Bandra West is often referred to as the "Queen of the Suburbs" in Mumbai. The lure of international influences and liberal attitudes has drawn droves of celebrities, models, musicians, hipsters, and expats to this multi-faceted neighborhood. In turn, a steady stream of stylish new restaurants, bars, and boutiques has opened to cater to their cosmopolitan lifestyle. These top things to do in Bandra West incorporate both the neighborhood's history and current trends.
Trace Bandra's Heritage
One of the defining characteristics of Bandra West is its pervasive Portuguese heritage. Bandra was settled by the Portuguese in 1534 when it was a simple fishing village, and it remained part of their territory even after the Bombay Islands were transferred to the British in 1661. During their occupation of the area, the Portuguese built many churches and converted thousands of locals to Catholicism. Some old villages and stately Portuguese ancestral homes still remain amid the increasing urbanization. These include Chimbai fishing village, and artsy 400-year-old Ranwar village. Take an informative guided walking tour through the neighborhood, such as this one offered by Raconteur Walks.
Admire the Street Art
The lanes in the vicinity of Ranwar village have recently become renowned for their quirky street art created by artists from all over the world. Most of it can be found on and around Waroda Road, Chapel Road, and Saint Veronica Road up to Mount Carmel Church in Bandra West. The most prominent murals on Chapel Road are the work of the Bollywood Art Project. There are also massive murals of Bollywood actors Amitabh Bachchan and Rajesh Khanna on the corner of Bandstand and Pereira Road. Wandertrails conducts guided 2-hour walking tours of the street art.
Visit Bandra Fort and Bandstand
Tucked away on the tip of Bandra West are the remains of a 17th century fort that was built by the Portuguese as a watchtower. It was strategically located to look out over Mahim Bay but now provides an excellent vantage point for viewing the landmark Bandra-Worli Sea Link bridge. Not far away, behind an imposing set of gates before the luxury Taj Lands End hotel, is the home of the "King of Bollywood" Shah Rukh Khan. Called Mannat (meaning wish or prayer), it's a sprawling palatial six-floor mansion.
Stroll Along Bandstand and Carter Road Promenades
Bandra West borders the Arabian Sea and you can join locals for an evening stroll by the long stretches of oceanfront past celebrity residences. The neighborhood has two promenades, one extending from Bandstand and the other further north along Carter Road. Recent urban development projects have added improved facilities such as amphitheaters, parks, and children's playgrounds.
Bargain hunters definitely won't be disappointed by Bandra West. Linking Road is lined with stalls selling cheap shoes, bags, clothing, and accessories. Make sure you haggle hard to get a good price! The neighborhood also has boutiques that are worth browsing through. Go to Anokhi for gorgeous block-print textiles, Kulture Shop for groovy products by Indian graphic designers, OMO for funky Indian attire, and The Shop for boho-chic fashion and home decor.
Explore the Food Scene
Bandra West is a foodie's delight! Over the last decade, the neighborhood has flourished into one of the most talked about dining destinations in Mumbai. Don't expect a lot of traditional Indian fare though. In line with Bandra's trendiness, most of the restaurants and cafes concentrate on contemporary cuisine. One new exception is Ferry Wharf, which serves Mangalorean seafood just the way you'd get it in south India. Hang out with creative-types at The Bagel Shop, eat organic at Birdsong, try Indian dishes with a twist at Pali Bhavan, feast on seafood with an Asian spin at Bastian, and have a European meal at cool Pali Village Cafe. Don't miss sampling gourmet teas at the Taj Mahal Tea House. You can even eat dinner aboard a boat! Read more about the best restaurants in Bandra West.
Experience the Nightlife
Bandra West has the highest density of party places in Mumbai, although you'll need to start early as there's a 1:30 a.m. nightlife curfew. Janata Bar is the local no-frills watering hole (Janata means "common man" in Hindi). For a casual pub environment, head to Toto's Garage. Iconic Hawaiian Shack is popular with the young crowd, so much so that the owners kept it open due to public demand despite wanting to retire. Hip Bonobo often has live music throughout the week and electronica gigs with DJs on weekends. If you'd prefer retro music, Door Number 1 plays nothing else. The Daily is the only place in Bandra that stays open later than 1:30 a.m. on weekends depending on the crowd. Bandra Base hosts live music performances in an intimate setting. For a classy club environment, drop into Drop. Every month, The Den host's one of the city's most happening "micro" parties, Mixtaped!, with a different guest DJ every week. The stylish Olive Bar and Kitchen is the place for celebrity spotting.
Mettaa Reflexology Spa in Bandra West's Pali Village offers remarkable inexpensive reflexology massages by visually impaired therapists, many of whom are completely blind. They've all undergone six-month reflexology training programs, so they're appropriately qualified.