A hive of stunning contrasts, Mumbai is a city of both dreams and destitution. Swarming, showy and chaotic, the Maharashtra capital is India’s most populous metropolis, home to beggars, billionaires and Bollywood stars alike.
Contradictions abound at every street corner. Gated mansions overlook sprawling slums. Business moguls pass by child vagrants. Pollution hangs thick above green parks. Western-style boutiques operate side-by-side with centuries-old bazaars.
While the city’s poverty packs an emotional punch, its vibrant personality and captivating charm are also hard to ignore.
Mumbai’s dining scene is as big and varied as the city itself. Home to a huge Indian and Asian immigrant population, Mumbai fosters a culturally-rich food philosophy. Coastal, Marathi, north Indian, vegetarian south Indian, and Muslim – India’s gamut of flavours can be tasted in Mumbai.
While Mumbai embraces culinary techniques and dishes from all over India and the globe, local food culture is Marathi cuisine. Consisting largely of vegetables, fish and coconuts, and rich with ginger, garlic and spices, typical Marathi dishes include puran poli (sweet flatbread), ukdiche modak (sweet dumplings) and masala bhaat (spicy rice dish).
The most fascinating part of Mumbai’s food culture is the streets. Street vendors, provedores and runners seamlessly feed the city’s millions with quick, cheap and satisfying dishes. Every day: 200,000 identical steel lunch canisters (known as dabbas) are transported from home kitchens to workers; chaiwallas lade cup after cup with chai tea; and street vendors serve up everything from chaat (a plate of snacks) and limbu paani (lime juice) to the famous vada pav (potato dumplings on a bread roll).
Mumbai’s most renowned street food areas are Chowpatty, Khao Galli and Mohammed Ali Road. Famous beach, Chowpatty is home to bhel puri snack shops and chefs preparing pav baji (mixed vegetable curry with a bread roll). Khao Galli is lined with food stalls selling vegetarian specialities. Muslim precinct, Mohammed Ali Road dishes up spiced, rolled, fried and barbequed meats.
While unassuming street vendors and roadside dhabas number in the tens of thousands and highlight the exciting simplicity of Mumbai’s dining scene, modern restaurants showcase the city as a cosmopolitan hub. As the home of Bollywood and India’s commercial capital, Mumbai is the country’s richest and most westernized city. Mid-range and upscale restaurants can be found throughout the city – particularly at hotel restaurants and in areas like the Colaba Causeway and Bandra – serving everything from pan-Asian, Chinese, Japanese, international and Indo- European cuisine.
Mumbai is also home to India’s best nightlife. Juhu is a favourite afterhours haunt for Mumbaikers celebrities. Rooftop terrace bars abound in the inner-city precinct area of Churchgate. Bandra is one of Mumbai’s most famous entertainment hubs. While the Colaba is a popular hotspot for thirsty travellers.
Mumbai is a shopper's paradise. India’s commercial capital showcases everything from internationally-renowned high-end labels to mass-produced garments, authentic antiques, and indigenous jewellery. The city’s most prominent shopping areas include the Colaba, Dadar and Bandra.
Mumbai’s Culture Square, the Colaba Causeway fosters a carnival-like atmosphere with a diverse array of goods on sale. A hotspot for students and teenagers, the south Mumbai hub is a popular shopping zone for affordable and on-trend fashions.
Located in the heart of central Mumbai, Dadar is home to one of India’s most exciting marketplaces, the Dadar Market. Bustling with throngs of crowds, the market particularly attracts bargain hunters and shoppers looking to buy traditional Indian garbs like saris.
Situated in the city’s suburban west, Bandra is Mumbai’s most posh shopping zone. A haven for the elite and famous, streets like Linking Road and Hill Road overflow with designer showrooms, international brands and trendy local labels.
Outside these major shopping districts, Mumbai’s retail scene is diverse and varied. Five-star hotels like The Taj Mahal Palace boast plush boutiques, selling designer wears. Huge shopping malls like InOrbit, Oberoi and High Street Phoenix impress with almost everything under the sun up for sale. While markets like Chor bazaars, Crawford Market and Dharavi Markets dot the city, offering visitors the opportunity to barter and gain a glimpse of Indian culture.