Bustling Mumbai is the perfect starting point to any India vacation, with its mix of ancient tradition, culture, rich architecture and towering skyscrapers offering visitors a heady mix of unforgettable sights and sounds. As Delta returns with nonstop service from New York-JFK on Dec. 22, here are a few tips to help you discover the City of Dreams:
Grab a guidebook, set Google Maps and let the current of people carry you across the city as you discover its many famous landmarks such as the towering colonial-era Gateway of India and the magnificent neo-gothic Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. One of the best ways to explore Mumbai is to get happily lost in its jumbled maze of lanes and bazaars, where you’ll find stalls selling handicrafts and street food vendors hawking delicious snacks and sugar cane juice. If you need help, there’s no shortage of friendly locals to point you in the right direction.
Hail a cab
When the temperature rises, one of Mumbai’s ubiquitous black taxi cabs will beep for business – a pocket-pleasing way of getting around. Take a trip to Mani Bhavan at 19 Laburnum Road, a leafy suburban street that was home to Gandhi from 1917-1934. Open daily except Monday, the museum has lovingly preserved his simple sleeping quarters complete with his spinning wheel.
Walk the drive
As the sun sets over the Arabian Sea, head to Nariman Point to start the mile or so sunset stroll along the magnificent Marine Drive (officially Netaji Subhashchandra Bose Road). Lined with palm trees and Art Deco architecture, it offers sweeping views across the bay.
At the top, Chowpatty Beach gets going as the sun goes down. Here, the masses descend for a nightly, neon-lit fiesta of fortune tellers, entertainers and street food stalls serving Bhelpuri and Pavbhaji.
Take to the sea
For a break from the hubbub, take a boat trip to the peaceful Elephanta Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that provides a perfect retreat from the crowds. The island’s name derives from a huge elephant sculpture that presided over its port when the Portuguese army arrived in the 16th century. A steep climb through the trees is rewarded by hilltop caves housing awe-inspiring 8th-century carvings depicting the many legends of Shiva. At the foot of the hill, enjoy the ocean vista from one of the al-fresco harborside restaurants before cruising back for tea at the Taj.
Time for tea
A stay at the magnificent Taj Mahal Hotel might blow your budget, but afternoon tea is a treat not to be missed. This oasis of calm blends Arabic, Indian and European opulence to grace the waterfront with glamour.
For something less formal, try Irani cafes which were originally opened by Zoroastrian/Parsi immigrants of British India in the 20th century. These legendary cafes are famous for their chai and bun maska. Head to any Irani café in South Mumbai to relish bun-maska or Kheema pav with chai for breakfast.
Go to the movies
A tour of Mumbai’s world-famous Bollywood studios provides a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the cinematic powerhouse of India that produces twice the number of movies as Hollywood each year. Some tours even offer the chance to see a live shoot or learn some dance moves.
A great way of enjoying the magic of Bollywood is watching a movie itself. The Regal Cinema, an Art Deco movie theatre located at Colaba Causeway, is a good choice. It was built by Framji Sidhwa in 1933. Today there are many modern and plush theaters in Mumbai. But Regal has its own charm; it was the first air conditioned theater in India.
Important note for visitors: U.S. nationals require a visa before entering India. Check out visa requirements and apply online at https://www.india-visa-gov.in/