Mumbai is the Indian city of dreams. It is home to the glittery theatre and film industry, financial centre of one of th world’s strongest growing economies, and on top of all that fashion capital of India. It is as diverse as its people – the richest man of the country lives here, and the area Dharavi is the biggest slum of all Asia. You will start noticing this blatant duality as soon as you land here – helipads can be found right next to local train tracks, a BMW showroom is sandwiched between two slum blocks, old Victorian buildings neighbor modern skyscrapers. A first time visitor feels easily swamped in this small, uber-crowded, fast-paced city. Nonetheless, this list of 22 things to do is a great way to get you started.

22 things to go in mumbai photo by Joe

What To Do

1. Get aboard the local public transport, trains in particular, and soak in the city. Crowds and queues can be avoided by buying first class tickets. The Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (formerly Victoria Terminus) is even a UNESCO World Heritage Site and already worth a visit on its own.

22 things to do in mumbai photo by Arian Zwegers

2. Spend an evening at marine drive. It is the perfect place to listen to hang out with friends, enjoy live music and gaze at the stars. Even though this location is recommended by any tour guide, it is an absolute revelation. Grab a chocolate or a sitaphal (also called sugar-apple) milkshake at Bachelorr’s while  you are there.

22 things to go in mumbai photo by David Ramos

3. Walk along the mesmerizing sea on one of Mumbai’s plentiful beaches and promenades. Some of the most beautiful areas are Bandstand or Carter Road in Bandra, the Worli Seaface and Juhu Beach.

4. Immerse in the touristy South Bombai experience and take part in a guided or self-guided tour by foot, bicycle or bus. En route lie the enormous Gateway of India monument and Taj hotel, which has a lovely public coffee shop inside. Cafe Mondegar is a great spot for breakfast, as it is decorated in graffiti and plays tunes from a jukebox. Coloba Causeway is the main commercial street in this area and offers plenty of shopping. Make sure to also peek into its side streets!

22 things to do in mumbai photo by Francisco Martins

5. Wander about in the neighborhood Kala Ghodai It is full of the art galleries, museums, quaint little cafés, designer stores, libraries and book shops – a plethora of other hidden gems waiting for you to be discovered.

6. Exploring Mumbai’s history belongs to any visit to the city. Here are some locations to choose from:

  • Check out the museums, particularly Chhatrapati Shivaji Museum (formerly known as Prince of Wales Museum) and the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum for art, archaeology and history.
  • One of the many caves surrounding Mumbai. The Elephanta Cave lies on a little island which can be reached by a ferry from the Gateway of India. The ride takes approximately one hour and is ideal for a half-day excursion. A little further away you can find Kanheri caves and the Sanjay Gandhi National Park which make a good day trip.
  • Visit a place of worship. True to its cosmopolitan nature, Mumbai is home to people adhering to various religions and some of the popular places of worship are the Haji Ali Mosque, Mahalaxmi Temple, Mumbadevi Temple, Siddhivinayak Temple, Mount Mary Church, and David Sassoon Synagogue.
  • Hunt for bargains at the markets. There a plenty of old, specialized bazaars in Mumbai, for example Crawford Market, Mutton Street (Chor Bazaar), Spice Market, Mangaldas Cloth Market, Zaveri Bazaar (for precious jewellery) and many more. These are bustling with people, street vendors, and an amalgam of colors, sounds and smells.
22 things to do in mumbai photo by Iecercle

7. See the other side of Mumbai. Dharavi is one of the largest slums in the world and offers a unique experience for any visitor. There are various Dharavi tours, some of them guided by residents themselves – for example Be the Local Tours and Travels.

 

Soak in culture

Information on cultural events, music shows, festivals or special happenings are available in the daily newspaper Mumbai Mirror or on Mumabi Boss. Tickets can be purchased here or directly at the venues.

8. If you can, watch a play at Prithvi theatre. It is a great cultural experience and belongs to my favourite places in Mumbai. Not at least for the chai tea and Irish coffee served at the in-house cafe.

9. Watch the classic musical film Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge at Maratha Mandir cinema. It is one of the biggest Bollywood films ever and has been playing every day since 1995.

17246210952_87bf3251ed_z photo by Fred Photo corner

10. For a good laugh book tickets at the Canvas Laugh Factory, India’s foremost comedy company. It is the first of its kind in India and produces stand-up shows with the country’s top artists, but also regular international acts.

11. Get a thrill by betting on horses at the Mahalaxmi Race Course – it is a very fun and unique experience, but don’t expect a fancy crowd. There are races every Sunday during race season (Nov-April). The entry ticket for the general section is Rs. 20-30 and bets at the government betting houses start at Rs. 10. Ask the regulars for their picks for the race, and chances are you will win something.

12. Mumbai is very rich in culture, so make the most of it. There are various fests and events, like the Art Hop, the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival, the Lil Flea market, the Weirdass Pajama Festival, or regular vintage car rallies. There is never a shortage of pop-up events and happenings.

22 things to do in mumbai photo by Satish Krishnamurthy
22 things to do in mumbai photo by Shreyans Bhansali

13. Explore the music scene, which is as big as everything else in Mumbai. There are numerous venues for gigs and shows, for example the Blue Frog. Every few months the city hosts music festivals like the Enchanted Valley Carnival in Aamby Valley or the Sulafest in Nasik.

14. As cricket is one of India’s national sports, enthusiasts can not miss a match at the Wankhede Stadium.

 

Eat and Drink

Zomato is a great place for a comprehensive guide of all restaurants, cafés and bars in Mumbai. There you find addresses, menus and reviews.

15. Order your brunch right by the sea – if you look up “perfect spot for a Sunday afternoon” in an encyclopedia you would find an image of The Breakfast Club right next to it.

22 things to do in mumbai photo by Bombay Jules

16. Mumbai is a paradise for any sweet tooth. Natural has the best ice cream, Theobrama is famous for its brownies and the red velvet at LSD – Love Sugar and Dough is to die for.

17. Basically, the most important advice is: eat, eat, eat. With so many little local food joints tucked away in every corner of Mumbai, it is almost impossible not to eat non-stop. This list should be enough proof for that:

  • K. Rustom Ice Cream near Churchgate is an old, hidden shop serving home-made parsi ice cream.
  • Merwans Cake Shop in Andheri is one of the oldest and most popular cake shops in Mumbai.
  • Hearsch Bakery in Bandra is a very old Christian bakery and is popular for its rolls and burgers. It is always crowded in the evenings, so make sure to allow some time.
  • Modern Juice Centre in Colaba has a misleading name, as it is actually famous for delicious chicken burgers.
  • For authentic vegetarian South Indian food check out Café Madras or Hotel Ramashray in Matunga.
  • Soam at Peddar Road serves mouth-watering vegetarian Gujarati food and divine hand-churned exotic ice cream.
  • Govinda’s Restaurant at the Iskcon Hare Krishna Temple in Juhu serves fabulous vegetarian food. To taste a little bit of everything order a Thali – a mixed platter with a variety of dishes.
  • As you can expect from a seaside city, the seafood is a must in Mumbai. The streets of the area Dadar in Mahim are seamed with many hidden gem seafood restaurants.
22 things to do im Mumbai photo by Cory Doctorow
6737408441_818540a7a1_b photo by Garrett Ziegler

18.Try the street food. Restaurants and cafés are great, but the best food is often found at street markets and mobile vendors. They sell everything from vada pav (veggie burgers) to pav bhaji (potato veggie curry with toast), bhel poori (spicy puffed rice) and pani puri (mouthsized, filled and fried bread balls).

19. For an insider experience with a dash of mystery and authenticity get in touch with the Secret Supper Project.

20. After dinner head out to a pub crawl in Bandra. There are a gazillion of pubs to choose from – Pali Village CaféElbo RoomBora BoraBonoboBig NastyThe Hawaian Shack and 3 Wise Monkeys are only some of them.

21. If you are on a budget go for drinks at Janata Bar, which is an old-school college hangout with probably the cheapest liquor in town.

22 things to do in mumbai photo by chiragndesai

 

Venture Beyond

22. Finally, if you can spare the time explore the area outside of Mumbai. There are many great destinations close by that make fantastic weekend trips.

  • Visit Sula Vineyards in Nasik for a winery tour and grape stomping, especially from January to March.
  • Matheran is a great area for horse riding.
  • During March and April people stream to Panchgani for the strawberry season. The annual Mapro Strawberry Festival however, was just relocated to Mumbai this year.
22 things to do in mumbai photo by Karthik Chandrasekariah
  • For a nerve-wrecking thrill go to Kamshet near Lonavala and book a paragliding tour.
  • Make your way down to Goa either on the road or by train.
  • Alibaug and Kashid beach make for a good seaside break from the city.
22 things to do in mumbai photo by Abhijit Thembhekar

As overwhelming as Mumbai can be, its colourful and tasty maze of beautiful secrets makes for a great city trip. Stay here for a couple of days before you venture further into India, and explore it for yourself. Have you been here before? What are your favourite things to do?

 

*guest post written by Stuti Mohan

All images via Flickr Creative Commons.