Mumbai’s Best Bits: Markets, Caves & Temples

Get a sense of the carefree vibe in Mumbai’s bustling city from Natasha, our local insider, as she takes us through the markets, temples, hipster cafes, and Victorian architecture of India’s largest city.

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Mumbai is a heady juxtaposition of the glamorous Bollywood lifestyle flaunted in trendy restobars and upscale neighborhoods, and the poverty that stares back from the city’s underbellies as you ride the local train.

Things to See

Taj Mahal Palace in Colaba 

Built in 1903, the iconic Taj Mahal Palace in Colaba is the city’s most luxurious hotel.

Gape at the impressive Florentine exterior, then go inside and enjoy high tea over waterfront views at Sea Lounge.

Gateway of India

Just across is the Gateway of India, a commemorative arch built to mark the visit of King George V and Queen Mary in 1911, through which the last of the troops exited on India’s independence in 1948.

It’s busy with families, tourists, balloons, chai, photographers, and chana jor garam sellers.

Gateway of India. Photo credit: iStock

Elephanta Island

Take the ferry across to Elephanta Island to see rock-cut caves, the largest of which, dedicated to Lord Shiva, is a UNESCO Heritage Site.

The structures, sculptures, and carvings date from the 2nd century B.C.

Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus

The Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, a UNESCO Heritage Site, is an example of Victorian Gothic architecture with elaborate arches, an imposing dome, rose windows, and stone carvings.

Walk around to see other buildings from the Victorian Gothic era, and towards Flora Fountain to see the University of Mumbai, with its Big-Ben inspired clock in the heritage area of Fort.

Things to Do

Chor Bazaar

Browse antiques or vintage and quirky finds at Chor Bazaar, the infamous market for stolen goods.

You’ll find everything from old gramophones and grandfather clocks, to Soviet-era Babushka dolls. Haggle down to less than half the price quoted.

Other Markets in Mumbai

Shop for cheap trinkets, junk jewelry, trendy shoes and bags, and street fashion at Colaba Causeway, and Linking Road and Hill Road in Bandra.

For traditional wear, handicrafts, and beautiful bangles, head to Bhuleshwar Market.

For block-printed fabrics and silk saris, go to Mangaldas Market.

Crawford market, Mumbai. Photo credit: iStock

Best of Mumbai

Attend the evening aarti at the Siddhivinayak Temple, home to the city’s favorite god Ganesha, and offer a basket of flowers, incense, and sweets like the locals.

On an island accessible by a walkway, the Haji Ali Dargah is the mausoleum of a saint, and feels like a world away from the busy city. The air is briny, vendors line the walkway with trinkets, and all faiths are welcome. Wear clothes that cover the shoulders and knees.

No trip to Mumbai is complete without sampling the local street food favorites pav bhaji, pani puri, dahi puri, tawa pulao, and grilled sandwich (try Amar Juice Center in Juhu, or Elco in Bandra).

If you’re visiting in February, attend the nine-day Kala Ghoda Arts Festival, an enjoyable showcase of arts, music, dance, theater, and screenings.

Sip tea and watch the sunset at the waterfront promenade of Marine Drive, and as night falls, admire the curved string of street lights that illuminates the bay, fondly called the ‘Queen’s necklace’.

Cultural Experiences

Head to the National Gallery of Modern Art, and Jehangir Art Gallery in the art district of Kala Ghoda, to see exhibitions by Indian and international artists.

The Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum features exhibits depicting Indian culture and customs, as does the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Museum.

Hidden Gems

Learn about recycling, pottery, leather tanning, soap manufacturing and other industries in the hub of Mumbai’s small-scale industries. 

On Bandra’s Pali Hill, the Mount Mary Church is just as beautiful within as its semi Gothic exterior. It’s a quiet sanctuary, where locals come for respite from the busy city.

Photography enthusiasts should rise before the sun to catch the action at Dadar Flower Market, where fresh roses, marigolds, and jasmine arrive as early as 4am.

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