Prepare to switch into high gear as you take in the streets, sights and sounds of India’s largest metropolis. India’s most populous city is also its wealthiest, with more millionaires and billionaires than anywhere else in the country. But visitors will note that extreme wealth sits alongside extreme poverty. The daily chaos of big city life offers a fascinating insight into the financial, commercial and entertainment capital of India.
Mumbai is also the home of glamorous Bollywood, where budding actors try to make it big. With more than 150 films produced here every year, this is the Los Angeles of India. Indeed, for many Indian people, Mumbai is considered the City of Dreams.
With Mumbai being such a vibrant cultural melting pot, there is no shortage of attractions to explore. Museums are a good place to start – the city proudly boasts some of India’s finest. Housed in a handsome building that features British, Indian and Islamic architectural influences, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS) is home to impressive Hindu and Buddhist collections.
Prefer natural history? Take the ferry to Elephanta Island to explore cave temples carved into rock dating back to 450AD. More historic caves can be found within the tranquil Sanjay Gandhi National Park alongside the resident wildlife, which includes leopards, deer and the Indian flying fox.
Back in the heart of the city head to Babulnath Temple where you can scale a few hundred steps (or take the elevator) to witness one of Mumbai’s oldest temples, as well as panoramic views of the sprawling metropolis below.
Eat and Drink
A truly cosmopolitan city, Mumbai offers cuisines from all over the world. But the big culinary draw cards are the excellent range of regional specialties and the fresh seafood. Local dishes to try include bhelpuri, a meal of puffed rice, vegetables and tamarind, and more curiously, dry Bombay duck curry, which is actually a fish dish. Mumbai is considered the home of Indian street food – it’s everywhere, and it’s excellent.
If you’re concerned about consuming street food ask your hotel concierge for reputable vendors. As far as alcohol is concerned, Mumbai is far more liberal than many other Indian cities. Local watering holes can be found around the city after dark, but for trendy bars head to South Mumbai.
Where to Stay
South Mumbai offers good proximity to major attractions, Juhu Beach is perfect for those who want to be near the water, and North Mumbai is the place to be if you require accommodation near the airport. Colaba is a tourist hub with plenty of sights and restaurants close to its hotels, which offer grand up-market experiences.
If you’re willing to fork out the rupees, the luxury hotels along Marine Drive will reward you with views over the Arabian Sea from rooftop lounges where you can sip a cocktail as the sun goes down.
Mumbai is home to big name national and international brands, so get your credit card ready. Bungalow 8 is a hip multi-level shopping destination for jewellery, clothing and homewares. Flashy boutiques and shopping malls aside, Mumbai simply must be explored by foot for its street bazaars and markets. One of the city’s oldest markets, South Mumbai’s Chor Bazaar is the place to find antiques and bric-a-brac treasures amid car parts and other curious objects.
Also in South Mumbai is the tourist hotspot of Fashion Street, with stall upon stall of clothing and shoes – don’t be afraid to bargain. For traditional Indian handicrafts and clothing, seek out the government run emporiums to ensure authenticity and quality.
Mumbai Like a Local
Come evening time take a stroll along Chowpatty Beach, where locals gather to chat, relax and watch the sunset. After dark the beach turns into a carnival area of sorts with a few amusements for children, peddlers selling balloons and novelties, and street food stalls serving up delicious Indian snacks.