South India’s bustling metropole made us feel fantastic, pumped and thoughtful at the same time. The city is home to the world’s most expensive private residential property used by a single family as well as Asia’s biggest slum. Nowhere else have we experienced such huge contrasts between wealth and poverty.
We only had two full days in Mumbai and tried to enjoy it to the fullest without rushing from sight to sight. Here is how we explored the fantastic city.
In Mumbai, you’ll find some great treasures of colonial architecture. We chose to get to know them on foot. We found inspiration for a walk featuring architectural highlights in Lonely Planet’s latest edition of South India and Kerala.
Start with the famous monument Gateway of India. The 26 meters high arch overlooking the Arabian Sea was completed in 1924 to commemorate the landing of King George V and Queen Mary at Apollo Bunder (Wellington Pier). In the morning, the sun shines on the seaside side of the arch. Thus, it’s not perfect for photos.
However, the crowds are much smaller in the morning. After having admired the Gateway, turn around! The majestic cupola of The Taj Mahal Palace and the Taj Tower are nicely illuminated by the morning sun.
Then continue on Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Marg passing by the Anglo-Gothic building of Maharastra Police Headquarters opposite to the Art deco movie theatre – Regal Cinema opened in 1933.
Soon after the roundabout, continue on Mahatma Gandhi Road until you reach the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (formerly Prince of Wales Museum).
The stunning dome will leave you speechless. Around midday, you’ll have the perfect light for pictures. It’s worth to get in as well. If you are not a fan of museum exhibits, the interior of this architectural beauty is a real eye-catcher.
If your stomach feels empty after the visit, the Chetana Restaurant offering tasty vegetarian Thali dishes is just around the corner.
Route: You’ll find the first part of the walk here.
After lunch, get back on Mahatma Gandhi Road and pass by the beautiful buildings of Elphinstone College, David Sassoon Library and the University of Mumbai.
Then merge left to get a glimpse of the Rajabai Clock Tower from Karmaveer Bhaurao Patil Marg, for which the Big Ban in London had served as a model. At this point, take a small break at Oval Maidan, a green recreation area and observe youngsters practising cricket. Also, enjoy the sight of another architectural masterpiece, the Bombay High Court in the Maidan’s background.
Afterwards, if you still have some energy left, get back to Mahatma Gandhi Road to check out the Flora Fountain.
Continue on Homi Modi Street or Veer Nariman Road until you reach St. Thomas Cathedral – one of the oldest Christian churches in India close to Horniman Circle. Mumbai’s Town Hall that houses The Asiatic Society of Mumbai overlooks the Circle’s garden with its eight Doric columns.
Route: The second part of the walk is here.
The approximately 4,5 km long walk was a perfect way for us to explore Mumbai’s parts Colaba and Fort without any hustle. It took us around 4 hours allowing enough time for photo-stops, lunch and beer breaks.
Good to know: Currently the underground of Mumbai is under construction. It should be finished by the end of 2022. Because of that, you may experience some obstacles along the way and even some closed roads. Download google maps in advance so you can use it offline. Also, fountains may not work, and some buildings may be hidden behind scaffoldings.
After the walk, we decided to chill at Marine Drive’s promenade in the afternoon. By chance, a rooftop that looked like a nice bar caught our attention. It turned out to be the Dome Bar of the Intercontinental Hotel, where we enjoyed a pre-dinner drink while watching a spectacular sunset over the Back Bay.
For dinner, we headed back to Colaba. Just walk down the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Marg and Landsdowne Rd and pick one of the many modern restaurants.
The evening wouldn’t have been complete without a drink at the Harbour Bar of Taj Mahal Palace – the first licenced bar in Mumbai. Get spoiled by excellent service while the bartender mixes and flambés their signature cocktail “From The Harbour Since 1933” right in front of your eyes. The experience comes with a short overview of the bar and cocktail history of course.
A word of advice: The bar is heavily air-conditioned. Bring at least a light sweater or jacket otherwise, you’ll freeze.
We had a great time on our architectural walkthrough in Mumbai. Not only did we enjoy the stunning buildings, but occasionally interested locals greeted us, welcomed us and wished us a good time in their city. It was quite a unique experience on a city walk.
Colaba is a very safe part of the city. With common sense and general rules about travelling in big cities, you’ll be fine.
Many vendors will try to invite you into their shops. If you are not interested, just decline politely. Some of them are more persistent than the others, but after a couple of “No, thank you” they eventually give up. Many of them only wanted to chat a little, welcomed us in Mumbai and asked where we came from. If you like something, go in and have a look around. We found some nice souvenirs in an arts and crafts shop. Sadly, you’ll encounter small children begging for food from time to time. It’s entirely up to you how you handle the situation. It’s just something one needs to know before visiting.
A good, safe and cheap way of getting around Mumbai is Uber. Since Mumbai doesn’t have a metro at the moment, public transportation relies only on buses and suburban trains outside the city. Traffic jams are regular.
Always count in enough time. Even if your Uber is just 5 minutes away, it can still be stuck in traffic, and you could wait for a quarter-hour or more. You can use Wi-Fi in many restaurants for ordering your Uber. However, you’ll need an Indian phone number to connect to the network via an activation code. Therefore, it’s handy to purchase a prepaid SIM card even for a short time.