Mumbai? Bombay? Bombay? Mumbai? Naan to worry, it means the same thing. For those who don’t know, Mumbai is the crown jewel of India (matter a fact, its coast is shaped like a “queen’s necklace”). It’s the most populated city in India and you can bet your last rupee it feels like it. When my best friend and I visited, we had no clue what to expect. Watching Slumdog Millionaire on repeat won’t prepare you for what’s in store. Flying into the city, all you see are miles and miles of slums. Once you touch down, Mumbai and its people are sure to melt your heart. Oh, and then there’s the kids. With their adorable little smiles and doe-eyed faces, they tug right at your heartstrings (and a lot of the time they’re tugging straight for change in your pocket). Poverty is everywhere here so get used it, people. Regardless, this city by the sea is full of exotic culture, fantastic food and the loveliest of people. Here are some of the places you can’t miss:
Where to crash and get some R&R
This historical landmark situated just off the “Gateway of India” is the crème de la crème of Mumbai hotels. If you can get past the hundreds of tourists outside the hotel you’ll be pleased to enter an opulent, newly renovated lobby lounge that leads to shopping (fancy pants shopping), the Jiva Spa with exceptional Indian therapies, luxurious rooms and outstanding restaurants. If you’re ready to splurge this is the place.
I mean, it’s the Four Seasons so everything is top notch. This hotel is located about 20 minutes from Mumbai airport. The hotel boasts all luxury amenities, AER - the rooftop bar/lounge with 360-degree views of the city (see below), an outdoor pool, spa and ample security (a must anywhere you go in Mumbai). The staff is friendly and honest and did I mention the showers?
(This is where we stayed when we visited Mumbai).
Located just off of Mumbai’s main coastal drag, the ever famous Marine Drive, this hotel’s selling point is really its rooftop top bar and pool and its primo sea location. If you’re looking for a boutique size hotel that offers all the amenities of a large-scale hotel, this is your place. Rooms are spacious, clean and hi-tech for business travelers. Overall another great option in Mumbai.
Where to chow down and the unbutton the top button
Made famous by the book Shantaram and even more famous when it was bombed in the 2008 bombings, Leopold’s is a nice little cafe situated in the hectic neighborhood of Colaba. Not fancy or pretentious, this great little joint is a perfect place to stop in for Kingfisher and some garlic naan (if you can get a seat). It’s a popular place for tourists so be prepared for a loud noises and crowded tables, but it’s definitely a Mumbai must-see.
Frequented by the likes of many Bollywood Stars, Tote on the Turf is almost certainly one of the best fine dining restaurants in town. Unreservedly classy, it boasts a delightful indoor/outdoor atmosphere with impeccable service and delicious Indian fare. In general, no matter where you’re eating it’s best to avoid local lettuce and meat. Pricier than most restaurants in Mumbai, this is a lovely dining experience and a treat for anyone visiting Mumbai.
After overdosing on multiple meals of Indian food, Indigo is a delightful alternative. This modern European restaurant is situated in the bustling neighborhood of Colaba. The cuisine is superb and it includes seafood and pasta choices and decadent desserts. The best seats in the house are on the charming and romantic rooftop terrace. A great date place or a fun little spot to put on the stilettos and hang.
Where to drink up and get down
Situated at the top of the Four Seasons Hotel, this beautiful rooftop lounge is the highest spot in Mumbai to party. It’s panoramic views of the city are spectacular to say the least. Oh, and Indians love American music. A lot. So be prepared to hear everything from Rihanna to Pitbull (a lot of Pitbull). And, yes, like any rooftop bar, you’ll run into your share of douchebags and the overdone, scantily-clad girls, but it’s a still a spot not to miss – if only for the views. Tip: Get there early for cocktails and watch the sunset over the city.
Put away your fancy pants and pull up a stool at this cool local pub/bar located in India’s Bandra area. This is the spot you can go to for an ice-cold Kingfisher, a bite to eat and a nice chat with the locals. The place is tacky and looks more like a mechanics shop than a bar, but the music’s good (mostly rock and 80’s) and the drinks are cheap. What else can I say?!
I Just Bought These Pants
Where to nab the best threads
For the best there is in contemporary furnishings and now sells chic women’s wear and menswear. Located in Colaba.
Gorgeous saris and traditional Indian women’s clothing. A definite place to visit in Mumbai.
For high-end, luxury shopping, don’t miss The Shops at Tai Mumabi. Housing everything from Western brands to top-notch Indian collections. If you’ve got the dough, this is the place to go.
Ants in Your Pants
What to do when you can't sit still
Outside Laundry (Dhobi Ghat)
You will never take your washing machine for granted after visiting this fascinating Mumbai landmark. Get your camera out, this local oddity is the world’s largest open-air laundry with rows and rows of clothing being washed for local Mumbai hotels and hospitals. Local Indians live in this Dhobi Ghat and the shear magnitude of this place is a must see.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (formerly Victoria Terminus)
This historic railway station is the busiest in Mumbai (and I mean busy) and is probably most well known as the backdrop for the kooky dancing scene at the end of “Slumbdog Millioniare.” Visiting the station at the height of rush-hour is a fascinating site to see and not one for the claustrophobic.
You haven’t seen bling until you’ve seen this thing. Antilia was named the “Most Expensive Home in the World” costing upwards of 1 billion US dollars (that’s right B as in billion) and is definitely something worth checking out. This 27-floor home in South Mumbai belongs to one of India’s wealthiest tycoons and requires full-time staff of 600 to maintain the residence. To be honest, it's not the most eye-catching of homes but if you can get a glimpse, it’s a site to see.
Tip: Hop on a “Tuk Tuk” to get around this town. Hold on tight, you’re in for a ride!