Colors whirling past you in a flurry. A panoply of scents wafting through the air with every step. A warm breeze enveloping you all year long. Cheap and delicious eats on every corner, at whatever hour you want. Car horns blaring, people yelling, towering buildings, and bustling slums. Millions of people jostling to get around you. Over twenty million to be precise. Move over New York; Mumbai is the city of cities – the true city that never sleeps. The cosmopolitan hub is a melting pot of India, with residents hailing from all over the country and all religions practiced here. Mumbai offers nightlife and nature; sea and skyscrapers. Home to both the country’s financial capital and Bollywood, Mumbai is the perfect juxtaposition of business and fun. The city will excite you with its lively spirit and all it has to offer, and watch out – you may just fall in love at first sight.
Top 10 things to do in Mumbai
“People say there is so much to learn from a sea, waves, sunset, sky and people. And so Marine Drive is my favorite place.”
– Prajakta Mhadnak
1. Take a walking tour of Colaba, Victoria Terminus, Marine Drive, and the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, Kala Ghoda
Mumbai can certainly be a lot to handle for a first-time visitor to the city. To help get your bearings, why not kick off your trip with some of the main attractions to help orient yourself and get acquainted with the city of dreams. If you just landed and are still feeling a little jetlagged we suggest a half-day tour to get your feet wet, so to speak (from the comfort of a car with a private tour). But if you’re ready and raring to go, we recommend a full-day city walking tour to get the fullest possible introduction to the city and see sites like the the gorgeous Victoria Terminus, take a walk down the scenic Marine Drive, enjoy a high tea at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, get lost in the Kala Ghoda art district, or snap some shots of the Gateway of India in Colaba. Nervous about getting around and looking to go with a guide? No Footprints, Raconteur Walks, and Khaki Tours all have a wide range of options for half and full-day guided tours to cater to your needs (walking or private car) and specific interests (history, heritage, culture, art, food, and more). We recommend group or private tour experiences in Mumbai as they are relatively well-priced, more intimate and more manageable given how busy the streets already are.
2. Discover some of Mumbai’s best street eats
Mumbai is home to a plethora of amazing street eateries to satisfy your every craving, whether sweet, salty, spicy – or everything in one. While there is a place to try on nearly every corner, we have a few favorites including: Bademiya (Colaba), Sardar’s (Tulsiwadi), Shrikrishna or Anand Stall (Dadar Market), Ashok Vada Pav (near Dadar Beach), Crawford Market, the food stalls across from the Victoria Terminus/BMC Headquarters, the stalls at Chowpatty and Juhu beaches, Zaveri Bazaar Street, and Mohammed Ali Road. Not sure what to try? We recommend bhelpuri (puffed rice and sev (crunchy noodles), with potatoes, onions, tomatoes, and chutney), pani puri (a crunchy puri stuffed with potatoes, chickpeas, spices, chutney, and flavored water), batata vada (mashed potato patty topped with deep-fried chickpea flour, mixed with spices and served with chutney), vada pav (a delicious deep fried potato patty topped with chutneys and spices), kebabs (for the non-vegetarians), sev puri (puri – a kind of chip – with onions, coriander, mashed potatoes, sev, tamarind, garlic, and chili), pav bhaji (a mix of vegetables and spices potatoes and tomatoes, alongside some buttery toasted bread), and a nice chai or lassi (a classic!) to wash everything down.
3. Dive into the art scene with the Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Jehangir Art Gallery, Crawford Market, and Chor Bazaar
Though most wouldn’t necessarily think of Mumbai as a go-to arts destination, a budding arts scene celebrating both contemporary and more traditional artistry is starting to attract visitors from across India and around the world. Luckily, most of the city’s main art galleries are clustered in the south of the city in Colaba, the unofficial art district, making it easy to explore the art scene in depth. If you’re interested in Mumbai’s heritage and history, we recommend first checking out the Bhau Daji Lad Museum, which has free public tours in English every Saturday and Sunday at 11:30am. Or check out the National Gallery of Modern Art, which has free guided walks daily at 11:30am, 1:30pm, and 3:30pm. Closer to central Colaba you can find the Jehangir Art Gallery, which has been promoting contemporary Indian art since 1952 across its four exhibition rooms. Other great galleries to check out in Colaba include Project 88, Chemould, and Tarq. Have a penchant for architecture? Check out the historic Crawford Market, which features Norman, Flemish, and Victorian styles and an impressive clock tower. Or perhaps you’re looking for some handmade pieces within your budget to bring home? Look no further than the Chor Bazaar, where you’ll be able to find colorful handicrafts, antiques, bronze statues, and much more.
Bhau Daji Lad Museum (Indian nationals: Adults – Rs 10, Children – Rs 5; International visitors: Adult – Rs 100, Children – Rs 50; closed on Wednesdays; Veer Mata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan (Rani Baug), 91/A, Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Road Byculla East)
National Gallery of Modern Art (Children – free, Indian nationals Rs 20, International visitors Rs 500; closed Mondays;Jaipur House, India Gate)
Jehangir Art Gallery (Free entry; 161B, Mahatma Gandhi Road, Kala Ghoda)
4. Visit Mumbai’s most famous restaurants
You can’t say you’ve been to Mumbai if you’ve never set foot in Britannia or Swati Snacks. Described as “iconic,” “just wow,” “worth the hype,” “excellent,” and “must visit,” it’s no wonder these restaurants have hungry fans lining up at their doors. Britannia & Co., founded in 1923, is a staple of the Mumbai food scene that serves both traditional Parsi food (Iranian-influenced) and typical Indian dishes. The family-run business – now in its third-generation – is one of the few remaining relics of Parsi café culture in Mumbai, stuffing the bellies of its patrons with sizeable portions and home cooked feel. Swati Snacks was founded in 1963, at which time it only served a few home-made chaats and hand-churned ice cream. Still aspiring to recreate traditional dishes and authentic, homemade food, Swati Snacks has grown to three hugely popular restaurants today, with two in Mumbai. Though the menu is vegetarian, meat eaters won’t even notice given how tasty every item on the menu is. Other great options include Cafe Madras, Bombay Canteen, Soham, and Trishna. Bon appetit!
Britannia & Co.
Wakefield House, 16, 11, Sport Rd, opp. New Custom House, Ballard Estate; Opening Hours: 12:00pm to 4:00pm, Saturdays until 10:00pm, closed Sundays; +91 22 2261 5264
Swati Snacks (http://swatisnacks.com)
Tardeo Branch (248 Karai Estate, Opp. Bhatia Hospital); Opening Hours: 12:00pm to 10:45pm daily; +91 9029891205 / 6 / 7
Nariman Point (Dalamal Tower, Free Press Journal Marg Nariman Point); Opening Hours: 12:00pm to 10:45pm daily; +91 22 6666-6880
5. Make your way to Bandra – an up and coming neighborhood in Mumbai
Bandra has come to be known as one of the coolest suburbs of Mumbai, and for good reason. The neighborhood features the Castella De Aguada (otherwise known as the Bandra fort) – one of many relics from the Portuguese, eye-catching street art in Ranwar, the Bandstand promenade where you can take a scenic walk at sunset, and plenty of great food stalls, restaurants, bars, and pubs which have helped to make Bandra a happening food scene in Mumbai. The neighborhood is full of hotspots including Bonobo (food & cocktails), Pali Bhavan (food), Ferry Wharf (food), Veranda (food), House of Nomad (cocktails), Toast and Tonic (cocktails), The Daily (cocktails), and Toto’s Garage (bar food & drinks). Continue the party after hours at Bandra Base for live music or Bonobo for a mix of live music and electronic. Try to rub elbows with celebrities at House of Nomad, head over to Bora Bora or Drop to dance all night long, or chill at Escobar with its open rooftop and relaxed vibe. If you’re not in the mood for some nightlife, check out The Cuckoo Club instead for some stand-up comedy shows that will have you laughing all night long.
Some of the city’s best street art is found in Bandra, which has become known across Mumbai for its eye-catching murals and painting-lined streets such as Waroda, Bazaar, Chapel, and Saint Veronica Roads. The neighborhood is also a shopping paradise, with Linking Road (Bandra West) lined with stall after stall selling everything your heart desires. Hill Road is another great option to get in your shopping fix, but don’t forget to bargain!
Looking for a little more peace and quiet? Bandra is home to the Mount Mary Church (also known as Basilica of Our Lady of the Mount), which hosts the famous Bandra fair in September. Not too far away, you’ll find St. Andrew’s Church – which was built in 1575, making it one of Mumbai’s oldest buildings. If you’re thirsty after your walk up to the basilica, stop into the charming and well-loved Taj Mahal Tea House to enjoy some delicious local blends and light snacks, and if you’re lucky, a chance to catch some live music.
6. Unleash your inner foodie in the city
Mumbai is known for its incredible food scene, and you can find options for all budgets. Eating in this city is truly an experience for all the senses; while you’re chowing down on a delicious snack, you can enjoy all the sights and sounds and smells of the city around you. If you’re trying to stay budget-friendly, check out Mumbai’s vibrant and wallet-friendly array of street food, Mumbai’s beaches (such as Juhu or Girgaon Chaupati) are a great option to find some of the city’s best snacks or head over to the Dadar or Crawford Markets to get your fix of some of the city’s best street food. Want to dish out on a slightly more upscale experience? Though Mumbai has yet to receive its own Michelin stars yet, head over to Wasabi, San:Qi, Hakkasan, or Ziya for a high-dining experience you won’t soon forget. Or maybe you want to venture out and explore Mumbai’s food offerings through a more interactive experience. If so, check out Reality Tours and Travels’s Mumbai Street Food Tour, No Footprints’ Street Food Walk, or Khaki Tours’s #ChowpattyChat or #MohallaMunch walking food tours.
7. Lights, Camera, Action!
If you haven’t yet experienced the magic of Bollywood, now is your chance. Mumbai is the epicenter of high-energy dance sequences, beautiful starlets, handsome hunks (hello, Shah Rukh Khan!), epic love stories, and drama galore. What better way to immerse yourself in the magic of Bollywood than with a tour of the famed studios that produced worldwide hits. We strongly recommend taking a guided tour as access to studios may be limited otherwise. Hop on over to Film City Studio in Goregaon for a guided tour, or check out Khaki Tours’s behind-the-scenes #BollywoodBlast tour of the industry. Perhaps you’d like to catch a screening instead. If you’re itching to see a Bollywood movie in a beautiful venue, check out Regal Cinema (Colaba Causeway).
8. See Mumbai on two wheels (bike tours)
Feeling full after all that street food? Sounds like some exercise is in order, so hop on a bike and explore the streets of Mumbai on two wheels while you digest all those pani puris. Several operators, including No Footprints and Raconteur Walks, offer excellent and fun bike tour options that will show you even more of the city than what you could have covered on foot alone. Whether it’s exploring the Gateway of India (the iconic monument at the foot of the Arabian sea), the beautiful avenues of Ballard Estate, the gorgeous Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus Railway Station (Victoria Terminus), the breezy sea promenade of Marine Drive, or the shady streets of the Kala Ghoda art district, you’ll be sure to get a kick out of Mumbai if you take these tours out for a spin (and maybe burn a few calories too).
9. Take a drive through Mumbai (scenic drives)
Want to really feel like you’re part of the hustle and bustle of Mumbai and cover the most ground possible, but from the comfort of a car? Check out #urbansafari by Khaki Tours for an open-air jeep ride through the city’s most scenic locales (available in both 2.5 and 4h options). Raconteur Walks also offers half and full day tours that will take you by attractions such as the heritage district, Crawford Market, and Mani Bhavan (Gandhi’s Mumbai home), Dhobi Ghat (the largest open air laundry), and the posh Malabar Hill. Alternatively for the more adventurous, car rentals are available for relatively cheap through providers such as Zoomcar, Avis, Hertz, and Europcar. If you’re driving yourself, be sure to check out Marine Drive with your windows down to feel the sea breeze, or if you have some more time and are in the mood for a road trip, head a little out of the city to check out the beautiful hills of Lonavala and Khandala (80km from Mumbai)), the quiet mount of Matheran (80km from Mumbai), or the incredible vistas at the Raigad Fort Natural Reserve (170km from Mumbai).
10. Enjoy diverse concerts and performances
There is always something exciting going on in Mumbai when it comes to entertainment. If you’re a music or theater lover, or want to hit up a show, you’ll never run out of options from which to choose. From having a few laughs at a standup comedy show at the Tata Theater or The Comedy Store, to singing along with your favorite musical hits at the Royal Opera House Theater, and or taking in a theater performance at the intimate Prithvi or the Odeum theaters – Mumbai has a show for everyone. Want something on a larger-scale? The DY Patil Stadium (which has seen the likes of Justin Bieber, Dua Lipa, U2, and Katy Perry perform) and the Jiogarden(which has hosted Ed Sheeran, Skrillex, Bryan Adams, and David Guetta) continue to draw big names to the city of dreams for some of the most fun mega-concerts around.
You can enjoy Mumbai rich, and you can enjoy Mumbai poor. The beauty of the “city of dreams” is that there is something to do on every budget. For those looking to explore the bustling city on a shoestring budget, Mumbai offers a host of activities that will keep you more than entertained (and none the poorer). Whether it’s getting lost in the charming and historic villages in Bandra, visiting the city’s innumerable temples, window shopping at the markets and bazaars, or taking a leisurely walk down the coast, Mumbai offers plenty to do without having to spend a cent.