Known as Bombay until 1996, Mumbai is a city of dazzling contrasts and extremes. In this sprawling metropolis you'll find everything from succulent street food to haute cuisine, bargain-basement bazaars to haute couture, humbling poverty to staggering wealth and sacred temples to hedonistic nightclubs. Love it or hate it, Mumbai will certainly leave its mark.
Crammed onto a narrow spit of reclaimed land that curls into the Arabian Sea, Mumbai is actually an island, connected to the mainland by a series of bridges and narrow causeways. It has transformed from a small fishing settlement into India's largest city and one of the planet's largest urban sprawls, which 16 million people call home.
Mumbai's main tourist enclave is Colaba where you'll find the iconic Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, an array of trendy bars and restaurants along with the city's defining landmark, the Gateway to India. India's equivalent to the Arc de Triomphe was built to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary in 1911, but is perhaps more ironically associated with the moment in August 1947 when the last British soldiers on Indian soil slowly marched to their waiting ships as the Union Jack was lowered.
Another imposing spectacle is Mumbai's principal railway station, Victoria Terminus, which opened in 1887. Now renamed Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, this monumental station is the city's most extravagant Gothic building and an extraordinary amalgam of ornate domes, spires, columns, stained glass and minarets.
Head to upmarket Malabar Hill for sweeping views, the terraced Hanging Gardens and the ruins of the Walkeshwar Temple Complex or escape the hustle and bustle with a stroll along Marine Drive, which connects Nariman Point and Chowpatty Beach at the foot of Malabar Hill. Lined with palm trees and a surprising number of art deco buildings this elegant seafront boulevard offers one of the best walks in Mumbai. Don't miss lively Chowpatty Beach, particularly at sunset, where you can wander the myriad of stalls, have your fortune told, watch snake charmers entertain the crowds, try the delicious street food or simply people watch. Alternatively, travel out to UNESCO listed Elephanta Island to see the labyrinth of unique cave temples with elaborate carvings of Lord Shiva.
For a real flavour of the city head into one of Mumbai's bustling bazaars which are a riot of colour and people and where everything from antiques to local spices, electrical goods and designer fashions can be bargained for; perhaps catch a game of cricket, the nation's passion; or take a Bollywood movie tour for an in-depth look into the fascinating world of film making. Mumbai is also India's foodie capital, where you'll find almost anything on the menu be it at one of the diverse food stalls or at one of India's most exclusive restaurants. There's also loads of nightlife options, from trendy bars, chic cocktail lounges and cutting edge clubs to fabulous theatres and live music venues.
- Wonderful monuments
- Grand colonial-era architecture
- Unique bazaars
- Museums and art galleries
- Home of Bollywood
- Fine restaurants
- Fantastic nightlife