Mumbai's Kala Ghoda Art Precinct: Self-Guided Walking Tour

Kala Ghoda
Sharell Cook

Mumbai's renowned Kala Ghoda Art Precinct is part of the Fort district, one of the coolest neighborhoods in the city. It stretches from Regal Circle (also known as SP Mukherjee Chowk) at the southern end of Mahatma Gandhi (MG) Road, north to Mumbai University on the same road. Its curious name, meaning Black Horse, can be traced back to a bronze equestrian statue of King Edward VII that existed there during the colonial era.

These days, the area has become a compelling cultural hub offering art, history, education, and some of the city's most popular restaurants. The annual Kala Ghoda Festival in early February is another attraction.

Follow this self-guided walking tour to explore the Kala Ghoda Art Precinct.

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Start: Regal Circle Mumbai

Regal Circle, Mumbai.
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You'll find Regal Circle at the end of Colaba Causeway, opposite the Regal Cinema. It's readily recognizable by the large fountain in the middle. Standing with your back towards Colaba Causeway, the imposing Maharashtra Police Headquarters will be on your right, and the beginning of MG Road opposite it near the bus stop.

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National Gallery of Modern Art

National Gallery of Modern Art, Mumbai.
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Setting out from Regal Circle, on your left, the first building of interest you'll come across is the Mumbai National Gallery of Modern Art. It's one of a string of national art galleries in India. The other two are in Delhi and Bangalore.

The gallery started out as the popular Sir Cowasji Jehangir Public Hall. However, it fell into disuse and disrepair after the Jehangir Art Gallery was built. Later on, 12 years of restoration works transformed it into the current bright and modern space, with semicircular exhibitions at different levels. Various works of both Indian and international artists are showcased.

What to Know

The Mumbai National Gallery of Modern Art is open Tuesday to Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. It's closed on national holidays. The admission price is 20 rupees for Indians and a whopping 500 rupees for foreigners. It's free for students. Phone: (022) 2288-1969.

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Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya

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From the National Gallery of Modern Art, cross the road and keep walking north. On your right will be the rather hard to pronounce Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (formerly the Prince of Wales Museum). Its astonishing architecture makes it unmissable.

Designed specially as a museum, construction commenced in 1905 with the laying of the first stone by the then Prince of Wales. The architectural style is known as Indo-Saracenic -- a mishmash of Moorish Spain, Islamic domes, and Victorian towers. The museum opened to the public in 1922. Its collection has grown to include ancient items excavated from the Indus valley, Hindu and Buddhist sculptures, miniature paintings, weaponry, and natural history (including a variety of stuffed animals). Regular handicraft exhibitions and workshops are held there as well.

The Museum Shop is a great place to buy handicrafts in Mumbai.

What to Know

The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday, from 10.15 a.m. until 6 p.m. It's closed on national holidays. The admission price is 85 rupees for Indians and 500 rupees for foreigners. Concessions are available for children, students, senior citizens and defense personnel. There's also a photography charge of 50-100 rupees. Phone: (022) 2284-4484.

More information: Museum's website.

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Kala Ghoda Pavement Galley

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Follow MG Road up from the museum and you'll come across the Kala Ghoda Pavement Gallery, which runs along the sidewalk to Jehangir Art Gallery in the Kala Ghoda Arts Precinct. It's lined with the artwork of promising young artists who gather there to exhibit and sell their works.

What to Know

You can interact with the artists, ask them questions about their works, and sometimes even watch them paint.

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Elphinstone College

Elphinstone College, Mumbai.
Sharell Cook

You'll notice Elphinstone College looming imposingly on the opposite side of MG Road, next to the National Gallery of Modern Art. It was completed in 1888 and is one of the oldest colleges in Mumbai. It's also one of the city's most spectacular Victorian Gothic Revival-style heritage buildings. James Trubshawe, an architect from England, designed it. 

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David Sassoon Library and Reading Room

David Sassoon Library, Mumbai.
Sharell Cook

Next to Elphinstone College, the David Sassoon Library was originally a Mechanics Institute that provided technical education to employees working in the city's Government Mint and Dockyard. Its Venetian Gothic-style building, completed in 1870, was partially funded by Jewish banker and philanthropist Sir David Sassoon. The library houses a large collection of rare books on art and architecture.

What to Know

David Sassoon Library and Reading Room is open daily from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Phone: (022) 2284-3703.

More information: David Sassoon Library website.

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Jehangir Art Gallery

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Jehangir Art Gallery, on the corner of MG Road, is where Kala Ghoda's Pavement Gallery artists aspire to exhibit their works. It's the most well-known art gallery in Mumbai. As a result, space is highly sought after and upcoming artists may have to wait four or five years to get a place.

Founded in 1952, the Jehangir Art Gallery is managed by the Bombay Art Society. Inside, there are two main wings with separate specialist gallery areas. Different shows by contemporary Indian artists are hosted every week. Unfortunately, the gallery's iconic Cafe Samovar closed in early 2015.

What to Know

The Jehangir Art Gallery is open daily from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. Admission is free. Phone: (022) 2283-3640.

More information: Jehangir Art Gallery website.

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Museum Gallery

Museum Art Gallery in Kala Ghoda.
Hira Punjabi/Getty Images.

The Museum Gallery, located next door to the Jehangir Art Gallery, is a modern space that's hired out by the museum for exhibitions. If you like unusual works of arts, don't miss visiting this gallery. The pieces there tend to be rather unconventional and displays are changed every week. The Kala Ghoda Pavement Gallery runs along the front of the building as well.

What to Know

The Museum Gallery is open daily from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Admission is free. Phone: (022) 2284-4484.

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Rampart Row

Rampart Row, Kala Ghoda Art Precinct, Mumbai.
Sharell Cook.

Rampart Row, located on K Dubash Marg opposite the Museum Gallery and Jehangir Art Gallery, is a restored heritage building that's a relatively new addition Mumbai's Kala Ghoda Art Precinct. Opened in 2005, its 12,000 feet of space houses a variety of specialty stores and banqueting facilities.

Book lovers should step inside the Chetana Book Center for a wide variety of books on philosophy, religion, arts, natural health, and Indian thought. Next door, the Chetana Craft Center sells beautiful handwoven Indian textiles. Actually, Chetana quite dominates the area. There's a Chetana restaurant that's famous for its traditional vegetarian thalis (platters) too. As an organization, Chetana has a long established history of promoting Indian culture. Anyone with an interest in India will find a visit to Chetana's stores worthwhile.

Unfortunately, the iconic Rhythm House music store at Rampart Row closed in early 2016. However, what's interesting to note is that the Silk Route Restaurant next to it used to be The Wayside Inn, where Doctor Babasaheb Ambedkar drafted the Constitution of India (apparently, he completed a final draft of it in the David Sassoon Library).

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Restaurants and Bars

Restaurants in Kala Ghoda.
Sharell Cook.

If you're hungry from walking and browsing, you'll be happy to know that some of Mumbai's best restaurants can be found in the Kala Ghoda Art Precinct just opposite the Jehangir Art Gallery.

Khyber is a treat for meat lovers and one of Mumbai's must-try Indian cuisine restaurants. It opened in 1958, and serves up reliably good traditional Northwest Frontier cuisine in its Afghan-inspired interior. The restaurant isn't very well marked, so you'll probably miss it if you're not looking hard.

Copper Chimney is another popular Kala Ghoda restaurant that serves North Indian food. It's one in a highly regarded chain of many around Mumbai and other parts of India. The kebabs in particular are recommended.

If you want a break from Indian food, Bombay Blue next to Copper Chimney offers an eclectic range of cuisine including pasta, sizzlers, Chinese, and Thai. There's a gelato shop next to it as well.

For a drink, try the Irish House or hip 145 Kala Ghoda (which replaces Cheval).

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Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue

Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue, Mumbai
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After Rampart Row, turn left onto Sai Baba Road from K Dubash Marg, and walk up to Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue on the corner of VB Gandhi Marg.

Built in 1884 in Neo Classical-style by Jacob Elias Sassoon, this Jewish synagogue is one of the oldest in Mumbai. Its interior features Minton tile floors, stained-glass windows, cast-iron columns, and chandeliers all shipped from England.

The synagogue reopened in early 2019, after a magnificent restoration that took nearly two years. As part of the works, the building's distinctive blue painted exterior was scraped away to reveal its original stone and color.

What to Know

Visitors are welcome to go inside the synagogue. It's open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m, Sunday to Thursday (the Jewish community holds services there on Fridays and Saturdays). For security purposes, you'll need to show appropriate photo identification such as passport. Phone: (22) 2283-1502.

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Ropewalk Lane

Kala Ghoda Cafe
Kala Ghoda Cafe

Cross VB Gandhi Marg and continue straight along Ropewalk Lane. There you'll find a string of trendy shops and cafes. These include Sancha Tea Boutique, Moksh Art GalleryNicobar (stocks cool lifestyle products), Kala Ghoda Cafe (an ideal place to grab a coffee), and Trishna (go there for outstanding traditional Manglorean seafood), 

If you're interested in unique handmade products, also drop into Artisans' gallery and store overlooking the Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue on the corner of VB Gandhi Marg.

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Burjarji Bharucha Marg

Mumbai, Kala Ghoda, Obataimu design store facade.
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Burjarji Bharucha Marg, at the end of Ropewalk Lane, has many stylish restaurants and designer stores as well. Check out Mamagoto for fusion Asian food, The Pantry for healthy organic dishes, Obataimu for contemporary Japanese-inspired clothes, Bombay Shirt Company for custom-made shirts, and Valliyan & Masaba for jewelry.

From Ropewalk Lane, turn left onto Burjarji Bharucha Marg and walk all the way along the road, and you'll be back onto MG Marg. 

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