Mumbai, the city made up of 7 small islands, is the financial capital of India. But leaving aside the commercial side of the city, there is a diverse and cultural element to the city which is unlike any other destination in India. There is a lot of history, interesting eclectic architecture and some distinct food which one can enjoy if you know where to go. For all the visitors who are not familiar with Mumbai, I would like to help you understand this amazing city better by recommending you the following. It is a guide on how you can spend a day (6 to 8 hours) and enjoy the sights, flavors and energy of Mumbai.
Start at the Marathi heartland
Dadar, in the center of the island city, is the heart of Mumbai. It is home to various Marathi film starts, singers, poets and major political leaders. The biggest political party of the Maharashtra state has its headquarters here. So, head over to the famous Shivaji Park ground to begin your journey. Shivaji Park is where the biggest sports hero of India – Sachin Tendulkar began life as a cricket player. The park is also the location for numerous political rallies, and events such as Ambedkar Jayanti. It was equally significant destination for similar events during the pre-independence days as well. Take a short stroll along the park and experience the political and cultural center of the state of Maharashtra.
(amazing Maharashtrian food at Aaswad)
(Kharvas, a dessert at Aaswad)
Next, head over to a restaurant called Aaswad for lunch. This joint is famous for serving typical Maharashtrian cuisine. It’s most famous dish is the Misal Pav. However, I highly recommend the Kothimbir Wadi, the Thalipeeth (come with white butter, very home-food like) and the Pithale Bhakri. You may even go for some Sabudana Vada (fried tapioca balls). For beverages, try the Piyush (sweet drink made of shrikhand and buttermilk) or the Aam Panna (served during summers). Lastly, try the Kharvas for desert. This menu is as local as you can get with Maharashtrian food in Mumbai.
Head South for two famous religious landmarks
After lunch, head towards South Mumbai. As you make your way from Dadar to Peddar Road, you will come across two major religious places of worship. First, in the Prabhadevi area, you will come across the Siddhivinayak Mandir. This is by far the most famous and most visited temple in Mumbai. If you feel energetic, then try and make a quick visit inside. You will have to remove your footwear and go through barricades, so it may take 20 mins or more, but it will be well worth a visit. Dense crowding can be expected.
Leaving Prabhadevi, head further south to Peddar Road. Take the route via Haji Ali. That also happens to be our second landmark. Haji Ali is a famous mosque in the middle of the Arabian Sea. It has a narrow path which stretches out from the island city and into the sea, connecting the mosque to the mainland. The most unique thing about the mosque is that the narrow path gets completely submerged by sea water during high-tide. It is only during the low-tide that access to the mosque opens and one can walk along the pathway. If you have time, and if the tides are right, then feel free to visit the mosque (appropriate clothing and precaution needed, like covering the head for females, etc.). Other option if not visiting the mosque is to take in the views of the beautiful sight from the sidewalk and moving on to Peddar Road.
Pass by India’s Billionaire’s Row
As you drive through Peddar road heading further south, you will notice some upscale tall buildings. The most distinct of all buildings will be Antilia, the famous home of India’s richest man Mukesh Ambani. Just to the east of Peddar Road runs a parallel road. This road begins with Carmichael Road and then becomes Altamount Road. This stretch of real estate is the most coveted valuable piece of land in India. It is home to several billionaires and has fancy upscale houses. Take a drive through if you are interested in checking out this wealthy neighbourhood. You will have to turn left after Jaslok hospital to get to this street.
Mumbai’s favourite chill out spot – Marine Drive
After crossing Peddar Road, head further south to Girgaum Chowpatty (beach) and the famous Marine Drive. As you arrive on the road facing the sea, you will drive along the 3.6km boulevard till you hit a dead end. Marine Drive is also known as “The Queen’s Necklace”, because at night time, the street lights make the curved road appear similar to a necklace. Whatever name you want to call it, Marine Drive is open, airy and spacious. College kids, working professionals and people of all ages come here to hang out and soak in the views of the South Mumbai skyline. Fitness enthusiasts and marathon runners train here. Drive to the end of Marine Drive and talk a walk in the area opposite the famous Trident Oberoi hotel.
Tourist Spot # 1 – The Gateway of India and Cafe Leopold
No tourist trip to Mumbai is complete without visiting the Gateway of India. Head there and take a walk to get the full effect. Check out the sail boats and yachts parked in the waters behind the gateway. Bang opposite the Gateway is the beautiful Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. Behind Taj Mahal Hotel is a Starbucks and more importantly, the famous Cafe Leopold. Chill out at Cafe Leopold and enjoy a cold beverage. The cafe is overpriced, but being a famous tourist spot, one can expect it to be that way. You will see plenty of non-Indians and backpackers at Leopold.
Kala Ghoda, Asiatic Library
From the Gateway of India, head towards Horniman Circle via Shahid Bhagat Singh Road. As you drive through this area of Kala Ghoda, you will feel like being transported back in time. The architecture on this stretch of road before Horniman Circle is pure vintage, some of it over 200 years old. It might not even feel like India in some sections. The best landmark here is the Asiatic Library bang opposite Horniman Circle. Founded in 1804, it is a 200-year old structure, restored and beautifully painted in white colour. Countless photo-shoots and movie filmings have happened at this site. Further north from the Asiatic Library is the Reserve Bank of India headquarters. There is a Reserve Bank Museum nearby, but you will have to visit it before 5:15 pm. It has an interesting collection of old currencies and money related artifacts which are centuries old.
The most iconic railway station of India
Driving north from the Asiatic Library, you will turn left from the General Post Office building and head over to the CST railway station. Known earlier as the Victoria Terminus, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A visit here in the evening is great because you can enjoy the full effect of colourful lighting on the famous Gothic architecture. If you want to visit the museum inside the building, then you will have to come during the museum timings of 3pm to 5pm Monday to Friday. One of the best ways to view the station is by standing on a viewing island located just opposite the station, next to the Municipal Corporation headquarters. From this island, you not only get a nice view of the station, but you also get amazing pictures of the Municipal Corporation Building. That building is also wonderfully lit in the evenings.
(Municipal Headquarters Building beautifully lit)
Eat Mumbai’s Staple Street Food
After admiring the splendour of the Station and Municipal Headquarters, cross the street and order a Vada Pav at Aram. Vada Pav is the most widely consumed street food of Mumbai, and one cannot leave Mumbai without eating the famous Vada Pav. It is basically a fried potato dumpling placed in between local bread called Pav. The Vada Pav comes with a side of roasted green chilies. Ask for the chilies if you want to eat spicy food, otherwise stay away from the chilies if you cannot handle the intense hot spice.
By the time you are done munching on that Vada Pav, you will have spent the better part of the entire day exploring Mumbai like never before. With the traffic and the crowds, it will easily take you 6-8 hours to do the above itinerary. Though long and maybe tiring, this journey will make you experience Mumbai like no other popular tourist guides. Recommendation for dinner in the area where you end your journey is the Burma Burma restaurant, located 10 mins walk from the Asiatic Library. Keep in mind that this restaurant is super popular, and you NEED to make a reservation in advance (maybe 2 weeks in advance) to get a table here. Somewhat expensive compared to local options, but well worth the visit.