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24 Hours in Mumbai from a Local

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Mumbai is one of India’s largest cities. Over 20 million people live here. It is known for its diverse ethnicities and religions, as people from all over the country gather here to pursue their dreams and make something of their lives. It’s a true boiling pot of cultures, languages, and dreams. Visitors to the city may find it overwhelming to navigate at first, given its concentrated chaos. However, those who try find rich rewards. The city is chaotic, fun, and filled with warm-hearted, generous people. Mumbai is also known for “jugaad”, where innovative ways are used to problem-solve using limited resources, and you’ll see gems of it everywhere. Every nook holds a surprise.

Originally comprising seven islands, Mumbai underwent land reclamation projects, to form a single megacity. Earlier named Bombay, its history extends to ancient settlements and Portuguese colonial influence. In the 17th century, it became part of Charles II’s dowry from Portugal’s Catherine Braganza and was ceded to the British East India Company. Mumbai played a significant role in India’s independence movement and is now a thriving center for business and technology. It’s the hub of the Indian finance and film industries.

How to Spend One Day in Mumbai from a True Local Expert

Advice on exploring all of the best bits during your 24 hours in Mumbai by a long-time resident, not just a traveler passing through. Go beyond the best things to do in Mumbai and discover the local favorites.

Morning of Your 24 Hours in Mumbai

Mumbai IND - Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus
Mumbai IND – Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus

A glorious morning in Mumbai begins in “Town”. The term “Town” typically refers to South Mumbai or SoBo (South Bombay). The boundaries are somewhat fluid and the area encompasses neighborhoods such as

  • Colaba, located at the southern tip of the city, known for its historic sites, including the Gateway of India and Colaba Causeway shopping street;
  • Fort: The historic Fort area houses colonial-era buildings, government offices, and corporate headquarters;
  • Churchgate, home to the University of Mumbai and St. Xavier’s College;
  • Marine Lines, offering scenic views of the Arabian Sea and the iconic Marine Drive Promenade,
  • Nariman Point, a prominent business district in South Mumbai, known for its modern skyscrapers and corporate offices, and
  • Worli, located just to the west of the Town Area, known for its beautiful sea-facing promenade and the Bandra-Worli Sea Link.

“Town” is historically significant as the heart of British colonial Bombay and has all the iconic old Mumbai marvels you’d want to tick off your list. The area also boasts wider roads, fewer crowds, and overall, better infrastructure. It was the nucleus of British rule in the 18th century.

Start at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station. Also known as Victoria Terminus, the station is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a landmark to behold. It was built in 1887 to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria and is modeled in the Gothic style of architecture. If brave enough, venture inside to see the 18 platforms and hordes of commuters jostling each other. Opposite Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station is the headquarters of Mumbai Municipality which is an impressive building as well. Both buildings were designed by the British architect F. W. Stevens.

Next go to Flora Fountain, a 15 minutes-walk away. Built in 1864, Flora Fountain depicts the Roman goddess Flora and is an often quoted meeting point in the Fort area of Mumbai. Locals call it simply ‘Fountain’. The square where it’s located is known as Hutatma Chowk (or Martyr’s Square) and since five roads meet at it, it is somewhat like the Piccadilly Circus of Mumbai. Other structures of note around the area are the High Court of Mumbai, the University of Mumbai, and Horniman Circle. Horniman Circle also has a Starbucks which is among the prettiest I have seen. Stop for a coffee here.

Hutatma Chowk - Mumbai
Hutatma Chowk – Mumbai

The Fort area of Mumbai is named after the historic Fort George, which was built by the British East India Company in the 18th century. The fort was constructed in 1769 after the British took control of Bombay from the Portuguese. It served as a defensive fortification and administrative center for the British colonial administration. Over time, the area surrounding Fort George developed into a thriving commercial and administrative district, and it retained the name “Fort” as a historical reference.

Next, head to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, one of the notable museums in Mumbai. Originally named the Prince of Wales Museum, it documents the history of India from prehistoric to modern times and carries rare artifacts including exhibits from the Indus Valley Civilisation. It has a stunning natural history section with displays of fossils, taxidermised animals, and minerals. The museum’s building itself is a heritage structure and is considered one of Mumbai’s architectural gems. It’s not too big and is a nice break from walking in the sun. Mumbai doesn’t have too many museums, but some of them are worth visiting.

End the morning with a visit to the Gateway of India, an iconic symbol of Mumbai. Built to honor the arrival of King George V and Queen Mary in India in 1911, this impressive structure later served as a ceremonial entrance for viceroys and governors. Located by the Arabian Sea, it is always bustling with crowds. Adjacent to it is another stunning building, the Taj Mahal Palace. Built in 1903, the hotel’s design blends Indian, Moorish, and Oriental styles, and inside are some awesome waterfront restaurants.

gateway of india mumbai gate 390768
gateway of india mumbai gate 390768

The Taj Mahal Palace unfortunately made headlines a few years ago as the site of a tragic terrorist attack. However, since that devastating event, the hotel has regained its prominence and continues to be one of the most sought after hotels in the city to host galas, events, and house celebrities.

Another great thing to do during your 24 hours in Mumbai is to take a boat ride from the Gateway of India, to reach Elephanta Caves, another UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Town Area is also a good place to savor some street food. Try

  • Bhel Puri: A classic Mumbai street food combining puffed rice, chopped vegetables, tangy tamarind chutney, and spices to create a flavourful and crunchy snack.
  • Pav Bhaji: A spicy vegetable curry served with buttered pav (bread rolls)
  • Vada Pav: the “Indian burger” consisting of spicy potato fritter served in a pav

Afternoon During Your 24 Hours in Mumbai

pav-bhaji wallas
pav-bhaji wallas

After a busy morning exploring Mumbai, walk from the Gateway of India to Colaba Causeway to have a long lazy lunch either at Café Mondegar or Leopold.

Café Mondegar is known for its retro ambiance and gorgeous wall murals. Established in the 1930s, it remains a favorite hangout spot for locals and tourists. The cafe also features a jukebox.

Founded in 1871, Leopold is another cult eatery and a popular meeting place. It was made famous by Gregory David Roberts’ entertaining novel “Shantaram” and was also, unfortunately, one of the locations of the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks. For lunch, swig a mug of beer and taste their popular roast chicken.

Colaba Causeway is also a popular shopping street in South Mumbai. It houses a mix of retail stores and small street shops selling everything from jewelry, antiques, slippers, bags, and much more. Tourists, backpackers, and locals from South Mumbai throng the area throughout the year. There are also some very good eateries here: Delhi Darbar, Piccadilly Restaurant, Cafe Churchill being a few of local favorites. The street offers unique experiences for locals and visitors alike, from classic Mumbai street food to the charm of old-world cafes.

Evening During Your 24 Hours in Mumbai

Street art depicting Mumbai (24 hours in Mumbai)

Spend the evening of your 24 hours in Mumbai watching the sun go down at Bandra’s Bandstand. Afterward, take a leisurely stroll through Bandra around the quaint catholic villages and churches. Marvel at the curious graffiti-filled walls and maybe even catch a local stand-up comedy show. Finally, end your night at a beloved local restaurant, indulging in some delicious food.

Located in the western part of Mumbai, India, Bandra is often referred to as the Queen of suburbs. It is a thriving and wonderful part of the city, attracting many young upwardly mobile Mumbaikars and bohemian artsy types who have made it their home. Bandra is well-known for many landmarks, such as the Bandra Fort, Bandstand Promenade, Mount Mary Church, and the iconic Bandra-Worli Sea Link that connects it to Worli in South Mumbai. Besides these attractions, Bandra offers a host of shopping and dining out options, ensuring that you will always have plenty to do.

Start with watching the sun go down on the rocky edges of Bandstand. Spend some time at Ranwar and Chimbai Villages, which date back to the early 1900s. Many of the houses here are centuries old, built in the typical Indo-Portuguese-Colonial style with large wooden porches, external staircases, pointed roofs, and expansive balconies. Several of their artfully crumbling walls have stunning graffiti.

Visit the two main churches of Bandra – Mount St Mary and St Andrews. Then stop by Bandra’s Hill Road for a diverse shopping experience. Bargain hard and be aware it can get super crowded.

Amidst your enthusiastic shopping spree, don’t miss the chance to relish some mouth-watering chaat at ELCO, offering a delightful break from the hustle and bustle. End at Carter Road or Pali Hill to eat at one of the rows of pubs and restaurants. Carter Road Social and Carter’s Blue are local favorites.

Bandra hosts various festivals and events throughout the year, including the grandiose celebrations of Ganesh Chaturthi, Bandra Fest, and Christmas, which attract visitors from all over Mumbai. It is also home to numerous art galleries, theatres, and cultural centers, making it a hub for artistic and cultural activities in Mumbai. Cuckoo Club and The Jeff Goldberg Studio are local favorites.

Tips for Exploring One Day in Mumbai

When to Visit Mumbai

Ideally, the months of April and May, and June to August, are better avoided. April and May are the hottest summer months where temperatures can go above 38 degrees centigrade making it hot and humid and very hard to move around the roads. But it gets worse during the monsoon months when it rains nonstop. The roads are flooded and it’s really hard to get a conveyance to go from one place to another. Overall, the best months to visit are October to March.

Where to Stay in Mumbai

The Town Area of Mumbai is the best place to stay in Mumbai. It is close to iconic Mumbai landmarks such as the Gateway of India, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, Fort and Colaba. Just walking around and the sight of the beautiful Gothic, Victorian, and Indo-Saracenic buildings lifts the heart.

What to Wear in Mumbai

Mumbai experiences hot and humid weather for most of the year, with temperatures often reaching up to 30 degrees centigrade. When visiting the city, it is recommended to wear loose cotton clothes and apply sunscreen to protect your skin. Despite being a modern and cosmopolitan city, wearing shorts and tank tops is not very common, although it is acceptable. However, it is important to dress appropriately when visiting temples and other religious places.

Getting around in Mumbai

Uber is good for getting around in Mumbai, including from the airport. Taxis or autos work well too but may overcharge if you are a foreigner, although by law they need to ply by the meter. For day trips, book an Uber Rental. Note that in South Mumbai or Town, only taxis (commonly known as “Kali Peelis” i.e. black and yellow, the color of the cabs) and cars are allowed to operate, whereas the rest of Mumbai is serviced by both auto rickshaws and taxis.

It’s not possible to walk around the city, and not recommended for first-time visitors. And I wouldn’t recommend using public transport unless using Mumbai’s (in)famously overcrowded local trains is on your bucket list.

Is Mumbai Worth Visiting?

That depends. Mumbai is a fascinating city. But it’s also modernized and the cultures are mixed up to form something unique. If you seek a deeply immersive, traditional Indian experience, Mumbai may not be your top choice. However, it’s ideal for a rewarding layover visit, and you can explore a lot in one day.

Mumbai offers a unique opportunity to see what modern India is like. People from all corners of the country come to Mumbai to create a life for themselves, making it an accurate reflection of India’s diversity and middle-class ambitions. There are UNESCO World Heritage sites, there is a rich cinema and theatre scene, a diverse culinary landscape representing the entire nation, impressive museums, and intriguing nooks and corners you’ll not find elsewhere.

Happy Travels!

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