36 Hours in Mumbai 


Nariman Poitn

Photo of Mumbai, Maharashtra, India by Bhaumik Shah



Get a taste of what the city was like when it was still Bombay — bastion of the British Raj. Meander through the city’s southern reaches, starting at the Gateway of India, overlooking the Arabian Sea: Completed in 1924, this iconic monument was built to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary. Then turn your attention to its neighbor, the 1903 Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, a cakelike confection that serves as a fine example of the Mughal-meets-Gothic style of architecture known as Indo-Saracenic.

The Taj view from boat sailing 

Photo of 36 Hours in Mumbai by Bhaumik Shah



Drive up the coast before the traffic picks up steam. There are plenty of places for a photo op: Start at Nariman Point, the heart of the financial district; work your way up Marine Drive, also known as the Queen’s Necklace, where you’ll see families strolling or seated along the promenade (along with the occasional cozy couple); pop out at Chowpatty Beach before the crowds descend; and drive into upscale Malabar Hills to the Hanging Gardens before crossing over to the scenic lookout at Kamala Nehru Park. Then cut through busy Peddar Road and emerge near the Haji Ali Dargah. Set on an isle just off the coast, the 15th-century mausoleum houses the remains of the Sufi saint Pir Haji Ali Shah Bukhari and is connected to the mainland by a half-mile-long causeway, access to which depends entirely on the tides.


The Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya museum in Kala Ghoda is popular, but travelers pressed for time should head to Byculla. Like Bombay/Mumbai, the striking Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum has gone through some name changes in its long history. The museum opened to the public at its present site as the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1872; in 1975, it was given its current name, in honor of a prominent physician and philanthropist. The high Victorian interiors showcase Indian crafts and design — including lacquerware, silver, bronze, wood carving and more — while the upstairs galleries are dedicated to the history of Mumbai. Admission: 100 rupees for foreigners.


Breeze past the lanes filled with old car parts and head straight for Mutton Street, the heart of Mumbai’s Chor Bazaar — Thieves’ Market. The stretch of dusty antiques shops is where Bollywood prop stylists scavenge for faded photographs, rotary telephones and other props to recreate a bygone era. Grandfather clocks and furniture aren’t the most practical souvenirs, so seek out shops brimming with posters and records for classic Indian films. Then stop by Taj Ice Creams, around for about 120 years, for a treat. The shop is usually manned by one of the owners, the Icecreamwalla brothers, and they’re happy to invite you to the back to see how the creamy desserts are made — a single batch takes more than an hour of hand-churning. Flavors include sapota, mango, fig and sitafal; cups cost 60 rupees.

Famous Mount Mary Church, Bandra 

Photo of 36 Hours in Mumbai by Bhaumik Shah


Set amid the quiet lanes of the Ballard Estate business district, Britannia is one of the few remaining cafes purveying Parsi dishes like berry pulao (from 350 rupees) and mutton dhansak (650 rupees).  For more contemporary cravings, the San Francisco chef Alex Sanchez’s much-lauded Table in Colaba serves hearty global comfort fare: hoisin-glazed pork belly buns (750 rupees) and shrimp tacos with chile-lime mayo (725 rupees).

7. FASHION FIX, 2:30 P.M.

The bylanes of Colaba and Kala Ghoda are brimming with boutiques. While the concept shop Le Mill specializes in global brands like Chloé and Balenciaga, the new Colaba location, hidden behind a nondescript facade, also carries Indian labels like Janavi and NorBlack NorWhite. Across the street, in the Art Deco Dhanraj Mahal complex, a new outpost of Jaipur’s venerable Gem Palace features bold colors by the designer Marie-Anne Oudejans and plenty of bling. In Kala Ghoda, browse housewares at Nicobar, and cutting-edge dresses and blazers at Obataimu, an atelier-boutique that spends much of the year on the road gaining inspiration from destinations like Paris, London and Tokyo. If cheap trinkets are more your style, then pop in and out of the shops lining the Colaba Causeway, where you’ll find sandals, dresses and fake jewelry aplenty. Bargaining is de rigueur.

Near Minara Masjid 

Photo of 36 Hours in Mumbai by Bhaumik Shah


After introducing Mumbai to molecular Indian gastronomy with Masala Library a few years ago, the restaurateur Zorawar Kalra unveiled the city’s buzziest new cocktail bar in March, serving up more molecular magic with MasalaBar. Cocktails meet chemistry in the form of theatrical drinks like the Bollywood Bhang (vodka with basil smoke served in a skull-shaped glass). There is even a nod to MasalaBar’s seafront setting on Carter Road in the form of the ideal late-afternoon tipple: Sunset @ Carter (whisky with rosemary, orange, and almond foam). Meanwhile, snack on tasty tapas like ghee-roasted scallops and truffled shiitake steak burgers.


The owners of Pali Bhavan scoured Chor Bazaar for their décor inspiration: You’ll have a hard time finding an inch of wall space that isn’t adorned with a framed image depicting vignettes from India’s past — family pictures, college portraits, scenes from aristocratic life. The Old World dining room sets the stage for a traditional feast from across the country: classic butter chicken, harissa-spiced chicken tikka, pumpkin kofta curry and galouti kebabs, washed down with a pomegranate lassi. Expect to spend about 2,000 rupees for two. Afterward, stroll to Punjab Sweet House for classic Indian mithai (sweets): pistachio ice halwa, kalakand milk cake and mango barfi.



Before the British, the Portuguese came ashore — and the suburb of Bandra, popular for its trendy restaurants and Bollywood star haunts, is where you can see vestiges of the Portuguese stint in Mumbai. Book a walking tour with Raconteur, and a knowledgeable local will lead you through landmarks — the 1575 St. Andrew’s Church and the striking neo-Gothic Mount Mary — as well as through former fishing and farming villages, pointing out street art along the way. You’ll end at the 1640-built Bandra Fort (keep an eye out for Bollywood megastar Shah Rukh Khan’s house — you’ll recognize it from the hordes at the gates), where an easy climb yields panoramic views over the Sealink bridge and the Mumbai skyline beyond.


Recuperate from your walk at the Taj Mahal Tea House. Last August, the Brooke Bond tea company transformed a Bandra bungalow into an elegant tearoom — complete with colonial-style rocking chairs, colorful tiles, cheery floral motifs on the walls — but the main draw is the extensive chai list. Choose from variants like Parsi mint (160 rupees) and a Karipatta Delight with curry leaves and citrus (140 rupees). Pair your poison with a triple-decker egg sandwich with fried herbs and chutney (400 rupees).


The 128-year-old nonprofit contemporary art venue, Bombay Art Society, has a flashy new address. At the nebulous Sanjay Puri–designed structure in Bandra you can scope out the local art scene, with works by Laxman Shreshtha, Yusuf Arakkal, Anjolie Ela Menon and more.

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