Welcome to Mumbai the Megacity!
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Mumbai, formerly Bombay, is one of the most fascinating megacities in India. It is a diverse, chaotic, noisy, modern and old-fashioned place that displays a wide variety of different parts of town – old districts which are dominated by historical architecture, crowded districts in which numerous traditional markets can be found and residential neighbourhoods where a cosmopolitan lifestyle can be observed.
Once this city was an archipelago of seven islands and lush tropical vegetation, swampy beaches and hills covered the area. The Portuguese began to rule over the following islands; Colaba, Old Woman’s Island, Bombay Island, Mazagaon, Worli, Parel and Mahim in 1534. They built trading posts and several catholic orders established churches. The English East India Company took over in 1662 and began to build causeways to connect these islands. In addition land was reclaimed which resulted in the formation of one single island with a deep natural harbour. Industrialization was advanced and Mumbai and its harbour developed into one of the most important cities.
This commercial and financial hub attracts people from all over India and therefore shows a huge cultural diversity. Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Jains, Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsis and Jews live in the city and the most common languages are Marathi, Gujarati, Hindi and English.
Mumbai’s public transport system is excellent and consists of several suburban railway lines and an extensive bus system. The local trains connect the southern districts with the suburbs and are the most convenient way of travel. This transport system might be confusing at first, however, it is the best way to explore this multifaceted city.
Are you traveling to Mumbai?
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Getting to Mumbai
Mumbai has an international and domestic airport. The Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport is located in Andheri East, a suburb of Mumbai. It is best to take a pre-paid taxi from the airport to any part of the city. It is also possible to use public transport (local train and bus), however, I do not recommend that if you have not been to Mumbai before.
Local Train from Mumbai
Places to Stay
Most of the budget hostels and mid-range hotels are located in Colaba, the most-southern district of the city.
- Salvation Army Red Shield Hostel: Travelers from all over the world stay in this basic hostel. The dorms are pleasant with high ceilings and large windows. It is a fantastic place to meet people from all over the world and is conveniently located just off Shahid Bhagat Singh Marg. 30, B. Behrman Road (Mereweather Road), Colaba 400001. Phone: +91(0)22 2284 1824, Email: email@example.com
- India Guesthouse: Also conveniently located in the northern part of Colaba, this hostel offers single and double rooms. However, they are basic and small. 1/39 Kamal Mansion, 3rd flr, Arthur Bunder Road, Near Radio Club, Colaba 400005. Phone: +91(0)22 2283 3769.
- Bentley’s Hotel: The hotel has a lot of charm and is located in a quiet street close to Shahid Bhagat Singh Marg. The rooms are large with windows and high ceilings. 17, Oliver Road, Colaba 400001. Phone: +91(0)22 2284 1474, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. www.bentleyshotel.com.
- Hotel Moti International: Located just across the street from the Salvation Army Red Shield Hostel, this hotel offers basic rooms in a historical building. 10, Best Marg, Colaba 400039. Phone: +91(0)22 2202 5714. E-mail: email@example.com.
Things To Do in the City
- Shahid Bhagat Singh Marg (Colaba Causeway)
The street is known for its street market and its famous cafes and restaurant such as Cafe Leopold and Cafe Mondegar. Many budget hostels and mid-range hotels are located in the adjacent streets and most of the international travellers stay in this part of town. The causeway was built in the 1830s to connect Colaba and Old Women’s Island to Bombay Island and was known as Colaba Causeway. It was renamed Shahid Bhagat Singh Marg in the 1990s to honour this prominent revolutionary who fought for India’s independence in the 1920s.
- Gateway of India
Prominently overlooking the harbour, the gateway attracts many tourists from India and abroad. The impressive arch was built between 1911 and 1924 in the Indo-Saracenic style of architecture to commemorate the visit of King George V. It is located in Colaba and is close to Shahid Bhagat Singh Marg.
Gateway to India – Mumbai
- Chhatrapati Shivaji Museum (Prince of Wales Museum)
This is the most well-known and largest museum in the city. It includes sections featuring Far-Eastern Art, Sculpture, Textiles, Indian Arms and Armour and Natural History. The building was designed by the architect George Wittet in the Indo-Saracenic style and was inaugurated in 1922. It was renamed to honour Chhatrapati Shivaji, the founder of the Maratha Empire (1674-1818), in the 1990s. The museum is located at the Regal Circle – close to Shahid Bhagat Singh Marg in Colaba.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Museum
- Eros Cinema
The Hindi language film industry, also known as Bollywood, has its main film production centre in Mumbai. Mumbaikars love the cinema, its stars and its music and it is a special experience to watch a Bollywood film with a large enthusiastic local crowd. The cinema was built in the 1930s in the Art Deco style of architecture and is one of the few remaining historic single screen theatres of the city. It is located in Churchgate, opposite of Churchgate Station.
Eros Cinema Churchgate
- Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (Victoria Terminus)
This is one of the two train termini in the southern part of Mumbai. Long-distance trains as well as the local suburban trains leave from here. The magnificent station building was constructed in the Neo-Gothic style in the 1880s and was originally known as Victoria Terminus. Millions of people use this station every day and it is definitely worth a visit. It is located in the Fort district.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus
- Mahatma Phule Market (Crawford Market)
Rows of vegetables, fruits, flowers, spices and imported products attract many shoppers each day. Originally named after Arthur Travers Crawford, the first municipal commissioner of the city, the building was constructed by the architect William Emerson in the Neo-Gothic style and opened its doors in 1869. The market is located north of Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST). It is now known as Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Mandai to honour the revolutionary and social reformer Jyotirao Govindrao Phule (1827-1890).
- Pherozesha Metha Udyan (Hanging Garden)
This beautiful park is dominated by colourful flower arrangements. It was laid out in 1885 – a time when many wealthy Europeans and Indians left the crowded city districts to settle on Malabar Hill. Today this is a sought-after residential area and houses some of the most expensive properties in Mumbai.
Where to go next?
Mumbai is well connected with other cities and states in India. The national trains leave from Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, from Mumbai Central Station, from Dadar Terminus or from Bandra Terminus.
The Rajdhani Express trains connect Mumbai to India’s capital. Delhi is divided into New and Old Delhi and has a large number of historical sites such as the Red Fort, the Humayun’s Tomb, the Qutub Minar, Chandni Chowk and the Jama Masjid.
Humayun’s Tomb Delhi
The Duronto Express trains connect Mumbai to Kolkata. The capital of West Bengal has numerous touristic attractions such as the Victoria Memorial, the Indian Museum, the Flower Market, the South Park Street Cemetery and the impressive Howrah Bridge. Kolkata is the only city in India where hand-pulled rickshaws are still in use.
Numerous trains and busses leave for Goa every day. Goa’s beaches are well-known and attract a large number of international and domestic tourists each year. For several centuries Goa was ruled by the Portuguese and therefore shows a somewhat different culture. Popular attractions include the numerous well-known beaches such as Anjuna, Arambol, Palolem, Agonda and Vagator, the famous flea market in Anjuna, the Portuguese churches and cathedrals in Old Goa and several wildlife sanctuaries.
Hindus regard this city as one of the seven most holy places. It is located at the River Ganges and mostly visited by pilgrims. Attractions include an early morning boat tour on the river, the Benares Hindu University, the Monkey Temple and the archaeological site in Sarnath.
This town, which lies within the ruined city of Vijayanagara, is not that easy to reach from Mumbai, however, it is definitely worth a visit. The town is surrounded by temples and monuments which were constructed during the Vijayanagara Empire (1336-1646) and are simply breathtaking.
Beautiful, ancient Hampi
About the Writer / Photographer:
This destination guide was written by Hella Maria Stichlmair from the informative website, Mumbai by Bus and Train.