Picture Los Angeles with an Indian twist and you have the captivating city of Mumbai. Diverse, bustling and simply mesmerising – Mumbai is a city full of surprises. The capital of Maharashtra and India’s largest city, Mumbai may have fewer monuments than other Indian cities, but it compensates with its diversity: from classic architecture to beaches, to Bollywood and everything in between.
As well as being the centre of India’s film industry, Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay, is home to some of the biggest slums in Asia, as well as some of the most expensive homes. People flood to Mumbai to find their fortune in finance, fashion and film. Its streets may not be paved with gold, but Mumbai is a cacophony of colours and noises: discover the largest tropical forest in an urban area, admire the breathtaking colonial architecture, discover quirky backstreet bazaars and temples….. Mumbai is a treasure trove of experiences, just waiting to be discovered.
Direct flights to Mumbai will bring you to Chattrapathi Shivaji International Airport (BOM), India’s second busiest airport. Mumbai airport was formerly two separate airports which merged to become one airport. Terminal 1, for domestic flights and Terminal 2, for International flights, are situated 3 miles from each other, so it is important that you specify terminals when arranging transport.
Situated on the western coast, Mumbai enjoys a tropical climate. During the spring, temperatures hover in the mid-to-high twenties, soaring to up to 45°C in the summer, which brings with it the monsoon and high humidity. Winter in Mumbai can be incredibly busy as the city sees a huge influx of people visiting for the festive period and to enjoy some winter sun. For cheap flights to Mumbai, plan your trip in October, when temperatures are still balmy but the rains have generally ceased. As autumn draws in, visitors to Mumbai can enjoy the vibrancy of summer, without being hindered by masses of crowds.
It is true that Mumbai doesn’t have the largest choice of temples and architecture in India, but it does showcase some of the finest examples of colonial architecture in the world. The best way to start your trip to Mumbai is at the Gateway of India. The iconic monument was constructed in 1924 to mark King George V and Queen Mary’s visit to Bombay. The vast monument presides over the port and was designed to be the first thing that visitors see as they arrive in India via boat. Today, the area is packed with street sellers, entertainers and people, making a fantastic way to acclimatise yourself to the bustling city and absorb its unique atmosphere.
The Haji Ali was built in 1431 AD by Sufi Saint Haji Ali Shah Bukhari, a wealthy merchant who gave up all his worldly possessions before embarking on a pilgrimage to Mecca and devoting his life to Islam. Covering a space of over 4,500 square metres, the whitewashed building is made of the same marble as the Taj Mahal. As well as being one of the foremost symbols of Islam, the Haji Ali is a significant landmark, admired by visitors of all religions from across the globe. Here, you can visit the tomb of Haji Ali Shah Bukhari, who is said to bless visitors with wealth, health and happiness.
Unsurprisingly, Mumbai is packed with contrasting marvels spanning centuries. From the Elephanta Caves: a mesmerising series of caves carved into the rock on an island 6 miles off the coast of Mumbai, to the 200-year-old Siddhivinayak Temple, Mumbai’s monuments show a valuable insight into the political and religious undertones of the city.
On your trip to Mumbai, you may at first be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of people, vehicles, buildings and pollution. It can be easy to forget that you are surrounded by the Arabian sea, but behind the chaotic exterior, Mumbai has some incredible beaches, where you can escape the metropolis and find yourself in a tropical idyll.
Juhu beach is much more than just a beach. It is the backyard of the rich and famous of Mumbai, a gastronomic haven, and a hub for families. As can be expected of one of India’s most popular beaches, Juhu beach can get very crowded, particularly at the weekends, but it is worth visiting at least once to experience the unique atmosphere that is simultaneously hectic, fun and strangely tranquil.
South Mumbai is home to Marine Drive (the Queen’s Necklace), over two miles of a walkway lined with the Arabian Sea on one side and a six-lane road on the other, the promenade is lined with restaurants, opulent hotels and, of course, toy-sellers, chai-wallas and chat wallas. At the northern end of Marine Drive, you will find Chowpatty Beach, which is a feast for the eyes and stomach as well as the soul. Packed with food stalls, at Chowpatty Beach you can relax, sample exquisite delicacies and watch the sun set over the Arabian Sea; a truly unforgettable sight.
For most, it is virtually impossible to plan a trip to Mumbai without thinking about visiting a bustling bazaar and haggling for bargains!
With markets at every turn, you will be spoilt for choice so be safe, conceal your valuables, and have fun experiencing the gritty exhilaration of shopping in Mumbai! The Chor Bazaar literally translates as “thieves Market”, as it was reputed to be the place where stolen goods were sold on. This moniker was given to the market by the British during their reign, the original name was “Shor Bazaar”, meaning “Noisy Market”, which is much more appropriate! Chor Bazaar is one of Mumbai’s oldest market and bears its 150-year heritage with pride. Here, you can get a valuable insight into the market’s history and browse local crafts, curios and antiques – the perfect way to experience an Indian bazaar and invest in some unique souvenirs.
Fashionistas must visit Fashion Street, a flea market packed with stalls. Fashion Street may resemble a particularly chaotic (and hot) jumble-sale, but the savvy shopper will be able to find some real gems amid the myriad stalls.
Whether you love jewellery or not, a visit to the jewellery quarter is an experience not to be missed. Zaveri Bazaar is a veritable Aladdin’s cave of precious and semi-precious metals. From big brands to boutique jewellers, you will find a broad array of sparkling treats to tempt you!
As one might expect from a corporate and tourist hub, Mumbai has everything on offer when it comes to food, from Western cuisine to local dishes. Many of Mumbai’s specialities have been borrowed from other regions, refined, tweaked and re-presented as something unique to the city. Of course, a perfect place to start is with the street food, which is available in abundance throughout the city. Choose from bhajis, samosas, patties and chaat, each given a Mumbai makeover with a touch of extra onion, garlic and chilli. There are so many delicious, colourful bites to choose from and at such a low price that you can indulge (almost) guilt-free!
Mumbai’s long history in the fish trade makes it a perfect place to sample a delicious range of fresh seafood. From lightly grilled to delicately spiced dishes – ask around for recommendations to find the best seafood restaurants in Mumbai. Once you have whetted your savoury appetite, indulge in traditional sweets which are oh-so-sweet. Plenty of dried fruit, yoghurt laced with cardamom and nuts, and lightly scented sugary snacks are on offer – perfect washed down with a delicious cup of chai.
A great way to explore the food of Mumbai is with a food tour – many organisations offer cookery classes, which include a trip to the market and tours through the slums. Here, you can get to grips with the “real” Mumbai, and learn culinary skills that you can exercise at home.
If you want to create your own Indian adventure, let Travangelo help you to find cheap flights to Mumbai.