When you think, “Mumbai”, what comes to mind? Many people say Bollywood, India’s major film industry. Those more familiar with India may comment, “income disparity”, nodding to the drastic quality of life differences between Mumbai’s poor and wealthy. Yet others may answer “variety”, “opportunity”, or even “heat”, pointing out the small and major nuances of the metropolis.
Each of these aspects is a part of Mumbai, and there is so much more that makes up the city. Mumbai is the largest city in India, well known as the Bollywood capital of the world. It is a financial and entertainment center for the subcontinent, has the highest number of millionaires in the country, and is home to one of the largest slums in the world. Covering over 230 square miles, Mumbai is a massive place to explore with endless things to experience.
We spent two weeks in Mumbai, and could go back for another two weeks and not repeat a single attraction. There are endless things to experience in Mumbai, so we’ve put together a “starter kit” for some of the more popular Mumbai neighborhoods.
How to Get Around
While public transportation is available through parts of Mumbai, most people get around via rickshaw or cab service. Keep in mind that Mumbai is a very big city, and going from top to bottom can take well over an hour with traffic. Our suggestion would be to plan activities that are close together, and spend one to two days exploring each area.
Car: Uber is widely available throughout Mumbai, and seldom costs more than $3-6 to get anywhere in the city.
Rickshaw: Rickshaws are available through most of Mumbai, and many drivers rely on the meter for fares, unlike other cities in India. Be sure to either negotiate a rate before you start driving, or ensure that the meter is on to avoid getting ripped off.
What to See
Andheri & Airport Area
Global Vipassana Pagoda
This meditation hall is capped with a gold pointed dome and serves as a place of peace and harmony. It was built out of gratitude to Buddha’s teachings, and offers free meditation courses.
Sanjay Gandhi National Park
For a bit of greenery on a trip to Mumbai, check out the Gandhi National Park. Set across 40 square miles, it’s one of the most visited parks in the world. There are a variety of exhibitions through the park, and visitors should come prepared to walk or rent a bike as the distances are quite far and park transportation is not always reliable.
Essex World is an amusement and water park in north Mumbai that draws almost 2 million visitors each year. Visit for bowling, roller coaster rides, water park fun, and an ice rink.
Aska beach serves as a popular weekend destination in Mumbai. It’s a quieter area of Mumbai surrounded by Aska village, and is a good place to step away from Mumbai’s busyness.
Bandra & Juhu
Linking Road extends through a major part of Bandra and is filled with clothes, bags, shoes, and other shopping for bargain prices. It’s well worth a walk through the area.
One of the best cafe’s we visited in Mumbai was the Prithvi Cafe. Tucked on a side street, the cafe is quite spacious with hanging lanterns, fresh baked goods, and plenty of chai. The cafe doubles as a theatre with regular local shows.
One of the nicest beaches in Mumbai is Juhu Beach. Located amongst several upscale hotels, the entire Juhu area is home to a slew of celebrities and Bollywood stars. Food vendors and a variety of good restaurants sit both on the beach and in the vicinity.
Dharavi & Dadar
The Dharavi slums encompass less than one square mile yet are home to almost 1 million people, making it one of the most densely populated places on earth. Most people who reside in Dharavi live on about $1 USD per day, and Dharavi has been subject to many epidemics due to poor sanitation and healthcare. There are guided tours that explain the problems and challenges in more detail throughout Mumbai.
Dadar Flower Market
Photographers may enjoy a stroll through the Dadar Market, which serves as a wholesale flower market for Mumbai’s weddings and events. The best time to arrive is early mornings when the flowers are fresh, as most business is over by 9-10am.
Mumbai has no shortage of temples, and the Siddhivinayak Mandir is no exception. Said to be one of the wealthiest temples in the city, the temple is dedicated to Lord Shri Ganesh, one of the most worshipped deities in the Hindu religion.
If you get tired of Indian cuisine, or just can’t handle the spiciness, Quattro is a fantastic restaurant to try out. Just across from a major mall in Mumbai, Quattro serves true Italian fare and has stellar service. A four course meal for two costs around $40, which is pricey by India standards, but quite affordable for westerners.
Ever wanted to see the world’s largest open air laundry facility? If it hadn’t crossed your mind, it’s still worth a visit. Dhobi Ghat is where most of the hotels and motels get their sheets cleaned, along with many of the locals. The best view is from the highway bridges, though more adventurous souls can wander through the neighborhood area. Bring a buddy on this trip and beware of scams asking you to pay money to enter.
Nehru Science Center
India places a heavy focus on STEM education, and this interactive science museum assists with that. As the largest interactive science center in India, the museum features over 500 exhibits on energy, sound, kinematics, and mechanics.
Haji Ali Dargah
One of the most recognizable mosques in Mumbai lies on an islet off the coast of Worli. The mosque was constructed in memory of a wealthy merchant who gave up his worldly possessions to travel and teach the Islamic religion. He settled and passed away in Mumbai, with a final wish to be buried wherever his body washed ashore, which is where the mosque now sits today.
Remnants and tributes to Gandhi are visible throughout Mumbai, and India. This museum includes letters written by Gandhi, photos, paintings, and the blood-stained robe that Gandhi wore the day he was assassinated.
To get away from the constant hustle and bustle of Mumbai, head to the Hanging Gardens. These terraced gardens offer a quiet atmosphere and some much needed greenery.
AER Bar Four Seasons Hotel
For a glimpse at the Mumbai high life, head to the Four Seasons hotel rooftop bar. The AER bar is a good place to grab a drink and has some incredible views of the city at night.
Chor Bazaar (Thieves Market)
One of the major tourist attractions in Mumbai is the Chor Bazaar. As one of the largest flea markets in India, Chor Bazaar has endless antiques and second hand goods. It was nicknamed the Theives market because there is a saying that anything stolen can be bought back at the Chor Bazzar. Queen Victoria herself experienced this when a violin went missing on a visit to Mumbai, and was later found for sale in this market.
A trip to Mumbai is not complete without taking a stroll down Marine Drive. The C-shaped boulevard is lined with palm trees and filled with high end hotels and restaurants. Stop by for the view and stay for festivities as nighttime rolls around.
One of the most famous markets in Mumbai is the Crawford Market. The market is best known for its variety of fruits, vegetables, and poultry items. Another side of the market sells a variety of pets such as dogs, cats and birds. Endangered species are also illegaly sold at this market, so buyers be cautious and considerate.
The Flora Fountain is a nice place to take a walk and appreciate an exquisite architectural piece. This heritage monument depicts the Roman goddess Flora and was built in the late 1800’s.
From shopping to dining to art galleries to movies, the Colaba Causeway has it all. The causeway takes some time to explore, so budget at least an afternoon to wander.
Gateway of India
Overlooking the Arabian Sea, the Gateway of India was once used by fishermen as an entry point to Mumbai. Now, the gate welcomes prominent political figures and serves as Mumbai’s top tourist attraction.
Bombay High Court
As one of the oldest High Courts in India, the Bombay High Court has jurisdiction over Maharashtra, the state Mumbai resides in, as well as Goa, a coastal state. It is one of the most distinguished courts in the country by both build and duty, and rulings from this court can only be appealed to the Supreme Court of India.
Horniman Circle Gardens
These gardens make up a large park in southern Mumbai, and are surrounded by several offices and banks. The gardens are a nice place to walk around or find some quiet during a day of sight-seeing.
Prince of Wales Museum of Western India
To get a good understanding of Indian history, check out the Price of Wales Museum. With over 50,000 exhibits of Indian history, the museum was founded and named during a visit from Edward VIII, who at the time was the Price of Wales.
Where to Stay
We found choosing a place to stay in Mumbai much more difficult than other cities in India. The hostel scene is not very developed in Mumbai, leaving budget travelers little options. There are many hotels to choose from, all at varying prices, along with several good Airbnb options. We’ve linked to some of our top picks below.
Big Budget: JW Marriot Mumbai Sahar ($150 USD per room) or Mumbai Hyatt Regency ($100 USD per room)
Mid Range Budget: Airbnb ($20 USD to $40 USD per room)
Low Budget: Bombay Backpackers ($14 USD per bed)
Should You Visit Mumbai?
For anyone traveling to India, we’d suggest visiting Mumbai for at least a few days. Mumbai is a massive city with endless areas to explore, and provides a good introduction to the country. To have an enjoyable and safe experience, here are a few parting tips we’ll leave you with:
- While you’re out and about, try some of the street food from vendors with long lines. Longer lines usually indicate that the food safe to eat, and tastes good too!
- Always travel with a buddy, particularly if you are female. India is a fascinating country, and though Mumbai is progressive in many ways you will likely feel safer traveling in pairs.
- As for any city in India, always carry hand sanitizer, a few sheets of toilet paper, and extra rupees (cash), as it can be hard to find these items while you’re out and about.
Have some must-visit places in Mumbai that we missed? Comment your suggestions below!