Mumbai is huge — nearly 21 million people living cheek-by-jowl in a sprawl of 603 square kilometers — so to explore it in only two days seems like madness. But if that’s all the time you have, here’s how you might use it.
Take an Architecture Tour
Mumbai boasts a fascinating mix of neoclassical, Victorian Gothic, Indo-Saracenic, and Art Deco buildings (sometimes with multiple styles blended into one).
A tour with Bombay Heritage Walks will give you a glimpse of a wide range of architectural wonders — and will also provide you with a great opportunity to ask questions about the city’s history and culture.
Head to Mumbai’s Zero Point
The original center of the city, St. Thomas Church sits at the point from which all distances in Mumbai were once measured. It’s well worth a peek inside this 1837 church.
Stop for a Snack at Bake House Cafe
This unexpected eclectic gem in the artsy Kala Ghoda area is a great place to pop in for a quick bite and a cup of tea.
Visit Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya
If “Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya” is too much of a mouthful for you, just say “The Museum,” and you’ll be fine. Also known as CSMVS, this is one of the most significant museums in Mumbai. And it’s delightfully random — in addition to traditional statuary, jewelry, and miniature painting, you’ll find a tiny display on the Harappan civilization, fake gems, natural history dioramas, and (sometimes terrible) taxidermy.
You can easily spend a couple of hours here — and if you get tired of looking at objects, you can always enjoy the architecture.
Stroll Along Marine Drive
Walking down this 3-kilometer long promenade will give you extensive views of Back Bay (and plenty of stray dogs) on one side and a string of UNESCO-recognized Art Deco apartment buildings on the other.
There are always plenty of people ambling down the wide sidewalk, but if you’re lucky enough to be there on a Sunday morning, you’ll be in for dancing, games, and merry-making of all sorts.
Explore a Spice Market
Mumbai boasts many spice markets, so you have a multitude of options, but we chose to visit Lalbaug. Here, you can watch as people buy their spices at one shop …
… have them roasted out on the streets in giant pans at another …
Visit Two Grand Monuments
On your way back from the market, it’s worth swinging by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (still commonly known as Victoria Terminus), an Italianate Gothic train station wonder completed in the fiftieth year of Queen Victoria’s reign. From there, it’s a short drive to the Gateway of India:
I have no idea why a visit to this massive arch is a must-do on the Mumbai tourist agenda, but it’s a major attraction. Most people just seem to mill around and take pictures in the plaza, but the Indo-Islamic architecture of the Gateway is actually pretty interesting if you take a closer look.
Take Tea at the Taj
The 1903 Taj Mahal Palace Hotel is the height of Mumbai luxury. You don’t need to book a room to admire the architecture …
… or to pay unreasonably high prices for an excellent Victoria Sponge with a view out over the Gateway of India and the sea.
At this point, you’ll probably be ready for a well-earned nap! If you’re venturing out for dinner later on in the evening, we would recommend a meal at Status, which I can best describe as an amazing vegetarian diner. Try the Gujarati Thali!