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Yes, Mumbai vibrates with all the verve you’d expect from India’s biggest, wealthiest and most glamorous city (it’s the birthplace of Bollywood, after all). Grab a vada pav (a fried potato ball in a bun, the most popular street snack) and explore the colonial–era architecture. The coastal coordinates also mean there’s sand, surf and seaside sunset views, plus Elephanta Island’s forests and cave temples are but a ferry ride away.
Where to stay
- Hotel bed in La Sutra in Mumbai, IndiaLe SutraFor a more mellow location
- Hotel bed at The Trident, Nariman Point in Mumbai, IndiaThe Trident, Nariman PointFor the seaside setting
- Cozy hotel bed at Abode in Mumbai, IndiaAbodeFor a boutique space downtown
- Dining room at the St. Regis in Mumbai, IndiaSt. Regis MumbaiFor the new luxury
- Exterior of The Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai, IndiaThe Taj Mahal Palace, MumbaiFor the historic splendour
Eat & Drink
Sunset cocktails at AER At sunset, all of Mumbai is bathed in golden–red light, and the best place to take it all in is the rooftop bar of the Four Seasons, with a Negroni in hand. From the 33rd floor, you have a bird’s–eye view of many historic neighbourhoods, including the old mill areas, as well as a million people heading home at rush hour.
High tea with a view at Taj Sea Lounge For decades, the city’s glitterati have descended upon this see–and–be–seen lounge for afternoon high tea. The finger foods range from classic scones with strawberry jam to kheema ghotala toasties, while the fine Darjeeling teas include the hard–to–find Castleton Second Flush.
Classic Gujarati food at Soam Mumbai is a few hundred kilometres down the coast from the state of Gujarat, home to one of India’s great regional cuisines. But you can find a bright, modern twist on Gujarati fare in this small, always–packed eatery. The multigrain pancake, thalipeeth, is among the most popular choices.
Breafkast at Kala Ghoda Cafe At this stylish south Bombay café, start your day with with Parsi–style akuri – scrambled eggs with tomato and coriander – and iced coffee, or a shot of organic wheatgrass. The coffee beans are sourced from Indian estates in the south; buy a bag to gift.
Modern Indian at the Bombay Canteen There are no generic Indian dishes on the menu here, thanks to the freedom given to chefs Floyd Cardoz (formerly of Danny Meyer’s Tabla in New York) and Thomas Zacharias. Highlights include moringa (drumstick vegetable) soup, fish roasted Kerala–style in banana leaves, and black sesame duck from the northeast. Reservations recommended.
What to do
Stand–up comedy at Canvas Laugh Club You don’t know a country until you find out what makes it laugh. Perhaps surprisingly, stand–up comedy is an increasingly popular trend in Mumbai. It’s proof of a confident new India that can take a roast (and do it in English, with multiple accents and registers).
Intimate plays at Prithvi Theatre This tiny, atmospheric playhouse in the suburbs is arguably India’s most beloved theatre – especially by actors, who appreciate the closeness of the audience. Prithvi hosts more than 500 shows a year, including old and new plays in the languages of Mumbai: English, Hindi, Marathi and Gujarati. You’ll also find an excellent bookshop, and an open–air café that buzzes at night.
Colonial history at Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum Founded in 1872 as the Bombay outpost of the Victoria and Albert Museum, this long–derelict building has undergone an exhaustive restoration over the past decade. Of particular interest is the collection of 19th–century maps and photographs showing how Mumbai transformed from a swampy set of islands into a jewel of the British Empire.
Culture fix at the Royal Opera House Recently reopened to the public after being shut up for three decades, this plush historic venue now hosts concerts, plays and book launches in its spectacular red and gold auditorium. After the show, head to the courtyard café for wood–fired pizza, or walk five minutes to Chowpatty Beach for ice cream.
Ancient temple carvings at Elephanta Caves By Indian standards, Mumbai is a relatively young city – less than 400 years old. But a picturesque 10–km ferry ride east into the bay takes you 1,500 years back in time. Here, at the ethereal (and a little eerie) Elephanta Caves, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the great gods of Hinduism are cast in giant relief.
Artisanal womenswear at Anokhi With this Jaipur–based fashion label, India’s well–respected textile tradition meets contemporary styling. The label’s vivid block–print dresses and tunics, a testament to the skills of the company’s 800–plus artisans, are perfect for humid Mumbai nights.
Impressive tea collections at Sancha Tea Boutique At this specialty shop, tea sommeliers offer complimentary tastings. They’ll take you through the nuances of more than 65 varieties of white, green, oolong, black and flavoured teas from India, including single–estates from Darjeeling and Assam.
Bespoke men’s shirting at Bombay Shirt Company This Indian brand proves the secret of stylish Indian dressing is not just fine fabrics but also skillful tailoring. Founder Akshay Narvekar offers the best cotton, linen and denim, and dozens of options for cuts, cuffs and collars to make a shirt that’s yours alone.
Fine home furnishings at Studio Malabar The late Canadian singer Laura Hamilton, a legend in Mumbai’s art scene, arrived during World War II and never left. Studio Malabar, in the tony Malabar Hill neighbourhood, is a successor to her tasteful boutique at the Taj Palace, Malabar. Cushion covers in lush jamawar silk, Mughal–era–style hookah vases, and antique enamel milk cans compete for your eye across 2,000 square feet of Indian arts and artifacts.
Handmade textiles at Artisans’ Arts & Crafts Store At Radhi Parekh’s gallery shop, you can find handmade crafts and textiles by regional Indian artisans. But even more fascinating are the lectures and exhibitions regularly held here: One recent showcase spotlighted the distinctively embroidered quilting from Katna’s Kantha, a Street Survivors India project in Murshidabad that employs 1,500 women in 50 villages.