A melting pot of movie moguls and slum-dwelling wannabe millionaires, Mumbai is an energetic city mixing colonial architecture with hipster hangouts.
Day 1: Movies & museums
Morning: The National Museum of Indian Cinema at Pedder Road’s Films Division Complex has a huge collection of memorabilia, ranging from hand-painted movie posters to film props. Getting here from the city centre will become much easier when a new metro line is completed in 2021, connecting Colaba (home to the Gateway of India) to the SEEPZ industrial zone via the trendy, beachfront Bandra neighbourhood.
Afternoon: The Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (try saying that after a mouthful of masala chai) is Mumbai’s largest musuem, with galleries dedicated to everything from Indian armour to Himalayan Art including a diamond-filled jewellery gallery. The building was designed by Scottish architect George Wittet and comprises Indian, Islamic and Western elements.
Evening: Take an Ola (India’s super-cheap version of Uber) to the Gateway of India. This ornate monument was completed 24 years after its foundation stone was laid in 1911, at the spot where King George V first set foot on Indian soil. The design was inspired by Paris’ Arc de Triomphe and the Islamic architecture of Gujarat.
It's a spectacular spot which has unbeatable views of the Arabian Sea and is the departure point for shuttle boats to Elephanta Island, a UNESCO World Heritage site filled with temples built between 450 and 750AD.
Day 2: Food & flower power
Morning: Start with a caffeine fix at Kyani & Co, Mumbai’s oldest Iranian café. There were once hundreds in the city, founded by Parsi settlers (Zoroastrians) fleeing religious persecution in Iran in the nineteenth century. The famous dish is brun maska – soft buns covered in butter and designed to be dipped in hot chai.
Explore the nearby Dadar Flower Market, beneath the Dadar flyover. This sprawling maze of colourful stalls has everything from lotuses (India’s national flower) to bunches of fragrant basil, planted outside homes to banish negativity.
Afternoon: Head to Leopold Café in the Colaba Causeway area. This cosy restaurant, with its clattering ceiling fans, was famously targeted by terrorists in 2008 and starred in Gregory David Roberts’ novel Shantaram. Fill up on butter chicken and oven-fresh garlic naans, washed down with Kingfisher beer. Walk off lunch with a wander around the Fort area, which has the highest number of art deco buildings after Miami.
Evening: Dinner at the Taj Mahal Palace hotel is a great way to soak up the grandeur of this iconic hotel without splashing out on a room. Masala Kraft has sumptuous décor and authentic dishes like chakki ki Sabzi (Rajasthani dumplings). Afterwards, head to Lower Parel, Mumbai’s nightlife hub. The liveliest spots include the Kamala Mills complex, with its cocktail bars, and AER, the rooftop bar atop the Four Seasons Mumbai.
Book it with... G Adventures
A 33-day Kolkata to Kochi by Rail package includes two nights in Mumbai. From £2,532pp, including accommodation but excluding flights. gadventures.co.uk