Sightseeing and Tourist Attractions in Mumbai
by Ingrid Monteiro
Mumbai (formerly Bombay) is a metropolitan island on the west coast of India. It is the largest, and most populated Indian city. A commercial and entertainment hub, Mumbai houses the headquarters of several Indian and multinational companies, including ‘Bollywood’, the Hindi cinema industry. A vibrant city that never sleeps, tourists will experience diverse cultures, as Mumbai is the ‘city of dreams’ for many Indians across the country. Witness the hustle and bustle, chaos and cacophony of people from all walks of life that make Mumbai what it is! Mumbai offers considerable sightseeing and tourist attractions, arts and culture, religious festivals, shopping outlets, and cuisines.
Must-See Monuments in Mumbai
The Indo-Saracenic styled Gateway of India opposite the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower hotel was built to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary in 1911. It is the most popular tourist attraction in Mumbai. As it faces the Arabian Sea, it used to be the first structure to be visible on the shores of Mumbai for those arriving by sea. Two jetties around this monument are used for commercial ferry operations for tours to Elephanta Caves (a World Heritage Site).
Taj Mahal Palace & Tower Hotel, Mumbai
Elephanta Caves, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, contain temples dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. The caves also feature stone sculptures carved out of rocks that illustrate an amalgamation of Hindu and Buddhist ideologies.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus
The Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) – a historic railway station and UNESCO World Heritage site is famous for its fusion of Victorian Gothic and classical Indian architecture. It is the headquarters of the Mumbai Central Railways.
Rajabai Clock Tower
The Rajabai Clock Tower is located at the Fort Campus of the University of Mumbai. It resembles the Big Ben in London. It is syncretic of Venetian and Gothic styles.
Municipal Corporation Building
The Municipal Corporation Building (opposite CST) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that features the Gothic style of architecture. It is the largest Asian civic organization.
Western Railway Headquarters
Western Railway headquarters opposite Churchgate Railway Station was designed in the Victorian style of architecture.
St. Xavier’s College
St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai is a very prestigious college in India for Arts, Science and Commerce. It is an autonomous college that also offers undergraduate, post-graduate, diploma and certificate courses in a variety of academic disciplines. The old college buildings feature the Indo-Gothic style of architecture.
Flora Fountain is an ornately sculpted architectural monument in South Mumbai depicting the Roman goddess Flora. It was designed in the Victorian style of architecture.
Prince of Wales Museum
The Prince of Wales Museum was constructed in the Indo-Saracenic style of architecture. It exhibits thousands of ancient Indian cultural artifacts including those from the Indus Valley Civilization. The museum has three sections: Art, Archaeology and Natural History.
Bombay High Court
The Bombay High Court, one of the oldest Indian High Courts, was built in the Victorian style of architecture, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Nehru Centre is noted for its unique architecture. It includes the Nehru Planetarium, a large auditorium that can house 1000 people, an experimental theatre, the Nehru Centre Art Gallery, a library containing about 25,000 books, an exhibition hall and a research center. The center regularly organizes art, cultural, scientific and educational activities and events.
Must-See Beaches in Mumbai
Other popular beaches include Bandra bandstand, Aksa, Gorai, Girgaon, and Dadar beaches.
Must-See Lakes in Mumbai
Mumbai also has picturesque lakes. Vihar Lake, a large artificial lake, and Tulsi Lake, a freshwater lake lie within the Sanjay Gandhi National Park premises. The scenic Powai Lake near the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Mumbai campus is popular for picnics. Other lakes near Mumbai include Vaitarna, Modak Sagar, and Bhatsa lakes. Water Kingdom, Asia’s largest theme water park and Essel World, a park featuring roller-coasters, amusement rides and an ice-skating rink are in the outskirts.
Nature Parks and Gardens in Mumbai
Sanjay Gandhi National Park
The Sanjay Gandhi National Park, famous for its dense forest, contains a multitude of plant species, insects, migratory land and water birds, reptiles, amphibians and mammals, and a mini-zoo for a close view of animals, a crocodile park, lion and tiger safaris, a boating facility, nature trails and treks. A ride on the toy train offers a glimpse of its rich biodiversity. Kanheri Caves in the center of the park were an important Buddhist pilgrimage site. There is also a Jain temple in the forest. Most Bollywood films are shot in Film City, a film studio complex near the park. Guided tours of the studio are available.
Jijamata Udyan, the oldest public garden has a zoo, a Greco-Roman style museum, Kala Ghoda (an equestrian statue made of black marble), and the David Sassoon Clock Tower within its premises.
Kamala Nehru Park
Kamala Nehru Park, part of the Hanging Gardens offers a view of Marine Drive.
Besides these parks and gardens, Shivaji Park, in Dadar, is the largest park in Mumbai that regularly hosts cultural and political gatherings and demonstrations. Jogger’s Park in Bandra is a popular seaside-jogging track.
How to travel in Mumbai?
Mumbai is well connected to other national and international cities by air. The Chhatrapati Shivaji Airport has domestic and international terminals. Prepaid taxi services are available from the airport for travel within and around Mumbai. There are black-and-yellow meter taxis, air-conditioned taxis (Cool Cabs), and private services by Ola and Uber. Mumbai has a well-developed public transportation system; however, tourists are not allowed to drive. They are encouraged to explore the city by taxis and auto-rickshaws (motorized three-wheeled passenger carriers).
The red single- and double-decker (BEST) buses are convenient for short and medium distance travel. The Mumbai Darshan bus service offers tourists to explore popular attractions. Since Mumbai struggles with traffic congestion, the Suburban Railway (western and central lines) are faster, economical and convenient alternatives for long distance travel. Women are permitted to travel in the men’s (general) compartment. All local trains are jam-packed during peak hours. A rapid transit system (metro train service) plies between Versova and Ghatkopar. The few ferry services are convenient for travel, such as, from Versova to the Madh islands.
While one can visit Mumbai all year round, the monsoons (June to September) should be avoided. Mumbai often experiences heavy rainfalls that can lead to water-logging and floods that result in the city coming to a stand-still. However, this city offers some distinctive and authentic experiences, and should certainly be visited, at least once in one’s lifetime.