Whether you are visiting for the first time or have seen the lengths and breadths of the city on several occasions, Mumbai manages to mesmerize every time! Witnessing Mumbai’s pace, soaking in its spirit, its unique culture and its way of life can be a breath-taking experience in itself. It certainly leaves travelers more appreciative of life and human existence in all its forms. Nevertheless, living it up in Mumbai requisites a visit to the city’s various attractions. Here are the top spots for those seeking an in-depth experience of this urban melting pot.
1. Crawford Market
Completed in 1869, Crawford market or Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Mandai as it is called today, is a market building which sells everything from fruit and vegetables, spices, sweet meats and even pets! It offers imported produce from every remote part of the world which cannot be found elsewhere in the country. The busy labyrinth of the surrounding wholesale market offers an amazing array of goods ranging from household furnishings, high-end kitchenware, handmade paper products and other stationery, bed linens, beautiful textiles and saris to perfumes and gold and diamond jewellery. Eat at one of the various restaurants in this locality serving up mouth-watering food for every palate.
Note: Hone your bargaining skills before stepping inside this giant maze of markets for a pocket-friendly shopping experience.
2. Fashion Street
Thrift shopping in Mumbai is synonymous with Fashion Street, which, as its name suggests, is a street lined with about 150 stalls selling the latest in western fashion including clothes, shoes and accessories. Street shopping calls for street-smartness and it is expected (and customary) of anyone shopping on Fashion Street to bargain hard. Negotiating with vendors here can bring down the quoted price by up to 70%! Bargaining like a pro will win you awesome discounts. If, however, the seller is determined to not budge, there are plenty of other stalls to visit.
3. Mahalaxmi Dhobi Ghat
The world’s largest open-air-laundry, the Mahalaxmi Dhobi Ghat is the epitome of impeccable organization and co-ordination. It is display of exemplary ways in which this metropolis manages to survive. The 800-plus stone washing cubicles in the Dhobi Ghat have been used for more than 100 years and about a million items are washed, hung and ironed here each day. Miraculously, everyone gets their own washing back. Dhobi Ghat's long-term future is uncertain, so visit now.
4. National Gallery of Modern Art
One of India’s best art galleries, the National Gallery of Modern Art houses an iconic collection of modern and contemporary Indian art (form 1850 onwards) by noted figures from across the style spectrum, as well as works by top International names. Featured artists include Gaganendranath Tagore, MF Hussain, FN Souza, Amrita Sher-Gil and Pablo Picasso. It is situated at S.P. Mukherji Chowk along with other art galleries, The Bombay Natural History Society and the Prince of Wales Museum, the largest museum in the city housing rare artefacts and personal collections of several notable personalities including JRD Tata. One afternoon in this square will leave art connoisseurs feeling contented. The National Gallery of Modern Art is closed on Mondays and public holidays.
Mani Bhavan Gandhi Museum
Fascinating insights into the private and public life of Mahatma Gandhi can be found at Mani Bhavan, his Mumbai residence. This is where he launched several key initiatives between 1917 and 1934. Mani Bhavan, once owned by a friend of the nationalist icon, has been serving as a research-centre and museum since the mid-1950s. Gandhi's sparsely furnished room has been preserved in its original condition and even today, it's easy to picture him sitting at his spinning wheel. A display of miniatures capturing about two dozen key moments in Gandhi's life is a notable feature of the museum. The library here contains over 40,000 works either written by Gandhi, about him or about independence movements in general, with many rare and out-of-print pamphlets preserved for posterity. Photo- taking is permitted.
Having once been occupied by the Portuguese, Bandra is a cosmopolitan suburb by the sea where one can witness Bollywood in all its glory along with the glamorous showbiz culture of Mumbai. Bandra is lined with various iconic bungalows and some very famous Bollywood residences, including Mannat, the residence of superstar Shahrukh Khan. The numerous Catholic churches here are a legacy of the Portuguese and Bandra’s Western-style bakeries and delis give this part of Mumbai a European feel. The shopping and dining options in Bandra are great and one can easily spend the day exploring their options.
7. Bungalow 8
Diversity and contradictions are abundant in Mumbai. From the crammed streets around Crawford Market to sprawling concept stores, the paradise is on offer for shoppers in Mumbai. Bungalow 8 is Mumbai’s first concept store, spread over three floors in a heritage building dating back to 1857. Shoppers can find stunning, Indian-inspired fashion and home decor products with global appeal. There are offerings from up-coming designers and vintage finds. There's also an in-house range. Don't forget your credit card.
8. Chattrapati Shivaji Terminus
Chattrapati Shivaji Terminus, still referred to by its former name of Victoria Terminus by many Mumbaikars, is the headquarters of the Indian Railways - Central Railway Line serving as both - a long-distance and suburban train terminus - with mammoth capacity. An estimated three million people use the station each day. Its architecture, a fascinating mix of gothic revival and Mughal architecture has won it the title of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Other than its architectural appeal, it provides a glimpse of Mumbai life in all its vibrancy. If you manage to navigate through the crowds and find yourself a spot, you can capture fantastic photos of the busy city at any time of the day. Discover patterns in chaos at the station or hop onto one of the trains along Suburban network to travel like the Mumbaikar. You will be left amazed at the sheer scale and attitude of Mumbai!
9. Leopold Café
Leopold café or Leo’s, known for its colourful clientele, is a great place for making new friends in Mumbai as both locals and tourists devotedly frequent this café. Leopold has evolved along with Mumbai and captures the essence of urban popular culture. It was a central feature of the cult-novel Shantaram, and author Gregory David Roberts is often found sitting at his regular table when in Mumbai (he'll happily sign copies of the book brought by fans who go to the cafe as if on a pilgrimage). It was also one of the first places to be attacked during the 2008 terrorist tragedy and some bullet damage remains as a remembrance badge of honor. The cafe serves an all-day international menu and is fully licensed.
10. Taj Lands End
Among the several fine dining options available in Mumbai, the Taj Lands End, Bandra, presents exceptional food and drinks with marvellous views of the Arabian Sea and the suburban skyline of Mumbai. Relaxing at the Taj after spending a day exploring Bandra is a particularly pleasing experience. Enjoy Indian wines at Vista and follow it up with some of the best Indian food available in the city at Masala Bay, a contemporary Indian restaurant that focuses on light and flavourful dishes. Recommendations include Seafood Shorba, a delicately spiced seafood soup, and Kareli Gohst, an aromatic dish of tender lamb that highlights the executive chef's mastery of the use of spices.
Sitting on the list of Mumbai’s most recommended restaurants is Trishna, an Indian seafood restaurant which happens to be extremely popular with locals. It serves delicious Southern-Indian cuisine. It is wise to not leave this coastal city without trying some popular seafood dishes. The high quality and unparalleled flavours of Trishna's menu, including its fantastic Butter Pepper Garlic Crab, Tandoori Prawns and its barbecued fish dishes win it a spot in Mumbai’s must visit restaurants.
The Taj Mahal Palace, completed in 1903, is an undisputed icon. Beautifying the Mumbai skyline, it stands majestically next to the Gateway of India. The Taj Mahal Palace boasts of many firsts, including first hotel in India with electricity, first with a licensed bar and first to open a contemporary Japanese restaurant. It remains the accommodation of choice for VIPs, many of whom appear in photos displayed here. Original artworks, period furniture and antiques add to the sense of history. With its 11 F&B outlets, The Taj is also a popular choice for a meal or a drink. Try the Zodiac Grill, home to French fine-dining, and Souk, which serves excellent Middle Eastern cuisine against a stunning harbour backdrop.
Marine Drive or the Queen’s Necklace as Mumbai fondly calls it, is a 3km long promenade along the Arabian Sea. Starting at Nariman Point and ending at the Girgaum Chowpatti beach, it offers dazzling views of the Arabian Sea on one side and the old Mumbai skyline on the other. Stroll or jog along Marine Drive in the evenings and take in a stunning sunset or admire the numerous (and somewhat run-down) art-deco buildings resembling some of those in Miami. At night, the city lights make this stretch look like a glittering necklace which attract diverse crowds capturing the charm of the city. A walk up to Hanging Gardens atop the nearby Malabar hill offers mesmerizing views of the Queens Necklace in all its sparkling glory.