Born and raised in Mumbai (formerly called Bombay), a cosmopolitan, energetic city that is India’s financial and entertainment capital - think New York and Los Angeles thrown together in a blender - I’ve often marveled at how much the city evolves to adapt with changing times, yet retains its essence. While not a large city in terms of area, there is an incredible amount to do. So here’re my tips for 24 hours in Mumbai, Maya Nagari (City of Dreams).
1. OBSERVE A RIOT OF COLORS AT THE FLOWER MARKET: The city doesn’t get going till about 9am - Mumbaikars like to get a later start that carries them well into the night! Use the quiet time before rush hour begins, to explore Dadar Flower Market - a large wholesale flower market, packed with vendors bringing all manner of marigolds, chrysanthemums, jasmine, roses, lilies, and much more. Eminently instagrammable with its riot of colors and cacophony of sounds, the market is a great place to get all kinds of flowers for reasonable prices. Remember to shop around and bargain hard though!
Photo Credit: India Today
2. NOURISH YOURSELF WITH A SAVORY VEGGIE BREAKFAST: After all those visual delights, it’s time to delight the palate. Head over to Arya Bhavan for a filling breakfast of dosas, idlis and much more. The restaurant serves South Indian cuisine and is vegetarian in the best possible way. For a more casual, street food breakfast, head over to Ashok’s Vada Pav Stall. A vada pav is completely and utterly Mumbai in origin - a carbaeceous delight of spiced potatoes, wrapped in chickpea flour batter and served with two soft pieces of pav (bread) and chutneys. Spicy, crispy, warm, soft and completely able to transport to heaven. The owner of this particular stall, Ashok, has been around since I was a child, and I remember going there at least once a week to enjoy his creations. This stall’s vada pavs are indisputably the best in Mumbai. Gourmands from around the world, including the late Anthony Bourdain, have raved about Ashok’s!
Photo Credit: Udipi Restaurant
3. GET IN SOME ART, CULTURE & WINDOW SHOPPING: Beat the late morning/noontime heat and crowds with a trip to to Jehangir Art Gallery in Kala Ghoda, the city’s art district.The gallery showcases contemporary Indian artists, and for me personally, is a fount of creative inspriration. Browse exhibitions by painters, sculptors, print-makers, craftsmen, ceramicists, photographers and weavers and get a deeper sense of the rich cultural underpinnings of Mumbai. If you’re in a car or cab, go south along Marine Drive - the city’s shoreside promenade. Take in the magical sight of the Haji Ali Dargah - a 15th century mosque that is situated off the coast on a tiny islet, and is accessible only by a narrow footpath at low tide. While in Kala Ghoda, walk around and take in the Gothic revival architecture of buildings like the Rajabai Clock Tower, Bombay High Court, or browse the wares at Nicobar Design Studio and imagine yourself in one of Sabyasachi Couture’s regal designs. The area is chockfull of tiny eateries, design stores and boutiques and it’s easy to spend the whole day here.
Photo Credit: The City Story
4. MARVEL AT ANCIENT STRUCTURES: IF Kala Ghoda hasn’t taken up the whole day, head out to the Gateway of India, an iconic part of the Mumbai coastline, and catch a ferry to the Elephanta Caves. The caves are dated somewhere between the 5th and 7th centuries, and are a UNESCO World Heritage site. The caves contain Hindu and Buddhist iconography cut out of basalt rock. I find myself marveling at the grace, creativity and ingenuity of those long ago sculptors that were able to create these magnificent sculptures.
Photo Credit: UNESCO, Francesco Badarin
5. RELAX WITH A LATE LUNCH / EARLY DINNER: All that sightseeing makes one hungry, and a great way to sample more of Mumbai’s famous chaat for lunch, is Swati Snacks. Chaat is essentially snack food, but elevated to an art form at places like Swati Snacks or Kailash Parbat. Alternatively, you could get off the ferry back from Elephanta and head to a late lunch or high tea at the Taj Mahal Palace hotel. Known to locals as The Taj, it is a heritage building with a trademark issued for its distinctive architecture. Sit out the city’s infamous rush hour traffic at the Taj’s Sea Lounge or head over to Cafe Mondegar or Leopold’s, iconic bars and excellent places to watch the rush of the city pass you by, over an ice cold beer.
Photo Credit: booking.com
Photo Credit: Hunt for Spot6. WIND DOWN WITH AN EVENING STROLL: Finish your day with a walk or horse-driven carriage ride along Marine Drive - lit up at night, the iconic promenade earned the nickname, the Queen’s Necklace.
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