It's good to get out and explore early as the city wakes. Choose the lifeline of Mumbai - the Indian Railways - for an early morning ride and head to South Mumbai. The ride will give you a local’s perspective on everyday commute. What lies at the end of this journey is a World Heritage Site – Victoria Terminus (Officially renamed Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) in 1998). Located in the heart of Mumbai, VT is not only one of Asia’s busiest train stations but also a grand reminder of Victorian-Gothic style of Architecture in India.
A trip to Bombay is not complete without a look at the city's original inhabitants - the Koli fisher folk. Take a taxi & head to the Sasoon Docks, as the morning catch comes in around 7am. You will witness colourful fishing boats that head back to land with their fresh catch. Watch huge blocks of ice crushed and loaded onto the boats; or observe large groups of colorfully dressed women and girls sitting around monumental piles of shrimp, removing the shells. Walk past a crazy, chaotic but fully energetic Fish market that will give you a sense of Mumbai’s traditional occupation and culture.
Skip your hotel breakfast and hit the streets of Mumbai. There is no better way to kick-start your day than visiting one of those quickly disappearing Irani cafes tucked away in corners of Mumbai which have still preserved their old world charm in their décor, food & service. In the lane opposite Metro cinema you’ll find the 104 year old Kayani & Co., where you can order small white cups of piping hot chai and Bun Maska. The checkered table cloths, menus displayed through glass tops and wooden chairs make the ambience just about perfect to enjoy the soft sweet bread dunked in the milky tea. Akuri with crunchy toast can be ordered next to keep you just about full till we get to our next meal. If you don’t mind adding a little sweetness to the meal & if you’re lucky to get it, the caramel custard is a must-try.
This would be the logical place to begin your tour. After all, you're following in the footsteps of royalty! The Gateway of India is a major tourist hub in the city, which is located at Apollo Bunder Waterfront in Southern Mumbai. This monument was built to welcome King George V and Queen Mary to Mumbai and years later, the last horde of British troops left India through this gateway. This is probably the place which will give you the feel of a tourist and after some great pictures and watching the pigeons, you can move on to your next place of visit. Address: Apollo Bunder, behind Regal Cinema and Bombay Museum, near Colaba Causeway
Stroll down the seafront and check the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. Overlooking the Gateway of India with a panoramic view of the bay, the Taj has played an intrinsic part in the life of the city, hosting Maharajas, dignitaries and eminent personalities from across the globe.
If there is any restaurant that is as famous as the city itself, it has to be Leopold Café. It situated on the busy Colaba Causeway where the world comes to shop on the streets. Fondly called Leo, the cafe is a very popular choice among the locals as well as the tourists and serves food for every palate. One of the first sites attacked during the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, this café is best known for its beer towers.
An entire lane of shopping, right outside Café Leopold that caters to every budget, style and taste. This stretch is very popular with the locals as well as the tourists. This place is termed as Mumbai's 'Culture Square'. You will find upmarket stores to shop from as well as small stalls where vendors keep calling out to you. It’s the place to pick up knick-knacks and hippy chic - with prices as low as your bargaining will take you.
Take a cab from Colaba and reach Shree Thaker Bhojanalay, Kalbadevi to dig in to some home-made ghee laden Gujarati food. En-route, enjoy the wonderful architecture of British Heritage buildings like the Rajabai Towers, Bombay University & Bombay High Court on your right. To your left, you can see the famous Oval Maidan. The essence of Mumbai lies in its cosmopolitan culture and that is resonated well in the variety of authentic cuisines available from all over India in one city. One needs real navigation skills in the tiny lanes of Kalbadevi to find this gem of a restaurant – but boy is it worth it! While you will obviously indulge in the food, the hospitality is what really engulfs you the moment the manager welcomes you with folded hands. You will be instantly reminded that you are in a country which prides itself in the mantra of ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’. One tends to go overboard here, so exercise some control as you’ve tasted just 5% of what Mumbai has to offer.
Prepare yourself for a short tour of the multi-religious, multi-ethnic, diverse settlement – Dharavi. Popularly known as Asia’s largest slum, there is more to this area than its poverty. Dharavi is the heart of small scale sector in Mumbai with industries that account for crores worth of turnover. This was also the place that inspired the Oscar winning movie ‘Slumdog Millionaire’. You can get in touch with ‘Reality Tours & Travels’ which is run by people of this area & specialize in guided tours that give you a deeper insight. If you are a tea – lover, do care to try a ‘Cutting Chai’ at one of the Tapris (Tea Stalls) during or after the tour. Mumbai’s famous Vada Pav goes well with the Chai. En-route Sightseeing from the cab: Leave Kalbadevi and take the Marine Lines flyover – drive past Marine Drive (Queen’s necklace at night) - later pass Giragaum Chowpatty Beach to your left – Take the Peddar Road Flyover – Cross Haji Ali Mosque on your left (quick stopover for juice at the famous Haji Ali Juice Centre) - cross Mahalaxmi Racecourse, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Stadium & Nehru Science Centre (Planetarium) on your right and get on to the Bandra Worli Sea Link (a beautiful 5.6 km drive that links Mumbai suburbs with South Mumbai & is viewed as an engineering marvel) – reach Dharavi.
Take a Rickshaw (Mumbai’s favourite three wheel public transport) from Dharavi to Juhu. On your way, drive past Bandra, the queen of suburbs and cover places like Bandra Reclamation, Carter Road Promenade, Juhu Tara Road (this stretch houses some of the high-end luxury boutiques and multi-designer stores that stock a mix of ethnic Indian Bridal Wear and Indo-western dresses)
Juhu beach is the ‘Celebrity beach’ of Mumbai as it is quite common to find famous celebrities jogging along the sands or catch a glimpse of a Bollywood film shooting. Your visit to this place is incomplete till you sample the ‘Mumbai Style’ street food at the stalls – Chaat (Bhelpuri, pani puri & sevpuri); Pav Bhaji and a refreshing Gola (Snow cone). Enjoy the peaceful atmosphere and scenic beauty of this 18 km stretch. Post your beach visit, get a rickshaw to drop you to the Iskcon temple which is at a short distance from the beach. India’s most beautiful temple of Lord Krishna, Iskcon is visited by thousands of people and devotees during festive occasions. You will pass the plush beach property JW Marriott hotel on your left & Bollywood Superstar Mr. Amitabh Bachchan’s two storied residence Jalsa on your right as you reach the shrine.
When in Mumbai, you cannot afford to skip a meal at one of the most celebrated seafood restaurants - ‘Mahesh Lunch Home’. Being the first restaurant in Mumbai to serve authentic Mangalorean food, this place is known for its fresh and superlative seafood. Choose from a variety of thick flavorsome Gassis (curries) with rice or with Neer Dosas/Appams and an array of delicious starters till your taste buds are satisfied. End your gastronomical trip in traditional Mumbai style – with a Paan (Betel Leaf) The quintessential paan has evolved over the years from a basic one (Sada) to fascinating varieties like Magai, Gulkand, Banarasi, Rasmalai, Chocolate. Complete your meal with the flavor of your choice and head back to your hotel to rest your aching feet.