by plenty of locals and tourists, and the elegant Gothic architecture of the church makes it worth seeing. If you’re someone who enjoys street art and graffiti, take a walk down Chapel Road to see some fascinating wall art. The sunsets in Mumbai are very dramatic, and Bandra has two incredible spots to witness the sunset: Carter Road and Bandstand.
Indulge your taste buds
If you’re in the mood to tantalise your taste buds, you’ll absolutely love Mumbai. The food here is as diverse as the people, ranging from street food to fine dining. The street food here has a distinct taste and flavour as compared to other cities in India. Some items you must try are pav bhaji, vada pav, bhel puri, and my favourite – pani puri. While you’re here, you should also try out authentic Iranian cuisine at a Parsi café (I highly recommend Kayani & Co., and Brittania & Company Restaurant). The most clichéd restaurant for a tourist to visit in Bombay is Leopold Café. It’s been around since 1871 and has gotten popular because of its’ mention in the book Shantaram. You could also indulge in some Mughlai cuisine at Punjab Grill. There are myriad options for dessert but one joint that is very popular in Mumbai is Natural Ice cream, which serves natural fruit ice creams, and you’ll find a branch in almost every area in Bombay.
Mumbai is a paradise for shopaholics, and being a metropolis, there’s nothing you can’t find here, be it fancy designer stores or expensive boutiques. However, street shopping in Mumbai is one of the best experiences, and the best place for that is Colaba Causeway, where you can get just about anything! Make sure to put your bargaining skills to good use, and you’ll be in for a treat. A few other areas I like shopping at are Hill Road and Linking Road, both situated in Bandra.
There’s so much more to see and do in Mumbai, and if you have the time to, you should definitely explore this beautiful city on your own.