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Mumbai City Guide: Secret Places & Best of Mumbai


Mumbai - the city of seven islands and the city of dreams is one of my favourite cities in the world. It is home to the big bang Bollywood, crazy traffic, great shopping and amazing food. One of the most vibrant cities of the world, it is no surprise that Mumbai is packed with restaurants, shops and loads of stuff to see and do. I've explored this orderly chaotic city end to end, and have come across some amazing places and hidden secrets that ought to be shared.

Mumbai City Guide - Best Places in Mumbai - Top Mumbai Places - Mumbai Shopping Guide

You either love Mumbai or hate it - there's nothing in-between. The city really gets in you in a good way. If you are bold, passionate and fun and love to be always on your feet you'll fall in love with the place. No one is a stranger in Mumbai and everyone is - that's the beauty of this mind boggling city.

So here's your ultimate Mumbai City Guide with best places to shop, eat and chill - things and places only an insider can tell you!


WHERE TO SHOP IN MUMBAI

Mumbai has endless shopping opportunities and this fashion epicenter of India has something for every budget and style. Considering the city is crunched with space the stores and markets are spread out, so it's easy to get lost and lose valuable hours to get what you want, so you need a proper plan in place before you head out to shop. From bargain bazaars to haute couture here is the list of best places to shop in Mumbai.

COLABA
Mumbai is a city of huge contradictions and Colaba is a classic example. From the iconic and super luxurious Taj to the crammed guest houses, from the luxury boutiques to the street shopping Colaba has it all! Even if you don't want to shop anything, the beautiful architecture from the British Raj and the old world charm of this part of the town is really the Gateway to India!

Bombay Electric
Mumbai City Guide - Best Places in Mumbai - Top Mumbai Places - Mumbai Shopping Guide
Nestled just around the corner from Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, this curated store is a truly innovative concept both for foreign tourists and Mumbai fashionistas. From avant garde jewelry to edgy clothes, glamorous eveningwear to punk-street wear and statement bags this boutique store featuring contemporary Indian designers is a must visit. Bombay Electric as the name sounds is the coolest fashion store in Mumbai; they retail not only Indian designers (Rajesh Pratap, Rohit Gandhi Rahul Khanna, Manish Arora) from across the country but also have one-offs and collectibles including beautiful coffee table books and vintage jewelry. I especially love how they have displayed accessories over old sewing machines amidst the white washed walls. This treasure hunt isn't a place for bargain, so be prepared loosen your wallet a little extra! It's one of my favorite places in town.
1 Relay House, Best Marg, Colaba, Next To Taj Hotel, Tel. 022 22876276. bombayelectric.in

Bunglow 8
Previously located in a tastefully reconfigured heritage building in Colaba, Bunglow 8 has a new address - Wankhede Stadium. It is one of the first concept stores of India mixing fashion and design. This new location housing vintage furniture, contemporary clothing, statement jewelry, and shiny lamps juxtaposes well with the cricket craziness all around. With her eclectic mix of design and a great taste, Maithili Ahluwalia, founder, has created a true treasure defining Mumbai in its true sense. Unpretentious, low-key yet bold, intelligent and elegant. Like Maithili, the store mixes high-low and vintage-new beautifully. Furniture is the strongest point of Bunglow 8 and you wouldn't be able to leave without adding some beauty to your home. Best picks? Exquisitely crafted kaftans and vintage jewels which are handpicked by New York based Anita Trehan. You will also find good vegan friendly handcrafted bags if you are lucky!
Wankhede Stadium, North Stand E & F Block, D Road, Churchgate. Tel. 022 22819880. bungaloweight.com

Design Temple
Started by country's most noted designer Divya Thakur, this store brings to life her design aesthetics with real life products - furniture, lamps, stationary, tableware, carpets, canvas, home decor and everything in between. This lifestyle store oozes urban Indian cool and you definitely would find something worthy of your home. During my last visited I fell in love with the hand-crafted beautiful silver wall mirror shaped like a peacock, but ended up buying their playing cards, which I always get complemented whenever I take them out for an innocuous game.
No2, Churchill Chambers, JA Allana Marg, 32 Mereweather Rd, Colaba. Tel. 022 2282 1001. designtemple.com

Colaba Causeway {best for junk and silver jewelry}
The crowded lanes of Colaba Causeway will bedazzle you with its brewing madness. Pavement stalls tucked right behind the most luxurious addresses of the city {like Tarun Tahiliani and Taj Mahal}, beautiful silver jewelry and artifacts stores, and high street names all right next to each other. But this is the best place to hunt for everything from beaded necklaces, silver jewelry {love Silver House and Aquamarine for beautiful silver jewelry}, tie-dyed sweat pants, dubious antiques, scarves, knick-knacks and everything you can imagine. Don't feel shy to make a bargain, you might be able to bring down to less than half the quoted price.

Take a break from the hustle and bustle and head straight to the Taj Mahal Palace to grab a bite or just sip some tea. You never know who might be seated right next to you as this iconic hotels has hosted the crème de la crème of the world from Oprah Winfrey to President Obama. As the sun sets in the Arabian Sea a stroll down the Gateway Road {outside the Taj Hotel} is mesmerizing. Don't forget to take pictures of Mumbai's most iconic monument - The Gateway of India while you are here,

Bombay Paperie
Handmade paper made using age old technique with beautiful prints and motif from notepads, cards, lamps and all kinds of stationary, this is a store for lovers of all paper things. Read more about this store here.
Phiroze Jeejeebhoy Towers, Dalal Street, Mumbai Samachar Marg, Fort. Tel. 022 6635 8171. bombaypaperie.com




Le Mill
For super luxury brands there's no place better than Le Mill. Apart from the luxe labels like Balmain, Mary Katranzu, The Row, Philip Lim, Alexander Wang, the store also retails vegan friendly brands like Stella McCartney, Tom Binns and Edie Parker (yes you can buy Edie Parker in India!). And if you are looking for homewares and furniture their Apollo Bunder store is a must-visit. Not overly expensive but extremely beautiful furniture and homewares from around the world along with their own in-house label.
They have recently shut down their store to re-open at a new location in October in Colaba. Until then you can shop online from their e-store lemillindia.com


Good Earth
Mumbai City Guide - Best Places in Mumbai - Top Mumbai Places - Mumbai Shopping Guide
The moment you'll step inside Good Earth you'll be transported into a fairytale land where everything will be mesmerizing and exotic and smells like heaven! From sumptuous tableware to gorgeous silver vases, earthenware mugs to Jaipuri quilts and bed covers everything in this store is worth spending your paycheck on. The upper floor housing beautiful furniture is equally lust worthy. But fear not, for even if you can't afford the mother of pearl table that Princess of Wales would have sipped tea on, you can atleast enjoy yourself at their tastefully decorated first floor restaurant The Tasting Room with seriously healthy and delicious fresh juice concoctions, perhaps an Apple, Grape,Coriander and Arugula.
11-12 Raghuvanshi Mills Compound, Senapati Bapat Marg, Lower Parel. Tel. 022 2495 1954. goodearth.in

Suburbs

Amrapali
While the best place to shop from the iconic silver jewelry store Amrapali is Jaipur, but if Jaipur is not on cards then Amrapali's Mumbai store in Juhu (preferably) or Oberoi Shopping Center is worth a visit. Celebs from Hollywood to Bollywood are all fans of their ancient meets ethnic jewelry. A statement piece from this store is a must-buy.
Juhu Church Road, Tel. 022 26125001/5002. amrapalijewels.com
Shop No. 28 & 29, Oberoi Shopping Centre, The Oberoi Hotel, Nariman Point. Tel. 022 22843687/8


Minerali
Mumbai City Guide - Best Places in Mumbai - Top Mumbai Places - Mumbai Shopping Guide
If you love your baubles, then get your hands on some serious bling from India's first multi-jewelry designer store Minerali, from the same group that owns Aquamarine {Colaba and bandra}. The store houses a mix of traditional, contemporary, timeless, eclectic, quirky and avant garde from the best jewelry designers of India from Outhouse, Valliyan, Atelier Mon to Mrinali Chandra and Eina Ahluwalia. With jewelry starting at Rs 1,500 you definitely will find a keeper for yourself. But beware the beautiful baubles will tempt you into splurging on pieces you would rarely wear. So don't let your heart decide and invest in pieces that you'll wear for years to come. Here's what I got from them and get complimented on everytime it graces my neck!
Shop No. 2, Nav Meghdhoot Society, Opp Vijay Sales, Linking Rd, Bandra West. Tel. 9833245502

Bombay Shirt Company
When India's first made-to-measure online store would open up a store people are going to watch. And when they'd open second one in India's costliest floor space, you know its gotta be good! If you want the luxury of custom made shirts without selling your grandmother's fine jewelry head to Bombay Shirt Company. This unique store offers men and women thousands of choices to custom make a shirt that'll be unique. Pick from a thousand fabric swatches, then pair it with your choice of buttons, cuff, collars, lapel, add quirky elements to please your mood and voila you've got yourself a shirt custom made just for you. Not in a mood for all this exercise? Turn to their capsule collection designed by Acquin Pais, featured in GQ's best dressed 2015 list, reflecting his effortless style and you'll not be disappointed.  
Bombay Shirt Company, Kamal Vishrantee Kutir, Ground Floor, 24th Road, Opposite St. Theresa's High School, Bandra (W). Tel. call +918879621003. bombayshirts.com 

There's just so many places to shop in Mumbai which is impossible to do in one post, so I rounded up the must-visit shopping places when you really want to explore the city's special hunts. For high street and luxury shopping, you can always head to Palladium Mall, Fashion Street and Linking and Hill Road in Bandra for more street shopping, Sushma Saree in Juhu for gorgeous sarees and Ensemble and Aza for Indian designer wear, Frazer and Haws for beautifully crafted {luxurious} silverware, Curio Cottage in Bandra for costume and statement jewelry are other recommended places


THINGS TO DO IN MUMBAI

From pampering yourself in true Indian style at a natural spa center to enjoying the sunsets sipping tea, here's what you must do while you are visiting the city!

Theatre: NCPA, Prithvi & Comedy Store
Whether you like some opera, drama or a little humour, you will definitely find a play to suit your taste. The land of Bollywood, it is no surprise that Mumbai is home to country's best theaters and talents. Whether you want to watch something new or enjoy the tried and tested plays that have been running for years, you must spend a few hours either at one of the plays running at NCPA in South Mumbai, Comedy Store at Palladium Mall or Prithvi Theatre Juhu. I absolutely recommend History of India by Vir Das or Vagnina Monologues.

Walk Down at Marine Drive & Gateway of India
Like how you can't leave Paris without Eiffel Tower, New York without Statue of Liberty and London without Tower Bridge of London, no trip to Mumbai is complete without a walk down at the Marine Drive and The Gateway of India {yes I know I mentioned GOI earlier too!}. Whether you sit in the lap of Arabian Sea sinking in the dazzling views of the sun setting in or witness the so-called necklace in all its sparkling-glory by the night or simply watch the skyline at the Marine Drive {although I all} you'll be mesmerized by the charm of  the city. We prefer going to Gateway of India early mornings, its calm and not crowded - the best way to sink in the beauty of this place. Don't forget to get some fresh coconut water or freshly squeezed sugarcane juice from the street vendor nearby before you head for a stroll down the street!

Dhobi Ghat
I know what you're thinking - why would anyone on earth want to visit a place where clothes are washed? But if you love to see the true spirit of a city and love some adventure and risk, then making a trip in the early hours to Dhobi Ghat will be worth your time. This is world's one of a kind open air laundry that operates 24 hours where chaos and impeccable organisation come together. Over 100 million clothes are washed everyday in this 100 years old laundry which without a mistake reaches its rightful owner on time. This place has also been featured in Guinness Book of World Records for the largest number of people washing clothes at a single location. Love photography? Then you ought to make a trip down the lanes of dhobi ghat, but be careful, if they think you're doing some professional photography they'll either not allow or demand some money. Handle them carefully and politely.
Mahalaxmi

Nirmal Herbal Natural Beauty Salon & Spa

Nothing counteracts the long flights or shopping hours than a pampering session. Mumbai's best kept secret is the natural beauty clinic Nirmal Herbal that I  discovered in 2005 and have been hooked ever since. This place uses only freshly prepared masks and pastes for all their treatments with no nonsense chemicals and toxins. Facials using freshly prepared masks from  fruits, vegetables, herbs and nuts, manicures and pedicures using freshly grounded besan packs, hair spa from fresh coconut milk, nut, herbs and papaya pack is heavenly. Everything here is different and for good reasons. The salon's toxin-free menu includes everything from spa, waxing, pedicure and manicures, ammonia-free colour and fruit facials. The beauty clinic is headed by Dr. Nirmala Shetty celebrity and certified naturopath and author of the book Beauty At Your Fingertips, she has decades of experience in the field. She has also served as skin expert for Femina Miss India contestants in the past. You can take consultation from her before starting any treatments and can even avail customised treatments if you have allergies or want to avoid certain ingredients. My favorite is their hair spa/treatment that starts with a very relaxing head and back massage followed by application of fresh herbs and packs to give your hair much needed nourishment and life.
Matsylaya Bunglow, Near Jal Darshan Bldg., Chimbai Road near Bandra Joggers Park main entrance, Bandra (West) (+91-22-26518465) and at multiple locations across the city. nirmalherbal.com

Four Seasons Spa
The excellent spa at the Four Seasons Hotel Worli offers sublime treatments from stress busting deep tissue massages to age defying facials with most offering complimentary steam and jacuzzi. The staff is super friendly and gives you the worth of every penny spent here. Once you are done with your spa, head straight to the hotel's roof top lounge Aer for the city's most breathtaking views and mocktails. Evening is the perfect time to visit Aer as you can catch the beautiful colors in the sky as the sun sets followed by the glitter and glitz once its dark.
1/136, Dr. E. Moses Road, Worli. Tel 022 24818000. fourseasons.com

Blue Frog
Live music, stand up comedies and dance this is Mumbai's favorite hotspot to experience the thumping local vibe and have some fun. The weekdays are for the local bands while the international acts are performed on the weekends. If you're looking for Bollywood pop-ups then you will head to another place. Try their mojito, the spicy drink will wake you up to thump on the beats!
Mathuradas Mill Compound, Senapati Bapat Marg, Lower Parel. Tel. 022 6158 6158. bluefrog.co.in

Get A Haircut
No matter what part of the world I am travelling to, I always like to get a good haircut from the city's famed and tested hair salons and stylists. For a great hair color and cut, at prices that are at fraction of cost in London or Milan's famed salons, head to Kromakay in Juhu. It is seriously good and you'll love it. Try to get an appointment with the owner and celebrity stylist Kanta Motwani herself {if you're lucky}. It'll be worth every penny and you might also find yourself seated next to the who's who of Bollywood here. Here's the full list of best hair salons in Mumbai, click here.
1 & 2 Amber Building, 10th Road, Near HSBC Bank, Jvpd Scheme, Juhu. Tel. 022 2613 3966

For the art Lovers: Project 88
For the best in modern India art there's nothing like gallery space by Project 88 that is housed in century old printing press in Colaba. This gallery supports emerging and pro artists including Hemali Bhuttoz and Tejal Shah. It is the perfect place to see what will be the future of Indian art.
BMP Building, Ground Floor, N.A. Sawant Marg, Colaba. Tel. 022 2281 0066. project88.in

Mumbai has a lot to offer with numerous museums and art galleries that will blow your mind from the famous Jehangir Art Gallery to the National Gallery of Modern Art, The Volte Galleries, Chatterjee & Lal clustered around Colaba, the city has it all. A day won't be enough if you want to explore it all.


WHERE TO EAT IN MUMBAI

Best Street Food in Mumbai
On most best chaat list you'll find Chowpatty and Juhu beach chaat centers but I think they're overrated. If you really like good chaat then head to the suburb of Juhu. For the best pani puri in Mumbai go outside the NS road no. 6 {main road side commonly called Cooper Hospital road}. The small thela serves the best pani puri in the town. If you're brave enough try the spicy version, this super delicious pani puri will get your eyes watery. Once you've had this, just head right opposite Mithibai college at the Anand Stall and try the most amazing fusion dosas. Their Gini and Mysore Masala are heavenly. Ask them to prepare without cheese to get the vegan version.Just a few steps away is Ice and Rolls for super delicious frankies. Everything else here is quite good too.

For pav bhaji there's nothing like Sardar Pav Bhaji in Tardeo (South Mumbai) and Maruti Pav Bhaji in Vile Parle. While you are at Vile Parle, don't miss out of the delicious food sold by hawkers at the Khau Galli, near the Vile Parle station in West.

When you pay a visit to Marine Drive a glass of fresh juices and sandwiches are a must at Bachelor's.

Spice Klub
Eating Indian food outside always brings a yawn, but one meal at the vegetarian Spice Klub gave me a whole new perspective to the Indian food with their Indian twist to molecular gastronomy. Located right opposite Palladium Mall in a sprawling space with brick walls and distressed wooden furniture Spice Klub intrigues with their fusion take on Indian cuisine making everything familiar look unfamiliar yet pleasantly surprising. The dishes on the menu sounds heavenly - pav bhaji fondue, nancha, chocolate flower pot and bubbling kulfi. Although, like all other restaurants in Mumbai, Spice Klub had very limited vegan offerings, but whatever I tried was super delicious and my vegetarian party loved most of it - if the food was not out of the world, the presentation made up for it! While some dishes on the menu tip over to gimmickry, you shouldn't hesitate from taking risk every once in a while.
8A Janata Industrial Estate, Senapati Bapat Marg, Lower Parel (West). Tel. 022 24925544

Burma Burma
This vegan friendly Burmese restaurant serves vegetarian version of Burmese delicacies delivering pleasant surprises that you can't leave Mumbai without. The earthy wooden decor with upside down Burmese umbrellas on the ceiling is welcoming and the free wifi, a rarity in Mumbai restaurants, is a plus (although unplugging and focusing on food should be the motive). Burma Burma scores high on service and taste and is undoubtedly on top 5 of must-eat-list in Mumbai, even if you are a carnivore. Don't forget to order salads, they're super delicious {Mandalay Laphet Thoke Tea Leaf Salad and Tayat Thi Thoke Raw Mango Salad are my fav} and pair it with Kaffir Lime and Lemongrass Coolers, always the perfect pick for the Mumbai weather. Once you've had a satiating meal, end it with fruity bubble gum tea.
Kothari House, Allana Centre Lane, MG Road, Behind Mumbai University, Fort. Tel. 022 40036600. burmaburma.in

Firki
Firki's trendy take on Mumbai's street food is quite remarkable and with its colorful, quirky and retro decor this place is surely a winner. You can get the taste of real Indian street food with a stylish twist minus all the nuances of dining off the street vendors - pollution, dirt, honking cars, flies and unhygienic conditions. The menu is mixed with some real winners, some losers and few completely avoidable. Items like Masala Dosa Dumplings, Dabeli Fondue and Pav Bhaji Biryani are a must try.
Firki*, 11-12, Raghuvanshi Mills Compound, Senapati Bapat Marg, Lower Parel (West). Opens from noon-midnight. Tel. 022-24923001. 

If street food doesn't excite you, there are a few other great vegetarian restaurant options in the same compound, that have vegan options - Zen Cafe (more below), recently opened all-veg Belstone Cafe (Chinese, Indian, Mexican and Italian), next to Zen.

Starbucks Fort
Yes I know there is a Starbucks in every nook and corner of the world, and you must be wondering there's no reason why you should spend time at Starbucks when there are so many other places to explore in Mumbai. Hold on, I am not nuts and this isn't your regular Starbucks. This was the first Starbucks store to open gates in India and the sprawling space won everyone's hearts with its India-themed decor, a place that welcomes conversations and non-conversations alike and of course amazing coffee (with soy milk of course). You'll see a whole new Indianized avatar of Starbucks here and you can't not love it! Once you are done with the coffee, don't forget to take some pictures in the vicinity of the beautiful architecture and landmark properties like the Horniman Circle and the Asiatic library.
Elphinstone building, Horniman Circle, Veer Nariman Road, Fort. Tel. 022 6529 6888

Zen Cafe
In last few years Lower Parel has emerged as a heaven for vegetarians with plenty of great dining places from regular to fine dining, and Zen Cafe is one of those hidden gems that you must drop to once you tire yourself from all that shopping at Palladium Mall or when you want to have some good time all by yourself or with friends.

Quietly tucked in right at the entrance of Raghuvanshi Mall, sprawling on the first floor of a furniture store, this place is easy to miss but you shouldn't. Recently renovated, Zen Cafe maintains it's serene charm and follows it's Zen-like interiors with large sofas, wide tables and light music; this place immediately relaxes you and the great staff and great food makes your visit worth while. With a recent makeover and new menu this place has gotten even better. They may not have a separate vegan menu, but when you explain the staff they'll happily fix you something delicious and don't forget to order one of their healthy smoothies or freshly pressed juice {I loved the Pineapple Jalapeno combo}.
KSL House, Raghuvanshi Mills, Lower Parel. Tel. 022 2498 4825. zencafe.co


Leopold Cafe
Honestly, I've never been to the famous Leopold Cafe but being Mumbai's oldest hangouts and made famous by Shantaram and 26/11 terrorist attacks in the city, it is a must visit if you are keen to explore the best of Mumbai {so I heard}.
Near Colaba Police Station, Colaba Causeway. Tel.022 2202 0131

Tea Center
Also if you can make time, try the Tea Center at Churchgate to have the perfect Tea experience! Nothing fancy but it is a great place for a good conversation and delicious range of teas to choose from.
78, Resham Bhavan, Veer Nariman Road, Churchgate. Tel. 022 22819142

Vegan Desserts in Mumbai
For best vegan cakes and cupcakes The Green Stove is the best place in Mumbai. Rithika makes the best vegan desserts in town. They don't have a store or a restaurant yet, but they deliver all over Mumbai or you can get your order collected. I absolutely love their apple cinnamon vegan cupcakes.
Tel. 9819955320, thegreenstove.com

Tuskers
Very few people are aware of Tuskers - the fine dining Indian restaurant inside the French five star hotel Sofitel at BKC, but it really is a delightful place with great Gujarati and Rajasthani food. When you need a plush place to have a desi meal, this is where she should be headed.
Tel. 022-61175000

November to March is the best time to visit Mumbai; the weather is pleasant and there loads of events happening during that time. If you love art and design, then don't miss the Kala Ghoda Festival in January!

This isn't the comprehensive guide to the city and there are many more interesting places to see and explore. Stay tuned for the updates and follow me on Instagram and Facebook for more on Mumbai's Best!

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10 comments:

  1. Liked the post and was informative too.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I asked for your suggestion on Mumbai Hair Salons before going to Mumbai in February 2015, thanks a lot I loved haircut in Kromakay ;-D
    I also did shopping in Bombay Electric and Good Earth, went to Aer Bar, Blue Frog, Starbucks Fort !
    And still lots to do, hope I can visit Mumbai soon for the forth time!

    ReplyDelete
  3. so informative..now visit to Mumbai has a different reason!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Amazing post! Bookmarking this for sure :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Pardon my saying that. But Mumbai is not just limited to "Town" as the locals call it and Bandra and adjoining areas. There are lot more mouth-watering veggie / vegan options around the place. Would be good to hear about them, too :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your feedback Atul! I've tried to include other places but will surely add more places from West and Central Mumbai to the list.

      Delete
    2. Great that would be. Your reviews about veggie / vegan places on Western burbs, say up to Kandivali / Borivali or even places around Powai would help. Town is something we rarely go. Thanks!

      Delete

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