Mumbai is the largest city in India. Until 1996, this city was called Bombay, the English version of the previous Portuguese name for the city Bom Bahia (translation: good bay). In the 90s, the local authorities decided to give the city a more Indian name: Mumbai. In all honesty, I did not know what to expect of Mumbai, because I only knew the city of the slums (thanks to Slumdog Millionaire). But during my three-day stay, I discovered that Mumbai had a lot to offer. In this blog post, I will share 10 great things to do in Mumbai.
10 fantastic things to do in Mumbai
1. Walk around the Gateway of India
At the beginning of the 19th century, the Prince of Wales paid his first visit to – then under British colonial empire – India and everything had to be perfect. The historical center of Jaipur (Rajasthan) was painted pink (color of hospitality) and Mumbai built a big monument to show the wealth of the British Raj: the Gateway of India. It literally functioned as the gateway to the Arabian Sea. Unfortunately, the Prince of Wales only saw the foundation of this gateway during his visit. The construction was finished in 1924, thirteen years after the royal visit. Today, the triumphal arch is an icon of Mumbai and is visited by many tourists. Near the Gateway, you can also find the Taj Mahal Palace, a beautiful five-star hotel.
2. Walk around in the garden of the Prince of Wales Museum
In addition to the Gateway of India, Mumbai also built a museum for the prince in 1923. The official name is the Museum of the Prince of Wales, but the Indian name is Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (abbreviation: CSMVS). The building really catches your eye because of the mixed Western-Eastern style and the big grey domes. Unfortunately, we did not have time to visit the museum, but we did walk around the beautiful garden. Totally free, I highly recommend it.
3. Walk along the iconic boulevard Marine Drive
Marine Drive is the most iconic boulevard in India. It is over three kilometers long and stretches out in the shape of a half-moon along the coastline of Mumbai. This is the perfect place to escape the busy city center. Marine Drive is also a good place to admire the Art Deco architecture of the city. This is an architectural style from the 20s and it is known for its futuristic glamour, geometrical patterns, and pastel colors. Mumbai actually has the second largest collection of Art Deco buildings in the world. Local non-profit organization Art Deco Mumbai tries to raise more awareness for the conservation of these unique buildings. There is a handy little map on their website with all the Art Deco buildings in the city.
4. Relax at the city beach Chowpatty Beach
Mumbai is a coastal city, so there are a couple of beaches you can visit. I chose Chowpatty Beach, because it is easy to go to by local train. Unfortunately, swimming is not an option at Chowpatty, because it is too polluted. Still, you can sit down in the sand and relax. During the day the beach is almost empty, but in the evening everyone comes to the beach with their family to sit down, relax, and eat.
5. Go to the park at Hanging Gardens
Want to go to the park? Head over to the Hanging Gardens in classy Malabar Hill. This area is located at the very end of Marine Drive. You can find the entrance of the Hanging Gardens at the highest point of Malabar Hil. It’s called Hanging Gardens because of the layout, spread out over a hill. Most tourists visit these gardens to see the hedges in the shape of animals. Elephant, giraffe and deer, anything can be made from hedges! Another perk of this area: the gardens are located on the top of a hill, so you have a spectacular view over Marine Drive.
6. Get scouted as an extra in Colaba
Colaba is the place to be in Mumbai. This old British quarter is today’s touristic heart of Mumbai. In this area, you’ll see a lot of western influences in the shape of big coffee shops and restaurants with burgers and beers. Iconic restaurants as Cafe Mondegar and Leopold Cafe are packed with tourists. Just before Cafe Mondegar, the street market of Colaba Causeway starts. This is an extremely busy spot where you can buy sunglasses, jewelry, and shoes. I wasn’t a huge fan of this market, because of the narrow streets. We also found out that Colaba is a good spot to get a part in a Bollywood movie as an extra. We went for a coffee at Coffee Day and were asked twice if we wanted to play a small part in a Bollywood movie.
Hotel recommendation in Colaba
We stayed at Abode Bombay and we loved this place so much. Great location (in the middle of Colaba), comfortable rooms, and great styling. Highly recommend it to everyone!
7. Looking for the best architecture in Fort
The area of Fort is the financial heart of Mumbai and it is also one of the most beautiful areas of Mumbai. I was constantly looking up to see the beautiful old buildings. This area offers a great mix of colonial heritage: Bombay High Court, the University of Mumbai and the David Sassoon Library and Reading Room. Gorgeous! It feels like you’re walking 19th century England. The name of the area is a reminder of the old Fort George that used to stand here, built by the British East India Company. It got demolished in 1862. You can still visit the remains of the fort.
8. Make a stop at Victoria Terminus
Another highlight in Fort is the Victoria Terminus. Also known under the Indian name Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. This is by far one of the most beautiful train stations in the world. It looks more like a British university building than a train station. It is designed by a British architect at the end of the 19th century and it is mix of Indian and Victorian architectural styles. The train station is still actively used and it is one of the busiest train station in the world.
9. Discover art district Kala Goda
Kala Goda is also called the ‘art district of Mumbai’, because of the various art galleries and museums. The entrance is marked by the brightly blue colored Rhythm House. In this area, you can also see the oldest synagogue of Mumbai: the Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue. This light-blue colored and visibly decaying building certainly grabs your attention. I was also surprised by the street art I saw in this area. Moreover, Kala Goda is a lot less busy than Colaba. Just like Fort, Kala Goda has many colonial buildings. Take for instance the Elphinstone College and the Maharashtra Police Headquarters. This last building is not a police station anymore, but the seat of the Bombay Legislative Council. Kala Goda was a true surprise to me. If I had more time, I would have loved to see more of this area.
10. Watch cricket at Oval Maidan
Of course, this has to be on the list for an India trip: watching cricket. The most popular sport in India, mostly watched in barbershops on tiny televisions. In Mumbai, we walked across the Oval Maidan (a recreational area) and the field was full of young cricket players. Hundreds of young boys were practicing their skills. The field was open for everyone, so we walked along the field to see the game up close. I still don’t get how it works, but it was impressive to see them practicing.
And there you have it, a list of things to do in Mumbai. Would like to visit this city?
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