Melanie has been interested in cultures, languages, and travel since her youth. She also runs a YouTube channel: The Curious Coder.
Mumbai, India, formerly known as Bombay, is a popular travel destination for visitors from around the globe. The city is home to over 21 million people, making it one of the largest cities in the world.
Full of shops, sights, friendly people, and wonderful food, Mumbai is jam-packed with things to see and do! As the capital of the Indian State of Maharashtra, the city is made up of seven islands joining together to form a sprawling playground for locals and visitors alike.
Located on the Arabian Sea, Mumbai is a huge city nearby some of the most beautiful places on the western coast of India. Because of this, Mumbai is the perfect place to start out on a beautiful trip to India.
1. The Gateway of India Monument
In South Mumbai lies the Gateway of India monument. Once a jetty for fishermen, this became a landing place for British governors visiting India.
The formal monument seen today was built to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary in 1911. As most travelers came to India by boat, this monument was the first glimpse that visitors got of Bombay, thus its name.
Today, most visitors come to Mumbai via the airport, but this monument is still a must-see for tourists. Its unique design is an elegant mixture of architecture styles, it's arch a beautiful example of Muslim architecture with beautiful décor in traditional Hindu style.
2. Dhobi Ghat
For a real experience of India lifestyle, it is important that visitors see the huge Dhobi Ghat in Mumbai. Located near the Mahalaxmi Station in the central area of the city, this area is known for being the world's largest open air laundry. Dhobi Ghat is unusually popular among tourists wishing to see the rows upon rows of concrete washing areas. At the Mahalaxmi Dhobi Ghat, the workers (known as dhobis) can be seen washing clothes and linens from Mumbai's many hotels and hospitals.
3. Haji Ali Dargah
The Haji Ali Dargah is both a mosque and tomb located on a tiny island off the coast of Southern Mumbai. This is perhaps one of the most well-known structures in all of Mumbai and is an absolutely beautiful example of Indian Islamic Architecture.
The dargah (tomb) was built in 1431 to commemorate the life of Sayyed Peer Haji Ali Shah Bukhari, a rich Muslim merchant who gave up all his possessions and traveled the world before settling in Mumbai. The beautiful dargah, nearly 600 years old, has suffered massive erosion due to the salty sea air but remains to be a popular site. The dargah is set to be reconstructed back to its original grandeur.
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4. Sanjay Gandhi National Park
It would be almost a travesty to miss the beautiful Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) when visiting Mumbai. The park is located in Mumbai's Borivali suburb, 25 miles north of the city center and attracts over 2 million tourists each year.
Visitors to this park can see the monuments cut and sculpted into the rock at the Kanheri caves as well as a large amount of plant and animal species.
The forests, hills, valleys, lakes, and creeks in this 40 square mile area, make for an excellent place to meditate or have a quiet, romantic picnic.
The park (once called Borivali National Park) is home to approximately 800 flowering plants, 284 bird varieties, 40 species of mammal, and several other types of plants and wildlife including many endangered species.
Spotted deer can be found here as well as rhesus monkeys, porcupine, leopards, crocodiles, beautiful butterflies, and even pythons and cobras! In 2008, the park was found to be a habitat for Bengal tigers which were previously thought to no longer inhabit the region.
5. Mumbai Beaches and Yummy Vendor Food
The beaches of Mumbai, while too polluted to swim in, offer both visitors and locals a generally uncrowded place to mix and mingle. Chowpatty Beach and Juhu Beach, both located in South Mumbai, are the most famous of Mumbai's beaches offering wonderful street vendor food.
Dishes to try at the beaches include bhelpuri, pani puri, chaats, and pav bhaji. While eating food at a fairly polluted beach may not seem appealing, the preparation standards for the foods served here are actually extremely high, so enjoy!
6. Kala Ghoda Art District
Kala Ghoda, which means Black Horse, is a district in South Mumbai known for spectacular art. This district houses a number of art galleries, wonderful restaurants, the art museums, the University of Mumbai, and the David Sassoon Library.
The food here is amazing and the people are friendly. Walking the busy streets of this area is perhaps the best way to get around as it offers unique views of this area of Mumbai.
The annual Kala Ghoda Arts Festival in February is not to be missed (it's when Kala Ghoda really comes to life), but this district is really an amazing place to visit year round. There is no better way to get immersed in the culture of Mumbai than by spending time in Kala Ghoda.
Bonus: Bollywood and Film City
Bollywood is the name for cinema coming from Mumbai. The term comes from the name of the name Bombay (the former name of Mumbai) and the city Hollywood in the United States.
Although Bollywood doesn't exist as a physical place as does Hollywood, visitors to Mumbai cannot deny the presence of the movie scene and its effects on Indian culture. While there is no actual place called Bollywood, if you're looking for a place with a Hollywood feel, head out to Film City.
A great way to experience Bollywood is to go to a theater in Mumbai and enjoy a film made by local cinematographers. Whether in English or in Hindi, watching an Indian flick is a cultural experience in its own right.
From the beaches to the art scene and dense forest to huge crowds, this city has it all. This city is a great location for any traveler to visit. There are tons of things to see and do here, making Mumbai a prime destination for anyone visiting India. There are endless sights giving the city a huge appeal to anyone who loves to travel!
© 2011 Melanie Palen