Noisy yet spiritual, flashy yet humble, Mumbai manages to cram so many extremes into one city it's no wonder that it leaves most visitors exhilarated and entranced. Tower blocks spring up and the newest mall beckons a new crowd. Yet in this fast-growing city, some things never change, such as the gothic spires and gargoyles covering the immense UNESCO-protected Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, and Sunday evenings on Chowpatty Beach where families flock to snack on pani puri on the sands.
Things to Do
Mumbai's colonial past is never far away. Locals fill the Azad and Oval maidans with a jumble of cricket games, dreaming of being like Sachin Tendulkar. Up in the wood-paneled David Sassoon Library, over 150 years old, you can see students and scholars lolling on wicker recliners on the balcony under whirring ceiling fans. In busy Mumbai there's plenty of room for spirituality: Join Hindu pilgrims flocking to serene Babulnath Temple, filled with incense and marigold garlands, and Muslims walking along the seafront causeway to the white marble Haji Ali's shrine.
With a touch of bling, tucked-away designer boutiques dot Colaba's streets, where top Indian designers like Tarun Tahiliani showcase jewel-studded gowns and Nehru-style shirts. For rock T-shirts and skinny jeans, follow the trendy young Mumbaikars to fashion hub Linking and Hill Roads in suburban Bandra. Traditional street markets are not forgotten: Try haggling for old Bollywood posters in Chor Bazaar, or the best deal on a gold pendant at Zaveri Bazaar. In the Kala Ghoda enclave, choose your favorite piece of local art in contemporary galleries.
Nightlife and Entertainment
Sassy cocktail bars and after-hours clubs in Bandra and Colaba are all the rage with Mumbai's glamorous set, where kitten heels and strappy tops are uniform for the night. Even if you don't recognize the Bollywood stars in Juhu's clubs, you're sure to see them on the big screen in movie halls like the art deco Regal Cinema in Colaba. Experience Mumbai's adoration of cricket firsthand, with cheerleaders and the razzmatazz of short, snappy IPL Twenty20 matches.
Restaurants and Dining
From crunchy, tangy bhel poori to filling pav bhaji, street snacks are perfect for a city always on the move. Mumbai serves up cuisines from all of India, like fresh kebabs in Colaba's backstreets or decadent Goan curries in Fort. The city's wannabe stars have their sights set even further afield, so join them for decadent European-style Sunday brunch in Bandra and Juhu.