Mumbai doesn't have as many historical monuments as some places in India, but its diversity more than compensates. You'll find everything from beaches to picnic spots and Bollywood. Don't miss these 12 attractions and places to visit in Mumbai for a memorable trip.
If these attractions aren't enough for you, check out these 101 Places to Visit in Mumbai!
Mumbai's most recognized monument, the Gateway of India, was constructed in 1924 to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary to the city. It's also where the last of the British troops departed, marking the end of British rule when India gained Independence in 1947. The looming Gateway is designed to be the first thing that visitors see when approaching Mumbai by boat. It's a popular place to start exploring Mumbai. These days the atmosphere around the monument resembles a circus at times, with numerous vendors peddling everything from balloons to Indian tea.
- Location: On the waterfront in Colaba, south Mumbai. Opposite the Taj Palace and Tower Hotel (which is also worth looking inside).
Mumbai has some captivating heritage buildings where you can marvel over staggering examples of intricate colonial architecture. Some of the best are the Gothic-looking Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya Museum (formerly known as the Prince of Wales Museum), the Kala Ghoda art precinct, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (formerly Victoria Terminus) railway station, the Bombay High Court and the buildings of Horniman Circle in the Fort area. The feature of Horniman Circle is its huge gardens, which provide a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of the city. Also, have a wander past the historic 18th century homes in Khotachiwadi village.
Kala Ghoda Art Precinct
Kala Ghoda, meaning "Black Horse" in reference to a statue that was once located there, is Mumbai's cultural center. This crescent-shaped stretch is home to Mumbai's best art galleries and museums. It's also filled with cultural spaces, including some wonderful pavement galleries. Stroll around at leisure, but be sure to visit the acclaimed Jehangir Art Gallery. Every year in February, the Kala Ghoda Association hosts a nine day Kala Ghoda Arts Festival, which is interesting.
- Location: Between the Fort and Colaba, in south Mumbai.
- Read More: Walking Photo Tour of Kala Ghoda Art Precinct
Banganga Tank is the oldest continually inhabited place in Mumbai and provides an exceptional opportunity to be submerged in the history of the city. Yet, many locals aren't even familiar with it! The sacred water tank is flanked by a narrow street lined with temples, homes and dharamsalas (religious rest houses). Hindus believe that walking around the tank on foot has immense purifying benefits. It's worthwhile spending some time simply sitting on the steps and absorbing daily life there.
- Location: Malabar Hill, at the northern end of Back Bay.
This massive open air laundry provides an unforgettable glimpse into the inside of the city. Dirty laundry from all over Mumbai is brought here and painstakingly hand washed by the dhobis (washermen) in the seemingly endless rows of concrete troughs. The thousands of dhobis spend hours every day standing up to their knees in water filled with chemicals, manually scrubbing and beating the dirt out of each item of laundry.
- Location: Next to Mahalaxmi railway station (the 6th station on the Western Line from Churchgate), central Mumbai. Walk out of the station and turn left on the bridge.
- Tours: Private Mumbai Local Train Ride with Dhobhi Ghat Tour
Dabbawala, meaning a person who carries a container, is the term given to the thousands of men responsible for transporting and delivering around 200,000 lunch boxes of freshly cooked food to the city's office workers every day. This unique concept was started to meet the needs of British rulers. However, it's now continued on to service Indian businessmen who can't get home for lunch.
- Location: Railway stations around Mumbai, particularly at Churchgate terminus in south Mumbai between 11.30 a.m. and noon.
- Tours: Morning Life of Mumbai's Dabbawalas and Dhobis Tour
The imposing Haji Ali is both a mosque and tomb. It was built in 1431 by wealthy Muslim merchant and Sufi saint Pir Haji Ali Shah Bukhari, who was inspired to change the course of his life after going to Mecca. It also contains his body. Situated in the middle of the ocean, Haji Ali is only accessible during low tide from a narrow, 500 yard long walkway.
- Location: Central Mumbai, just off the coast of Worli, not far from Mahalaxmi railway station.
- Tours: Mumbai Highlights Small Group Tour or Cultural Morning at Mahalakshmi Temple with Haji Ali Dargah and Marine Drive
- Read More: Mumbai Religious Places to Visit
Markets and Bazaars
From the multitude of colorful pavement vendors that line Colaba Causeway, to the fascinating Chor Bazaar Thieves Market, Mumbai is full of interesting places to go street shopping. Stock up on attractive souvenirs at Colaba Causeway, delight in cheap shoes and clothes at Linking Road, scour the narrow alleyways of Chor Bazaar for antiques and sample the fresh food and spices while marveling at the architecture of Crawford Market.
- Location: Colaba Causeway, Linking Road in Bandra, Crawford Market near Churchgate, and Chor Bazaar on Mutton street (opposite Shafi Masjid).
- Read More: Top 14 Mumbai Markets You Must Know
Mumbai is the center of India's booming "Bollywood" film industry. The architecturally resplendent Eros Cinema, adjacent to the Churchgate railway station, is a great place to take in a Bollywood movie. Alternatively, it's possible to go on a tour to the heart of the action in Film City. Or if you'd rather be in a Bollywood movie than simply see the set of one, that's possible too!
Mumbai is notorious for having Asia's largest slum, Dharavi. It's possible to go on a tour of it. However, many people are reluctant to do so for moral reasons, as they feel it's voyeuristic poverty tourism. The actual reality is very different though. The tours are really insightful and dispel the negative preconceived stereotypes that people have. Dharavi is a bustling place full of small-scale industry, and you can even by from the manufacturers there (leather items and fabrics are just two popular things to shop for).
Although they're nowhere near as impressive as Maharashtra's famous Ajanta and Ellora caves, the ancient rock-cut caves on Elephanta Island are worth visiting if you're spending a few days in Mumbai. There are two groups -- one Buddhist and one Hindu. The massive main cave, devoted to Lord Shiva, became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. It has some impressive sculptures and artwork. Get there by taking a ferry from the Gateway of India. If you want to venture further afield, there are more Buddhist caves inside Sanjay Gandhi National Park on the northern outskirts of the city.
Juhu and Marine Drive Chowpatty Beaches
At the end of a tiring day of sightseeing, relax with the locals on the beaches of Juhu and Marine Drive, and watch the sunset. If you're feeling adventurous, you'll also be able to feast on tasty snacks offered by the multitude of food stalls and mobile food vendors. Favorites include roasted corn on the cob, bhel puri, pani puri and pav bhaji.
- Location: Juhu is around 30 kilometers (18 miles) north of the city center, while Marine Drive Chowpatty is in south Mumbai, a short drive from the Gateway of India.