With its storied palace hotels and temples, buzzing arts district, and burgeoning restaurant and nightlife scene, navigating one of the world's largest cities is no small feat.

By Sarah Khan
September 11, 2014
Credit: The Morrisons

Lay of the Land

Bandra/Juhu: You’ll find the city’s hippest restaurants and boutiques—as well as Bollywood stars—in these two posh suburbs.

Breach Candy: This upscale residential area is known for its historic landmarks, such as the 18th-century Mahalaxmi Temple and the colonial-era Breach Candy Club.

South Mumbai: The atmospheric enclaves of Colaba, Fort, Churchgate, Kala Ghoda, and Nariman Point make up the city’s financial heart and house some of its most striking architecture.

Worli/Lower Parel: Many of the colossal mills and warehouses in these former industrial areas have been turned into glitzy malls and luxury hotels.

Getting Around

Taxis are the best and safest way to navigate the city. Luckily, they are ubiquitous and easy to hail; services like Uber and Meru Cabs are also useful for calling a reliable car.


Eight hotels we love, from a stylish boutique property to a lavish mansion fit for royalty.

Taj Mahal Palace: An icon of Mumbai’s skyline, this 1903 Edwardian palace has a revamped lobby incorporating vaulted ceilings, silk carpets, onyx columns, and etched glasswork. Upstairs, the Palace Wing’s 285 rooms are filled with period furniture and antiques. $$$$

Abode: Tucked away in Colaba, the 20-room Abode hotel pays homage to retro-Bombay kitsch. There are old-fashioned light switches and locks, handmade wicker chairs, and colorful Bharat tiles. $

Oberoi: It’s hard to match the Oberoi for impeccable service; press the call button in your room and a butler will be at your door in minutes. Other highlights: postcard-worthy views over Marine Drive and the Indian restaurant Ziya’s acclaimed chef, Vineet Bhatia. $$$

The Leela: Among 11 acres of landscaped gardens and waterfalls, the Leela is a tranquil oasis in central Mumbai, with a large business center and a prime location near the airport. $$

Trident, Bandra Kurla: Oberoi’s business-focused brand brings its tech savvy to Mumbai’s burgeoning financial center (LCD TV’s; electronic blackout blinds). Don’t miss the Mediterranean fusion restaurant 022, with its 1,500-bottle wine library. $$

Trident, Nariman Point: In the 35-floor tower on scenic Marine Drive, the 555 spacious rooms (oak floors; original art) and 22-foot-long pool share vistas of the city or the Arabian Sea. $$

Taj Lands End: Bollywood royalty live in Bandra, and this slick waterfront hotel is the suburb’s most glamorous address. Public spaces are decked out in dark wood and white marble. Don’t be surprised if you run into the starlet du jour at the new 4,930-square-foot Jiva Spa. $$

Palladium: Mumbai’s gleaming Palladium is bringing even more prestige to the Lower Parel neighborhood. The lobby’s grand staircase is flanked by gilded mirrors, the 344 rooms and suites have Rajasthani artwork, and international DJ’s rotate through the 37th-floor club, Exo. $

Hotel Pricing Key
$ Less than $200
$$ $200 to $350
$$$ $350 to $500
$$$$ $500 to $1,000
$$$$$ More than $1,000


Our picks of Mumbai’s standout boutiques.

Obataimu: East meets farther East at the Japanese-influenced design studio Obataimu, a showcase for founder Noorie Sadarangani’s made-to-measure line of minimalist peplum blouses, impossibly soft unisex tees, and layered dresses inspired by origami.

Bandra 190: Three Bollywood wives teamed up to open one of Mumbai’s hottest shopping destinations, whose striking red-and-cobalt-blue façade conceals seven stories of mini-boutiques including Sussanne Roshan’s décor brand Charcoal Project and jeweler Maheep Kapoor’s statement baubles (ornate chandelier earrings; kundan necklaces). Savanna Court, 190 Turner Rd.; 91-22/​2645-1151.

Filter: At Filter, you’ll find an eclectic mix of souvenirs—framed vintage concert posters, handmade notebooks, and tomes on specialized topics such as typography and city trains.

Big Door: A shrine to traditional Indian housewares and accessories (massive marble lions; a silver- ​and-​teak four-poster bed), Big Door is the ideal resource for aspiring decorators seeking to outfit their home like a Rajasthani palace.

Ensemble: For nearly three decades, stylish Mumbaikars have been flocking to Ensemble for shimmering saris, classic lehengas (long embroidered skirts), and churidars (cotton trousers) by India’s top labels. Look for pieces by New Delhi–​based designer Rohit Bal and British-born Manish Malhotra.

See + Do

Four spots to get your art fix.

New galleries are vying for space along Kala Ghoda’s crowded lanes, but Jehangir Art Gallery has remained a fixture since 1952. Its three airy rooms display works by Indian artists such as Jatin Das and Manish Sutaar, and the Samovar Café is a local favorite for lunch.

The country’s premier gallery for 20th-century Indian art, Delhi Art Gallery, recently opened a Mumbai outpost in a renovated four-story heritage building. Rotating shows highlight masters including M. F. Husain and Krishen Khanna.

For the best of emerging contemporary artists (Sharanu Alloli; Pradeep Nerurkar), head to Gallery 7, a chic, white-walled space in Kala Ghoda.

Artisans Centre on Gandhi Marg exhibits a wide range of Indian crafts, from Maheshwari saris and colorful Kashmiri shawls to hand-painted textiles.


Six hot tables across the city.

Café Sundance: Sundance was a city landmark in the 1980’s before falling into disrepair. Then, in 2012, a team of restaurateurs revamped the space and menu. What to expect? Comfort dishes such as the “Sundance Sasquatch,” a 20-ounce tenderloin beef burger with crisp bacon, pickles, fried egg, melted provolone, and guacamole, served in a dining room with wooden tables and retro curios, including typewriters and Archie comics. Eros Cinema Bldg., 42 MK Rd., Churchgate; 91-22/2202-6212. $$

Nico Bombay: Stylish Nico Bombay wouldn’t be out of place in New York or Paris, but it’s at the forefront of a recent revival in the trendy Kala Ghoda neighborhood. Chef Sinclair Pinto is an alum of Chicago’s Alinea; here, he serves a sophisticated Italian-inspired menu that includes wood-fired pizzas and saffron risotto with calamari and clams. 105 Apollo St., Bombay Samachar Marg; 91-22/2262-4466. $$

Masala Library: Renowned chef Jiggs Kalra’s Masala Library in Bandra East is an ode to molecular gastronomy with inventive takes on traditional Indian dishes: a “chai” infused with dehydrated mushrooms; ghewar cheesecake with pistachio dust and almond chikki. $$$

Café Zoe: You never know what to expect at Belgian owner Jérémie Horowitz’s lively European-style brasserie in Lower Parel. One night, you might find Wile E. Coyote cartoons projected on the walls; the next, a live jazz band serenading diners. Try the mini-​lamb burger or house-​made pappardelle. $$

Pali Bhavan: The latticed wooden windows and balconies, vintage chandeliers, and colonial-era photographs at the spacious Pali Bhavan evoke 1950’s Mumbai. Start with a chutney martini, followed by Indian staples such as galaouti kebab or paneer tikka. 10 Aadarsh Nagar Pali Naka, Bandra West; 91-22/2651-9400. $$

The Table: San Francisco chef Alex Sanchez came to Mumbai three years ago to open this elegant bistro in Colaba. The result is fresh, simple home cooking with a distinctly West Coast sensibility: warm chèvre salad; Swiss-chard ravioli; truffle fries with tomato jam. $$

Art on Arrival

Thanks to the new Terminal 2 at Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, visitors can see world-class art as soon as they deplane. The place is filled with some 5,000 ancient artifacts, plus contemporary works by Indian artists (such as New Delhi–based mixed-media talent Vivan Sundaram and painter Nilima Sheikh) that together comprise a nearly two-mile-long art walk.

Local Take

Get the scoop on the city from three insiders.

Kelvin Cheung

Chef, Ellipsis

“I try to avoid the restaurant tourist traps, which is why I love King of Iran (Shop #9, Yusuf Chambers, Jijabai Marg; 91-22/2375-5769), in Byculla. A hidden gem that’s been open for over thirty years, it serves simple Mughlai dishes; order the mutton keema with parathas. The fish market at Sassoon Docks, in Colaba, is worth a visit to see where locals buy their seafood. When I need a break from city life, I go for a run in the Hanging Gardens—it’s a beautiful park filled with flowers.”

Masaba Gupta

Fashion designer at House of Masaba

“The area around Mohammed Ali Road is predominantly Muslim. During Ramadan, I like to wander the street at night, when it is illuminated with lights. For dinner, I adore the Chinese food at Yauatcha, in Bandra—they have this chili-oil sauce you can’t find anywhere else. My go-to shop for fabrics is nearby Anwarally’s (Sona Shopping Center, Hill Rd., Bandra West; 91-22/2642-2534), with a huge variety of silks, cottons, and lace.”

Malini Agarwal

Celebrity blogger, missmalini.com

“If you’re looking for trinkets and gifts, Colaba Causeway is your best bet—the market sells everything from Kolhapuri sandals to incense and jewelry. Blue Frog is one of Mumbai’s top music venues and hosts frequent live concerts. The interiors are cool, with circular dining pods and high-quality acoustics. For innovative drinks and songs you can dance to, try the Ghetto (30B Bhulabhai Desai Rd., Breach Candy), near Mahalaxmi Temple.”


Where to go in Mumbai after dark.

Dome: The prize for best sunset views in the city goes to this sexy rooftop lounge at the InterContinental Marine Drive in South Mumbai, which overlooks the Back Bay.

The Daily: A popular watering hole in Bandra, the Daily serves hearty comfort food and molecular cocktails (get the whiskey-based Gypsy Queen). S.V. Rd., Bandra West; 91-99/2044-6633.

Local Bombay: You need a secret code to enter this hip underground bar in Fort (to get it, e-mail the club beforehand). Order a masala soda fizz. Mahatma Gandhi Rd., Fort; thelocalbombay@gmail.com.