Buzzing with the energy of 22 million residents, Mumbai, India’s most populated city has a well-deserved reputation for being a chaotic urban jungle. Its different neighborhoods wear diverse personalities ranging from the swanky Altamount Road in South Mumbai, trendy "queen of the suburbs" Bandra, and the Parsi enclave of Dadar Parsi Colony to the infamous slums of Dharavi. Here’s how to explore the intriguing melting pot.
8:30 AM - GATEWAY OF INDIA
Welcoming you to the city, the Gateway of India is Mumbai's most iconic landmark. Built during the British Raj in the Mughal architectural style for King George V and Queen Mary in 1911, the basalt arch by the Arabian Sea also stood testimonial to the exit of the last of the British troops from the country. As the city heads to work, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to people watch in the company of locals, tourists, chaiwallahs, and sevpuri vendors. Take a horse-drawn carriage to listen to interesting stories from other riders.
9 AM - SEA LOUNGE, TAJ MAHAL PALACE
Enjoy your first breakfast in Mumbai at Sea Lounge, a charming café with art deco design at The Taj Mahal Palace, the original icon of the city, predating the Gateway of India by 21 years. Sea Lounge offers a spectacular view of the harbor with sandwiches and coffee to munch on.
10 AM - ELEPHANTA ISLAND
Take a ferry from the Mumbai Harbor to Elephanta Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site consisting of intricately cut cave temples carved between AD 450 and 750. The main edifice is dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva, destroyer, creator and preserver of the universe. Tour the courtyards and shrines and visit the museum for more information on their construction.
1:30 PM - MAHESH LUNCH HOME
8B, CAWASJI PATEL STREET, FORT
Mumbai’s favorite seafood restaurant, Mahesh Lunch Home has outposts across the city. The fare is simple Mangalorean (from South India), portions are generous and the service is prompt and friendly. Try the Malabar Pomfret Tikka, Prawns Koliwada, or the Andhra Fish Curry.
3 PM - CHHATRAPATI SHIVAJI MAHARAJ VASTU SANGHRALAYA
159-161 MAHATMA GANDHI RD., FORT
Formerly known as the Prince of Wales Museum, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sanghralaya is a treasure trove of historical relics, sculptures, statues, photographs, textiles, paintings, numismatics, antiquities, and manuscripts. These include a porcelain vase from the Ming Dynasty (522-1566 AD), sandalwood jewelry box (1903 AD) and a 5th century terracotta sculpture of Buddhist origin.
5:30 PM - CRAWFORD MARKET
Officially named Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Market, this is the city’s most popular and largest wholesale market, set up during the British colonial rule in 1869. Designed by John Lockwood Kipling, father of Rudyard Kipling, take your time exploring and enjoying the cacophony and friendly banter. You’ll see Mumbaikars shopping for everything from fresh produce to pet parrots. Don’t forget to haggle persuasively if you do end up shopping here.
7:30 PM - CHHATRAPATI SHIVAJI TERMINUS
Stop for a quick visit to this train station housed inside an impressive Gothic building, formerly known as Victoria Terminus. Another legacy of the British colonial rule, the exterior is a blend of Victorian and Mughal influences with incredible details in its gargoyles, windows, domes, spires, and stained glass.
8 PM - DINNER AT SUKHSAGAR
MARINA MANSION, SVP RD., GIRGAUM CHOWPATTY
No trip to Mumbai is complete without sampling its beloved fast food and Sukh Sagar is a great place to try as many dishes as you can. Follow the example of the locals and order the Dahi Papdi Chaat, Pav Bhaji (an eternal favorite that Mumbaikars swear by), Vegetable Cheese Toast Sandwich, and Tava Pulao. Wash it all down with a fresh Ganga Jamuna or Mara Mari.
10 PM - DRINKS AT THE DOME
135, INTERCONTIENTAL MARINE DRIVE
Kick back with a cocktail and cigar at this atmospheric rooftop lounge on the 8th floor of the Intercontinental Marine Drive. You’ll be treated to a spectacular view of the city lights forming a glittery arc, more fondly known as the "Queen’s Necklace."
9 AM - HAJI ALI DARGAH
A 19th century mausoleum about 500 yards from the Mumbai shoreline, the tomb of Saint Pir Haji Ali Shah Bukhari is housed here. A pathway leads from the Arabian Sea to the structure with stalls along the way to buy flowers to make an offering. The white structure itself is an image of sanctity with Mughal domes and minarets, and people of all faiths visit the tomb to pay their respects.
10 AM - HAJI ALI JUICE CENTER
HAJI ALI CIRCLE, MAHALAXMI
Just along the shoreline facing Haji Ali Dargah, the Haji Ali Juice Center is a favorite of Mumbai locals for its thick creamy milkshakes and delicious fresh fruit creams. Try one of their Bombay-style toasts or grilled sandwiches, Anjeer (fig) or mango milkshakes. Our favorites are strawberry and sitaphal (custard apple).
11:30 AM - MAHALAKSHMI TEMPLE
BHULABHAI DESAI RD., MAHALAXMI
Your last religious stop is to the Mahalakshmi Temple dedicated to three Hindu deities -- Shree Mahakali or Durga, Shree Mahalakshmi and Shree Mahasaraswati. A heritage site that’s associated with various legends, you’ll find yourself witnessing daily prayer rituals in the company of local devotees.
1:30 PM - LUNCH AT SALT WATER CAFÉ
87, CHAPEL RD., ROSE MINAR ANNEL CHURCH, RECLAMATION, BANDRA WEST
For lunch, head to Bandra West, a cool Mumbai neighborhood that’s home to many Bollywood celebrities and the city’s young and stylish. A modern café that does a fine job of European fare -- try the pesto grilled chicken wrap, pan-seared John Dory and Spinach Risotto.
4 PM - SHOPPING IN BANDRA
LINKING RD. AND HILL RD. BANDRA WEST
Hip and trendy Bandra is the go-to place for Mumbai’s fashionistas. Linking Rd. is essentially a long shopping street lined with stalls and boutiques where you’ll find everything from funky sandals to glamorous evening wear, in a range of budgets. Hill Rd. is a shorter jaunt but still provides a wide choice with a number of boutiques in and around the area.
6 PM - STREET FOOD AT ELCO VEG
2/A, ELCO MARKET, 46HILL RD., BANDRA WEST
Get a taste of Mumbai's street food at Elco Veg Restaurant where you can choose to eat on plastic chairs outside or upstairs in the dining area. Order the creamy yogurt based Dahi Puri, spicy Pani Puri and crispy Sev Puri, and if you’ve somehow still got room for more, try the Chhole Bhature.
8 PM - TODI MILL SOCIAL
242, MATHURADAS MILLS COMPOUND, TODI MILLS, LOWER PAREL
A lively hipster pub that attracts young party crowds with its industrial chic décor, cool vibe, cheap cocktails, and innovative bar food, you’ll sip your drinks out of a mason jar or a laboratory flask and eat some dishes out of a dabba, a lunchbox carried by the working class of Mumbai. Try the fish tacos, mutton baida roti, or anda shammi pao.
10 PM - LIVE MUSIC AT BLUEFROG
D/2 MATHURADAS MILLS COMPOUND, NM JOSHI MARG, LOWER PAREL
The party’s just getting started so don your most glamorous outfit and head to blueFROG, one of the classiest venues in town. Enjoy their incredible nightlife with cocktails as you attend a live stand-up comedy show or concert. Considered to be one of the pioneers in Mumbai’s entertainment scene, blueFROG hosts a number of events throughout the week.
WHERE TO STAY: THE TAJ MAHAL PALACE
A beloved landmark of the city, the Taj Mahal Palace is so much more than a hotel. Since 1903, the legendary institution has hosted royals, Presidents, celebrities, and distinguished personalities from around the world. In its early days, the Maharajas who were patrons of this historic hotel referred to it fondly as their second home. The ultimate standard for luxury, a stay here is a priceless experience that surprisingly, will not burn too big a hole in your pocket.