Once known as Bombay, Mumbai is India’s second largest city with roughly 20 million people. The city is cosmopolitan and fast-paced, yet there are areas where you can easily escape the city to breathe in a bit of nature.
Mumbai was ruled by both the Portuguese and the British, both of whom left lasting impressions. And while there is much history to explore, the city also offers India’s Bollywood film industry, iconic landmarks, fascinating islands, and one of the most visited national parks in the world.
Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport is one of the main entry points into India, but those wanting to travel to Mumbai from other cities throughout India will find it quick and easy to do so.
Mumbai is a fascinating city I encourage you to visit. To entice you further, I have chosen some of my favourite landmarks and attractions you should definitely squeeze into your next Mumbai itinerary.
See What's in This Post
- 1 Book a Room at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel
- 2 Walk in the Shadow of the Gateway of India
- 3 Explore Elephanta Island
- 4 Spot Wildlife in Sanjay Gandhi National Park
- 5 Catch Sunset Along Marine Drive
- 6 Feel Young Again at Essel World
- 7 Shop Chor Bazaar
- 8 Tour Bollywood Sets
- 9 Countless Other Things to do in Mumbai
Things to Do in Mumbai, India
Book a Room at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel
Image credit: Brian Scott (CC BY-ND 2.0) via Flickr
While the famous white marble Taj Mahal mausoleum is found in Agra just south of New Delhi, Mumbai offers up the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel.
This five star luxury hotel near the Gateway of India opened its doors back in 1903 and has welcomed numerous world leaders and notable names. Guests of the hotel include the Clintons, President Barack Obama, and Lord Mountbatten.
You too can feel like royalty by booking a weekend away in one of India’s finest hotels. Older Heritage Rooms preserve the hotel’s history, while contemporary Tower Rooms provide floor ceiling windows that take full advantage of the property’s exceptional views.
The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel has always been a place of opulence, being the first in India to have electricity and offering Mumbai’s first licensed bar and full-day restaurant.
Today, it offers one of the city’s best pools, a popular high tea, numerous on-site restaurants, and the relaxing Jiva Spa where you may wish to treat yourself to a Jivaniya therapy session or Ukuchina massage.
The hotel sits on over 2 acres overlooking the Arabian Sea. Set near the Colaba area, it’s just a short walk to the National Gallery of Modern Art. After being targeted by a terrorist attack in 2008, the hotel reopened on Independence Day in 2010 and continues to stand as one of the finest places to stay in Mumbai.
Walk in the Shadow of the Gateway of India
Image credit: Chetan Bisariya (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr
The Gateway of India is one of Mumbai’s top tourist attractions. This 85-foot basalt Triumphal Arch was built to honour King George V and Queen Mary’s visit to India when they were formally proclaimed Emperor and Empress.
The structure is the first thing you see when arriving in Mumbai by sea, and it’s worth taking a boat or ferry ride to get a better view of the arch away from the hordes of tourists that normally swarm the site.
You’re sure to see a number of people taking selfies for their Instagram profiles and street vendors abound, but the energetic atmosphere only adds to the excitement for the many who visit the area every day.
Barricades may now block you from standing directly beneath the archway, but this top attraction will no doubt continue to grab the attention of future travellers for a long time to come.
Whether you visit in the early morning, at sunset, or at night, the views over the Arabian Sea and this remarkable landmark always impress.
Explore Elephanta Island
Image credit: Diego Tirira (CC BY-SA 2.0) via Flickr
Accessible via a ferry that leaves from Mumbai’s Gateway of India, Elephanta Island offers the chance to step inside the famous Hindu and Buddhist cave temples.
These centuries-old cave temples date back to the 5th century and feature grand pillars, sculptures, and wall carvings. The Great Cave 1 is UNESCO World Heritage listed, featuring the 7-metre-high carved masterpiece known as Sadashiva.
This sculpture symbolizes three aspects of Shiva including the Creator, the Preserver, and the Destroyer. Once known as Gharapuri, it was 16th-century Portuguese explorers that would give the island its current name of Elephanta Island.
After admiring the caves, try climbing up Cannon Hill before enjoying a picnic around the manmade Aadiyogi Shiv Elephanta Lake. The forest-covered island is also home to numerous cheeky macaques.
Ferries to this architectural wonder leave Mumbai daily, so there’s no excuse to miss it.
Spot Wildlife in Sanjay Gandhi National Park
You may be surprised to learn that surrounding the highly populated city of Mumbai is a national park where rare and endangered wildlife call home.
Surrounded on three sides by Mumbai, Sanjay Gandhi National Park is one of the most visited parks in Asia, but only a small area is open to the public. The public recreation zone is known as the Krishnagiri Upavan and features a mini zoo where you can see animals like lions, tigers, and crocodiles.
Many people come here to enjoy hiking, cycling, and jogging, and while much of the remaining forest is restricted, you can join hikes on trails like the Shilonda Trail which are conducted by organisations such as the Bombay Natural History Society.
It is in this protected zone where much of the rare flora and fauna can be found. Animals that call the park home include leopards, hyenas, cobras, civets, mouse-deer, muntjacs, sambar deer, pythons, and crocodiles. There is even a record of a wild tiger visiting the park.
Birdwatchers will be pleased to know the park is home to and more than 250 species including hornbills, woodpeckers, drongos, jungle owlets, and paradise flycatchers. This is in addition to around 150 species of colourful butterflies that inhabit the park.
It is important to note that the more remote wildlife-rich areas of the park can only be accessed with the Forest Department’s permission. However, you are able to visit the Kanheri Caves much more easily. These caves feature Buddhist sculptures, paintings, and inscriptions, some of which date back to the 1st century BC.
Catch Sunset Along Marine Drive
One of the best places to catch a Mumbai sunset is along the roughly 3.5-kilometre-long west-facing Marine Drive. This is a lovely promenade that sits alongside the C-shaped road and it makes for the perfect late-evening stroll.
You’ll see many people sitting on the seaside concrete tetrapods which are placed along the coastline to prevent erosion caused by weather and waves. The palm tree lined promenade offers exceptional views of the Arabian Sea.
When seen from an elevated lookout at night, the street lights that run along the C-shaped drive resemble a shimmering set of pearls, leading to its nickname as the “Queen’s necklace”.
Marine Drive sits at the base of Malabar Hill and connects Nariman Point to Babulnath. At the northern end of the drive is the aptly named Chowpatty Beach, a place where you’ll encounter food vendors selling authentic comfort fast-food style cuisine such as Bhel Puri and Paav Bhaji.
After the sun goes down, the area’s nightclubs and restaurants come alive. There are also a number of hotels along the drive as well as cinemas and other entertainment. Much of the area was built in the Art Deco style, giving rise to the area being called India’s little Miami.
Feel Young Again at Essel World
Once you’ve had your fill of India’s many natural and cultural wonders, have a bit of childish fun by visiting one of Asia’s largest amusement parks.
EsselWorld together with its neighbour Water Kingdom covers roughly 65 acres, both of which offer thrilling rides for both children and adults. There are plenty of adrenaline-pumping rides to get you smiling or screaming in terror.
A crowd favorite is India’s tallest tower ride known as Shot-N-Drop where you’ll experience some wicked g-forces over a several hundred foot drop. There’s also a ferris wheel with a 90 degree flip and several roller coasters to enjoy.
Kids will enjoy much tamer rider including carousels and family friendly roller coasters that incorporate the use of virtual reality headsets. You can also enjoy Mumbai’s first ice skating rink, a 6-lane bowling alley, laser tag, and much more.
Water Kingdom is home to India’s Largest Aqua play pool with a lagoon that stretches out across 30,000 square feet. The water theme park is the perfect place to cool off when Mumbai’s hot tropical climate gets a bit too much.
Enjoy crazy water slides and their Aquadrome dance floor with its rain showers and laser lights.
Shop Chor Bazaar
If you’re looking for a shopping experience unlike any other, check out the Chor Bazaar. Located on Mutton Street, the bazaar’s name translates as the “thieves market”.
Although the market was once home to stolen goods, and you should continue to watch your wallet closely here, you’re actually the one more apt to grab an absolute steal on all kinds of antique and vintage items.
One of India’s largest flea markets, the Chor Bazaar offers up stalls selling items like bronze statues gods and goddesses from various religions, gramophones, vintage Bollywood Posters, lamps, clocks, car parts, power tools, and just about anything else you can think of.
You don’t necessarily have to buy anything to enjoy the lively atmosphere here. If you do plan to make a purchase, realise that haggling is part of the game here and you should aim to pay around half of the original quoted price in the end.
As the bazaar is located in Mumbai’s Muslim quarter, you should dress respectively by covering up a bit. The scene is a bit rough and chaotic but definitely entertaining.
The bazaar is open Saturday to Thursday from around 11AM-7:30PM. On Fridays, the area becomes the home of the Juma Market with the sound of Muslim prayer in the background.
Tour Bollywood Sets
Image: Parvez AzarQaderi via Unsplash
If you’re eager to learn more about the Indian Hindi-language film industry known as Bollywood, Mumbai is the place to be. Bollywood tours run from a few hours to all day tours for insight into the largest film industry in the world.
Depending on the tour you choose, you might visit shooting studios, drive past Bollywood stars’ homes, catch a live-shooting of a TV serial (soap opera), and catch a Bollywood dancing demonstration.
You may even get to visit actors and directors backstage and if you’re really lucky you could possibly get the chance to become an extra in a film. Foreigners are often in demand to feature as extras in Bollywood movies.
Countless Other Things to do in Mumbai
While these are some of the top experiences to be had in Mumbai, there are countless other sights and attractions throughout the city.
If you have extra time, be sure to catch a performance at Prithvi Theatre or dive further into Mumbai’s history by visiting places like Haji Ali Dargah, Vasai Fort, Banganga Tank, and the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya museum.
You may want to refer to that last one by its abbreviated name CSMVS or its old title of Prince of Wales Museum to make it easier on yourself!
Have you visited Mumbai? What were your favorite things to do in the city?