Colaba & Nariman Point
Because of its proximity to most of Mumbai's landmarks and colonial buildings, this, the southern tip of Mumbai, is the real tourist hub. In many ways its location has contributed to Colaba's slightly seedy side, though certain areas have recently been rejuvenated. Many of the city's budget accommodations are situated along roads leading off Colaba Causeway, punctuated by (at the northernmost end) the Taj Mahal Hotel, Mumbai's most famous hotel, which is located opposite the Gateway of India, its most famous landmark, across from which you can see the oil rigs of Bombay High. The area around the Gateway of India is called Apollo Bunder, though the easiest way to get there is to ask for directions to the Taj. Southwest of this is Cuffe Parade, an upmarket residential neighborhood, and farther south, the restricted navy Cantonment.
If you travel west from Colaba to the other end of the narrow peninsula until you hit the sea, you'll arrive at Nariman Point, starting point of Marine Drive. This was once Mumbai's most bustling business district; although many airline offices and several foreign embassies are still situated here and there are many businesses that refuse to give up the prestige of being based here, Nariman Point is facing massive competition from the burgeoning purpose-built business zones farther north.
North from Colaba is the business neighborhood called Fort. By day the area comprising Fort, Fountain, Ballard Estate, and CST (or VT) Station is an extremely busy commercial district, but at night the neighborhood is rather forlorn, with many of the large parks (maidans) empty. A little beyond CST Station is Crawford Market, which leads to the heart of Mumbai's congested markets.
Just west of the Fort area is Churchgate Station. Veer Nariman Road, the street leading from Churchgate Station to Marine Drive, is lined with restaurants.
Marine Drive to Malabar Hill
Prestigious Marine Drive (aka Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Marg) stretches from Nariman Point in the south to Malabar Hill in the north. Edged by a broad, well-maintained promenade that follows the curve of the seafront, this is a very popular place to take a morning or evening walk. At night the streetlights along this drive accentuate the dramatic arch of the bay, giving it the name Queen's Necklace, though obviously this term is less frequently used these days -- still, images of this sweep of prime waterfront real estate (with the world's second highest concentration of Deco architecture after Miami) tend to feature on anything promoting Mumbai as a travel (or investment) destination; if you want a room with a view, you'll probably choose a hotel along this strip. On a more prosaic level, Marine Drive is a long, often traffic-clogged, arterial road that runs along the curve of Back Bay and ends at Chowpatty Beach, from where roads climb toward the upmarket neighborhood of Malabar Hill. Malabar Hill connects to Napean Sea Road and beyond to Breach Candy, Kemps Corner, and Peddar Road -- all upmarket residential areas.
Central Mumbai extends beyond Crawford Market through Mohammedali Road and Kalbadevi to Mumbai Central Station and the fast-growing commercial areas of Lower Parel and prime seafront district of Worli which, thanks to the arrival of the new Four Seasons Hotel, has become one of the best places to be based for a thorough exploration of Mumbai (access to either the north or the south of the city is about an hour either way, and the new Bandra-Worli Sea Link dramatically cuts down travel time to Bandra). The greatest developments are occurring around Phoenix Mills, where some of the erstwhile mill buildings have been converted into shopping complexes, restaurants, and gaming and entertainment spots. West from Mumbai Central Station are Tardeo and Haji Ali, where a mausoleum located on a tiny causeway-linked offshore island enshrines an important Muslim holy man. The popular shrine is reachable only during low tide, but serves as an exotic-looking landmark in yet another of Mumbai's bays.
North Mumbai; Bandra, Juhu & Beyond
North of Mahim Creek extend Mumbai's vast suburbs, from where millions commute daily. First up, just across the creek, is Bandra which, along with Juhu and Andheri (West), just north of it, is where Bollywood stars live and hang out. Although it's not really on the tourist circuit, Bandra, being home to a sizable portion of the city's elite, is packed with lively restaurants, steamy clubs, trendy bars, and countless shops. At night young people gather, especially along Carter Road and Turner Road to drink, smoke (cigarettes or dope), and chill out before making their way to favored clubs. The area around Juhu Beach is where many of the city's middle classes escape; crowded with a host of vendors flogging popular eats, ice cream, coconuts, and fresh fruit juice, it's worth a visit to soak up Mumbai's carnivalesque atmosphere rather than contemplate sunbathing on the beach, which is filthy, or venturing into the even dirtier seawater. It does, however, have some fine hotels, restaurants, and nightclubs -- Enigma at Juhu's JW Marriott Hotel is one of Mumbai's most happening spots.
Just east of Juhu lie the city's two airports and a host of upmarket hotels. The area of Andheri (East) around the international airport has become a crowded (and rather polluted) commercial and residential neighborhood. Yet many business visitors prefer to stay in this part of town if their business lies here, to avoid the stressful commute. Farther north in the suburbs is Goregaon, home to Film City, where many Bollywood movies are shot; past that is Borivali, from where Mumbai's most popular theme park, EsselWorld, is accessible. Beyond, the city goes on (and on), with little to tempt the visitor.