India’s largest city is a chaotic sea of street hawkers, markets, businessmen and tourists, historic colonial monuments and modern high rises. Fashionable, fast-moving and totally absorbing, Mumbai can easily overwhelm the senses.
Flights to Mumbai
Direct flights to Mumbai take about 9 hours from the UK and the airport is located about 30km north of the city centre.
It’s considered India’s most cosmopolitan city, with migrants settling there from far and wide, giving it a liberal air found in few other Indian cities. Mumbai is also the home of Bollywood, one of the world’s biggest film industries, and it has fallen firmly under the tourist spotlight since the huge success of the Oscar-winning film Slumdog Millionaire.
Mumbai’s top sights
Mumbai is a huge, sprawling city, but most of the top tourist sights are concentrated in South Mumbai, which is also the oldest and most affluent area of the city. It’s where the British built the historic docklands, and it’s home to Mumbai’s most famous hotels, plus many other fine colonial buildings, the Gateway of India, the mansions of Malabar Hill, and many of India’s top museums, galleries, upmarket bars and restaurants.
The iconic Gateway of India has come to symbolise Mumbai: a great monumental arch built in 1911 to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary to India. Another striking piece of colonial architecture is the red Gothic Chhatrapati Shivaji railway terminus, still popularly known as ‘VT’ or Victoria Terminus station. The city’s most famous and luxurious hotels, the Taj Mahal and Trident-Oberoi, are also housed in grand colonial buildings.
Of the city’s museums and galleries, two of the most popular are the the National Gallery of Modern Art and the Prince of Wales Museum, which showcases some fine ivory statuettes, Mughal paintings and objects d’art.
Mumbai is also well known for is its markets; there are too many to mention, but amongst the most popular are Crawford Market, Bhuleshwar, and Chor Bazaar – all of them heaving and chaotic, but fascinating to explore.
South Mumbai’s most famous temples include Mahalaxmi Temple, dedicated to the goddess of wealth and prosperity; the Babulnath Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva; and the Walkeshwar Temple, which legends says was once visited by Lord Rama.
And despite Mumbai’s reputation as a concrete jungle, there are some pockets of parkland to escape to when you’re tired of the hot, dusty streets. Try the leafy old colonial city zoo (Veermata Jijabai Udyan) in Byculla, or the Hanging Gardens on Malabar Hill, which offer far-reaching views over Marine Drive. Marine Drive (Queen’s Necklace) itself runs along the seafront promenade which stretches from Malabar Hill to Nariman Point, alongside Chowpatty Beach, looking out to the Arabian Sea. The beach is ideal for people-watching and for picking up one of Mumbai’s favourite snacks: bhelpuri – but it’s not so great for swimming. Head further north to the suburbs of Northwest Mumbai if you want to find cleaner (but less interesting) beaches.
Flights to India from the UK
Mumbai Airport (Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport) is one of India’s key international gateways. The cheapest fares tend to be from London Heathrow, but there are also good fares from many different regional airports cross the UK.
Air India and Etihad Airways are just a couple of the airlines that offer flights to India from London, for example – but you can also find flights from regional airports such as Cardiff, Bristol, Birmingham, Manchester, Aberdeen, and Belfast International with various international carriers.