Mumbai, formally known as Bombay, is located on a peninsula on the eastern side of India. This fast-paced, vibrant city is brimming with diversity, commerce, and converging cultures. Visitors should prepare themselves: To be experienced fully, Mumbai demands the engagement of all five senses. From the iconic views of the Taj Mahal Hotel to the smells and sounds of the market district, the city is as diverse and intriguing as the people who inhabit it. Here are the top 10 things to do while traveling in Mumbai.
1. Visit Fort and Colaba
Dubbed by Lonely Planet the “unofficial headquarters of Mumbai’s tourist scene”, Fort and Colaba is an itinerary must-do. This district, occupying the southern end of Mumbai, is home to markets, bars, and street stalls. Take a heritage walking tour of Fort and Colaba, which stops at The Gateway of India, the Taj Mahal Hotel, the town hall, and the Flora Fountain.
2. The Taj Mahal Hotel
Mumbai’s first landmark, the Taj Mahal Hotel plays an integral part in the history of the city. Built by Jamsetji Tata in 1903 as part of an effort to restore Mumbai’s image, the hotel has attracted distinguished visitors from all over the world. Stop for refreshments at the Taj Mahal Palace’s Sea Lounge, located opposite the hotel.
3. Sasoon Docks
This fisherman’s market is open daily from 4 am to noon. To get the most out of the experience, visitors should come at around five in the morning to see fishermen arriving with the day’s catches. Koli women collect the fish, dry them off, and prepare them for sale in plain sight.
4. The Markets and Bazaars
India’s market scene is unlike any other. Each market specializes in a different product: vendors at Crawford Market sell exotic fruits and vegetables, while Mangalda’s Market is known for its fabrics. Antiques and reproductions can be found at Chor Bazaar.
A visit to film’s largest city would not be complete without watching a Bollywood original on a cinema screen. Listings for showings can be found in local newspapers. For an authentic experience, visit the once-glamorous Eros Cinema to see the Art-Deco interiors.
6. Hanging Gardens
These terraced gardens feature a variety of plant species and intricate animal-shaped hedges. Located near the Arabian Sea, the gardens offer a spectacular view of the sunset. Located across the road from the Hanging Gardens is Kamala Nehru Park, from where visitors can see Marine Park and the skyscrapers at Nariman Point.
7. Dhobi Ghat
The world’s largest open-air laundromat, Dhobi Ghat is a popular destination among tourists. Clothes are washed by Dhobis.
8. Elephanta Island
Take a ferry from the wharf near the Gateway of India to explore this “City of Caves”. Elephanta Island is comprised of cave and rock art linked back centuries to the Cult of Shiva. These caves and temples are home to some of India’s most exquisite carving. Elephanta Island’s temples are marked as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Boats run to and from the island every day from 9:00 a.m.. to 5:30 p.m..
Not for the faint of heart, Dharavi is bound to change the way you look at the world. Asia’s largest slum, it demonstrates the contrast between the rich and the poor.
Mumbai is home to a wealth of museums. The Prince of Wales Museum, the National Gallery of Modern Art, and the Planetarium are all worth a visit.
Getting to Mumbai
Unless you’re traveling from a popular hub, finding a direct flight to Mumbai is not likely. From Newark, flights are usually around 15 hours in duration. From London, flights are generally between 9 and 10 hours.
For the best deals and rates on flights to Mumbai, research niche travel sites like Travelopod.com. Websites like this exclusively focus on providing travel to India, which usually leads to the best deals online. Other popular travel sites like Booking Buddy, Orbitz, and Kayak may also be helpful in finding the best prices on hotels.