Best things to do in Mumbai, what was once Bombay
Like New York, London and Tokyo, Mumbai has the definite buzz of maximum city! I love the tropical climate and the crunchy salty air. On the first visit, the city seems so familiar. Perhaps it's because we recognise the buildings and landmarks. Bollywood films were full of romantic scenes shot on Marine Drive with its Art Deco mansions and twinkling lights. If you have read books like Shantaram (https://en.wikipedia.org/
wiki/Shantaram_(novel) ) you feel that you already know the city. To get the best out of the city I would book a walking tour, there are many credible tour companies offering tours for a variety of interests and groups, I also like to jot down must-see places and memories in my Jodi Journal
The city has fantastic museums, the time out magazine has this great round up here, https://www.timeout.com/mumbai/things-to-do/best-museums-in-mumbai. I would recommend doing some reading before hand, this book Bombay Then and Mumbai Now gives great insight in the history of the city. I try to to pack as little as possible, so you can fill your suitcases up with books, artifacts, clothes and beautiful things for our home. Mumbai is fabulous for finding presents and is full of interesting stores catering to all price points.
My personal top list of things to do are below.
1.To orient yourself it is good to visit the Gateway of India first. It was built to commemorate the visit of George V, Emperor of India on 2nd of December, 1911. Once you have walked around the site in Apollo Bunder, there is a lot to do nearby. The shopping is high end but authentically made with Indians in mind. I really love https://rawmango.com/stores and https://www.goodearth.in/ (the Good Earth store at Raguvanshi Mills has a cafe and is a great store). If you are feeling fancy you can have afternoon tea at The Taj, the most iconic of all Mumbai hotels. https://www.tajhotels.
2.Colaba (almost at the end of the peninsula)
The area around the Gateway of India is called Colaba. It's a great destination to wander around and soak up the arty vibes. It's a vibrant area filled with boutiques, buzzy restaurants and galleries. I recommend a visit to https://www.burmaburma.in/ for exceptional Burmese food. Kala Ghoda (named after the black horse statue) is a mecca for the arts, there are galleries and museums nearby https://www.
jehangirartgallery.com/ is good for an introduction to modern Indian art. Nearby in Fort is the https://www. gallerychemould.com/, this gallery really pioneered the contemporary art movement in India. Colaba Causeway is a sort of street market with the clothes and bags etc spilling out of the shops onto the pavement, there are bargains to be had here especially if you are up for a haggle.
3.Take a tour around Mahalaxmi Dhobi Ghat said to be the world's largest outdoor laundry. It's such a fascinating place where dhobis (washers) are said to wash 100,000 items daily. It's located at the Mahalaxmi railway station in south Mumbai.
Dhobi Ghat photo credit: M Moody
4. Fill your belly. Mumbai is a food lovers heaven and there is serious eating to be done. For vegetarian treats, head to Chowpatty beach in Juhu, it is easy to spend a few hours trying out the different street food such a bhel puri and papri chat. Take some hand wipes as it can get messy. Meat lovers will need to head to Mohammed Ali road where the scent of sizzling kebabs fill the air, I would definitely recommend you go with someone who knows the area as it is a little overwhelming knowing where to start, dress modestly and be prepared for the streets to be very busy especially around Ramadan and Eid. Mohammed Ali Road is also the site for Chor Bazaar a wonderful flea market where genuine antiques sit next to the most audacious items that are passed off antiques!
Papri Chaat, Juhu Beach photo credit: RAB
5. Soak up the atmosphere in Bandra, live like a local and sip single origin coffee and admire the street art. The neighbourhood is known for its famous inhabitants from the world of cricket and film, this makes it a 'happening' area with the latest clubs and restaurants.
6. Visit some religious sites. Mumbai is a melting pot of different cultures and religions, many are drawn to Mumbai with the dream of making it and regularly visit shrines to ask for divine intervention to reach their goals. Bandra is home to Mount Mary Church the church has been the setting for many scenes in the Golden Days of Bollywood. Haji Ali Dargah is a mosque and and dargah located on an islet off the coast of Worli, in south Maumbai. An exquisite example of Indo-Islamic Architecture, associated with legends about doomed lovers (Wikipedia). The shrine gets crowded on Fridays so choose the timing of your visit accordingly and dress modestly.
Perhaps the most famous temple in the city is the Mahalaxmi Temple built in 1831, on special days it can be very crowded with people queuing upt o
buy coconuts, offerings and flowers. As with most religious sites in India you have to remove your shoes to enter, bear this in mind when you visit.
Local Temple in Matunga photo credit: M Moody
There is so much to do and see the list is endless:
- walk around Malabar Hill and immerse yourself in the grand Parsi surroundings
- take a stroll along Marine Drive at dusk
- learn how the Tiffinwallas deliver hot lunches to 1000's of office workers daily
- take the ferry to Elephanta caves and see the 2nd century BCE Buddist carvings
- catch a train from the glorious Chhatrapati Shivaji train station and marvel at the Gothic architecture and stained glass windows.
step back in time and eat in a Parsi Cafe.
- Make sure you wear cool clothes and comfy shoes!