Mumbai is the city where millions come chasing their dreams, a city where grit and determination change destinies! India’s largest city, it is also the financial capital and a sprawling metropolis. The coastal city also is known as Bombay draws visitors from around the world who are captivated by its spirit of living. Right from the British to tourists of 21st century, everyone enters through the ‘Gateway of India’. With stars in my eyes, I visited Mumbai and here are my top experiences in Mumbai and why you should go too
Admire the architecture of Mumbai on a motorbike
Riding a motorbike on Indian roads? Yes, that can be a crazy thought but it’s definitely one of the best ways to experience Mumbai. The city is always chock a block with traffic and you can easily find yourself stuck for hours together in a car or a taxi. There are many websites online where you can rent a motorbike. They are as cheap as INR 500 per day. As you ride along the roads, you can watch life as it happens through the city. With Google Maps you don’t even have to bother about navigating through the right roads!
Visit the iconic Gateway of India
The Gateway of India is synonymous with Mumbai itself. The huge 26m stone arch was built way back in 1911 to commemorate the landing of King George and Queen Mary in India. Today, it’s a cherished monument and is a popular tourist destination. Right bang opposite the Gateway of India is another iconic building, the Taj Mahal Palace hotel! The first five-star hotel in India, it was built even earlier than Gateway of India in 1903. Built to cater to Indians who weren’t allowed in premium hotels at that time, it is a reminder of the history of India. Both the buildings are in Colaba area and the entire area is ideal to walk around and explore many of the heritage buildings.
Eat authentic Mughlai & Marathi food
Mumbaikars love their food and there is every type of cuisine available in the city. However, what one should definitely check out is the local ‘Maharashtrian cuisine’ and the authentic ‘Mughlai cuisine’. Maharashtrian cuisine is made with local ingredients and generally is vegetarian. Some of the dishes to check out are ‘poha – savoury flattened rice’, ‘misal pav – spiced lentils with bread’, ‘thalipeeth – savoury multi-grain bread’. The Mughlai cuisine is best tasted at local shops in the Colaba region right behind Taj Mahal. Some of the dishes you definitely need to check out are kebabs, naans and biryanis. Yummy, I am salivating again right thinking of all these yummy treats!
Explore iconic British & Art-Deco architecture
Mumbai is known for its architecture over the years. From the stately British architecture to the latest skyscrapers, architecture in Mumbai has always been ahead of its time. In fact, going for a walk to explore these heritage buildings is a great idea. The best places in Mumbai are Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminal or the Victoria Terminus which is a railway station. It has also got the UNESCO World Heritage Status and is built in a beautiful Indo-Saracenic architecture. Opposite it is also the Municipal Corporate of Mumbai building, which is built in the stunning Gothic Revival style. The entire place is lit up at night, looking extremely beautiful and one of the best reasons to visit Mumbai.
Get a peek into history at Elephanta Caves
One of the other reasons to visit Mumbai is to head to the Elephanta Caves. The caves are located off the coast of Mumbai and a short one-hour ferry ride away from the Gateway of India harbour. The caves have achieved UNESCO Heritage Statues and have rock cut sculptures which have sculptures of Shiva and also Buddhist iconography and stupa mounds. These sculptures date back to the 5th century and since then have been subject to a lot of neglect but now they are restored and especially the Trimurti sculpture is an amazing example of ancient sculpture. Once you reach the island, just walk up to the hill. Don’t take the toy train, you will have to wait a lot. There are steps up to the caves and the stairs are lined up with a lot of souvenir shops. It is the best place to buy those fridge magnets for your friends back home!
Visit the Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum & other wonderful heritage structures
Right bang in the middle of the city is an oasis of art at the Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum. It was tough to place to find but this museum is right at the entrance of the Mumbai Zoo or the Jijamata Udyan as they call it in Marathi. The museum building itself is more striking than the extensive collection. While there are temporary exhibitions going on, the permanent exhibits include the formation of Mumbai itself and its history. It was earlier known as the Victoria and Albert Museum and built way back in 1872. Apart from this, there are many heritage structures sprinkled across the city that one can visit including Haji Ali Dargah, Basilica of our lady of the mount in Bandra, Fort Bassein and Knesset Eliyahoo.
Experience the local culture
Mumbai is located in the state of Maharashtra but is literally the melting pot of India and has people coming in from all corners! When I was there I stumbled upon a typical Indian baraat or a wedding procession where the relatives of the groom dance with abandon! The groom himself was driven in a chariot and it was amazing to see the lively energy. If you are not as lucky to catch an Indian wedding in progress you should head to the harbour docks to see the fishermen at work or many of the bazaars like the Dadar flower market to see the haggling vendors.
Mumbai can be an assault on the senses but there are many hidden gems that you can find here. An evening on the Marine Drive soaking in the salty winds, a ride through the Bollywood arena of Bandra, a walk at low-tide to the Haji Ali Dargah, a visit to the Mahalakshmi temple or catching a cricket match at the Wankhede Stadium, there are many reasons to come to Mumbai!