Mumbai, formerly Bombay, is without doubt India’s most charismatic and colourful city. A city that is home to both the "Bollywood" film industry and the Indian stock exchange, Mumbai has a population of over 20 million. It is said that if you have lived in Mumbai, you can live anywhere else in the world. The city is truly multi-cultural too with people from all over India and further afield living there.
Mumbai boasts some of the best examples of Victorian architecture in India. It also has some great places to eat and drink. The city boasts many great cultural and religious centres too. Some of the places we recommend you to visit in Mumbai include – The Gateway to India, Haji Ali Dargah, the Basilica of Our Lady of the Mount, the Elephanta Caves, and the Taraporewala Aquarium.
THE GATEWAY OF INDIA Completed in 1924, the Gateway of India is perhaps the most famous landmark in Mumbai. Thronged with tourists in large numbers all year round, it was built in the Indo-Saracenic style to commemorate the first ever visit of a British Monarch from King George V and Queen Mary in 1911. The Gateway is open all day but the best time to visit is in the early morning between 6 and 7 AM.
THE TARAPOREWALA AQUARIUM Located at a distance of just 4km from the Gateway of India, this is India’s oldest aquarium. The aquarium boasts over 400 species of fishes and sea creatures. Although it is a small place, is is still worth seeing. The building is well-maintained and has recently had a face-lift to attract more visitors.
OPEN - Tuesday to Sunday (10 AM – 8 PM)
HAJI ALI DARGAH Located on a very small island in the sea, Haji Ali Dargah is both a mausoleum and a mosque. Millions of people of whatever religion come here to pray. The spiritual atmosphere alone is worth experiencing whatever your faith or lack of. It's also worth noting that only 500 metres away, there is a very famous juice bar where you can enjoy a refreshing drink to accompany your visit.
MUMBA DEVI TEMPLE This temple is dedicated to the goddess Mumba, from whom the name of the city is derived. The temple dates back to the time when Mumbai was just a city of fishermen and small time traders. The area has retained its old charm and is one of the most visited temples in Mumbai. Combined with the stunning architecture, this place well worth a visit.
For history and archaeology lovers, the Kanheri Caves are a must. There are 109 entrances and has some beautiful statues of Buddha, paintings and sculptures, as well as some fascinating ancient inscriptions on the rocks themselves, which are formed from basalt. You are guaranteed to have an adventurous day whenever you visit the Kanheri Caves. Although open all year round, they are at their most beautiful during the months of July to October thanks to greenery caused by the monsoon season.
WARNING - Avoid feeding the monkeys here. They might make it difficult for you to leave!
CHHATRAPATI SHIVAJI MAHARAJ VASTU SANGRAHALAYA MUSEUM Built in the Indo-Saracenic style, this museum is a great place to visit. It was previously called the Prince of Wales Museum. It contains artefacts, stones and idols dating back to the 2nd Century BC. The main attraction, though is the stuffed animals section. The museum is quite big, though, so make sure you have ample time to see and enjoy as much as you can.
OPEN - 10:15 AM to 6 PM (all days except National Holidays).
This is also called Mount St. Mary Church. It is famous for the annual week-long Bandra Fair. The fair takes place in September to celebrate the birth of the Virgin Mary. A serene and beautiful place that will give you a break from the constant crowds in the city.
THE ELEPHANTA CAVES Located about 10km off the coast from Mumbai, the Elephanta Caves can be found on Elephanta Island. Since 1987, it has been designated a World Heritage Site and receives a large number of foreign visitors. One of the major attractions is the journey itself, as you need to take a special ferry to reach the island. The best season to visit the island is during the months of November to January. The caves also have a 7th century Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva.
CHHATRAPATI SHIVAJI TERMINUS RAILWAY STATION Originally known as Victoria Terminus, this building is another of the great landmarks of Mumbai. A busy station with thousands of people constantly passing through, this place is also striking for its majestic architecture and design. It has become something of a new tradition for travellers and visitors to stop outside and take a selfie with this magnificent building in the background. The dome inside is also worth seeing. It is no surprise that this is also a World Heritage Site.
SANJAY GANDHI NATIONAL PARK A large nature reserve to the north of Mumbai, which gets more than 2 million visitors every year. The best time to see the beauty of this place is during the monsoons. The atmosphere and environment is perfect at this time with its natural splendour at its best. The park is home to a variety of animals, including deer and monkeys, but the main attractions are the lion and tiger safaris that will give you a chance to see these famous Indian species in their natural habitat. The park has also several public footpaths away from the more dangerous animals!
OPEN - 7:30 AM to 5:30 PM.
ESSELWORLD One of India’s oldest amusement parks, EsselWorld is a fantastic place for kids as well as adults to chill out from the hot weather of Mumbai. It is a perfect place to spend the weekend with your family. There are plenty of rides and water activities available here for everybody.
OPEN - 10:30 AM to 6:30 PM.
HIGH STREET PHOENIX The distinctive tall chimneys betray the fact that this was once a series textile factories. Today, though, High Street Phoenix has become a swanky shopping street, boasting all the best national and international brands, alongside amusement arcades and a bowling alley. All this has been carefully designed to appeal to the shopper in everybody. Located in Lower Parel, it's one of the reasons why Mumbai is such a great place to shop and eat.
This shopping centre has a unique and very interesting claim to fame – it was the first shopping centre in India to include a roller-coaster inside... Unbelievable, but true! It is also one of the largest shopping centres in the western suburbs. With a good range of restaurants and cinemas, it also offers live performances and occasionally plays host to a variety of special events. Located on New Link Road, Malad West, this is another place in Mumbai you cannot afford to miss!
OBEROI MALL A one-stop destination for fun, food, fashion and films, this was the first shopping centre in India and the third in the world to receive the prestigious LEED Green Building Award in the existing building category from the US Green Building Council. Oberoi Mall offers a wide range of showrooms offering the best in Indian and Western fashion. You can find it in Oberoi Garden City, Goregaon.
MANGALDAS MARKET Famed as the site of the oldest market in Mumbai, this place is full of shops of all sizes, selling clothes, jewellery and other accessories. At Mangaldas Market, you can find all the latest designer clothes at the most affordable prices and lots more of equal interest to both men and women.
HOT TIP - Bargaining is a must here…!
As a coastal city, the climate in Mumbai is hot and humid. The average temperature is about 27 degrees Centigrade. An important thing to remember from a traveller's point of view is the fact that Mumbai gets a large amount of rainfall every year from June to September. Sometimes it even gets late monsoon showers right up to November.
As a city with a larger number of migrants than indigenous locals, the cuisine of Mumbai has an extraordinary range and variety. The street food culture of Mumbai is famous not only in India but worldwide and Mumbai cuisine bears the imprints of each and every culture that this region has seen and nurtured over a period of hundreds of years.
Some of the local delicacies that you ought to try are - butter chicken, the bombay sandwich, bombil fry, brun maska, pani puri, puran poli, bhel puri, chaats (of different types), kebabs, misal pav and haleem, to name but a few.
Mumbai is the capital of one of India's largest states, Maharashtra, which is home to many religions. The state nurtures all the different traditions of the many different communities. The people here are fun-loving and enjoy celebrating festivals with extreme zeal and vigour.
This is the most important festival in Mumbai and is celebrated for ten days with huge fanfare. It is celebrated in the honour of Ganesha - the loveable elephant-headed God. It is held in August or September and is celebrated with great zeal and piety. This festival is also an official public holiday.
NAVROZ/NOWRUZ As Mumbai has a sizeable population of Parsi, or Zoroastrians, the festival of Navroz (the Persian New Year) is widely celebrated, just as it is elsewhere in many parts of Central and West Asia.
BANGANGA FESTIVAL This is a 2 day festival organised jointly by the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation and the Indian Heritage Society of Mumbai in the month of January. It takes place annually in the Malabar Hills and is considered a major part of the cultural heritage of the region.
ELEPHANTA FESTIVAL Organised by the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation to promote tourism and culture, this is one of the most important festivals in the area. It is held on the Elephanta Island, where you can also find the Elephanta Caves, a World Heritage Site (see above).
DANCE Maharashtra is a region of exquisite culture and tradition and so are its folk dances. Steeped in rich history and traditions, Maharashtra’s major dance forms are as follows:
LAVANI DANCE This dance form's name is derived from the word “Lavanya”, meaning beauty. It deals with various topics such as society, politics, religion, romance, and others and is performed by women in their traditional attire, Nauveri (a Nine Yard Saree). It is also famous for its powerful rhythm.
KOLI DANCE The dance of the fishermen of Maharashtra symbolises their lives and work. Its movement simulates catching fish with nets and rowing boats.
DHANGARI GAJA This dance developed amongst the shepherd community known as the “Dhangars” in the Sholapur district of Maharashtra. As they watched over their animals, their love of the land around them grew, inspired by the scenic beauty and they composed poetry about it and their god, Biruba.
POVADAS DANCE This is presented in the Maratha ballad form. The dance describes the life story of the great Maratha Ruler, Shri Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.
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