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 some of the top tourist places in Mumbai.
10am Visit Elephanta Island
Ease your way into the chaos by hopping on a boat to 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).
1.30pm Lunch at The Table
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. The newest to open is 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);
3pm Explore Colaba
After lunch, wander around Colaba Causeway and browse the narrow, busy street filled with shops and designer boutiques.
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.
Leopold’s Café, ph: +91 22 2282 8185,
6pm Cocktails at the Taj
The Taj Mahal Palace is well and truly back in business after the terrorist attack in November 2008, when 31 people died. The 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.
7.30pm Dinner at Masala Kraft
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.
10pm 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.
11pm Take a walk on the 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.
9am Dhobi Ghat
A visit to Dhobi Ghat, the open-air laundromat where dhobis work in rows of concrete wash pens fitted with flogging stones, is an iconic city sight. It’s the world’s largest outdoor laundry and where Mumbai’s ‘dirties’ are scrubbed, dyed and hung out to dry. Bring your camera.
Dhobi Ghat is located next to Mahalaxmi railway station.
10.30am Kala Ghoda
Stroll around Kala Ghoda, the art district of Mumbai’s British heritage district. The crescent-shaped precinct has Victorian Neo-Gothic, Indo Saracenic, Renaissance Revival and Edwardian Neo Classical buildings housing art galleries, museums and cultural spaces.
12.30pm Lunch at Café Moshe’s
After shopping for scarves and clothing at Fabindia, tuck into lunch at Café Moshe (moshes.in), which is located in the store.
1.30pm Chattrapati Shivaji Terminus
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.
2.30pm Bhuleshwar’s bazaars
A walking tour of the bazaars in Bhuleshwar is a fascinating potpourri of colourful sights 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).
4.30pm 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.
6.30pm 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.
10pm A little night music
After dinner, if you’re game, head to Lower Parel for live music at Blue Frog or dance the night away at sleek night spot Tryst (trystmumbai.com).
Singapore Airlines flies to Mumbai via Singapore.
The historic Taj Mahal Palace has rooms from Rs32,750 ($445)
Wendy Wu Tours offers a range of escorted group tours to India as well as itineraries for independent travellers. The Mumbai Short Stay costs from $435 a person twin share and includes two nights’ accommodation, breakfast, private touring with local English-speaking guide and entrance fees. Phone 1300 727 998