Mumbai offers a dazzling range of experiences, from exploring the city’s fantastical architecture to escaping into a tangle of jungle or going birdwatching. You can, in the space of a few days, take a boat trip to Elephanta island, with its ancient cave temples, explore the sets of Bollywood, try historic Iranian recipes in a historic Parsi café, or cycle through the city in the early morning as it slowly wakes up from a heavy sleep.
SCOPE OUT THE SPECTACULAR ARCHITECTURE
Founded by two city architects, Bombay Heritage Walks have been uncovering Mumbai’s different architectural layers for 20 years. You’ll feel dwarfed by the imperial bravado of the sea-facing Gateway of India and enlightened by the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, a feverish Victorian Gothic symphony of design. Learn about the buildings’ colorful histories, and discover surprising corners, such as the station’s cathedral-like vaulted ceiling.
Insider’s tip: As well as choosing between two different routes that take two hours each, participants can opt for a combination of the two, taking three-and-a-half hours.
HANG OUT AT A PARSI CAFÉ
With soaring ceilings, droopy chandeliers, whirring fans that stir up the muggy city day, and tall stained-glass arched doors opening onto the street, Britannia & Co is one of Mumbai’s few remaining grand old Parsi cafes. It’s still run by the 95-year-old Boman Kohinoor, who routinely regales foreign visitors with affectionate musings on the colonial era.
Insider’s Tip: Do try Britania’s most famous dishes — Iranian chicken, which resembles a rice-based biryani, served with cashews, tangibly sour barberries, and caramelized onion, and a sinfully decadently creamy and subtly fragrant crème caramel.
Opening times :Mon-Fri, 12pm-4pm; Sat, 11.30am-10pm; closed Sundays
TAKE A TOUR THROUGH INDIAN HISTORY
The fabulous Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya museum in South Mumbai would be worth visiting for the building alone, a colonial-era fantasy of eastern promise, topped by a white dome and set in balmy palm-fringed gardens. However, do spend time exploring the 50,000-strong collection of artifacts within, which include hand-painted snuff bottles and the personal suit of armor of Mughal emperor Akbar.
Insider’s tip: While away contented hours in the cool museum galleries to escape the heat and don’t forget to pop to the museum cafeteria which is set in lush green gardens. There’s a particularly good museum shop too.
Opening times: Daily, 10.15am-6pm
GET YOUR BOLLYWOOD ON
The escapism dreamed up by Bollywood studios is part of the lifeblood of India, and although there are major film studios elsewhere in the country, no others have quite the hold on the national imagination as those in Mumbai. Through Bollywood Tours, glimpse some behind-the-scenes action at a shooting studio and experience the fascination yourself.
Insider’s tip: Fully research the tour companies as some are alternative outfits under similar names who charge for an overpriced, underwhelming tour.
Opening times : various, bollywood tours. in
EXPLORE THE RICHES OF MUMBAI’S OLDEST MUSEUM
Amid the pastel-coloured colonnades of the beautifully restored Dr. Bau Daji
Lad Museum, discover some of Mumbai’s most remarkable treasures, including the elephant that gave Elephanta island its name. The museum is a survey of the soul, culture and history of the city: you can’t fail to be beguiled by its collection of early maps of the nascent city or displays of traditional headwear on an array of busts from the 1930s.
Insider’s Tip:The museum has a busy program of workshops and talks for both adults and children, from creative writing to guided walks –check the website before you go.
Opening times : 10am-6pm; closed Wednesdays.