There is something about Mumbai, a sense of being part of a massive enterprise, a feeling of palpable energy coming from the most populous and wealthiest city in India with the highest GDP of any city in South, West or Central Asia. Mumbai has the largest number of skyscrapers and the highest number of billionaires and millionaires in India. Here are some interesting things to do in Mumbai from the perspective of three travel writers.
Things to do in Mumbai
1- A ride on the Mumbai Sealink
As much as I admire the grand Chhatrapati Shivaji Railway Terminus (known before as the Victoria Terminus Station and now a UNESCO World Heritage site) the futuristic, multi-lane Sealink connecting Worli to Bandra makes me gasp with admiration.
This 6km-long engineering feat curves like a silvery scimitar over the Arabian Sea helping decongest the most popular roads in the city.
I cannot but chuckle with glee at the sight of the new India, created by Indians.
The Sealink is an explosion of freedom, a manifestation of ‘’can do’, a proclamation of well-earned wings.
I just love the feeling… And this is exactly what is so special about Mumbai: vibrancy.
What we call Mumbai today was originally seven islands stitched together. Reclaiming the land between them – an ambitious colonial project completed in 1845- transformed a handful of sleepy fishing villages into the biggest seaport on the Arabian Sea.
2- Explore Sanjay Gandhi National Park
Seeing wildlife might not be one of the things to do in Mumbai you might be expecting. Today, this huge conurbation is also home to a national park within its borders.
The Sanjay Gandhi National Park has a few wild leopards left – sighted very close to the ever-spreading suburbs recently.
The ancient Kanheri Caves carved out of sheer rock and dating back 2,400 years are also found within the park.
This city has been a very progressive one from the start, a place where ‘dreams come true’.
Yes, there is a big mafia-style sector.
Yes, there are big slums. But even the well-organised slums are now conducting tours for visitors guided by resident students. Enterprising? You got it…
3- Visit the City of Dabba-Wallahs
Mumbai is the city of the dabba-wallahs (or tiffin-wallahs) an army of some 5,000 men who still deliver lunches to thousands of office workers in the city.
These men worked out a foolproof system of tagging which guarantees the delivery of each lunchbox to the right person (yes, I know, except in the film The Lunchbox).
You can easily identify the dabba-wallahs by their starched white shirts, the ubiquitous Nehru caps and the unbelievably big loads of tiffin boxes they carry on their heads to load on trains and then transport by bicycle to their customers.
The men are mainly from the same area around Pune and are distantly related.
4- Soak up the glamour of Bollywood
One of the classic things to do in Mumbai is to visit a Bollywood set.
Bollywood is the big earner of the region and ever present here.
Inescapable, alluring, filming crews can be seen on Juhu Beach, the Bondi of Bombay and everywhere really.
You might even be asked to be an extra if you hang out near the Leopold Café.
Always at cutting edge of things and starting with a solid economic base, (this first Indian Stock Exchange is here) Mumbai was also a significant base for the Indian Independence movement.
It is also home to Asia’s oldest newspaper, Bombay Samachar a Gujarati language publication since 1822.
5- Run in the Mumbai Marathon
The vibrant character of the place is also represented once a year, on the third Sunday of January by the Mumbai Marathon, the largest marathon in Asia as well as the largest mass participation-sporting event on the continent.
Runners are from all walks of life including Bollywood celebrities, sports personalities, business tycoons and amateur athletes. Charities benefit from the funds raised.
6- Explore Elephanta Caves
Mumbai has two UNESCO World Heritage sites: the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus and the Elephanta Caves, a pleasant ferry ride departing from the Gate of India. These Mumbai sightseeing spots are not to be missed.
Dated between the 5th and 8th centuries, these caves were hewn from solid basalt rock and dedicated to Lord Shiva. Later additions are Buddhist.
When the Portuguese took hold of the region in 1534, the temples were desecrated and vandalised by their passing armies.
Abandoned for centuries and left to decay, the caves were restored in 1970.
If you enjoy great writing and would like to get an insight into Mumbai life (including its underworld) meet alluring Inspector Sartaj Singh (guaranteed to steal your heart) in Vikram Chandra’s Sacred Games –take it from me…
Vibrancy, energy, marathons and rock temples…Mumbai truly rocks!
More Places to visit in Mumbai
Mumbai is a city that never sleeps. India’s most cosmopolitan city is alive with honking cars and jostling crowds. From grand British architecture to vibrant street markets, there are plenty of things you can jam into 48 hours in the home of “Slumdog Millionaire”. Here are more top tourist places in Mumbai.
7- Gateway of India Cruise
Ease your way into the chaos by hopping on a boat to one of most amazing places to visit near Mumbai, Elephanta Island (closed on Mondays).
The one-hour trip across Mumbai Harbour is a relaxing way to start the day.
On the island, a long flight of steps leads to a stash of UNESCO World Heritage treasures displayed in a series of hill-top caves.
Etched into the walls are eighth century carvings depicting the legends of Hindu god Shiva.
The highlight is a three-headed bust hewn from a single rock representing the three aspects of Shiva: creator, preserver and destroyer.
Boats sail from the Gateway of India (built to commemorate George V and Queen Mary’s visit in 1911) every half-hour from around 9am to around 2pm for a return fare of Rs120 ($2.40).
8- Mumbai’s modern restaurants
Until a few years ago, most upmarket dining spots in Mumbai could only be found within the city’s luxury hotels.
Recently, a number of cosmopolitan restaurants have popped up on the scene, such as . The Table, which has a jazz club-like ambience with black-and-white floors and green velvet armchairs.
The menu is a blend of cuisines from modern Italian (try the zucchini spaghetti) to French-American dishes like lobster sliders and quesadillas with green pea guacamole. The Table’s small plates cost around Rs500 ($10); large plates are around Rs700 ($15);
After lunch, wander around Colaba Causeway and browse the narrow, busy street filled with shops and designer boutiques.
Colaba is one of the cool places in Mumbai to shop.
Clothes, shoes, leather bags and belts are much cheaper than in Australia.
A pair of shoes from a street stall should cost around $8 while a pair of dressy evening sandals from a boutique will set you back around $30.
Pop in for a coffee at Leopold’s Café, which was built in 1871 and has been a backpacker haunt for decades. It’s now a tourist haunt but fortunately prices are still reasonable. A large iced coffee costs Rs50 ($1), club sandwich Rs100 ($2) and paneer tikka Rs143 ($3). Ask the staff to point out the bullet holes from the 2008 terrorist attack.
10- Taj Mahal Palace
The Taj Mahal Palace is a historic hotel was built 21 years before the Gateway of India and was a favourite haunt for the maharajahs.
Linger over the signature cocktail at the Harbour Bar. It’s called “From the harbour since 1933”, after the fact that the bar first opened its doors to the gentlemen of Mumbai that year. The bar became the city’s first licensed bar.
Also in the Taj Mahal Palace, Masala Kraft dishes up contemporary Indian cuisine. The food is delicious and the chef employs healthy techniques such as using extra virgin oil.
11- Ride a silver carriage
After dinner, hail one of the gaudily decorated silver horse carriages. For approximately Rs200 ($4) you can ride around for 15 minutes in a carriage festooned with imitation flowers, balloons and flashing fairy lights.
12- Chowpatty Beach
Get some fresh air at Chowpatty Beach. The area is lit up and night and you’ll find plenty of people wandering around, holding hands and gazing at the water until the wee hours of the morning.
Chowpatty Beach is full of people, day and night. There’s always something happening and it’s one of the iconic places in Mumbai to visit.
13- Mahalaxmi Railway Station
Mumbai is a city with lovely architecture that was left behind as a legacy of the British rule. Of the numerous Mumbai points of interest, this railway station may not be that well known.
Most visitors to Mumbai will pay a visit to Dhobi Ghat, the open-air laundromat where dhobis work in rows of concrete wash pens fitted with flogging stones.
It’s the world’s largest outdoor laundry and where Mumbai’s ‘dirties’ are scrubbed, dyed and hung out to dry. Bring your camera.
Next door is the Mahalaxmi railway station.14-
14- Kala Ghoda
Stroll around Kala Ghoda, the art district of Mumbai’s British heritage district.
Of the many historical places in Mumbai to visit, the crescent-shaped precinct is one of the more interesting to explore. It has Victorian Neo-Gothic, Indo Saracenic, Renaissance Revival and Edwardian Neo Classical buildings that house art galleries, museums and cultural spaces.
After shopping for scarves and clothing at Fabindia, tuck into lunch at Café Moshe (moshes.in), which is located in the store.
15- Chattrapati Shivaji Terminus
This is the most iconic thing to see in Mumbai. Victoria Terminus was built in 1887 to commemorate Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee and is a World Heritage-listed building that still functions as a railway station.
It’s also the place to spot Mumbai’s dabba wallahs, who have been delivering lunch tiffin boxes containing rotis, vegetables and rice for over 100 years by bicycle, train and foot.
It’s a feat of logistics, where 4500 semi-literates dabba wallahs collect and deliver 175,000 packages within hours, allowing Mumbaikers to eat a hot lunch while at work.
A colour-coded notation on the handle identifies its owner and destination.
16- Bhuleshwar Bazaar
A walking tour of the bazaars in Bhuleshwar is a fascinating potpourri of colourful sights of Mumbai and a cacophony of sounds.
It’s the place to soak up the local life, from watching a paan (betel leaf) wallah making a betel leaf paan with areca nuts and slaked lime to local women haggling over the prices of saris. You can pick up a sari here for Rs550 ($10).
17- Lalbaugh Spice Market
They say that the way to understanding a city is through its markets and there’s none better than a spice market.
Mumbai’s Lalbaugh offers local sights such as women sorting piles of chillies, carts of grapes, large sacks of cashews and men making tasty nut mixes.
There are shops selling flower garlands and household products such as locally made soap.
18- Sewri Fort
Completed by the British in 1780, Sewri Fort has a view of Mumbai’s eastern shoreline but the main attraction here is not the fort.
Between November and June, up to 20,000 lesser flamingos flock to the mangrove lined mud flats nearby to lay their eggs.
Sachin Tendulkar, the world’s highest Test run scorer, is an inspiration to countless ambitious cricketing hopefuls the world over. That is most certainly the case in India, where other than religious fervour, there is no adversary to cricket.
Hence, it was no surprise to see several groups of keen youngsters practising their playing skills — even on the shifting sands of Juhu Beach in Mumbai.
19- Juhu Beach
It was just after 6.00am and already there were several clusters of cricketing enthusiasts setting up their practice pitches, even though their bare feet sank into the soft sand.
The surrounds were anything but favoruable. The cricket pitch did not meet required standards, but the keen boys were oblivious (in some groups) to the absence of traditional stumps.
Rocks and gnarly tree branches took their place. Lines in the sand ensured that they batted successfully … running the distance of the makeshift central strip-on-the-beach appeared effortless!
That early in the morning I couldn’t escape the humidity, but the keen youth was unaware of the mugginess — their attention focused on batting and fielding.
Their undivided attention was on the ball, how far and fast it should be hit and what was the best way to hold the bat for the successful swing to materialise. The shouts, screams, claps and laughter were deafening.
The aspiring local school children (in some instances accompanied by their parents) were unmindful of the activity around them: joggers, walkers, meditation and yoga practitioners.
Family groups strolled along the shoreline of the Arabian Sea and dogs and their owners (along with stray canines, some roamed aimlessly while others slept oblivious to the activity around them) all vied for space on the sandy beachfront.
Elsewhere along Juhu Beach, small shops were slowly opening their doors for trading that is at its most brisk in the evening.
Eager to get an early start, a lone bead maker was busy putting out his wares on display in anticipation of quick sales. He was also busy making new bracelets: there was an assortment of dainty and colourful beads to suit all styles, tastes and ages.
Buy bead bracelets to remember your visit to Juhu Beach, Mumbai. Photo: Rama GaindMy feet felt heavy as I ploughed through the sand, time was marching on and it was hot and sticky. The steadily-rising temperatures did not appear to bother anyone else.
The coconut vendor took it in his stride as he assisted in quenching the thirst of customers by cracking open fresh coconuts.
Yes, the juice was most refreshing!
Had Sachin Tendulkar been there, he would have been proud because he’s known for paying attention to his adoring younger fans to mete out what he calls “magic tonic” of rteassurance to some “unpolished diamonds”.
He has been philosophical and spoken about using music as a motivator, the power of preparation, the importance of not becoming angry after defeat. As a batsman, he has counselled: “let your subconscious mind respond”.
Who knows, any one of these aspirants could surpass the Master Blaster’s stellar 24-year career.
The former Indian captain was in Australia last year and, as a Bradman Foundation honouree, visited Bowral, NSW, in October 2014.
Controversy followed his autobiography, Playing It My Way, in which he gave his version of ‘Monkeygate’, six years after the event.
It’s just as well that these children are too young to grasp the power play that‘s prevalent in the grown-up world!
20- Marine Drive
With an estimated population of 21 million, Mumbai is the capital of Maharashtra state, and one of the world’s most populous cities.
Sprawling views of this vibrant city are overpowering from the scenic Marine Drive, a three-kilometre-long boulevard in south Mumbai.
A popular haunt for locals and visitors alike, it is situated on reclaimed land facing west-south-west.
Marine Drive is a C-shaped, six-lane road along the coast, with a natural bay that’s a part of the Arabian Sea, and links Nariman Point to Babulnath and Malabar Hill.
Referred to as the ‘Queen’s Necklace’, it absolutely sparkles at night!
Sightseeing is tiring and there’s no better way (well, not at this end of the city) than to unwind on Juhu or Marine Drive Chowpatty beaches, relax with the locals and watch the stunning sunset.
Juhu is approximately 30 kilometres north of the city centre, while Chowpatty is a short drive from the Gateway of India — Mumbai’s most recognised monument that was constructed to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary to the city.
Juhu is surrounded by the Arabian Sea to the west, Versova to the north, Santa Cruz and Vile Parle to the east and Khar to the south. Juhu is among the most affluent areas of the city and home to many Bollywood celebrities.
Be adventurous and participate in horse riding, beach walking tours, get mehndi (henna) designs drawn on your hands, quench your thirst with fresh coconut water or buy gifts from the local vendors on the beach.
You can also feast on tasty snacks offered by the multitude of food stalls and mobile food vendors.
Favourites include paani puri, pav bhaji, bhel puri, roasted corn-on-the-cob (very tasty with garam masala and lemon on the kernels!) and aloo tikki.
Be touched spiritually as you pay homage at the Shiv Mandir or visit the ISKCON Temple that is described as a “spiritual oasis in the dry and demanding material life of the financial and commercial capital of India”.
Become one with nature as you witness a breathtaking Juhu sunset.
As dusk approaches, you’ll be mesmerised, standing on the beach, watching the sun slowly disappear from the sky as the horizon glows against the vast, seemingly endless expanse of the Arabian Sea with orange, yellow and deep red hues of the setting sun.
Strolling along the beach at sundown, with the sea swirling around my ankles, I pictured the unadulterated joy on the faces of those boys playing cricket in the morning.
An apt quote came to mind from Mahatma Gandhi:
Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.
Looking for more to do in India? Put a tiger safari at the top of your list. Other amazing places in India are Jaipur and Jodhpur. And here are some places to visit in Udaipur. Kolkata is a big city that is highly underrated. Here are some famous places in Kolkata. Read this post if you want to know more about about India.