A 48-HOUR GUIDE TO MUMBAI

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Photography Courtesy: Husein Haveliwala

Photo of A 48-HOUR GUIDE TO MUMBAI by Husein Haveliwala

Whether you call it Bombay or Mumbai, this city is a home for everyone who takes it on. An amazingly fast place to live in, and even more of a whirlwind to visit; there is no denying that this city has got something for everyone. History from the Raj, ingenious metropolitan utility systems, beautiful buildings of worship, easy-going parks on hills and shorelines, shopping in malls and streets alike, a gazillion culinary options, people from all walks of life to engage in conversation (if they aren’t late for that 10:07 local, that is), and oh; the namesake of Bombay- the glittering sea.

A true Mumbaikar would agree that you need to live here to get the true spirit of the city. But fear not, if you are a traveller short on time, this guide is for you to get some of the best of Bombay in 48 hours. Here we go!

How to get here

It wouldn’t be far from the truth to state that Mumbai probably has the best transport system in the country. Being the financial capital of India, the city is connected to the rest of the country and the world through the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport by air. Train stations like Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (or Victoria Terminus), Lokmanya Tilak Terminus, Bandra Terminus, and Mumbai Central Railway Station connect Mumbai to almost every part of the country by rail. 5 National Highways and various other expressways connect the city to others by road.

Once you’re here, though, Mumbai has transportation facilities in the form of rail, metro, bus, kaali peeli taxi cabs, auto rickshaws, monorail, and ferry. Google Maps and an app called M-indicator give you options to use various modes of transport to get from one place to another, so remember to always check! Getting around Mumbai is a piece of cake.

Day 1

A scene from the Ramayana in this buzzing metropolis, to start your day off right.

Begin your first day in Mumbai bright and early, maybe with a cuppa or a cutting but not a full breakfast as you don’t want to miss the beauty of this place with the daylight setting in. Try and reach by 7:00 am. The Banganga Tank is an ancient water tank situated in Walkeshwar, which you can get to by taxi, by bus numbers 57, 67, 103, 105, 106 or 108 (check if any of these buses stop at the bus stop near you), or the closest train stations would be Grant Road or Charni Road.

According to mythology; on the journey to get Sita back from Lanka, Ram became thirsty and asked Lakshmana to bring him some water. Lakshmana shot an arrow to the ground and instantly sweet water started to flow, even though they were right next to the sea. And this spot is where the Banganga Tank stands today.

A visit here transports you to a different place- may it be Haridwar or Banaras, but definitely not what most people envision Mumbai to be. It is a sanctuary of peace and serenity right in the centre of the city. This early in the morning you will see everyday people of the area performing their morning aartis and pouring pots of the holy water onto shivlings and tulsi plants, and throwing bread into the tank to feed the ducks that make this tranquil place their home.

Devour a fresh Irani breakfast

The Yazdani Bakery is a hallowed establishment in the Fort area of Mumbai, that has been serving some delicious handmade baked goods and Irani fare since 1953. To get here from Banganga, would take you 20 minutes and roughly Rs. 80 by taxi. You could also take buses 103 or 108 from Teen Batti bus-stop, the journey time being around 35 minutes, plus a short walk to the bakery.

Indulge in freshly baked Brun-maska, Bun-maska, puffs, khari biscuits, and some good old Irani chai. Since you would reach here around 8:00 am, you would be able to see the live preparation of the bun, which is an art form in itself and very satisfying to watch. A breakfast here won’t cost you more than Rs. 100.

This authentic Irani café will give you a breakfast experience you won’t get anywhere else!

Photograph Courtesy: Andy Hay

Photo of Gateway of India, Apollo Bandar, Colaba, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India by Husein Haveliwala

A humbling welcome to the city, with a breezy ride around the eastern seaboard!

A short taxi ride costing you not more than Rs. 25 will take you to the Gateway of India, a monument from the British Raj that was built to commemorate the arrival of King George V and Queen Mary to India. Today, pretend that it’s welcoming you! The arch made of basalt stands magnificent at 85 feet high and looks out to the Mumbai harbour on its eastern seaboard. Across the road is the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, which is also a beautiful structure to look at.

Walk over to the water side of the Gateway and purchase a ticket for the ferry ride around the harbour (not the ones to Elephanta/Alibaug) which should cost you about Rs. 80-100 per passenger. (Note, the boat ride is non-operational during the monsoon months, i.e. from June to early September). When you get on, you also have to pay Rs. 10-20 to access the top deck from where you can see some unparalleled views of the Apollo Bunder area of the city, the docks, the entire eastern seaboard, as well as catch some of that cool, saline sea breeze. It’s a lovely ride, especially if you’re with children!

Get your haggling game on!

It’s a 5-minute walk from the Gateway to Colaba Causeway, which is a mecca for street shopping. You can purchase items from the actual shops in the buildings, or the ones setup all across the sidewalk. The latter would be the cheaper option, but it doesn’t hurt to explore! Everything from clothes, to jewellery, to vintage clocks, to bags, to souvenirs, to crystals; you’ll find it here. Although the apparel is off-brand and might not last as long, you can find some really trendy looking stuff of decent quality for a steal here. You might end up purchasing something you didn’t even think you needed; that’s the kind of fun little trinkets you get here.

Don’t forget to get a nice little Soft Serve or McSwirl from the McDonalds takeaway counter on the ground floor keep you cool!

A stroll through the artsy gallis of this heritage precinct of Fort

The name may sound peculiar, but it fits because Kala Ghoda is the art-district of Mumbai. It feels like an art exhibit in itself, that so beautifully displays the land of paradoxes that is Mumbai; of Greco-Roman and Victorian architecture from the British era that is now brimming with hip and artsy boutiques and cafés.

Photograph Courtesy: David Brossard

Photo of A 48-HOUR GUIDE TO MUMBAI by Husein Haveliwala

From Regal Cinema on Causeway, walk across the roundabout towards the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahlaya, formerly known as the Prince of Wales Museum. The museum building itself is a grand structure, that is filled with nearly 50,000 displays of Indian history as well as foreign artefacts. There is also a natural history section with models and dioramas of all types of animals. The entry fees for adults are Rs. 85, for children Rs. 20, foreign tourists Rs. 500, and you can avail audio guides for Rs. 50. Art aficionados can also visit the Jehangir Art Gallery located adjacent to the museum complex.

Across the gallery you will see the statue of the black horse in a triangular parking area. Taking a right from here and then one of the next lefts; you will be in the gallis of Kala Ghoda and may pass by some cute cafés like The Pantry, Kala Ghoda Café, and La Folie Patisserie. Making your way, exploring the quaint little lanes with pops of colour from boutiques, and inviting cosy eateries, it should be a 10 to 15-minute walk until you reach Horniman Circle.

The centre of the circle is circular park formerly known as Bombay Green, that is surrounded by the facades of some grand buildings that follow the shape of the circle. Making your way around the circle, you will find the palatial Asiatic Society building. A sweeping flight of 30 steps leads to the portico of this chalky white building help up by eight Greco-Roman columns, once the Town Hall of Bombay, now a sprawling library.

You can spend hours at a time walking through this spectacular part of the city, but at this point you might have gotten a little tired, with a rumble in your tummy.

It’s time for a sumptuous Mangalorean meal!

One of the best seafood restaurants in Mumbai, Pratap Lunch Home provides you with some delectable pan-Indian cuisine, but the Mangalorean fare is a surefire choice for a killer lunch!

Merely a 7-minute walk from the Asiatic Society building, you find yourself in this relaxed restaurant with some quirky wall murals depicting the city. Don’t miss the seafood here, or the Mughlai kebabs. The Kalamiri Tandoori Fish is a superb main, and you can follow it up with some spicy, coastal Prawn Gassi (a curry) accompanied by soft Neer Dosas. I’m sure you’re already salivating, and a meal here won’t even cost you more than Rs. 550 per head!

Sit back, relax, and enjoy the sunset.

In the evening make your way, as most Mumbaikars do, to Marine Drive. Stroll along the seaside promenade and find a spot for yourself. The next couple of minutes, breathe in the salty cool breeze, watch the waves smash against the tetrapod rocks, and watch the sky change into shades of orange, pink, vermillion, indigo, and deep blue, as the sun sets behind the glittering skyline of this beautiful city. It may seem like an unremarkable, everyday activity; but if you really take it all in, it gives you a sense of peace like no other.

You may have to break out the Digene later, but it’ll sure be worth it.

If you keep walking northward on Marine Drive, you will hit the beach on your left at some point. This is Chowpatty beach, where people from near and far come to relax and spend some quality time together. You will see groups of friends and families playing ball-games, blowing bubbles, sitting on mats on the sand, and just having a good time. Near the south entrance of the beach is a defined zone where you will see stalls upon stalls of sinful Mumbai street food. You can choose from vada pav, pav bhaaji, daabeli, sev puri, paani puri, dosa to eat. And then, top it off with kulfi and chilled ice gola in flavours of colours of the rainbow. Now, if you’re still hungry after all this, there are a number of restaurants on Marine Drive to satiate you, but it’s highly doubtful you will be wanting more.

Day 2

A trip to the laundromat!

While the description may have thrown you off, the “laundromat” refers to the largest open-air washing house, or lavoir if you’re hoity toity that way, in Mumbai.

An early start to the day again without a full breakfast, you need to reach Mahalaxmi railway station at 7:00 am, and walk down the staircase from the main bridge. Why you need to be there at this hour is because every morning an army of people wash thousands of kilograms of clothes. Starting out with beating the clothes to remove any dirt, to washing in frothy, soapy water, to then rinsing them again in wash pens, to drying, to ironing and folding, and then delivering back to the customers. It’s a daily routine for them, but a spectacle to watch for anyone who has never seen it in action! You may get called out by some of the dhobis, and some even offer to give you tours for a fee. So, it’s really up to you how you want to explore!

A full breakfast with a chai of choice

From Mahalaxmi take a train to Grant Road station (1 stop in between, 5-minute journey, Rs. 5 per ticket) plus a 5-minute walk, or a 15-minute cab ride (approximately Rs. 50) to Tea Villa Café in Nana Chowk/Gamdevi.

You can get a sumptuous Continental or Indian breakfast here in the form of a breakfast tray, or à la carte. The most indulgent section of the menu is the selection of Belgian waffles. These come in 13 varieties of flavours, but a personal favourite would be the Chocolate Loaded Waffle; a chocoholic’s dream. As the name of the eatery suggests, it is also a tea lover’s heaven. They have a separate tea menu with various types of exotic teas of different grades, flavours, and infusions. Breakfast here will cost you roughly Rs. 500 per head.

Take a look into the life and mind of India’s beloved Mahatma.

A stone’s throw away from Tea Villa Café is Mani Bhavan. It is a museum now, but once was the Mumbai residence of Mahatma Gandhi for about 15 years. Inside, you are able to view exhibits of the rooms he used to stay in, and also articles like his furniture, clothes, letters from various dignitaries, and of course his venerated charkha.

On the first floor of the building is a room which houses dioramas (models with three-dimensional figures, with props and backdrops) that represent Mahatma Gandhi’s whole life. It narrates his story from birth, his time abroad, the freedom struggles, to his demise. It is truly a touching experience that instils a sense of patriotism, respect and honour in you.

Even if you aren’t particularly religious, you will want to join your hands under these frescoes.

The Basilica of Our Lady of the Mount, or commonly known as Mount Mary Church, is a Roman Catholic church perched on a hillock in the neighbourhood of Bandra. Get here by taking a Fast train from Grant Road station to Bandra station (2 stops in between, 15-minute journey, Rs. 10 per ticket), and an auto rickshaw from Bandra station for about 15 minutes and Rs. 40.

Outside the church, you can purchase candles to offer to Mother Mary with the hope that she will grant your prayers. Just sitting on the church pews with your hands together makes you feel the pious energy in the room and will effortlessly calm your senses.

Stand tall at a 16th century Portuguese watchtower overlooking the Arabian Sea

A short 10-minute walk down the hillock will take you to the Bandra Fort, also known as Castella de Aguada. You enter through a garden and make your way to the fort from where you get astounding views of the Mahim Bay, and the colossal suspension-bridge over the sea; the ‘Bandra-Worli Sea Link’. You’re definitely going to get some super shots for your Instagram from here!

Lunch at this chic diner in the hippest part of town!

10 minutes and Rs. 25 away by rickshaw is Jamjar Diner, a pastel American style diner with a dash of contemporary decor. This diner does Mexican and Italian food right, but will also serve you a mean burger, or a healthy salad. A bit on the heavier side, expenditure-wise (with a meal here costing you approximately Rs. 750 per head), but with this peppy ambience and mouth-watering menu; it’s definitely worth it.

You can’t miss visiting one of the most famous temples of Mumbai.

This evening, visit the Mahalaxmi Temple located (if you didn’t guess already) in the Mahalaxmi area of Mumbai, towards the Breach Candy side. A short walk up a slope and a staircase will get you to the temple complex. The temple is dedicated to the Tridevi Goddesses: Mahakali, Mahalakshmi, and Mahasaraswati, whose deities are beautifully adorned in the temple. You can buy flowers from the stalls outside as offerings to the Goddesses, worship them, and collect prasad from the pujari (priest).

Make your wishes at this tomb located on an island in the sea.

As if analogising the diversity yet coexistence of the city, this dargah is located just a 10-minute walk from the Mahalaxmi Temple. The Haji Ali Dargah is a shrine and mosque complex, constructed in memory of a Muslim saint. You walk on a narrow causeway with the Arabian Sea on both sides for about a kilometre until you reach the island. The marble structure shines white against the twilight sky, as you make your way to the entrance of the inner sanctum. There is a separate entry for ladies and men, and both have to remove their footwear and cover their heads with a scarf or handkerchief to enter. You say your prayer, make your wishes, and then the priest lightly brushes your head with a peacock feather to bless you.

Here again, like the church in Bandra, there is an energy that fills the atmosphere. Albeit a different kind, but still sacred.

Final shopping spree at one of the largest shopping malls in India!

High Street Phoenix is a mall complex situated in the neighbourhood of Lower Parel. A taxi from Haji Ali would cost you Rs. 45 and not take more than 10 minutes. This place has 3 separate zones: Skyzone, Grand Galleria (with a multiplex), and Palladium (with high-end brands). It’s safe to say that whether you want to walk around, people watch, nibble on some snacks, do a little window-shopping, or want to go on an all-out spree; this is the place for you.

A modern take on Indian cuisine as a culmination of the Mumbai madness!

This restaurant is in the Skyzone of High Street Phoenix and has a very snazzy ethnic ambience. Farzi provides you with a culinary experience unlike any other you’ve had in India, or anywhere else, as they skilfully play around fusing Indian and global cuisines to create desi molecular gastronomy. Serving up dishes like Dal chawal arancini, Dal gosht open tacos, Galouti burgers, shawarma biryani, and desserts like the Parle-G cheesecake; this is one dining experience you cannot miss out on! Dining here would set you back around Rs. 1500 for two people, but it’s the perfect way to end your Mumbai adventure!

Your 48 hours in Mumbai were almost as hectic as the city itself, but rest assured that at the end of it all you won’t regret a single thing. You’ll understand what attracts one and all to this city of dreams and lights.

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