Sprawling, overcrowded and chaotic Mumbai is one of the most stifling and stimulating cities on the planet. Home to Bollywood, India’s fashion capital and the capital of Maharashtra state, Mumbai can at times be overwhelming, but this metropolis is also endlessly fascinating.
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Squeezed onto a small island connected by bridges to the mainland, Mumbai is India’s largest city and financial epicentre, home to great wealth, glistening skyscrapers and fashion-savvy locals. But Mumbai is also a city of extreme inequality where affluence and abject poverty sit side by side. At one extreme, the city boasts extortionate real estate prices; at the other, Mumbai is home to Asia’s largest slum population.
The busy streets are packed with grand colonial architecture, a myriad of temples and mosques, and many ancient bazaars. Visitors can immerse themselves in colonial history at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, the Gateway of India and the nearby legendary Taj Mahal Hotel. Alternatively, head towards Marine Drive to gawp at a surprising number of art deco buildings; in fact Mumbai is second only to Miami when it comes to this architectural style.
Or dive into modern-day life at the Dhobi Ghat; dance ’till dawn in swanky bars or hang out with a cold beer in legendary backpacker haunts; eat at some of India’s best restaurants or find a sandy seaside spot to sample Mumbai’s most popular snack, bhelpuri. Be warned though, the city’s beaches are great to hang out in but the seas are notoriously polluted. If you want to escape the din, head to the city’s well-maintained city parks or clutch of peaceful museums and art galleries mainly located to the south of Mumbai. This is where most of the city’s wealthy inhabitants live; shops like Armani and Hermes lure the big spenders, while real estate prices are comparable to Manhattan.
But however you choose to experience Mumbai, one thing is for certain: amid the colour and chaos, the city is certain to leave an impression.