Mumbai (formerly – Bombay) is India’s financial center and its largest city. Mumbai is a home to Bollywood, and is regarded as India’s entertainment capital. Mumbai is also my most favorite city in India. Not only because it’s so modern and liberal but also because it’s so diverse and not like any other city in India. Up until 2018 I’ve visited more than 50 cities in India. Trust me – Mumbai really stands out.
What to do in Mumbai? What are the most popular tourist places in Mumbai? To answer these questions and help you prepare for your trip to Mumbai I’ve created this article, where I talk about some of the best things to do in Mumbai. Most of these are my personal favorites, but some are recommendations from other travel bloggers.
Mumbai is a diverse range of cultures, religions, and cuisines. Modern high rise offices and condos here stand side by side with colonial buildings, boulevards, parks, fancy cafes and grand 5-star hotels. And among all this grandeur one of the world’s largest slums – Dharavi – is situated.
Sounds like there might be a lot of interesting places to visit in Mumbai?
You’re right. Let’s look at the 15 of the best now.
Best Things to Do in Mumbai
Now let’s take a look at the list. Here are 15 best things to do in Mumbai, India.
Activities and places are listed in no particular order.
1. Go on a Mumbai Heritage Walk
One of the top things to do on your visit to the bustling city of Mumbai is the Mumbai Heritage Walk.
The city of Mumbai has several wonderful buildings and monuments from the colonial times. These buildings with exemplary architecture are of historical significance. There are several organized tours on ‘Mumbai Heritage Walk’ which will take you through the heritage buildings of Mumbai.
The tours usually are accompanied with interesting anecdotes from past and loads of information on the history of the city.
One of the majestic heritage building which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site is the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus Railway Station. The imposing structure built in Gothic Revival architectural style features statues, turrets, and intricate carvings. The Gateway of India is another important heritage building. It was built to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary. Opposite to the Gateway of India stands another iconic landmark of Mumbai, the magnificent Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, one of the best known 5 star hotels in Mumbai.
Recommended by Rashmi & Chalukya, gobeyondbounds.com.
2. Chill at Oval Maidan (Near Rajabai Clock Tower)
Oval Maidan is a sporting ground in South Mumbai, in front of Rajabai Clock Tower – India’s Big Ben.
Oval Maidan is a good place for jogging, walking and, of course, playing the most popular sport in India – cricket.
Come here in the afternoon, to relax after a tiring day of exploring. Watch guys play cricket or just relax sitting or lying on the grass.
3. Visit Dharavi Slum
Dharavi slum is one of the largest slums in the whole world and the largest in Asia.
It’s a densely populated area, and is estimated that around one million people live there. When you see the area of Dharavi on the map it’s hard to believe that so many people could be living there.
What is a slum? It is a densely populated urban residential area mostly consisting of small, run down and often makeshift and incomplete houses, inhabited by people stricken by poverty. Sounds like a no-go place?
Don’t be put off by this definition! Thousands of businesses are thriving in this slum, and many people seem genuinely happy and welcoming. In an hour in Dharavi we saw more smiling people than during a day in better districts of Mumbai. This is what you see when you first enter the slum (photo above). And 5 seconds later this happened.
Kids noticed us and wanted me to take a photo of them.
When you’ve seen how the poorest are living in other cities of India, Dharavi seems very OK.
Yes, there are some very narrow and dirty roads. Quite a few of these actually. But there are also more clean streets.
And friendly people EVERYWHERE.
It’s just the fact that so many people have to live in such a small area. That’s what makes life tough here.
Apart from that there aren’t that many differences when you compare Dharavi to the rest of Mumbai or to the rest of the world.
Maybe there are more smiling people in Dharavi. And that’s it.
You walk there. You turn into a narrow and dark “street”, which leads to the next street the same as narrow, dark and kind of scary, and then… you go across the bridge and here you are standing in front of a shiny skyscraper.
But I wouldn’t recommend going on your own if it’s your first time in India and you aren’t experienced traveler.
You may feel very uncomfortable.
Getting to Dharavi Slum
Take a train from CST to Sion station. Dharavi slum is a short walk from there.
4. Go on a Short Tour of Dhobi Ghat
Dhobi Ghat (or Mahalaxmi Dhobighat) is an open air laundromat, said to be the world’s largest open air laundry.
One of the best places to visit in Mumbai, if you want to see something unique and different. But don’t just look at it from a distance, go on a short tour and learn more about this place.
Rows and rows of concrete wash pens, ironing facilities and numerous laundry ropes. The laundry here is being bleached, washed, dried and ironed in Dhobi Ghat by 8000 dhobis (washers). For me it was interesting just to see how the open air laundromat works. For example, the laundry ropes are without clothespins. The dual laundry rope is like a pin itself. To iron the laundry dhobis use not only electric irons but also super heavy charcoal irons.
What may surprise you is that they use also electric washing machines and driers, not everything is washed by hand.
By the way, there is even a movie about Dhobi Ghat.
Do you want to see and learn something interesting for very little?
A visit to Dhobi Ghat could be one of the best best cheap things to do in Mumbai.
How much it costs? There is no fixed price or even ticket counter. So you might need to bargain. Just go towards the laundry and you will be approached by come locals that will offer you a guided tour. If you are 4 or more people it should cost you around 200 – 300 INR per person.
Getting there: Take a train from Churchgate railway station to Mahalaxmi station.
If you don’t want to go inside the laundry can be seen from the bridge of Mahalaxmi station.
5. Visit Global Vipassana Pagoda
In diverse Mumbai there’s even a place for a Buddhist pagoda!
Global Vipassana Pagoda is a pagoda inspired by Yangon’s Shwedagon Pagoda (in Myanmar) and built from voluntary donations. Global Vipassana Pagoda features a large meditation hall which can seat around 8000 Vipassana meditators. It’s the largest such meditation hall in the world.
Global Vipassana Pagoda is located 45 kilometers / 28 miles north from Colaba, near Borivali.
6. Head for a Walk on Marine Drive
Head for a walk on Marine Drive, a 3.6 kilometer-long (2.2 miles) boulevard in South Mumbai.
As it’s a long walk and it can get very hot during the day, the best time for the walk is morning and afternoon.
Chowpatty beach (or Girgaon Chowpatty) is a public beach adjoining Marine Drive. It’s worth a visit, too.
7. Visit Elephanta Caves
Elephanta Caves, a group of caves on Elephanta island, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Impressive, ornately sculptured caves are one of the most popular Mumbai sightseeing destinations among both local and foreign tourists.
Elephanta island is a small island off the coast of Southern Mumbai.
You can get a ferry to the island from the Gateway of India. Or you can also join a tour.
8. Visit Haji Ali Dargah
Haji Ali Dargah is one of the most notable landmarks in Mumbai, as well as it is a popular Islamic pilgrimage site in Mumbai.
Haji Ali Dargah mosque is located on a small island off the coast of Southern Mumbai. The mosque contains the tomb of the Muslim saint Sayed Peer Haji Ali Shah Bukhari.
On Friday evenings Sufi musicians perform devotional music in the mosque.
9. Visit Sanjay Gandhi National Park
Sanjay Gandhi National Park (formerly – Borivali National Park) is a large forest park 40 kilometers / 25 miles north of Colaba (South Mumbai), one of the top places to visit near Mumbai.
Sanjay Gandhi National Park is a home to many endangered species of flora and fauna. In this forest park you’ll also find 2400-year-old Kanheri caves and various stone structures. If you are lucky, you’ll meet monitor lizards, grey langurs, even striped hyenas or four-horned antelopes! But deers and monkeys can be easily spotted roaming on the grounds.
Close proximity to the city makes Sanjay Gandhi National Park a perfect getaway from the bustling Mumbai.
10. Wander Around the Sassoon Dock
Constructed in 1875, Sassoon Dock is one of the oldest docks in Mumbai.
The docks are located in Colaba, South Mumbai, and they are open to the public. Sassoon Dock is a home to a large fish market and now also to many exceptional art installations, thanks to the 30 artists from around the world.
11. Visit Chor Bazaar
Chor Bazaar is a very busy market in the muslim quarter in South Mumbai.
It is located on a busy Mutton Street, and is surrounded by mosques. Chor Bazaar is one of the oldest markets in Mumbai, and still is one of the best places for shopping in the city. Chor Bazaar is a great place to sightsee, as here you’ll witness a different part of Mumbai – the one with old, even crumbling buildings, narrow and crammed lanes, numerous mosques and little shops and food stalls.
12. Watch Dabbawalas in Action.. Delivering Food
Dabbawalas are lunch delivery men in Mumbai.
They deliver home cooked lunch from home to people in offices around Mumbai. A unique code helps them to carry a lunch box across Mumbai to the right person. Head to Churchgate Railway Station at around 12 PM to see dabbawalas in action! At noon they unload the meals from the train, sort them out and set them off to delivery.
If you want you can join on a group tour with a professional guide.
13. Go on a Street Food Tour
Mumbai is all about eating and one of the best things you can do is join a street food tour to help you navigate the overwhelming amount of choice. This is how my food tour went:
Stop one is at sunset looking across Mumbai’s most famous beach, Chowpatty. You get to try many delicious options including my favourite, pav bhaji. After Chowpatty you catch a local taxi with your guide to the Mohommad Ali Road area, a mostly Muslim neighbourhood. The difference between the two areas are evident right away and you’ll be bombarded with the colours and smells of chota kebabs and chicken tikka. End the night with some traditional sweets and ice cream from a shop that has a long tradition in Mumbai.
Recommended by Cristal Dyer, www.tofutraveler.com.
14. Try Indian Snacks at Elcos
Once upon a time a small street stall in Bandra started selling pani puri on a busy shopping street.
And the rest as they say is history.
Elco Pani Puri Centre in Bandra has grown since the 1970’s to achieve almost iconic status amongst Mumbaikars. Snacks and chaat stalls are the lifeblood of Mumbai, apart from Mumbai’s crowded trains. You’ll find them at every nook and corner across the city. But Elco’s in Bandra are known for their taste, from mouth watering dahi kachoris to meetha bhel.
If you ever make it to Elco you have to try their ragda pattice, dahi batata puri, meetha bhel, and dahi kachori.
Okay, who am I kidding? You have to try everything.
Recommended by Abby, thewingedfork.com.
15. Dine at Leopold Cafe and Bar
A very busy restaurant that has been around since 1871.
It also has been mentioned extensively in a famous book by Gregory David Roberts – Shantaram and its sequel The Mountain Shadow.
What you probably didn’t know is that it also was the scene of the terrorist attack in 2008, and the restaurant was extensively damaged then. After spraying fire at the restaurant, terrorists headed to The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel which was their main target. There still are bullet holes in the walls and ceiling in Leopold cafe.
I wouldn’t say that this is the best restaurant in Mumbai but it’s definitely worth a visit if only because of the vibe and availability of different food, both Indian and Western.
Places to Visit in Mumbai in One Day
If you are coming to Mumbai only for a day think of staying in or near Colaba.
- Start a morning with a breakfast at Leopold Cafe and Bar. Visit The Gateway of India and Taj Mahal Palace Hotel.
- Wander around the area a bit. And head to the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus Railway Station. Station itself is worth a short visit. When you are ready take a train from there to Sion station.
- Get off the train and go to Dharavi slum. Alternatively go to Churchgate railway station and take a train to Mahalaxmi station, to go to Dhobi Ghat.
- In the afternoon visit the Sassoon Dock.
- Finish the day with a walk on the Marine Drive.
Where to Stay in Mumbai – Our Recommendations
Where to stay in Mumbai? In our opinion, Colaba and the area of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus Railway Station is the best place to stay in Mumbai for tourists.
Because it’s close to everything, except for the airport. The area also is very nice. But there aren’t that many hotels in Colaba. So, book in advance. At least for the first night. And be prepared that in Mumbai hotels are more expensive than in other Indian cities.
1. Cheap – Hotel Silver Elite
Cheap and simple budget hotel near Chhatrapati Shivaji train station, 20-minute walk away from The Gateway of India.
Breakfast is not available.
Double room starts at 1350 INR. Check prices and availability.
2. Mid-Range – The Gordon House Hotel
A very popular and inexpensive 4-star hotel in Colaba, Mumbai.
Breakfast is included.
Double room starts at 6500 INR. Check prices and availability.
3. Luxury – The Taj Mahal Tower Mumbai
A 5-star hotel right next to the The Gateway of India and famous Taj Mahal Palace Hotel.
Breakfast is included.
Double room starts at 16 000 INR. Check prices and availability.
Mumbai & India Travel Tips
- Don’t forget to apply for visa. Nationals of most countries need a visa when traveling to India. E-Visa is available, but you should apply at least 4 days before the trip. Learn more about – how to get Indian visa.
- Get Indian SIM card at the airport. Because it can be a problem getting it later. Read our guide to getting a SIM card in India.
- Don’t go to Mumbai in May. These are last few weeks before the monsoon. And it’s exceptionally hot and humid then. Late autumn, winter and early spring is the best choice.
- Mumbai or Delhi? Clearly Mumbai. Especially for first-timers. Mumbai is very interesting, still chaotic and crazy, but more civilized than Delhi. Or if you can and want then visit both of them. They are completely different cities. What I would recommend to visit Delhi for is the culture (more sites to see than in Mumbai) and the atmosphere of Old Delhi. But I also know that some would say that Old Delhi is just a sh** hole.
- Accomodation in Mumbai is expensive. 2-3 times more expensive than in other big cities in India. Book in advance!
- First class and second class on city trains – what’s the difference? First class tickets cost around 10 times more. It’s worth paying that during the rush hours, when otherwise you may not get on the train at all. Yes, they can be that full, that people are hanging to doors. Note that there are special women-only passenger cars in Mumbai.
Have you been to Mumbai? Is there something else you would add? Some more interesting places to visit in Mumbai? Or cool things to do in Mumbai?
Author: Kaspars Misins
Kaspars is a long term traveler and a travel blogger from Latvia. He loves going on long walks, reading non fiction books and spending time outdoors. Together with his girlfriend Una they have been traveling – volunteering – working abroad since 2013. On We Are From Latvia they share their experience and things learned along the way.