Mumbai

Mumbai has been undergoing something of a transformation. First, its landmark monument has changed, from the Gateway of India (built during British rule to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary) to the recently opened Rajiv Gandhi Sea Link, which connects South Mumbai to its most glamorous suburb, Bandra, over the Arabian Sea. Elsewhere, art galleries and high-end stores are springing up in heritage buildings or defunct textile mills. Restaurants and bars are opening on hotel rooftops, or right on the water. Even Bollywood seems to be spreading its wings. Mumbai seems to be getting bigger, more crowded, multicultural and stylish by the day. Soak it all in—there’s nowhere else like it.

MONUMENTS

Gateway of India

One of Mumbai’s most iconic landmarks, the Gateway of India was built to commemorate the 1911 visit of King George V, who was the only British monarch to come to India. The monument was finally completed in 1924 and has since been one of Mumbai’s most famous attractions. Designed by British architect George Wittet, the Gateway of India is a great example of Indo-Saracenic architecture, a form evolved by the British that combines Gothic Revival with Indo-Islamic architecture. The monument is a favourite with both locals and tourists so we recommend you visit at sunrise to avoid the crowds but more importantly, to see the spectacular sight of the sun coming up over the Arabian Sea. The pier terminal for boats departing at regular intervals to Elephanta Island and Alibaug is nearby.

Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (Victoria Terminus)

Commonly called CST (or VT if you’ve lived here long enough), this UNESCO World Heritage Site was first named after Queen Victoria, then ruler of an undivided India. The railway station is one of the most beautiful examples of Gothic architecture that you’ll find anywhere in the world and bears a striking resemblance to St Pancras railway station in London. Designed by Frederick William Stevens in 1877, CST combines a Western architectural style with Indian elements. The station, with its elaborate stonework and fascinating gargoyles, is a breathtaking sight, especially at sunset. Step inside and witness one of the busiest train stations in the country—and the setting for the famous dance scene from Slumdog Millionaire. Given that Mumbai’s local train network handles nearly 40 lakh passengers every day and that a considerable proportion of those passengers move through CST, we recommend you avoid visiting at rush hour.

MUSEUMS

Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (formerly the Prince of Wales Museum)
The CSMVS is a gorgeous heritage building in the heart of South Mumbai’s Fort area—the city’s unofficial culture district. Designed by the same George Wittet who would later create the Gateway of India, this museum displays a large collection of Indus-era artefacts, interesting pieces from Indian history like the armour of Emperor Akbar and an extensive compilation of Chinese and Japanese porcelain. The Indo-Saracenic structure was conceptualised in 1905 as a museum but was used as a hospital during World War I and only in 1922 did it begin its long journey towards becoming a true custodian of art and artefacts. Before you step inside be sure to stroll around the gardens, there are numerous sculptures dotted throughout the property, and don’t miss the collections donated by eminent Mumbai families like the Tatas. CSMVS also has the Jehangir Nicholson Art Gallery, which displays selections from the late collector’s acquisitions including works by more than 250 artists like VS Gaitonde, Ram Kumar, MF Husain, KH Ara, and Bhupen Kakkar.

Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, Kala Ghoda, Fort, Mumbai (+91 22 2284 4484; www.themuseummumbai.com) Open Tues–Sun, 10.15am-6pm. 

Dr Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum

Formerly known as the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum was Mumbai’s first museum. Established in 1857 as a natural history museum, it suffered in a state of disrepair until 2003. The end result of years of painstaking restoration by the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage is simply magnificent. In its present avatar, the museum—named after a late patron—has a permanent exhibition that looks at the history of Mumbai and its people. It also hosts excellent shows of contemporary art from India and abroad. This is one museum bursting not only with history, but also atmosphere and character.

Dr Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum, Veer Mata Jijbai Bhonsle Udyan (Rani Baug), Ambedkar Marg, Mumbai (+91 22 2373 1234; www.bdlmuseum.org) Daily, 10am-5.30pm.  

ART & THEATRE

National Centre for Performing Arts (NCPA)

South Mumbai’s premier cultural centre has five theatres including the renowned Tata Theatre—specifically designed to meet the acoustic requirements of Indian music, and the Experimental Theatre—a place to watch exciting new productions. The Symphony Orchestra of India plays regularly at the NCPA and makes for lovely evening entertainment. International theatre groups, musicians and dance companies frequently perform here, so be sure to look at the calendar in advance and plan accordingly. Music students and aficionados take note, the NCPA also has a brilliant library of music that is open to visitors for a minor fee.

National Centre for Performing Arts, NCPA Marg, Nariman Point, Mumbai (+91 22 6622 3737; www.ncpamumbai.com

Prithvi Theatre

Run by Sanjna Kapoor—award-winning film actor and producer Shashi Kapoor’s daughter—Prithvi Theatre is one of Mumbai’s most cherished theatre venues. Built in 1978, this theatre is named after the family patriarch, Prithviraj Kapoor, a veteran theatre actor. There is always something on stage, from fun plays for kids to cutting-edge experimental work. Make a point of stopping at the bookshop and sipping a Sulemain Chai (black tea with mint) in the theatre’s charming open-air café.

Prithvi Theatre, 20 Janki Kutir, Juhu Church Road, Mumbai (+91 22 2614 9546; www.prithvitheatre.org

Sri Shanmukhananda Chandrasekarendra Saraswathi Auditorium

Since its establishment five decades ago, Shanmukhananda has been religiously promoting Indian cultural events in the genres of art and music. At one of Asia’s largest auditoriums with a seating capacity of nearly 2800, it’s a pleasure to watch and listen to such maestros as Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, Pandit Ravi Shankar, L Subramaniam and Sudha Raghunathan perform.

Sri Shanmukhananda Chandrasekarendra Saraswathi Auditorium, 292, Comrade Harbanslal Marg, Sion, Mumbai (+91 22 2404 4141; www.shanmukhananda.com

Chemould Prescott Road

Started by Kekoo and Khorshed Gandhy and run by daughter Shireen, Chemould Prescott Road is one of the oldest galleries in the country. Housed in a gorgeous old South Mumbai building, Chemould passionately promotes Indian contemporary art and has curated the works of artists like Bhupen Khakhar, Vivan Sunderam, Pushpamala N and Atul and Anju Dodiya.

Chemould Prescott Road, Queens Mansion, Third Floor, G Talwatkar Marg, Fort, Mumbai (+91 22 2200 0211; www.gallerychemould.com)

Project 88

This 4,000sq ft gallery was established in 2006 in a century-old metal printing press. Primarily featuring Indian artists, Gallery 88’s exhibitions are renowned for being dramatic and thought-provoking. The gallery strongly supports emerging artists alongside those who are more established and welcomes art from different mediums and media.

Project 88, BMP Building, Ground Floor, NA Sawant Marg, near Colaba Fire Station, Colaba, Mumbai (+91 22 2281 0066; www.project88.in)

Gallery Maskara

Housed in a converted warehouse with a 60ft ceiling, this space and its works of art are a sight to behold. Famous for curating bold, graphic content, Gallery Maskara isn’t interested in playing it safe. If you’re visiting with family, be sure to call and check if the show is suitable for young children.

Gallery Maskara, 6/7, 3rd Pasta Lane, Apollo Bunder, Mumbai (+91 22 2202 3056; www.gallerymaskara.com

chatterjee & lal

This extremely modern gallery was formed in 2003 by husband and wife team Mortimer Chatterjee and Tara Lal. Outfitted with top-of-the-line audio-visual equipment, it’s no wonder their space is renowned for its installation, multimedia and performance-based art. Their exhibition roster includes such celebrated artists as Nikhil Chopra, Rashid Rana, Sumir Tagra and Jiten Thukral.

chatterjee & lal, 01/18 Kamal Mansion, above Ambience Art Emporium, Arthur Bunder Road, Colaba, Mumbai (+91 22 2202 3787; www.chatterjeeandlal.com)

Gallery BMB

This 5,000sq ft gallery has attracted such established international artists as the Chapman Brothers, and also shows young, up-and-coming Indian talent. Inside you’ll find a bookshop and the Banyan Tree café, which is an ideal place to contemplate your purchases over a steaming mug of chai.

Gallery BMB, Queens Mansion, Ground Floor, next to Cathedral School, G Talwatkar Marg, Fort, Mumbai (+91 22 6171 5757; www.gallerybmb.com)

Art Musings

Founded in 1999, Art Musings was one of the first art galleries to open in South Mumbai’s art quarter. Its roster of artists is small, but always impressive, and, over the years has included SH Raza, MF Husain, Akbar Padamsee, Paris-based Maya Burman and New York-based Raghava.

Art Musings, 1 Admirality Building, Colaba Cross Lane, Mumbai (+91 22 2216 3339; www.artmusings.net)

Sakshi Gallery

The first multi-location art gallery in India—with branches in Chennai and Bangalore—Sakshi has heldexhibitions around the world in cities like Berlin, Hong Kong, New York, London and Singapore. While the gallery has been an integral force in launching the careers of many young Indian artists, it remains committed to paying fair tribute to industry stalwarts like MF Husain and Jehangir Sabavala.

Sakshi Gallery, Convent Road, Apollo Bunder, Mumbai (+91 22 6610 3424)

OUTSIDE THE CITY

Elephanta Island

The stunning rock-cut temples on Elephanta Island—just a quick boat ride from the Gateway of India—have earned the island’s status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The island was named Elephanta by Portuguese sailors who spotted a sculpted elephant at the entry of one of the caves and the carvings on these caves date back to between the sixth and seventh centuries AD, many of which depict the God Shiva in his various forms. Numerous caves at Elephanta were vandalised by the Portuguese but there is still much to marvel at. Keep an eye out for the remarkable Trimurti and Mahesamurti carvings—they are particularly astounding—and be sure to gaze back at Mumbai from Elephant’s shores, it’s a unique and powerful view of the bustling metropolis.
Book ferry tickets for Elphanta Island at the Gateway of India, Colaba, Mumbai

 

How To Get There

GETTING TO INDIA

The best way to get to India is by air. In recent years, multiple air carriers have expanded their connections and we recommend you fly to the city closest to your final destination rather than using transportation hubs like Delhi and Mumbai.

Air India (www.airindia.com) flies to Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad, Amritsar, Jaipur, Goa, Ahmedabad and Kochi

British Airways (www.ba.com) flies daily to Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad and Amritsar

Cathay Pacific (www.cathaypacific.com) flies to Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru and Kolkata daily

Emirates (www.emirate.com) has daily flights to Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Chennai

Jet Airways (www.jetairways.com) flies daily from London and Dubai to Mumbai and Delhi

KLM ( www.klm.com) flies to Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad, Jaipur ,Vadodara, Udaipur and Goa

Lufthansa (www.lufthansa.com) flies to Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru and Kolkata daily

Singapore Airlines (www.singapore.com) flies to Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru and Kolkata daily

TRAVELLING WITHIN INDIA

Travelling within India has become easier as domestic airlines have increased their routes. Most tourist destinations are now well within reach of an airport.

Jet Airways (www.jetairways.com) flies between Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad, Amritsar, Jaipur, Udaipur, Goa and Kochi.

Kingfisher Airlines (www.kingfisher.com) flies daily between Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad

When To Go

Mumbai has three main seasons—summer, monsoon, and winter (a milder summer). The best time to visit is between November and February, when the city is relatively dry and pleasant weather prevails. The city is at its colourful best during the Ganesh festival, around end-August, early-September. The hot and humid summer starts from the middle of March and goes on into May. Locals love the heavy monsoon, which goes from June to September, but it’s an acquired taste.

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