City by the sea Mumbai (still “Bombay” to locals) is cacophonous and chaotic, bustling and cool. And it’s undergoing a major hip revolution — in food, fashion, and nightlife. Hop on.
North Mumbai is suburban and residential; you’ll want to be in Colaba, the South Mumbai district teeming with cafes, bars, and shops. Chowpatty Beach is the strip for strolling and snacking — they don’t really sunbathe here. Note when getting directions that the government replaced British names (for streets, neighborhoods, and even the city) with Hindi terms in 1995, but locals still use the old names.
Ritzy Taj Mahal Palace & Tower has been the granddaddy of five-star hotels since 1903. Stay in the old wing, where no two rooms are alike, and don’t miss the spa, the city’s best (Apollo Bunder; +91-22-6665-3366). The Gordon House beckons hipsters with clean, minimalist decor and Polly Esther’s, a branch of the stateside disco (5 Battery Street, Apollo Bunder; +91-22-2287-1122). Even if you don’t stay at the InterContinental, hit rooftop bar Dome for great Marine Drive views (135 Marine Drive; +91-22-3987-9999).
For authentic Mumbai street food like khichdi (lentil and rice stew) and sev puri (canapés with chutneys and potatoes), head to Swati Snacks (248 Karai Estate, Tardeo Road, opposite Bhatia Hospital; +91-22-2492-0994). Classic bistro Khyber (145 MG Road, Kala Ghoda; +91-22-2267-3227) is beloved for kebabs and curries. Mingle with Mumbai’s glitterati — from Bollywood starlets to the industrialists who love them — at chic Mediterranean Olive Bar & Kitchen (14 Union Park, Khar; +91-22-2605-8228). For a romantic dinner on Chowpatty Beach, head to Salt Water Grill (+91-22-2368-5485).
Bring an empty suitcase to fill with souvenirs you’ll “forget” to give away. Like silk-embroidered moccasins, shawls, and trinkets scored at sidewalk stands along Colaba Causeway. Don’t be shy about bargaining — hard — with vendors. Once you’re quoted a price, haggle to at least half.
If you’re shopping for jewels (and you should be) go to Curio Cottage for semiprecious baubles. Ask for Suresh; he’s attentive and accommodating and makes great suggestions (19 Mahakavi Bhushan Marg, near Regal Cinema; +91-22-2022-2607). For chiffon tunics to throw over your designer beachwear, go to Neemrana, a darling shop near the old Opera House, where the pastel-hued caftans cost a lot less than they do at Barneys and Saks (#6 Purshotam Building, New Queen’s Road, Opera House; +91-22-2361-4436). And don’t forget inner beauty. Forest Essentials is the place for Ayurvedic potions like cane sugar and tamarind body scrub (12 Tirupati Apartments, Bhulabhai Desai Road, Breach Candy; +91-22-3290-8114).
Bombay dreams are made of this.