Mumbai, also known as Bombay and the capital of Maharashtra, is one of the busiest cities in India. It is a place of commotion and consistent chatter, earning her the title of “maximum city”. Whatever your impression of this megacity is, it can’t be denied that Mumbai is a blast!
1. Chowpatty - Sunrise on the seafront
Mumbai derives its character from the finest sea beaches that provide instant comfort from the daily mundane routines of metropolis life. Some of the popular seashore areas in Mumbai are situated at Juhu, Girgaum and Bandra.
The Juhu and Girgaum beaches are traditionally identified as ‘Chowpatty’ and are located in the heart of the city. The spectacular sunsets from Chowpatty are a scene worth seeing. The place gets especially busy during weekends though. Visit in the evening and experience the lively atmosphere. Don’t miss the chance to try the famous ‘chowpatty bhelpuris’ at the local food stalls. Bhelpuri is a Maharathi spicy and tangy snack made with vegetables, puffed rice.
Chowpatty can be reached by road. Simply take an auto rickshaw or taxi from the city to reach the beach. You can also make use of the local buses or train. The nearest train station is Churchgate. If you are looking for a more relaxed location, the nearby neighborhood of Bandra Bandstand is a good option for a night walk or just to sit down to enjoy a cup of coffee by the sea.
2. Appreciate heritage buildings of Mumbai on a walking tour
Have your camera ready! The historic structures of Mumbai are among the most impressive buildings constructed on Indian soil. The majority of these structures have pages of history appended to them and can be seen in the city centre.
One of these buildings is the Bombay House, near the Fort and the Flora Fountain. In the same area, you will find the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE), which was previously India’s tallest tower, the Bombay High Court, the Victorian-style St Xavier’s College in Marine Lines, colonial buildings along Colaba and the Gateway of India. These iconic buildings are located along bustling streets that are specked with acclaimed eateries and bistros, adding extra charms to the city.
Nearby, you can find other magnificent and unique buildings like the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST), formerly named the Victoria Terminus (VT), as well as the Asiatic Society Library.
3. Colaba - in the heart of Mumbai
Colaba, the great commercial street is one of the most celebrated places in Mumbai. At the time of Portuguese rule, this island was named as Candil. In the late 17th century, the British took over this place and named it Colio. While Colaba is no longer an island, it appeals more than ever as a tourist destination. Colaba is said to be the unofficial headquarters of Mumbai’s traveler scene: it stretches down the city from the southernmost peninsula and it is filled with numerous shops, restaurants and bars.
At one end, don’t miss the Colaba Causeway, a commercial street that sells pretty much everything! Its proximity to popular attractions such as the Gateway of India and the Taj Hotel, makes it a convenient stop when you are sightseeing in the city. A stone’s throw away, you can find one of the largest flea markets in India - the Chor Bazaar (Thieves’ Market). Believed to be originally called ‘Shor Market’ (Noisy Market), rumor has it that the current name derived from a British mispronunciation. This marketplace is most popular for its antiques and vintage items.
4. Go local and take a bus
The best way to get to know a city is to travel like a local. Why not hop on a local bus? The Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) runs an AC Express bus service from Colaba to Borivali. The bus ride (A-76 Express) will allow you to experience a slice of local life. You will be able to experience the crazy traffic while taking in amazing sights such as Mukesh Ambani’s $2 billion castle in the air – Antilla, the Bandra-Worli Sea link, the Bandra reclamation, the jam-packed Western Express Highway, and the airport’s fancy Air Traffic Control (ATC) tower (second highest in India).
A convenient point to hop on the bus is from Church gate station. Cost of bus ticket is 120 INR/~1.80 USD. (Timings of A-76 from Colaba: 9.45 10.15 10.55 17.40 18.00 18.20). The travel and trip duration of A-76 would be approximately 1 hour 38 minutes.
Another bus route is the 44km bus journey from Borivali to Vashi in Navi Mumbai. The ticket here costs just 22 INR/~0.30 USD (non-ac) and the ride takes about two hours. The frequency of buses on this route from Borivali station is about every 15 minutes.
5. Sunset at Haji Ali Dargah (Muslim shrine)
Haji Ali Dargah is an iconic Muslim shrine that houses the tomb of Sayed Peer Haji Ali Shah Bukhari, a wealthy Muslim merchant and saint who was active in spreading the word of Islam during his lifetime. At the 15th century, it was built on a tiny island linked right off the coast of Worli in Mumbai.
In the evening, you can sit on the rocks behind the shrine, watch the crashing sea waves and be lulled by the calming environment. In the background, the sweet rhythms of the qawwali singers and musicians can be heard while songs with inspirational messages seek to enrich. The sight of the city beckons from afar, as you immerse in the moment.
After visiting Haji Ali Dargah, you may want to visit the Heera-Panna shopping complex that is well-known for cheap imported electronic goods and you can end your day with a delicious meal at Cafe Noorani, which is famed for Mughlai cuisine. The Reshmi Tikka Biryani (spiced chicken with aromatic rice) is a must-try here.
The best time to visit Haji Ali Dargah is during the weekdays if you are looking to avoid weekend crowd. To get there, alight at the Mahalakshmi railway station and take a cab to Haji Ali Dargah.
6. Get a drink at Leopold’s, Mondegar, Janta and Totos
These drinking spots - Leopold’s, Mondegar, Janta and Totos - are probably the most happening city establishments. Based on the region you are in, you can jump into any of these bars and have a party with endless beer pitchers. Whereas Leopold’s and Mondegar are neighbors located in Colaba Causeway; Janta and Totos are at the Pali Hill region in Bandra. Janta is a cheap no-frills joint that is ideal for large groups. Leopold’s is most famous of the lot because it was made popular by the Gregory David Roberts’ novel “Shantaram”.
7. Chill at the Prithvi Café and spot celebrities!
As the playground of “Bollywood”, Mumbai is a city teeming with famous local actors and actresses. If you are on of the star-stuck fans, you would not want to miss the Prithvi Theatre and Prithvi Cafe. The latter is a hangout place for the celebrities and if you are looking for a place to chill out, this relaxing cafe serves great ‘cutting chai’ (half glass of tea).
Prithvi Theatre is the fertile ground where you’ll frequently bump into famous actors and actresses. It is common to see them perform in plays or just chill at the Prithvi Café. The ambience at the cafe is calm, and you will discover utmost of the customers sipping coolly from a cup of ‘cutting chai’ (half glass of milk tea).
8. Binge on seafood at Pratap, Mahesh Lunch Home and Gajalee!
Our top three picks for a seafood feast are Pratap Lunch Home, Mahesh Lunch Home and Gajalee!
Situated in a narrow lane about five minutes from Hutatma Chowk in Fort, Pratap Lunch Home is a seafood lover’s delight with quirky wall murals. Try the splendid prawn’s gassi, a dish made from prawns with rich cashew paste and creamy coconut gravy, which can be eaten with jaada rice and surmai tawa fry (fried Kingfish), or the crab tandoori. And apparently, it works very well with a glass of fresh lager by the side.
At Mahesh Lunch Home, you will certainly not find an empty seat, particularly at business hours. Though it may be more expensive than the Pratap Lunch Home, they serve excellent crabs and lobsters here. Reputed as one of Mumbai’s best seafood restaurants for good reason, you can expect top-notch service and great ambience in addition to the good food!
Finally, Gajalee is a restaurant located in Vile Parle East, a typical residential area, and its food is grand in quality and flavours. Try the delicious Bombay duck and experience how it melts in your mouth. Bombay duck is not really a duck but a liazardfish. This fish is commonly heated in the oven, or fried till crispy and lightly spiced. The refreshing Sol kadi (a cool digestive drink made from coconut milk and kokum) is recommended over beer.
9. Enjoy a ferry ride to Elephanta Caves
A ferry ride on the great Arabian Sea is another must-do! This ferry will take you to the Elephanta Island, which is well known for its Elephanta Caves. Elephanta is a series of carved caves located in Gharapuri, Mumbai Harbour. The caves came into existence since the 5th and 8th centuries. Carved with solid basalt, they were originally painted in the past, but all that remains are traces of the ancient artworks.
A special ferry ticket cost approximately 2 to 3 USD per adult and 1 USD per child. If you wish to venture into deeper sea, this can be done at an additional charge of 10 USD and is worth a try!
10. Escape to nature at Sanjay Gandhi National Park
Sanjay Gandhi National Park is also titled Borivali National Park and it spreads over an area of 104 sqkm (40.15 sq.miles) in the heart of Mumbai’s northern suburbs. Every year, millions of tourists come here to visit the centuries-old Kanheri Caves, the lion and tiger safaris, an idyllic boat ride on the lake and for the toy train ride at the park. Though the park is a favorite picnic spot for families, it is mostly the haunt of nature lovers. It is the perfect getaway from the city without getting out of the city!
11. Go on a shopping spree In Mumbai!
Mumbai is also a shopping hub, home to a wide combination of local markets, boutiques and shopping centers that offer nearly everything that locals and visitors might need! Numerous shopping centers in Mumbai have shops as well as food courts and recreation zones too. A customer’s heaven, Mumbai is genuinely an impressive shopping destination for everyone.
If you are visiting with a gang of fashionistas, then this is for you! The best markets in Mumbai are Colaba Causeway Linking Road, Bandra Hill Road, Bandra Fashion Street, and CST.
Mumbai, a maximum city that never sleeps
Mumbai is a vibrant city. From sunrise to the wee hours of the night, every corner is full of life and has something new to offer. People are welcoming and willing to share their stories with visitors. One thing to note though, the traffic at this bustling city calls for greater patience. While taxi and rickshaws promise a ‘quicker commute’ option, taking the local trains and buses shall see you an immersive local experience.
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