Surrounded by the Arabian Sea, Mumbai is a buzzing, dizzying destination that’s equal parts chaos and allure. As India’s city of dreams, it has been mesmerizing travelers for hundreds of years… and for good reason. The intoxicating madness is often overwhelming for first-timers and, while it’s undoubtedly an assault on your senses, the creative culture, fresh vibe, and wildly delicious food are captivating.
The city is big and traffic can quickly stretch out over what already feels like a lot of ground to cover. When your options seem endless and your time is limited, deciding where to wander can be a real challenge.
There’s Lower Parel, an old mills district transformed into modern office buildings, hip restaurants, and bars. South Bombay — or simply “Town” to the locals — is home to Colaba, a lively seaside district packed with atmospheric buildings and shopping. There’s Fort, the first part of the city to be developed by the British, filled with museums, galleries, artsy cafes, and loads of heritage. And finally, Bandra West, a hip, laid-back suburb where everyone is constantly kicking back.
Peeling back Mumbai’s layers to step through the tangle of color and crowds is the key to discovering its charm. With beautiful seaside bungalows, Victorian stunners, a booming creative scene, and plenty of inventive restaurants for those die-hard foodies, the international hotspot has a sense of character all its own.
For those that want an upscale escape from the city, Soho House Mumbai is the place to be. The newly opened members club and hotel has quickly become a radiant hotspot, with Juhu Beach on one side and the endless honking of rickshaws on the other. Grab a room with a balcony for sweeping views of the Arabian sea and make sure you grab a cocktail by the rooftop pool and bar.
Boutique hotel lovers will want to book with Abode Bombay. Nestled in the heart of the city, this independent and stylish property was designed for the modern global explorer. Built in 1910, the beautiful colonial building has been shaped into a chic, bohemian space. It’s a tranquil retreat fit with well-designed rooms, a curated shop, and a café — all just above the city’s hustle.
If you’re really looking to live like a local, I’d suggest an Airbnb near the sea. You’ll need to pick through to find the good ones but there’s no better way to get an authentic experience than living in a local’s actual house. Situated between the trendy Pali Hill and the ever-busy Carter Road, this Bandra cottage will introduce you to the earthy, vibrant spirit that creatives, artists, and musicians have been flocking to over the years.
For a classic and luxurious experience visit the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. This beloved property sits on the edge of the sea, overlooking the must-see Gateway of India. Opened in 1903, it’s officially a legendary landmark that is known for its incredible hospitality and beautiful interiors.
Start your morning off with coffee at Blue Tokai. There’s four locations scattered throughout the city, from Bandra to BKC (the business district). If it weren’t for the speciality Indian coffee beans and sounds of the chaotic streets just beyond the cafe walls, you may just believe you’re sitting somewhere in the middle of Brooklyn — and if you’re anything like me, you’ll be ordering the coffee beans to be sent overseas before you leave.
When thinking of India, house-made sourdough and make-your-own salads aren’t usually the first things that come to mind… but Kitchen Garden will change that. Founded by French expats, the laid-back, organic cafe has one of those all-day cafe vibes that has made it a favorite amongst locals.
Tucked into Kamala Mills, a compound packed with eateries and clubs, Bombay Canteen is famed for its innovative Indian dishes. From a former New York chef and Top Chef Masters winner, it’s an ideal spot to grab dinner and drinks and is seriously delicious — so, show up hungry.
A favorite for date-nights is Pa Pa Ya, a pan-asian bistro and bar. With all of the gyozas, Instagram-worthy dishes, and craft cocktails that your heart could ever desire, it’s a place in the city where you’ll want to come with your lover and indulge in a little bit of everything on the menu.
First-timers, this one’s for you. The majestic Gateway of India is a stunning archway that was originally built in 1924 to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary to Bombay. Now a famous landmark, any history and architecture lover will want to add it to their itinerary. Touristy yet beautiful, it’s a must-see spot.
Catch a show at The Quarter Mumbai. The jazz and cocktail bar puts on live shows every week in the space that was once the city’s Royal Opera House. If a well-made cocktail and good music is on the agenda, this is the place to be.
Wandering through Kala Goda will remind you very quickly just how creative Mumbai is. Filled with designer cafes, boutiques, and indie galleries, you can easily spend the entire day exploring around this crescent-shaped district. Make the most of it by visiting in February and grabbing a ticket to the edgy Kala Ghoda Arts Festival.
Other than introducing your taste buds to all of the delicious food the city has to offer, you can’t leave India without doing some yoga. Yoga House is an ideal place to give it a go — offering everything from Hatha and Vinyasa to flow and meditation classes. Bring a book, order a green juice when class is over, and retreat from all of the city’s noise. Your mind will need a zen space to slow down and process all of the wild and free energy that is Mumbai.