North of Colaba, Mumbai's Fort neighborhood was the first part of the city to be developed by the British, who made it their headquarters in western India in 1687. The district gets its name from Fort George, which the British East India Company constructed around Bombay Castle in 1769 to add extra security to the area. After the fort was partially destroyed by fire in 1803 and later demolished (although a small section of its wall still remains on P. D’Mello Road), the neighborhood has evolved into a buzzing business district with a groovy yet graceful feel. Here are the top things to do there. Once you've explored Fort, check out some other cool neighborhoods in Mumbai.
Admire the Heritage Buildings
The British favored the Gothic style of architecture in the 19th century, using its imposing grandeur as a statement of Bombay's global power. As a result, the Fort neighborhood has some of the most magnificent Gothic-style buildings in the world including the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus Railway Station and adjacent Municipal Corporation building. There's no better way to see the Fort's Heritage Precinct than on Khaki Tour's Fort Ride Urban Safari in an open-top jeep. It covers more than 100 heritage buildings and brings them alive with insightful stories. Alternatively, several companies offer guided walking tours of the Fort district, such as Bombay Heritage Walks and Mumbai Magic.
Be Arty in Kala Ghoda
The Kala Ghoda (Black Horse) Arts Precinct is the coolest part of Mumbai's Fort neighborhood. It was named after an equestrian statue of King Edward VII that used to be mounted in the precinct (it was removed in 1965 and relocated to Byculla Zoo). Head to Jehangir Art Gallery, the city's most famous art gallery, and browse the shows by contemporary Indian artists. Across the road, the National Gallery of Modern Art has exhibitions by important Indian and international artists (note that the entrance fee is a whopping 500 rupees for foreigners though, and it's closed Mondays). If you're interested in unusual and unconventional works of art, don't miss the Museum Gallery, open daily next door to Jehangir Art Gallery. Delhi Art Gallery also has a branch on VB Gandhi Marg in the Kala Ghoda Arts Precinct. There are many smaller independent art galleries as well. Plus, the iconic Kala Ghoda Arts Festival is held every year in early February.
Mumbai Magic conducts an informative Art Walk tour covering many galleries.
Browse the Boutiques
In addition to art galleries, Kala Ghoda has many hip boutiques stocking clothing and accessories, jewelry, and home decor. Some of the most notable ones are Obataimu (comfortable custom-made designer fashion), Kulture Shop (funky products by leading Indian graphic artists), Fab India (handwoven Indian clothing and textiles), Nicobar (contemporary fashion and lifestyle products), Filter (unique items designed by local artists), and Artisans (exclusive handicrafts). The Bombay Store is the ideal spot to pick up quirky gifts and souvenirs. Love gourmet teas? Make sure you drop into gorgeous Sancha Tea Boutique.
Marvel Over the Museums
It's easy to spend half a day wandering through the massive Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya—yes, it's a mouthful! Just know that it was originally the Prince of Wales Museum and its new name means King Shivaji Museum. The landmark building was designed specifically as a museum and opened to the public in 1922. Its Indo-Saracenic architecture reflects the progression from the earlier Gothic style prevalent in Mumbai. The museum specializes in art and history, and has a collection of more than 50,000 artifacts (many excavated from ancient Indus Valley Civilization sites dating back to about 2000 BC). It also regularly holds special themed exhibitions. The admission price is 100 rupees for Indians and 650 rupees for foreigners. Children and students pay less. The Museum Shop is a good place to buy handicrafts in Mumbai.
For insight into the world of currency, it's worth visiting the Reserve Bank of India's Monetary Museum too.
Eat at Historic Restaurants
During the time the Fort neighborhood prospered under British rule, it attracted migrants from various communities in India including members of the Zoroastrian religion who'd fled persecution in Persia and Iran. They settled in the congested Bora Bazaar area at the northern end of Fort, creating their own distinct microcosm. Many opened bakeries and cafes. Nowadays, just a handful of them remain. The most renowned ones are Yazdani Bakery, Britannia & Co, Jimmy Boy, Military Cafe, and Cafe Excelsior. You'll feel like you're stuck in a time warp when you enter some of these nostalgic places, as nothing much has changed inside since they opened.
Read more about the best restaurants in Fort.
Visit Diverse Places of Worship
In testament to its immigrant heritage, Fort is home to places of worship of many different religions -- and their history is fascinating. Ornate 19th century Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue was immaculately restored in 2019 and features stained glass windows, chandeliers, and pillars. Its interior is beautifully illuminated by sunlight in the afternoon, so aim and go there then. Saint Thomas's Cathedral was the first Anglican church in Mumbai and dates back to 1718. Fort also has Mumbai's oldest surviving Zoroastrian Fire Temple, the Seth Banaji Limji Agiary established in 1709. However, only Parsis can go inside.
Read more about the top religious places to visit in Mumbai.
Explore Crawford Market
Named after the first Municipal Commissioner of the city, Crawford Market harks back to the days of the British and is housed in a building completed in 1869. From its imposing blend of Norman and Flemish architectural styles, you'd never guess that its interior is a maze of stalls loaded with an assortment of fruit and vegetables, meat, spices, dried fruits, imported groceries, luggage, cosmetics, animals, and even birds. The market is located near Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus Railway Station, and is open daily except Sundays (morning only). If you're interested in jewellery or fabrics, it's also worth visiting Zaveri Bazaar and Mangaldas Market on the other side of the road.
Hang Out at Horniman Circle Gardens
Opposite the Neo-Classical style Asiatic Library and Town Hall, Horniman Circle Gardens sits at the former epicenter of Bombay during the British era. At the time, it was an open ground known as Bombay Green where cotton and opium merchants gathered to trade. Now, it's ringed by commercial banking buildings, with the Venetian-Gothic style Elphinstone building being a highlight. Take a break from sightseeing in the area to relax amid the greenery for a while.
Shop for Clothes on Fashion Street
Hundreds of clothing stalls line part of Mahatma Gandhi Road, known as Fashion Street, near Azad Maidan. You won't find any brand names there but the market is popular, particularly with college students, for its inexpensive new designs. Shoes and accessories are also available. Do be prepared to haggle hard as vendors commonly quote really inflated prices, especially to foreigners.