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How to Spend 24 Hours in Mumbai

VO: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Michael Wynands
As one of the most populated cities in the world, the metropolis formerly known as Bombay can be a little overwhelming for the uninitiated. That’s why we’ve picked out the absolute must-sees and created an itinerary to help you have the perfect day in Mumbai. This city has got transport options to suit every budget. Between cabs, rickshaws, buses, trains and ride-share services like Uber and Ola, you’ll never be at a loss to get from A to B. Please note that we won’t be focusing primarily on food for this video, but hungry travelers should check out our video on How to Eat Your Way Through A Day in Mumbai.
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How to Spend 24 Hours in Mumbai

As one of the most populated cities in the world, the metropolis formerly known as Bombay can be a little overwhelming for the uninitiated. That’s why we’ve picked out the absolute must-sees and created an itinerary to help you have the perfect day in Mumbai. This city has got transport options to suit every budget. Between cabs, rickshaws, buses, trains and ride-share services like Uber and Ola, you’ll never be at a loss to get from A to B.

Please note that we won’t be focusing primarily on food for this video, but hungry travelers should check out our video on How to Eat Your Way Through A Day in Mumbai.

Mumbai is a historic city with a strong sense of identity, so in order to really get the full experience, you’re going to want to dive in headfirst and truly immerse yourself in Mumbai past and present. With that in mind, we’ve arranged a day jam-packed with diverse activities to give you a taste of the city’s many walks of life.


We begin our day in Mumbai at the northern outskirts of the city limits in the Sanjay Gandhi National Park. Though it may be a bit out of your way, the second you set foot in the park you’ll agree that it was well worth the transit time to get there. Formerly known as the Borivali National Park, this massive greenspace is a nice breath of fresh air and an opportunity to get a little personal space in an otherwise densely populated city. The diversity of flora and fauna is staggering, but the main attraction are the Kanheri Caves, a 2000-year-old complex of over 100 caves, created by Buddhist monks, carved into basaltic rock.


You’ve got about a 45 minute cab ride to our next destination, but considering the sort of natural and cultural experience you just lived… we suspect you’ll have plenty to think about and discuss on the drive, and the rest of the day will involve very short distances by comparison.


Our next stop might sound like a strange one, but bear with us; we’re headed to Dharavi for a guided tour. This amazing neighborhood is the largest slum in Asia, and really needs to be visited to get a full picture of Mumbai. Poverty tourism is a tricky issue and not something that we would typically recommend, as it can often feel very voyeuristic, but such is not the case with the ethical tours being run by reputable organizations in Dharavi. These tours not only fund important community projects, but are incredibly respectful, and have largely been embraced by the inhabitants. They reveal Dharavi to be an astonishingly vibrant, productive,and industrious neighborhood operating on an entirely different economical scale and in the process, will thoroughly undermine a lot of assumptions you likely have about “slums”.


And now, off to the world’s largest outdoor laundromat! That’s not a joke. Mahalaxmi Dhobi Ghat is where Mumbai’s clothing and linens not only get cleaned, but rather washed, dyed, pressed and dried by hand by the washer-men or “dhobis”. The washing stations, which number in the hundreds, were constructed in 1890, and Dhobi Ghat has largely been operating the same ever since, with the work passing from one generation to the next. It’s become a must-visit destination for tourists as it provides great insight into the inner workings of Mumbai - these people keep the city running!

Next up we’re headed to Haji Ali Dargah, a mosque and tomb located in the middle of Haji Ali Bay, and is only accessible via a lengthy narrow causeway. Constructed in 1431, the shrine is dedicated to Sayyed Peer Haji Ali Shah Bukhari, a Sufi saint famous for giving up all his worldly possessions. Though the man behind the legend may have lived a modest life, there is nothing modest about the shrine his followers and devotees built him after his death. You’re definitely going to want to see it for yourself.

After a busy morning, it’s time for another well-earned rest amongst nature. The Hanging Gardens, also known as Pherozeshah Mehta Gardens, was created in 1881 atop a water reservoir and has been a very popular attraction ever since. The park features hedges carved into various unique shapes, including many animals, and a plethora of flowers and trees. It’s located on Malabar Hill and as such provides some truly lovely views of the city and the sea in the distance. Also… be sure to check out the neighboring Kamala Nehru Park, which is home to a nursery-rhyme inspired shoe house.


Hopefully well-rested and feeling rejuvenated, we’re headed to Khotachiwadi to explore another unique neighborhood of Mumbai. Established in the late 18th century, this heritage village, also notable for its Christian iconography, is made up of homes constructed in the old Portuguese style of of architecture, which makes them really stand out from anything found in the neighboring areas. Unfortunately, it seems to be steadily disappearing in favor of new developments, so be sure to explore it while you still can!


Who’s ready for some shopping? No trip to Mumbai is complete without a trip to the famed Chor Bazaar, and in mid-afternoon, this place is sure to be a bustling hub of activity. This secondhand market’s name literally translates to “thieves market” because, historically, this was where crooks would go to flip their wares. Nowadays however, it's more of a traditional flea market. Whatever it is you’re in the market for, you’re sure to find it at Chor Bazaar, and even if you’re not interested in purchasing anything, it’s such a bustling area, offering such unique wares... you’ll have fun just walking around and window shopping for the remainder of the afternoon.


As evening approaches, Mumbai transforms, offering an entirely different sort of experience. Though most of the activities we’re about to list can equally be enjoyed during the daytime, nighttime adds a little something extra to each. Marine Drive, also known as the Queen’s Necklace, is a short seaside boulevard and accompanying promenade that really comes alive at dusk. The sunset is absolutely stunning, and the promenade makes for a relaxing evening stroll, lined with shops and restaurants. At the Northern end of Marina Drive is Chowpatty Beach, where you’ll find even more fun with everything from snake charmers to carnival rides.

Our next evening stop is the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. It’s the country’s most famous railway station and a must-see landmark. Its architecture can be appreciated at any time of day, but at night, when it’s all lit up, it will truly take your breath away. Its rich history has made it a UNESCO World Heritage site, but it still functions as a central hub for transportation in Mumbai. It’s a perfect representation of how Mumbai’s rich history can be seen in the everyday life of the city’s present.


After Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, we’re going to visit arguably the city’s most famous landmark - the world renowned Gate of India. This massive arch, completed in 1924, overlooks the Arabian Sea, and at nighttime, it is illuminated to spectacular effect. It’s little wonder that it’s been dubbed the Taj Mahal of Mumbai, as it is truly awe-inspiring to behold. Given that it’s one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions, you’ll still be part of a crowd but far less so in the evening than you would have been during the day.


To end off the night, we’ll be immersing ourselves in the bustling market that is the Colaba Causeway. Worth a visit day or night, the street is lined with countless vendors, food stalls, art galleries and restaurants, and is sure to excite all of your senses. If you’ve been looking to practice your bargaining skills, this is the place to do it, while also stocking up on gifts for friends and family back home. Of course, the architecture itself is worth the trip, as there are many buildings dating back to the time of old Bombay. There’s really no better place to end off your day in Mumbai!


Of course, 24 hours is only enough to barely scratch the surface of what Mumbai has to offer. We didn’t even go clubbing! Or take a Bollywood Tour! We’ll just have to head back soon for another list!

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