My first visit to Mumbai was more than 16 years back with friends. I noticed lots of changed in Mumbai over the years, somethings improved and some worsened. When I first visited, we spent a day in Mumbai and hired a cab for the Mumbai sightseeing tour. It was not a planned tour, we engaged a taxi driver at the railway station, who was very friendly and helpful. We told our driver to take us to all the best places to visit in Mumbai with friends. It was a busy but fun day in Mumbai. Later that night, we traveled to Goa by an overnight train.After my initial trip, I visited Mumbai on several occasions with friends. We made it a transit point and took many short trips around Mumbai. We visited Matheran, Malvan, Alibaug, and Daman. Other than visiting places nearby, I had explored many places in Mumbai and tried lots of different food.
Mumbai is one of the biggest city in India along with Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad, Banglore, and Kolkata. Mumbai is also known as “Financial Capital of India” as many big corporate and financial institutions had set up their head offices in Mumbai after the Independence of India. It is also the home to the Hindi film industry and popularly known as “Bollywood”. Many locals still prefer to call it Bombay instead of Mumbai.
Best places to visit in Mumbai for fun and unique experience
Gateway of India
It is synonymous with Mumbai and a photograph of Gateway of India represents the city. Originally Gateway of India was planned to commemorate the landing of King George V and Queen Mary at Apollo Bunder on their visit to India in 1911 but it can not be built at that time. Construction of this grandly arched gate was completed in 1924.
The gateway was a symbol of the “power and majesty” of the British Empire in India. All Viceroys or high dignitaries entered India ceremoniously from this gate. Today it is the most visited place in Mumbai.
If you want to click a good picture minus the crowd then come in the morning around 8.00 AM. It gets crowded during the day and most crowded in the evening.
Explore Chhatrapati Shivaji Railway Station
I can say this is one of the most beautiful train stations in India or maybe the world. The Victorian Gothic style architecture with turrets and pointed arches are similar to any Indian palace architecture.
It was built in 1885 and named Victoria Terminus after the then reigning queen of the British empire. Now there are a total of 18 platforms which handles the local and outstation trains.
There is a museum also inside the railway station, which gives some insight into the history of station and Indian railways.
This railway station was also attacked during the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack and 164 killed.
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See Bhau Daji Lad Museum / Victoria & Albert Museum
This museum was originally built in 1855 but was closed in 1858. The new build for the museum was built in 1872 and it was named the Victoria & Albert Museum. In 1975 it was renamed after Dr. Bhau Daji Lad, who was committee member when a new building was made.
The museum houses a large number of an archaeological item like historical photographs of Mumbai, clay models, statues, manuscripts of Hatim Tai, silver & copperware and costumes.
For me, the highlight of the museum is its grand hall, its intricate work, and design on walls and roof. Museum went under major restoration between 2003 to 2007, which was financed by Jamnalal Bajaj trust and done under the supervision of INTACH.
Pay visit to Siddhivinayak temple
The temple was originally built in 1801. This temple is dedicated to Lord Ganesha and Siddhi Vinayak’s literal meaning is “Ganesha who grants wishes”. It is one of 10 richest temples in India.
Initially, it was a small temple but over the years it became grand. Infect when I last visited, I was unable to recognize the entry point because it changed a lot in the last 10-15 years.
There is a big mouse statue outside the main sanctum inside the temple. I saw lots of people whispering in the ear of mouse statue. It is believed that if you ask for a wish in the ear of the mouse, it will be fulfilled by God.
Siddhivinayak temple is quite popular among Indian politicians and film celebrities. Infect when Tim Cook (Apple CEO) visited India, he started his India trip after visiting this temple.
Pay respect at Mahalaxmi temple
This temple was built in 1831. The temple is dedicated to three important goddess Laxmi, Saraswati and Kali. The temple is built on the elevated ground. There are several flower sellers inside the temple compound.
This temple is very popular among locals and also among worshipper of the goddess. The temple remains crowded during the 9 days of Navratri festival of India twice a year.
Visit Haji Ali Dargah
This mosque and tomb dedicated to Pir Haji Ali Shah Bukhari. He was from Uzbekistan. He was a Haji (Who has done Haaj to Macca), traveled the world and finally settled in Mumbai.
Before his death, he told his follower that they should not busy him at any place and drop his shroud in the sea. Where his shroud will come out from the sea, he should be buried at that place. His shroud was found on a rock in the sea away from shore. That is the place where Haji Ali Dargah was built in Indo Islamic style in 1431 by his disciples.
The Haji Ali dargah can be reached by a narrow causeway and there are no railings or boundary on both sides. Sometimes during the high tide, causeway gets submerged in water. Dargah is accessible during low tide when water is low.
This whitewashed Dargah complex has a marble courtyard and the shrine of Haji Ali is in center of it. The tomb of Haji Ali in the complex is covered by a brocaded red and green chaddar(Cloth).
Interestingly people from all caste and religions visit the shrine of Haji Ali.
Travel on Bandra–Worli Sea Link
This is the first cable-stayed bridge constructed in open seas in India. The bridge connects Bandra with Worli in south Mumbai. This bridge has reduced the travel time to 10 minutes from 30 minutes. It is a toll bridge so you have to pay to travel through this bridge.
This sea link bridge is an engineering marvel as it is built on a highly variable sea bed.
The bridge is not only useful but it also looks beautiful from distance as well as while driving over it. In recent times this became one of the most photographed structures of Mumbai.
Meditate at Global Vipassana Pagoda
This is a place of worship, which built on a peninsula between Gorai creek and the Arabian Sea next to the Essel world. Global Vipassana Pagoda is a new structure and inaugurated in 2009.
It is a copy of the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar. There is a big meditation hall in the center with a couple of small mediation halls around it. Other buildings in the complex are a library, research institute, museum, guest house, canteen, and administrative block.
Global Vipassana Pagoda’s main purpose is to share information about Vipassana and spread information about Buddha and his teachings. This is a beautiful complex and maintained very well. There is so much of peace at this place and I didn’t feel that I am in busy Mumbai.
Read more about My spiritual experience at Himalayan ashram Satkhol
Have these fun experience in Mumbai
Visit Chowpatty Beach or Girgaum Chowpatty
It’s one of the most popular areas for an evening outing in open. Chowpatty beach is situated next to the famous Marine drive (The queen’s necklace). It is a popular beach for a hangout and remains crowded. On weekends it is most crowded when people come here with children for outing and picnics.
There are many food stalls along the sea beach, which remains open from morning till late at night. The atmosphere here is more like a carnival with food stalls, dart throwing boards, and pony riding.
It is not like a typical beach of Goa or Kerala where you can enjoy the sun and sand. Seawater is not clean for swimming and better to keep the distance from the sea.
Still a place worth visiting to experience the local culture of Mumbai.
Go to Marine drive
It is also known as the queen’s necklace. This “C” shaped boulevard lined with palm trees along the coastline is a natural bay. At night if you see Marine drive from an elevated point along the drive, the street lights in C shape resemble a string of pearls in a necklace.
This is one of the wealthiest neighborhood in Mumbai. There are several hotels on this road with some old Paris homes built in art deco style in the 1920s.
The official name of Marine drive is Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Road, which practically no one uses.
Visit Bandstand Promenade
This 1 km long stretch along the sea is a popular hangout among young people. There is an amphitheater, garden, and Bandra fort on this stretch. The Bandra-Worli sea link is best photographed from this point.
The Bandra bandstand promenade also has statues of famous Bollywood actors and 100 brass plates embossed with the handprints and signatures of movie stars. This walk of the star is created like the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
There are some big hotels in this area. The Bandstand is also “Infamously” known as lover’s point of Mumbai.
Take a local train for local experience
For the people of Delhi Metro is the most important part of daily life. It is a most convenient way to zig-zag across the Delhi NCR. The same way “Mumbai Locals” are the lifeline of the city. The local trains are a super crowded but most convenient and fast mode of travel in Mumbai. They are on time and quite efficient but at the same time but are extremely crowded.
There are 3 lines i.e. Western line, Harbour line, and Central line. If as a traveler you want to travel in Mumbai locals then avoid the morning and evening office hours. Travel between 11.00 AM to 04.30 PM or on Sundays when relatively lesser crowd.
Mumbai’s local trains give the glimpse of “Maximum city”. A trip to Mumbai is incomplete without traveling in a local train.
Take a boat ride in sea
Mumbai is made by joining 7 islands and it is bounded by Arabian on one side. When you go to Gateway of India take a boat ride in the sea from the jetty next to it. There are boats, catamarans, ferries and small boats.
These boats have different running schedules and go to different places. The shortest one goes close to Uran oil refinery. If you have half a day then go to Elephanta caves. For a weekend trip go to Alibaug.
I like sailing in the sea and this is one of my favorite thing to do in Mumbai. From the boat in the sea, I got the spectacular view of the Gateway of India and the famous Taj Mahal hotel.
Take a Helicopter ride over Mumbai
This is a new way to explore Mumbai from the air. There are different Helicopter rides and you can take one according to your budget. By Helicopter ride, you will see Mumbai from a different perspective. I have personally not gone for a ride but heard a lot about it and will try to take a ride on my next trip. You can check here for more information.
Food to eat in Mumbai
The seafood, Irani food and street food of Mumbai are some of the must-try things.
Eat at Irani Cafe/Parsi Cafe
When you are in Mumbai visit an Irani or Parsi cafe. They serve unique food which is nonspicy and yet have a unique flavor. Most interestingly these cafes are still using the same interior design and feel as it was 80 years ago. They have an old world charm and surviving in this modern pub & bar culture.
I have been to some of the cafes during my several trips but my most memorable is when I visited Britannia & Co. The 95-year owner of the cafe came to us and checked with us about the food and shared some old stories. The business is run by his son but he talks to patrons and he was so cute.
Seafood from Malvan and Konkan
Mumbai is a sea city so there is plenty of seafood options. Since people from all over India settled here so there is a great variety of seafood preparations. You can easily get seafood preparation from South of India or other coastal areas.
I recommend that you must eat seafood from a Malvani or Konkan restaurant, it can be a bit spicy but very flavorsome. There are several restaurants for every budget.
Go to Cafe Leopold and Cafe Modegar at Colaba
Well, food in both places of these restaurants is like any other nice restaurant in Mumbai but you can visit them for their history.
While Leopold is favorite of “Shantaram” fans, it has also become quite popular across the world after the 2009 Mumbai terrorist attack. The terrorist attack on this restaurant and shot at people dining here. They have preserved the bullet marks on the wall. None the less it is one of the busiest cafes in Colaba.
Cafe Modegar is popular among fans of “Mario Miranda” the famous cartoonist from Goa. They have a unique design on walls depicting work of great cartoonist.
Eat Vada Pav
You can have a Vada Pav at every nook and corner of Mumbai. It is Mumbai’s “The” food and a trip to the maximum city is incomplete without having a vada pav from a roadside stall.
Visit unexplored places in Mumbai
Go for watching Flamingos in Mumbai
Sighting of flamingos in Mumbai sound absurd but it is true. If you happen to travel to Mumbai between November to March-April then go to Sewri for flamingo watching. On Sundays, you will see lots of locals groups and cycles groups for Flamingos watching.
Bombay Natural History Society organizes walks for flamingo sighting. They confirmed that 1.2 Lakh flamingos visited between end 2018 to the beginning of 2019.
The best places to watch flamingos in Mumbai are Sewri creek mud-lands, Thane creek flamingo sanctuary, and Bhandup Pumping Station.
The best time to visit is early morning just before sunrise.
See the Dhobi Ghat activities
This is one of the most interesting places to visit in Mumbai. It is an open Lavoir and Dhobis (Washerman) wash clothes here in open with hands. There are rows of concrete wash pens with own flogging stone.
Washing area can be easily viewed from the Mahalaxmi Railway station. You can go inside the Dhobi ghat but it is recommended that if you want to go inside then go with a guide approved by the association of Dhobis. Else watch them from distance from over the bridge as the view is good from there.
This is the largest washing area according to the Guinness book of world record.
The best time to visit Dhobi Ghat is early morning or early afternoon, when dhobis are at work and clothes, are hanging in rows.
Places to shop in Mumbai at cheap rates
This market is for shopping the current fashion clothing at cheap prices. There are rows of open stalls displaying the garments and other fashion accessories like bags or jewelry on the road.
Here you will mostly find an imitation of well known international and Indian brands selling at cheap prices. Some of the products are sold in fashion street have labels of the brands. Sometimes the quality of the products are not very good but then so are the prices. This one of the best places to visit in Mumbai with friends for shopping.
It is very close to the Church Gate railway station.
In this market, you can buy almost everything for a household. These are from Alphonso mangoes to imported sweets, you can buy food, clothes, electric items, decoration items, and other everyday products.
It is popular saying that Crawford is where Mumbai shops. Definitely, mark this place on the top of your shopping destinations and things to do in Mumbai.
The official name of the market is Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Mandai but it is better known as Crawford market.
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The literal meaning of Chor is a thief and a bazaar mean market. It is a joke in Mumbai that if you lose something, you can buy it back from the Chor Bazaar.
The market is famous for antique and vintage items. There are shops in this market which sell original posters of Bollywood films, which are very popular among collectors.
You have to bargain hard in this market to get a good price.
These are some of my recommendation of best places to visit in Mumbai with friends, family or solo. All these places are quite safe for travelers of all ages, gender or color. There is a popular saying about Mumbai is that it never sleeps so explore these places.