SD › Best Places in Mumbai
Updated: April 4, 2021
The Best Area to Stay in Mumbai
Home to more than 22 million, India’s largest city is a mesmerizing melting pot of cultures, languages, and people who have brought with them various religions, cuisines, and customs from across this extraordinarily diverse country. The original cluster of seven islands, later joined by bridges and reclamation projects, was part of Hindu and Islamic dynasties, and then ruled by an unremarkable Portuguese administration. The British then transformed Bombay (as it was formerly known) into a major port and trading center, which soon also became India’s brash and bustling hub for finance, sports, and Bollywood films.
Some tourists are put off by visiting Indian cities because of the crowds, pollution, traffic, and poverty, but Mumbai is India’s most appealing – and certainly more than just a transit point for flights and trains to Goa. Although home to some of Asia’s largest slums, the city boasts abundant remnants of ancient and colonial history (which is only bettered by Delhi), pleasant beachside suburbs, and a range of bistros, boutiques, and bars to rival anywhere in Asia. There are, however, downsides: with a limited metro (though the network is undergoing a massive upgrade), it can be difficult to get around; hotels are among India’s most expensive; the monsoon is particularly severe from June to September.
Near the iconic Gateway of India monument, historic Taj Mahal Palace hotel, and colonial-era hubs of Kala Ghoda and Fort, the narrow lanes of Colaba are packed with guesthouses and other tourist facilities. A short trip north, Marine Drive offers trendy restaurants, top-end hotels, and appealing Art Deco buildings, the second-largest collection after only Miami, as well as bay views and welcome breezes. This multi-lane esplanade (and parallel sidewalk, popular for walking and cycling) stretches to Chowpatty beach. This prime inner-city beach is vibrant but not good for swimming. The best mid-range hotels are located at nearby Kemps Corner. India’s premier suburban beach is Juhu, which is almost as inviting as some beaches in Goa, with the added attraction that some hotels feature genuine beach frontage. Also convenient to the airport are Andheri East and Vile Parle East, adjacent suburbs loaded with modern shops, mid-range and top-end hotels, and linked by the expanding metro service.
The Best Places to Stay in Mumbai
- Best Luxury Hotels in Mumbai
Taj Mahal Palace • St. Regis • Four Seasons • ITC Grand Central Mumbai • InterContinental Marine Drive • The Oberoi • Trident Nariman Point • Hyatt Regency Mumbai International Airport
- Best Boutique Hotels in Mumbai
Abode Bombay • Gordon House Hotel
- Best Cheap & Midrange Hotels in Mumbai
The Ferreiras • Hotel Kemps Corner • Astoria Hotel
- Best Family Hotels in Mumbai
InterContinental Marine Drive • The Oberoi • Grand Hyatt Mumbai Hotel & Residences (near Airport)
Best Area in Mumbai for…
- Best Area in Mumbai for Sightseeing: Colaba
The comparatively quiet and shady lanes around this historic area are lined with charming guesthouses, trendy bistros, swarming markets, and inviting shops (especially behind the magnificent Taj Mahal Palace hotel). Along the esplanade are the historic Gateway of India monument (packed with Indian tourists) and terminal for ferries to the amazing Elephanta Island just offshore. Colaba is a longish walk or short taxi trip from Kala Ghoda and the Fort area, both home to numerous museums, galleries, and extraordinary buildings like the Gothic railway station, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (formerly known as Victoria Terminus).
- Best Area in Mumbai for Beaches: Juhu
The finest city beach anywhere in India is almost as inviting as some of the beaches in Goa, but without the laidback vibe and bamboo cafés on the sand. Juhu can get implausibly overcrowded during festivals, public holidays, and weekends, but is pleasingly quiet at other times and offers a fine range of accommodations – some with direct beach frontage which is not allowed by authorities in Goa. Adding to the allure are the range of classy bars and cafés, modest selection of water-sports, and sunsets that suffer less from the occasional pollution haze than those along Marine Drive.
- Best Area in Mumbai for Shopping: Marine Drive
With many of the city’s 22 million (and counting) burgeoning middle-class residing in the suburbs, there is no shortage of malls there. More convenient for tourists, however, are the chic clothing boutiques, old-fashioned jewelers, and other fascinating shops around the narrow lanes of historic Colaba. For a more genuine shopping and cultural experience, head to the astoundingly vast, varied, and chaotic bazaars such as the 150-year-old Crawford Market (Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Mandai). These are about 800m inland from Marine Drive and just north of the Fort area. Set up for locals and not tourists, look out for spices, green groceries, jewelry, and antique reproductions, but bargain hard.
- Best Area in Mumbai for Families: Juhu
To escape the inner-city crowds, noise, and poverty, and to minimize the inescapable pollution, heat, and traffic, the extended beach at Juhu is almost as appealing as some in Goa. The sand is wide and reasonably clean, the water is suitable for swimming, and some modest water-sports can be arranged. While very crowded during festivals, holidays, and weekends, it’s pleasingly quiet at other times. Providing a safe and engaging vibrancy rarely found in downtown areas of any Indian city, families would also appreciate the cafés serving western (and Indian) food, a fabulous supermarket selling fresh produce and imported goodies, and short transfers to the domestic or international airport terminals.
- Best Area in Mumbai for Food & Restaurants: Colaba
Mumbai is jam-packed with fabulous places to eat, from top-end hotels with menus and prices that match European cities to French-style bistros, Japanese teppanyaki restaurants, and family-friendly pizza joints. Many are spread across the suburbs, so those around the historic inner-city area of Colaba are more convenient. The narrow lanes (with comparatively less traffic) are home to adorable coffee shops, old-fashioned cafés with clunky fans, trendy delicatessens, and hole-in-the-wall eateries selling local dishes such as tawa pulao (vegetarian fried rice) and fish thali (set meals in steel plates). Especially tempting is the variety along Colaba Causeway (Shahid Bhagat Singh Road).
- Best Area in Mumbai for Transport: Andheri East
With its numerous flyovers and remarkable bridges, the road system is arguably the most coordinated in India, but public transport is poor (especially for tourists). The metro system doesn’t connect with the airport or Colaba and other areas where tourists may visit or stay, but should expand rapidly to become more useful by 2021. Local buses and trains are impossibly crowded during peak hours and merely overwhelming at other times, and no auto-rickshaws are allowed anywhere south of Bandra. (The good news is that most taxis use their meters, and app-based Ola and Uber cabs are very popular.) Close to the domestic and international airport terminals, linked by metro and accessible by auto-rickshaw, Andheri East offers many mid-range and top-end hotels.
- Best Area in Mumbai for Nightlife: Colaba
Canny business people and affluent students often visit the coffee shops, bistros, and bars along Colaba Causeway (Shahid Bhagat Singh Road). This extended thoroughfare which skirts the edge of the popular base of Colaba is more convenient than the night-time offerings in the outer suburbs where patrons are expected to dress up and pay hefty entry charges. One can also check out a Bollywood movie made in or around Mumbai at Colaba’s famous Regal Cinema (also a useful landmark). Bollywood films won’t feature English subtitles but are still an experience. Also, look out for cultural events and frequent local festivals.
- Best Area in Mumbai for Vibe & Culture: Kala Ghoda and Fort Area (near Colaba)
British colonialists originally settled in the area still known as Fort, although the namesake building no longer exists. Thoughtless destruction centuries ago and rampant construction since have ensured that very few remnants of pre-colonial history have survived (with the notable exception of the temples on Elephanta Island). The most appealing colonial-era galleries, museums, and other buildings are along or near Oval Maidan, an extended park frequented by local workers, courting couples, and boisterous boys playing cricket. The area also hosts several engaging festivals.
- Best Romantic Area in Mumbai: Juhu
Few bother enjoying a honeymoon or romantic getaway in Mumbai when the magnificent beaches of Goa are only an hour away by frequent and cheap flights. However, Juhu is certainly worth considering: an extended beach that is the finest in any Indian city. While impossibly crowded (but particularly vibrant) during festivals, holidays, and weekends, it’s pleasingly quiet at other times and popular for long walks and beautiful sunsets. Some hotels are almost on the sand, offering direct beach frontage not allowed by authorities in Goa, and there are also inviting cafés, trendy clubs, and a modest selection of water-sports.
- Best Area in Mumbai for First Timers: Marine Drive
The traffic, crowds, pollution, and poverty at India’s largest city can be overwhelming even for experienced travelers. With the exception of the traffic (which is relentless everywhere), these issues can be minimized by staying a little further from downtown. The area along or just off this multi-lane esplanade is ideal because there are hotels of various standards and trendy cafés/bars, and the coastal breezes help relieve the heat and humidity. Only a quick trip by taxi from the sights around Colaba and the Fort area, walking or cycling along Marine Drive to the inner-city beach of Chowpatty is also heaps of fun. Staying in the southern area of Marine Drive (i.e. in or near The Oberoi hotel) also helps avoid much of the traffic in the area.
- Safest Area in Mumbai: Marine Drive
The potential dangers that exist in every Indian city can be substantially minimized by taking the usual precautions and staying in this affluent inner-city suburb along the coast. Although the traffic is relentless, this esplanade is much quieter in the southern section (i.e. near The Oberoi hotel) and the backstreets are also well-lit at night. In reality, the main danger anywhere in Mumbai may simply be crossing the road, so always remember: pedestrians do not have the right of way in India, except (usually) at a red traffic light.
The 5 Best Neighborhoods in Mumbai for Tourists
At the southern end of the peninsula, Colaba includes the area more officially known as Apollo Bandar. Near the iconic Gateway of India monument and historic Taj Mahal Palace hotel, the comparatively narrow, shady, and quiet lanes are packed with charming guesthouses, modern pizza joints, and stylish wine bistros. Regular sea breezes add to the appeal during the worst of the heat and humidity. The downsides are the extra distance from the airport, the metro won’t start till 2021, and some lowlifes do inhabit a few doorways at night. A longish walk via the extended Oval Maidan parkland are the neighboring areas of Kala Ghoda, home to several museums and galleries, and Fort, no longer with the namesake building but also sprinkled with colonial-era remnants.
Built on reclaimed land only 100 years ago, this multi-lane esplanade and its shady backstreets offer a range of accommodations from 5-star hotels to budget-priced guesthouses. Stretching several kilometers from the quieter southern section near The Oberoi hotel to Chowpatty beach (see below), the road is flanked by fascinating Art Deco buildings and paralleled by a path that is ideal for walking, cycling, and watching sunsets. The traffic is heavy and the cool sea breezes do temper the heat and humidity. Home to two international cricket stadiums, the area is also a quick taxi trip south to the historic Colaba area and walkable to the seemingly endless bazaars around Crawford Market.
3. Chowpatty & Kemps Corner
Closer to the city center than Juhu (see below), but not nearly as appealing, is the inner-city beach of Chowpatty. While reasonably scenic and certainly vibrant during festivals – and evenings when food stalls are set up – the sea is too polluted for swimming. The lack of accommodation near the beach is surprising, but the adjoining residential neighborhood of Kemps Corner offers some mid-range hotels and tempting cafés and bars. Kemps Corner is also convenient to the major bus and railway stations and adjacent to Malabar Hill, Mumbai’s poshest area.
4. Juhu Beach
India’s premier suburban beach is as scenic, wide, and inviting as some parts of Goa. Impossibly crowded during holidays and festivals, and merely overcrowded on weekends, this spacious area is more pleasant in many ways than downtown. What’s more, several hotels directly face the beach and the legendary sunsets are (usually) haze-free. The food stalls and Indian families frolicking on the sand add to the attraction, and a few huts offer a modest array of water-sports. Juhu is also a more appealing option for passengers transiting from the nearby domestic and international airport terminals than Andheri East or Vile Parle East (see below).
Adjacent to Juhu beach (see above) and far more spacious than downtown, these two suburbs are home to gleaming office blocks, western-style malls, and international-brand hotels that serve business and transit passengers from the nearby domestic and international airport terminals. Unlike other sections of Mumbai popular with tourists, a metro line runs through both areas, part of an expanding system due to connect with the airport and inner-city by 2021.
- Best Luxury Hotels: Hyatt Regency Mumbai International Airport • Radisson Mumbai Andheri MIDC • JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar Airport • ITC Maratha Mumbai Airport
- Best Boutique/Midrange Hotels: Waterstones Hotel • The Orchid Hotel Mumbai Vile Parle • Treebo Trip Meriton • Ginger Mumbai
- Best Cheap Hotels: Hexa Metro Plaza • Port Hotel
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