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How to Spend a Perfect Day in Mumbai

From break-of-dawn chai in the sprawling markets to sundowners in Bombay's most exciting bars.


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India's biggest and most populous city is a cultural and culinary hub packed with bustling markets, skyscrapers, jewel-encrusted palaces, art galleries, and glistening waterfronts.

While Bombay is certainly buzzing, the city's also chock-full of moments of calm. From rooftop bars facing the Arabian Sea to hidden-away pools dotted with swaying palms and lush jungle-parks three times the size of New York’s Central Park. There's a Mumbai for every type of traveler. Architecture and history buffs will have a field day scoping out Art Deco mansions, Buddhist pagodas, and British colonial-era landmarks while culinary buffs can fill their itinerary with reservations at iconic restaurants, hot new bars, and eclectic craft breweries.

Related: Beyond the Taj Mahal: India's Lesser-known Attractions

Heads up: sprawling Asian cities can be a beast to navigate, and Mumbai is no exception. You can easily hail an Uber, Ola Cabs, or Meru Cabs but traffic can be tough so consult your concierge and plan your day accordingly. And then remember you're on India time, so add an extra time buffer for good measure.

If you only have 24 hours, here's a list of the best things to do in Mumbai.

See Mumbai by Dawn

5:00 A.M.: There is no better wake-up call than that of Mumbai by dawn. Watch the city come to life with a private tour that'll have you wandering the bustling fish market, hitting up the Phool Gulli flower market, guzzling down the first cup of steaming chai from a stall and ending the tour a few hours later with a hearty Indian breakfast. If you want to take things up another notch, you can take your dawn tour on a nine-mile bicycle tour with Reality Tours.

Catch the Cricket in Oval Maidan

10:00 A.M: After a post-tour power nap and second breakfast at your hotel (American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts property Taj Mahal Palace is an iconic stay in the Colaba district), it's time to soak up Bombay's sporting spirit with a walk around Oval Maidan. This Grade I listed ground in south Mumbai is a stunning place to watch locals play cricket against a backdrop of Art Deco buildings and swaying palms. From here you can easily wander onto the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya Museum (formerly the Prince of Wales Museum), India's largest museum set in an impressive Indo-Saracenic structure.

Get Cultured in Kala Ghoda

12:00 P.M.: CSMVS Museum is in the Kala Ghoda district and it's worth sticking around the area. This cobbled pedestrian-friendly zone is Mumbai’s cultural nerve center with galleries, fashion houses, and great places to shop dotted along its winding lanes. Each year in February the area is the chosen venue for the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival. For a caffeine-dose pop into Kala Ghoda Cafe, a café, bakery, and wine bar who make their own blend of locally-sourced coffee, or head for Trishna, one of the city's most famous seafood restaurants, if you're hungry.

Continue your architecture fix and make your way just north of Oval Maidan to the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (formerly known as the Victoria Terminus). This colossal World Heritage rail station is a masterclass in Victorian Gothic Revival and Mughal architecture that easily dwarfs New York’s Grand Central. Not only is the exterior spectacular to see up close but people-watching here is a must—more than three million commuters use this station each day.

Take a Breather at the Jiva Spa

2:00 P.M.: We highly recommend a little R&R after all that sightseeing. Make your way back to the Taj Hotel Palace for a spa session at the hotel's Jiva Spa, a great place to rejuvenate with age-old Indian healing techniques (and a great place for mani-pedis too). Then you can order a laid back lunch by the outdoor garden pool, it's a dreamy palm-fringed oasis that feels a world away from the hustle just outside.

Related: River Cruises Are the Best Way to Experience the Ganges—Here's Why

Stroll Along Colaba Causeway

4:00 P.M: A 15-minute atmospheric walk from the Taj takes you to the Colaba Causeway. One of Mumbai's most famous markets that's filled with street vendors selling all sorts; from books to jewelry, and antiques. It's a sensory shopping experience like no other. If you need an escape there's plenty of hangouts to hide in, like Leopold Cafe, a Mumbai cafe dating back to 1871.

Make a Beeline for Bandra

5:00 PM Bandra is often compared to Williamsburg by Mumbai locals. And yes, you should come here to experience the locally brewed craft beers, graffiti, and high-end boutiques, and interesting galleries like Bombay Art Society but also for a seaside stroll along the Bandra Bandstand promenade and to check out the Bandra Fort, which was built by the Portuguese in 1534.

Dine, Goa Style

7:00 P:M: From Bandra West, a quick taxi will get you to the heart of the corporate district of Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC). It's a must-visit solely to eat at one of India's best restaurants: chef Hussain Shahzad's O Pedro. O Pedro celebrates the complexity of Goan cuisine and its Portuguese influences, channeling the sunny southern state with bright decor and playful cocktails. The Goan restaurant is currently the restaurant-in-residence in New York's Intersect by Lexus.

Sip Cocktails With Skyline Views

9:30 P.M: Looking for incredible views of the city? Toast the end of the day with sundowners overlooking Mumbai's skyline at rooftop bar, Aer, found on the 34th floor of the Four Seasons Mumbai, an American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts property.

Where to Stay

The Taj Mahal Palace, another American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts property, is Mumbai's most iconic stay. The original building is a seven-tiered wedding cake of gothic, Greco-Roman, Islamic and Rajasthan architecture topped by a glittering Florentine dome. The extravagant interiors are adorned with Italian marble floors, Belgian chandeliers and 4,000 works of art, most of them antique.


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