The Maximum City! Mumbai, or Bombay as it was once known, is such a welcoming and fascinating place to explore with a rich history from it roots as a fishing village to the many different groups who have come here from near and far. As a tourist, Mumbai is a wonderful introduction to India, so plan to spend at least two to three days for sightseeing. We here at Free Tours by Foot happen to know this city really well, so ask us for recommendations!
What is commonly referred to as “free tours” are really tours that operate on a pay-what-you-wish or tips-based model.
There is no cost to take a tour and you are not obligated to pay your tour guide anything, though most people do.
The free tours in Mumbai tend to be welcome or orientation tours and focus on the historic neighborhoods around the India Gate.
Yo Tours runs a free daily history and culture tour that focuses on the area known as 'Colaba' and introduces guests to the cultural and architectural highlights of this lovely area. Use this tour to hit the major items in South Mumbai. The tour meets at India Gate and this area is best explored on foot anyways. Yo tours has both a morning (10am) and evening (5pm) free tour.
Enjoy free walking tours in other cities around the world with Free Tours by Foot and our recommended companies.
Top free things to do in Mumbai
1. Soak up the sun at Chowpatty beach
Looking to have some fun in the sun, but not break the bank? Take a step out of the hustle and bustle of the city and stroll over to Chowpatty, one of Mumbai’s most famous beaches off Marine Drive. Here you’ll find families and friends taking in the peaceful and serene atmosphere of the long stretch of beach. Whether you want to work on your tan, get in a jog or a walk on the sand, people watch, chow down on some famously delectable street food, dip your toes into the sea, enjoy a picnic with friends, or simply be captivated by a scenic sunset, offers all this and more - day or night. Evening time is particularly enjoyable when the temperature goes down and local restaurants and bars start to liven up. The popular beach can get crowded quickly, so we recommend going earlier in the day or on weekdays, and avoiding it on holidays.
How to get there: Chowpatty beach is near many train stations, or tell your taxi driver to take you to Chowpatty beach on Marine Drive.
2. Watch the Queen’s Necklace light up on Marine Drive
Though India is no longer a British colony, you may still have a chance to sneak a peek at the Queen’s jewels - her necklace, that is. Marine Drive - a 3km promenade in southern Mumbai - is aptly named the Queen’s Necklace, for when the streetlights turn on at night, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to see what looks to be glittering royal jewelry lighting up the bay. The promenade - which is a must-do for all those visiting Mumbai - is a favorite of both locals and tourists alike, who gather in the evenings to sit, walk, run, cycle, and even drive down the stunning coast. Perfect for all ages, the Queen’s Necklace offers a quiet respite away from the chaos of the city. Marine Drive is undoubtedly the perfect way to end a long day of sightseeing, and the perfect place to pick up some delicious street food along the way before calling it a night.
3. Visit the city’s most famous temples
If you’re tired of the go-go-go of Mumbai, and want to find a little peace and quiet in the city, you may be interested in checking out the many temples that dot the city. The Hindu Siddhivinayak Temple - probably one of Mumbai’s most iconic temples - is a must-visit. The temple is dedicated to Ganesh, one of the recognizable deities in Hinduism. Though photography is not allowed, you’ll want to put down your camera anyways to fully take in the stunning architecture both inside and out. The Mumbadevi Temple, built in the 17th century, pays tribute to Mumbadevi - was the patron of the original inhabitants of Mumbai. Mahalakshmi Temple, dedicated to the goddesses Lakshmi, Saraswati, and Kali, is one of Mumbai’s most famous temples. Sitting right on the sea, the temple offers stunning views of the water and a sense of tranquility. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the Babulnath Temple, offers visitors and pilgrims an incredible architectural experience with intricately-crafted interiors. The Iskcon Temple is one of the newer temples in Mumbai, but is just as popular as some of its older counterparts. The beautiful white marble complex offers visitors a serene and spiritual experience in the heart of Juhu. Other temples we recommend visiting include the Swaminarayan, Walkeshwar, and Balaji temples.
4. Explore the many forts of the city
Itching to learn more about Mumbai’s maritime history? Time to check out some of the city’s forts. Right off Bandra’s Bandstand Reclamation promenade lies Bandra Fort (Castella de Aguada) the suburb’s most famous and recognizable fort built nearly 400 years ago to serve as a watchtower over the Mahim Bay. Head on over to learn more about the Portguese history in Mumbai and catch a tropical breeze, and make sure to stay into the evening for a beautiful view of the Bandra–Worli Sea Link and an idyllic sunset. But the Bandra fort is not the only one Mumbai has to offer. The Sion Fort, built by the British East India Company in the 17th century, offers visitors an incredible view of the city (if you’re willing to trek a bit). Though nature has started to take over this fort, it remains a peaceful spot to glimpse a memorable panorama of Mumbai. The imposing Worli Fort is slightly more difficult to get to, but remains a picturesque relic of earlier times. Built by the British in the 17th century, the fort was integral in helping to ensure the maritime security of the British in Mumbai. About 50km out of the city is where you can find the 16th century Portuguese Fort Vasai (also known as Fort Bassein), which has been used as a backdrop for a handful of Bollywood films. Though less well-preserved than some of its counterparts, Mahim Fort - built in the late 17th century - is another remnant from colonial times that you can visit.
5. Get lost in and around Bandra
If you like exploring new neighborhoods, spend a few hours discovering Bandra - a former fishing village, where the historic and the hip now meet. The neighborhood is extremely pedestrian-friendly and after a few hours, you’ll be wishing you had a few more days to discover all the area has to offer. In the mood for a seaside walk? Head over to the neighborhood’s Bandstand promenade and follow it all the way to the Bandra Fort - one of the neighborhood’s most famous attractions overlooking Mahim Bay and the Arabian Sea. The fort - also known as Castella de Aguada - dates back to the 1640s and is one of the most iconic remnants of the Portuguese presence in the city. Both the fort and the promenade are great spots to return to in the evening for a beautiful sunset. Architecture and history lovers will enjoy a visit to Mount Mary’s Basilica (also on the promenade), one of the city’s most famous Roman Catholic churches from the Portuguese times. Need to snap some new pictures for your Instagram? Bandra is also well known for its eye-catching street art. Head over to Chapel Road and Bazaar Road, both of which are home to some unique and lively works that will keep you snapping away. Or take a step into the past and visit Ranwar Village, a quaint and eccentric part of town, and another art hub in the suburb. No matter what your interests, you’ll certainly find something to entertain you in vibrant Bandra.
6. Wander through Chor Bazaar & Crawford Market
Looking to pick up a few keepsakes to take back home...or perhaps you just want to window shop? Either way, be sure to make your way over to Chor Bazaar and Crawford Market - home to some of the best shopping (or free window-shopping) in Mumbai. The Chor Bazaar - one of the oldest and largest flea markets in the country - features anything your heart desires. From antiques, to used goods, vintage posters, trinkets, and knick knacks, you’re sure to get a taste of Mumbai’s history walking from shop to shop in this bustling market. The Crawford Market, another one of Mumbai’s storied souqs, features narrow and packed lanes selling everything from fruits and vegetables to pets, spices to fabrics, clothing to cosmetics, and candies to flowers. If you are planning to buy something, make sure to haggle your price down. But if not, enjoy the smells, sights, and sounds of this lively market.
7. Ride a ferry from the Gateway of India to the Elephanta Caves (almost free)
If you’re near the famed Gateway of India monument and are itching to get on the water, what better way to explore more of Mumbai than to hop on a ferry to visit the Elephanta Caves - a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The ferry takes about an hour to reach the rock-cut caves - the history of which are still shrouded in mystery; however, researchers have dated back to between the 5th and 6th centuries AD. The massive caves feature incredible carvings and sculptures dedicated to the Hindu god, Shiva, all of which come together to form some of the greatest examples of Indian art. When you arrive you can pay a small fee for the train to take you to the top, or if you’re feeling a little more athletic, feel free to walk the fifteen minutes up 120 steep steps to the cave entrance, but make sure to bring some good walking shoes. Cave 1 in particular will wow you with its 7m high masterpiece representing the three aspects of Shiva (the Creator, the Preserver, and the Destroyer). We suggest you explore the caves on your own, as you don’t necessarily need a guide to enjoy their splendor.
The first ferry leaves the Gateway of India jetty at 9:00am and costs Rs 150, with subsequent ferries leaving every 30 minutes until 2:00pm. The Elephanta Caves are open from 9:30am-5:30 pm and cost Rs 40 for locals, Rs 600 for foreigners. The ferry does not operate/the caves are closed on Mondays.
8. Explore Mumbai’s other religions at the Haji Ali Dargah & the Afghan Church
Though Hindu mosques dominate the religious landscape of Mumbai, the city is home to an impressive array of religions including Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Jains, and Buddhists - a true melting pot. And what better way to learn more about the different faiths of this city by paying a visit to their places of worship. The original structure of the Haji Ali Dargah mosque was built in the 15th century, and is home to the tomb of the Muslim saint Pir Haji Ali Shah Bukhar. What makes this mosque different from others is that it can actually only be visited at low tide, given the fact that it is situated at the end of a long causeway, on an islet off the coast of Mumbai. Aficionados of Islamic architecture will also appreciate the beautiful Indo-Islamic and Mughal styles featured in the mosque. The house of worship draws thousands of pilgrims daily, so we recommend avoiding visiting Thursdays and Fridays, which are particularly busy days with pilgrims of all faiths coming to pay their respects and ask for blessings. Both men and women should dress appropriately when entering the mosque.
Another worthwhile visit is to the city’s Afghan Church, an Anglican church built by the British in the 19th century. The unusual name commemorates the first Anglo-Afghan war, during which many British and Indian lives were lost. Built in the Gothic Revival style, the grand and imposing church is worth a visit for a moment of tranquility.
9. Visit the Sewri Mangrove Park for flamingos
Have you ever seen hundreds or even thousands of flamingos all in one place? No? Then grab some binoculars and head right over to the Sewri Mangrove Park to see these majestic birds amidst the mangroves. Typically, the flamingos arrive in November and stay until June, with some of the best times to see them being between January and March. Lucky visitors may get a chance to spot a few other bird species as well. We recommend checking the tide timings before visiting (low tide is preferable) and going early in the morning. As of January 2020, construction is being carried out on the park, which may cause changes in opening hours/access to the jetty.
Getting there: we recommend renting a car as taxi drivers may not be able to easily find it. Located 20 minutes from the Sewri train station.
10. Get blooming at the Dadar Flower Market in the early morning
If you’re looking for one of the most colorful spots in Mumbai, look no further than the Dadar Flower Market. With nearly every type of flower being sold, you’ll be able to snap some beautiful shots and take in some incredible fragrances - but make sure you wake up early! The flower vendors start at 4:00am, so we recommend visiting between 5:00-9:00am to catch the very best flowers. For exotic flowers in particular, be sure to arrive before 6:30am. The overwhelming abundance of flowers and people found in the market is not for the faint-hearted (...nor for those with allergies), but if you’re looking for a memorable (and free) experience in Mumbai, waking up this early will definitely be worth it. And remember that sniffing the roses won’t cost you a dime, but if you do want to buy some flowers, make sure to bargain - though you’ll be surprised how cheap these flowers are compared to what you’re used to paying at home! The easiest way to get to the market is to take a cab or local bus to Dadar station.