Best things to do in Mumbai
Find out more about those top places in Mumbai
Crammed onto what is in effect an island in the Arabian Sea, Mumbai has been for centuries a gateway to India. In the past five hundred years it has transformed itself from a small fishing village to a surprisingly compact megalopolis of over 16 million people, which makes it India’s largest city. Given the lack of space, Mumbai is unsurprisingly India’s most frenetic city and it can seem like a whirlwind of grand colonial architecture, intoxicating bazaars, towering sky scrapers, glitzy bars frequented by Bollywood stars and bustling seaports. Mumbai’s city center is dominated by a series of fairy tale gothic structures, including the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus and Taj Mahal Palace hotel, which are amongst the finest examples of Victorian architecture in the world. Beyond the city center are the Muslim inner city neighborhoods where the vast Crawford Market houses hawkers selling quite literally everything. While Mumbai may be a sensory overload, respite can always be sought along the Marina Drive, the city’s enchanting seaside esplanade.
Just off the coast of Mumbai lies the UNESCO listed Elephanta Island, which is a labyrinth of intricately carved cave temples. Created between the years 450 and 750, the temples on the island contain a plethora of rock carved statues, including a monumental representation of Shiva, and are one of India’s most memorable attractions. While guides are available on the island most are over priced so it is best to hop on one of the regulated tours that leave from the Gateway of India.
Beyond the great architectural set pieces of London there are few cities with as impressive Victorian architecture than Mumbai. Guided walking tours of the city’s dazzling array of iconic 19th century buildings are available that take you to the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, which is a beguiling mismatch of Islamic, Renaissance and Victorian Gothic styles, and the iconic Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, a UNESCO World Heritage listed profusion of spires, turrets, domes and colonnades. Other highlights include the spectacular Municipal Corporation Building.
Dating back to 1875, Mumbai’s Sassoon Docks are a wonderful sensory overload. As the main fish market in the city, the sights, sounds and smells of the area are unforgettable while various street side vendors will happily cook up the catch of the day for you. To see the best of Sassoon Docks make sure to arrive early in the day as the Koli fishermen arrive in from their night at sea.
Originally named the Victoria and Albert Museum after the iconic London institution, Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum is the city’s finest cultural institution. Containing nearly 4000 artifacts relating to the history of Mumbai from prehistoric times to the present day, the museum is a must visit for all history enthusiasts. Even if the collection does not interest you, the entrance fee is worth it for the spectacular Victorian Gothic building alone.
Central to the foundation of the Hare Krishna movement, Iskcon Temple is one of Mumbai’s most fascinating attractions. While the gilded complex is spectacular at anytime, for the best experience make sure to arrive during prayer time when the orange-clad devoted sing rousing chants, dance the kirtan and enter a trance like state. Guided tours of the complex hosted by Hare Krishna members offer a unique insight into the often-misunderstood faith.
Just as a visit to Los Angeles would not be complete without paying homage to Hollywood, the same must be said for Mumbai and Bollywood. Day tours of the gigantic film making complex take you round the vast studios where some of the world’s most watched movies are filmed and you will get a behind the scenes look at how iconic Bollywood dance sequences are filmed. Tours conclude with a bus tour of the glitzy areas where Bollywood’s biggest stars live.
The most iconic spot in Mumbai is the basalt arch known as Gateway of India. Built to commemorate King George V’s visit to the city in 1911, the arch was also where the last British regiment departed from the Raj shortly before the declaration of independence. Today, the seafront arch is a popular spots for locals to gather and is the perfect place to people watch in a historic setting.
Built in the 1920s on land reclaimed from the Arabian Sea, Marine Drive is one of Mumbai’s most desirable locations. The 4 kilometers long boulevard is flanked by UNESCO listed art deco apartment buildings that at one time housed the city’s great and good. Today, the drive is the best place in the city to watch the spectacular tropical sunsets and meet residents of the city, known as Mumbaikars.