Mumbai is the financial, commercial and industrial capital of India. The city is also the centre of fashion and film making. As such the city hums with activity and its more than 15 million residents seem to be constantly on the move.
Mumbai used to be just a collection of fishing villages. The real development commenced only during British colonial rule. Hence most of the historical monuments are relics from the British Raj.
What to see
Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Market (Crawford Market): A busy market area, this is best visited early on in the day. The fruits and vegetable section offers the best of produce. Depending on when you visit, the fruit/s of the season are always a good buy.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (Victoria Terminus): This is a magnificent building, and considered to be architecturally one of the finest stations in the world. Built by the British in 1888, it has exquisite ornamentation on its fa�ade along with beautifully executed panels and friezes. It holds the statue of Queen Victoria on its dome.
Flora Fountain and the Gothic/Victorian buildings of the Fort Area : The Flora Fountain stands on the site of the old church gate of the Bombay Fort, now a major crossroad named Hutatma Chowk. It was erected to honour Sir Bartle Frere, a former governor of Bombay and named after the Greek goddess Flora. Other buildings to see in the Fountain or Fort area are the University of Mumbai buildings including the imposing Rajabhai Tower, the Mumbai High Court, the Old Secretariat, and the Institute of Science on one end. Close by are situated St Thomas Cathedral, the Asiatic Society of Bombay or Town Hall, the Office of the Director General of Police, the General Post Office and the Thomas Cook building. The Western Railway Headquarters is also quite near, across the street from the Churchgate Station. These buildings are fine examples of the Gothic and Indo-Saracenic style. Many are illuminated by night. Close by to Flora Fountain is the Kala Ghoda area which holds a once a week fair (every Sunday) from November to January.
Jehangir Art Gallery: Close by to the Prince of Wales Museum, this gallery is the showcase for contemporary art. The displays change regularly. Outside is the Artist’s Plaza with more paintings on display and sale. Open daily from 11 am to 7 pm.
Prince of Wales Museum: This is one of Mumbai’s finest example of Victorian architecture. Built to commemorate King George V’s visit to Mumbai (while still Prince of Wales), it was designed by George Wittet and completed in 1923. It is undoubtedly one of India’s finest museums and houses treasures, artefacts, paintings and sculpture from the many periods covering India’s history, including the Indus Valley Civilization. Open from Tuesday to Sunday, 10.30 am to 6 pm.
National Gallery of Modern Art: This is the former Cowasji Jehangir Hall, of the Institute of Science. It has been renovated to serve as a four-storey exhibition hall, displaying the best of Indian contemporary art. Open daily except Monday, from 10 am to 5 pm.
Gateway of India : Mumbai’s most striking monument, this too was designed by George Wittet. It has an imposing gateway arch in the Indo-Saracenic style with Gujarati and Islamic elements such as wooden carvings. It was built to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary to India in 1911. This area is also the departing point for ferries plying to Elephanta Island and other beaches across the port. Behind it is the beautiful old (and new) structure of the Taj Mahal Hotel.
Marine Drive and Chowpatty Beach: This is the stretch now known as Netaji Subhashchandra Bose Road with Nariman Point on one end to Babulnath, at the foot of Walkeshwar on the other. For the most part, a pleasant promenade continues along the beach with the Chowpatty area situated somewhat in the middle. Chowpatty Beach is a teeming mass of people, vendors, masseurs and roadside restaurants with its specialties being bhelpuri and kulfi. Across the Chowpatty Beach area is the Taraporewala Aquarium. Marine Drive is also referred to as the Queen’s Necklace because of the dramatic line of street lamps lit up at night.
Malabar Hill: This is essentially an up-market residential area with some spectacular views of the city surroundings. On the road climbing up, is a Jain temple dedicated to Adinath, the first Jain tirthankara. At one end, on the top are the Hanging Gardens (Pherozeshah Mehta Gardens) and the Kamala Nehru Park. Both provide relaxing atmospheres of greenery. Beside the Hanging Gardens are the Parsi Towers of Silence. But these are off-limits to all except those who have come to dispose and pay respect to the dead. Towards the other end is the Banganga temple complex at Walkeshwar, considered to be one of Mumbai’s holiest sites. Local legend has it that the Hindu god Rama rested here on his way to rescue Sita (his wife) from Lanka. The Banganga Tank is supposedly the spot where Rama shot his bow or bana. Further away is the British built Raj Bhavan, the residence of the governor of Maharashtra. The Banganga Festival of Music is a yearly highlight, and is in the month of January usually.
Mani Bhavan: This simple and charming museum was where Mahatma Gandhi lived on his visits to Mumbai between 1917 and 1934. Gandhi’s room and belongings including his books are on display. Mani Bhavan is situated on Laburnam Road, near the August Kranti Maidan, where the ‘Quit India’ movement was launched in 1942. Open daily from 9.30 am to 6 pm.
Mahalaxmi Temple: The Mahalaxmi Temple is a popular holy site as Mahalaxmi is the goddess of wealth. It is situated at one end of Breach Candy – a trendy residential and shopping area, now known as B. Desai Road.
Haji Ali Shrine: Further along the seashore, at the end of a long pathway surrounded by sea water is the shrine dedicated to Haji Ali, a Muslim saint. Access is only at low tide via the pathway.
Siddhivinayak Temple: Located in the Prabha Devi area of Mumbai, this popular temple dedicated to Ganesh was rebuilt on the site of a 200-year old temple. Built of black stone, the idol of Ganesh is two and a half feet in height and two feet in width. An unusual feature of the statue is that the trunk turns to the right, not often found on Ganesh idols. Tuesday is the main day of darshan and puja, but this temple is frequented by hundreds of devotees everyday.
Juhu Beach: This suburban beach is great favourite with Mumbaites, and has plenty to offer everyone. Like Marine Drive’s Chowpatty, Juhu ‘Chowpatty’ is a vendor’s delight with innumerable food counters. It is a wonderful place to bring kids, as it doubles up as an amusement park, play ground, and open-air restaurant. An unusual sight at this beach is the camel ride, which is both fun and popular.
Rail: Mumbai’s two main railway terminals - Mumbai Central and Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (or VT) connect it to the rest of the country.
Air: Mumbai has both a domestic and an International airport. Disembarkation would be either at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (formerly known as Sahar Airport) or at Chhatrapati Shivaji Domestic Airport (formerly known as Santa Cruz Airport). They are about 4 kms apart and are approximately 30 kms and 26 kms away from the heart of the city - Nariman Point - in south Mumbai.