An Insider’s Guide to Mumbai, India

Everything you need to know about one of the world’s most populous cities.

Two people embracing near Mumbai's harbor.

Upscale restaurants, contemporary art galleries, and bustling marketplaces—Mumbai has it all.

Photo by Avani Rai

Despite its prominence and population (at last count, 21 million), Mumbai, India’s financial and commercial capital, offers relatively little in the way of iconic tourist offerings. Sure, there’s the Gateway of India and Marine Drive, which is flanked by art deco buildings. But these only hint at the energy of the Maximum City, which comes alive when you enjoy it as locals do.

On your next trip to India, use this guide to Mumbai to explore all the city has to offer.

A person fishing on a beach at sunset with boats in the background.

Mumbai has a total of 12 major public beaches—Chowpatty and Juhu are among the most popular and impressive.

Photo by Avani Rai

The best things to do in Mumbai

To get a glimpse of Mumbai’s cultural offerings, check out a performance at the National Center for Performing Arts or Prithvi Theatre; visit the Jehangir Art Gallery; and visit the Kala Ghoda area for its art galleries and Indian boutiques, including Nicobar, Payal Khandwala, and Lovebirds.

For street shopping, check out the Colaba Causeway and Chor Bazaar (Thieves’ Market) in town, or Linking Road and Hill Road in Bandra. Come prepared with your bargaining skills—you can usually get prices reduced by a third or even more.

For some fresh air, stroll along Chowpatty Beach or Juhu Beach for sunset views and cotton candy; take a self-guided tour of South Mumbai to enjoy its impressive colonial architecture (GPSmycity offers a good one); and ride a ferry out to Elephanta Caves, a UNESCO World Heritage site, to see rock-hewn caves that date back to the 7th century (and cheeky monkeys that can twist open soda bottles).

A person walking with a basket of fruit on their head along a busy Mumbai street.

Mumbai is famous for its many kinds of street foods.

Photo by Avani Rai

The best things to eat and drink in Mumbai

For upscale eats, Masque, which “50 Best” rated the best restaurant in India in 2023, reimagines Indian ingredients, such as local cheeses and corn varieties, into a small-plate fine-dining experience. The Table uses organic produce from its own farm across its globally inspired menu. Celebrated chef Floyd Cardoz, who passed away at the beginning of the pandemic, founded two excellent restaurants in Mumbai: O Pedro, which serves modern Goan cuisine, and the Bombay Canteen, which celebrates lesser-known Indian ingredients, such as ponkh (a type of millet) and black salt, across its menu and cocktails.

A few of Mumbai’s classic institutions include Trishna, which offers some of the best seafood in the city; Britannia, a charming café owned and operated by the city’s Zoroastrian community (the berry pulao is iconic); Soam, a vegetarian café featuring foods from the neighboring state of Gujarat; and either Elco or Swati’s Snacks for authentic (and hygienic) versions of Mumbai street food.

The best places to stay in Mumbai

Taj Mahal Palace Hotel

Location: Apollo Bunder, Mumbai, Maharashtra | Find on Google Maps

From $240 per night. Book now.

This heritage luxury property, situated across from the Gateway of India, first opened its doors in 1903. Today, it offers 560 guest rooms, 44 suites, nine restaurants, a lavish High Tea, and a storied guest list (including The Beatles and several U.S. presidents).

Oberoi Mumbai

Location: Nariman Point, Mumbai, Maharashtra | Find on Google Maps

From $213 per night. Book now.

In the heart of Mumbai’s business district, this hotel has 337 guest rooms, three restaurants, and views of the Arabian Sea. The Champagne Lounge, just off the lobby, features large-scale sculptures and a red piano, and is a good place to relax after a long day.

JW Marriott Juhu

Location: JW Marriott, Juhu Tara Road, Juhu, Mumbai, Maharashtra | Find on Google Maps

From $260 per night. Book now.

People riding a train in Mumbai, India.

The Mumbai Suburban Railway transports more than 6 million commuters daily.

Photo by Avani Rai

Located along Juhu Beach, the JW Marriott features 588 guest rooms and suites, three swimming pools, and several restaurants—including a Sunday brunch that is popular with the city’s well-heeled residents.

Getting around

Mumbai is a long, dense peninsula. Most attractions are either in “town”—that is, South Mumbai, home to neighborhoods including Colaba, Churchgate, and Malabar Hill—or in the “suburbs,” including areas such as Bandra, Andheri, and Juhu. Visitors could opt to hire a car and driver for a day, hail an auto-rickshaw in the suburbs, or, if feeling adventurous, brave the local commuter train. Whatever the choice, it’s best to map out a day’s activities before setting off, to avoid hours of traffic.

Sarika Bansal is the editorial director of Afar Magazine and editor of the book Tread Brightly: Notes on Ethical Travel.
From Our Partners
Sign up for our newsletter
Join more than a million of the world’s best travelers. Subscribe to the Daily Wander newsletter.
More From AFAR