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India Travel: Mumbai, India in 6 Days, 5 Nights — Activity Recommendations

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This is a list of activity recommendations for six days, five nights in Mumbai, India. Note that in this longer-than-usual post, we highlight our top picks for this mega-city. If you can spare additional days for this itinerary, do.


Logistics

  • Mumbai, India
  • Stay in downtown Mumbai
  • Though The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel is a five star hotel, the favorable exchange rate makes it the cost of a three star hotel in the US or Europe. The Taj is a delightful place to base your time in the city. There is a second location in Bandra (The Taj Land’s End) which is equally as excellent but not as centrally located for those interested in downtown’s sites.

Map of Locations


Mumbai is a mega-city, with 29 million inhabitants. It has a number of neighborhoods. In this post, we focus on:

Fort (British Heritage District) and Marine Drive — The ‘Fort’ refers to a fort built by the British East India Company. This district is set to receive a UNESCO Heritage designation (in particular for the Victorian Gothic and Art Deco buildings) in the coming years. The 3.6 kilometer promenade and adjoining eight-land expressway flanks the Arabian Sea.
Mumbai Central Railway Station and surrounds — In the surrounds of the Victorian train station you’ll find some of the city’s best street food and bazaars.
Juhu, Bandra, and the Western Suburbs — Juhu Beach is where the lovers go for a romantic stroll along the water. Bandra is the crown jewel of the suburbs and home to a large Catholic Indian population. Many Bollywood stars live here.

At-a-glance activities per day

Mumbai

Activity

Day 1Late night/early morning arrival to Mumbai.

Self guided walk around British Heritage District ~2 hours
— Taj Mahal Palace
— Gateway of India
— Regal Circle
— Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (formerly the Prince of Wales Museum)
— Kala Ghoda
— Bombay University
— High Court
— Oval Maiden
— Churchgate

Dinner reservation at Taj Mahal Palace (Masala Kraft)
Day 2Self guided walking tour of downtown & Marine Drive ~3.5 hours
–Taj Mahal Palace
–Indian Naval Dockyard
–Asiatic Society of Mumbai Town Hall
–Horniman Circle Garden
–Ballard Estate (European Renaissance style Ballard Estate business district (streets echoing reminiscent of Victorian London)
–Drive to Gandhi House (Mani Bhavan Gandhi Sangrahalaya)
–Chowpatty Beach
–Marine Drive
Day 310 AM – 1PM Dharavi Tour & Street Art Walk or Elephanta Caves
Day 4Self guided walking tour of Mumbai Bazaars ~3 hours
–Mangaldas Cloth Market
–Juma Masjid Mosque
–Zaveri Jewlery Bazaar
–Shree Mumbadevi Temple (where the city gets its name)
–Phool Galli Flower Market
–Jain Temple
–Cow Sanctuary (Panjra Pole)
Day 59:30 AM – 2:30PM Bollywood Tour
–Check out some of Bollywood stars’ homes in Bandra
–Tour of a Bollywood studio
–Return to Bandra and walk around
Day 6Free Day
Day 7Early morning depart Mumbai for Goa or Delhi

Mumbai’s UNESCO World Heritage site

Location

Significance

Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Ensembles of Mumbai

“Having become a global trading centre, the city of Mumbai implemented an ambitious urban planning project in the second half of the 19th century. It led to the construction of ensembles of public buildings bordering the Oval Maiden open space, first in the Victorian Neo-Gothic style and then, in the early 20th century, in the Art Deco idiom. The Victorian ensemble includes Indian elements suited to the climate, including balconies and verandas. The Art Deco edifices, with their cinemas and residential buildings, blend Indian design with Art Deco imagery, creating a unique style that has been described as Indo-Deco. These two ensembles bear testimony to the phases of modernization that Mumbai has undergone in the course of the 19th and 20th centuries.”

UNESCO World Heritage Centre

Elephanta Caves“The ‘City of Caves’, on an island in the Sea of Oman close to Bombay, contains a collection of rock art linked to the cult of Shiva. Here, Indian art has found one of its most perfect expressions, particularly the huge high reliefs in the main cave.”
UNESCO World Heritage Centre

Day 1: British Heritage District

Arrive to Mumbai late night/early morning. Enjoy a lazy start to the day. In the early afternoon, walk around British Heritage District, a part of the city with over 350 years of history.

Map of Locations

Taj Mahal Palace: Built in 1903, The Taj Mahal Palace is Mumbai’s iconic luxury hotel. It’s historical for many reasons, including being the first in India to have an open-door policy for Indian and Caucasian, have electricity, Turkish baths and German lifts. Architecturally the Taj Mahal Palace incorporates Greco-Roman, Islamic, Maharajah and Victorian Gothic styles. Famous guests that have stayed here include Princess Diana, The Beatles, Tom Cruise and foreign dignitaries.
*Not to be confused with the Taj Mahal in Agra.
Gateway of India: Positioned next to the Taj Mahal Palace and on the harbor, the Gateway is done in an Indo-Sarcenic style, a combination of India and Islamic architecture.
Regal Circle: This busy crossing anchors the many historical sites in its surrounds.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (formerly the Prince of Wales Museum): In addition to beautiful architecture (the design is a blend of 15-16th century Gujarati and Islamic design), the museum holds artifacts from India, Tibet, Nepal and other far eastern countries.
Kala Ghoda: This creative district is where artists, writers, creatives meet up in local boutiques and restaurants.
University of Mumbai (formerly Bombay University): A prestigious university in the center of the city.
High Court: One of the oldest high courts in India.
Oval Maiden: Large grounds where you can catch cricket practice and matches.
Churchgate: A former business hub and now a district that attracts tourists for the sites, fashion, and seaside views.
Taj Mahal Palace (Masala Kraft)— Fine traditional Indian dining at the Taj Mahal Palace. Make reservations ahead of time.

Day 2: Apollo Gate, Front Gate & Marine Drive

Chart the birth of Mumbai in this self-guided walking tour. Discover where the first signs of habitation were found when Mumbai was a single island, not the city as we know it today.

Begin at the Taj Palace Hotel and walk to the 275-year-old Indian Naval Dockyard. Head north to Town Hall which houses the Asiatic Society Library of Mumbai and the Horniman Circle Garden. Walk to the Flora Fountain circle where you might find yourself making comparisons to London’s Piccadilly Circus. Continue on to Ballard Estate business district which looks like Victorian London.

Grab a taxi across town to the Gandhi House and finish the tour by walking over to Marine Drive to reflect upon the day’s adventure.

Map of Locations

Taj Mahal Palace: See above.
Indian Naval Dockyard: Indian ship buiding yard
Asiatic Society of Mumbai Town Hall: A Town Hall and Library in a neo-classical architectural style.
Horniman Circle Garden: A large park in downtown Mumbai.
Ballard Estate: A European-style business district.
Gandhi House (Mani Bhavan): A house and museum dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi’s life and teachings.
Chowpatty Beach: A Mumbai institution. This popular beach is located alongside Marine Drive and downtown Mumbai. Mumbaikars gather here to hang out on the sand, eat kulfi and enjoy the sounds of the sea.
Marine Drive: 3.6 kilometer promenade along the Arabian Sea.

Day 3: 10 AM – 1PM Dharavi Tour & Street Art Walk or Elephanta Caves

Dharavi Tour & Street Art Walk

This tour brings you through the Dharavi Slums, one of the largest in Asia and the biggest in Mumbai. This economically viable community brings in $665 million per year, including production from recycling, pottery, textiles, soap, leather goods, and poppadom (food).

This is not an exercise in voyeurism. Photos and videos are not permitted to give dignity to the people and neighborhoods you might visit.

This tour is hosted by Reality Tours and Travel, a company with deep roots in the community. They provide educational opportunities including opportunities to learn English and basic reading and writing skills and employ locals who graduate from these programs.

Elephanta Caves

As described in the UNESCO description of the Elephanta Caves, catch a ferry from India Gate over to the caves. The tour should last about a half day.

Day 4: Get lost in Baazars

Wander through the bazaars, where you are transported to a time of the past. Pick up textiles, jewelry and spices along the way and mementos for friends and family back home. Watch street snacks being made and the general hustle and bustle of a compacted bazaar district.

Focus your energy on the yellow areas on the map below. Locals will know the bazaars if you get lost (which you should be prepared for).

Finish the walking tour at the beach.

Map of Locations

–Mangaldas Cloth Market: Silk and textiles for suits, dresses and garments for weddings.
–Juma Masjid: India’s oldest Muslim community, who came to area in the 6th Century.
— Zaveri Bazaar: Jewelry market.
–Shree Mumbadevi Temple: A temple dedicated to the goddess Mumbā (where the city gets its name). Dates back to the 18th century.
–Phool Galli: The city’s oldest flower market. You’ll know you’ve arrived when you’re hit with the aroma of thousands of marigolds.
–Jain Temple: A white marble temple with intricate stone carvings.
Cow Sanctuary (Panjra Pole): The sanctuary dates back to 1834 with the intent of keeping sacred cows safe. As Mumbai modernizes and the streets are developed, this place serves as a home for displaced cows.
–Street food: Local Mumbai snacks include Vada Pav, Pav Bhaaji and Bhel Puri.
Making sugar cane juice

Day 5: Bollywood & Bandra

Map of Locations

In another tour hosted by Reality Tours & Travel, this Bollywood tour overviews the Bollywood film industry. The tour begins with an overview of where some of the most famous actors and actresses live in Bandra. Following the overview, catch a train to SJ Studios to see the sets used in popular soaps, stages for dance performances and a live recording studio for songs and dubbing. Meet directors and listening to their experiences in the film industry. Finish the tour by learning some basic Bollywood dance steps and “performing” in a finale song.

If you have the strength, return to Bandra to check out more of these district’s glitzy suburbs.

Day 6: Rest, Return to a Place You’d Like to See More Of, or Check Out Additional Sites in the City

Map of Locations

Antilia: The world’s most expensive home ($2 billion) is the 27-story residence of Mukesh Ambani and his family. Local cab drivers will proudly point out this home if you’re anywhere close to it.
Banganga Tank: Tucked in Mumbai’s wealthiest neighborhood is one of the city’s oldest and most sacred sites, a temple complex believed to house the waters of the Ganges.
The Magen David Synagogue: A right blue synagogue is a place of worship for one of the largest Baghdadi Jewish communities in Asia.
Mumbai Parsi Fire Temples: The place of worship for Zoroastrians, Mumbai Pari fire temples use fire and ash for purifications.

Day 7: Early morning depart Mumbai for Goa or Delhi


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