Experience Mumbai, India’s Old-World Charm and Glitzy Modern Side on a Three-Day Visit

From grand colonial mansions to glittering skyscrapers and wide seaside promenades, Mumbai, India, is all-encompassing. A buzzing metropolis of 20 million people, the city can overwhelm and dazzle even the most seasoned traveler.

It’s not hard to spend an entire week of balmy tropical days on the edge of the Arabian Sea, taking in the Maximum City’s Victorian architecture, vibrant markets, edgy bars and diverse dining. As the nexus of the film and fashion industry, the city is ever-evolving, pushing the envelope with creative cultural spaces, cool events and an inventive culinary scene. Whether you prefer to pack your itinerary with lots of sightseeing or take it easy and people-watch by the seaside, Mumbai offers something for every kind of visitor.

As always, check for travel restrictions and closures before planning your trip.

Friday: See the Sights in SoBo

chhatrapati shivaji terminus closeup day mumbai india
There’s history (and historic landmarks) around every corner. (Photo: Getty Images)

Ease into the city at posh South Bombay or SoBo, where breezy promenades stretch along the Arabian Sea and city landmarks jostle for space. Make your first stop at Kala Ghoda Cafe, a beloved breakfast spot for coffee and pastries. Get your dose of caffeine and pair it with some ragi dosas.

Start your explorations at the eye-poppingly ornate Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. The Gothic railway station dates back to the 1800s, all domes and minarets and ornate arches. A short distance away is the equally grand Chhatrapati Shivaji Museum, filled with sculptures and Mughal-era weapons.

You’re in the heart of Mumbai’s Kala Ghoda art district, where you can pop into contemporary spaces like the NGMA and Jehangir Art Gallery. Eclectic shopping and dining outlets dot the precinct, whose streets come alive during the annual outdoor arts festival in February, though there’s a cool vibe throughout the year.

Wander past stately buildings like the Asiatic Society and the David Sassoon Library to work up a healthy appetite for lunch. You’re now in the grand old neighborhood of Fort, where the tree-lined avenues are filled with Victorian-style buildings and old-timey Parsi eateries. The small Zoroastrian community’s food is central to Mumbai’s culinary legacy. Iconic venues include Jimmy Boy and the century-old Britannia & Co., where you can sample a hearty berry pulav (flavored rice with saffron and tangy berries) and dhansak (goat meat in a lentil gravy).

Nearby Colaba is among the city’s trendiest enclaves. It’s easy to spend an entire evening here, taking in the heritage architecture and visiting the many cafes and bars. The art deco style Regal Cinema stands at one end of Colaba Causeway—a lively shopping stretch lined with antique stores, curio stalls and boutiques. By the seaside, the 1900s Gateway of India is a defining city landmark.

After a relaxed farm-to-table meal of small and large plates that span global cuisines at The Table or a burger at Indigo Deli, experience the city’s nightlife at vibrant bars clustered around the area. Head to Woodside Inn for refined drinks or Leopold Cafe for a more easygoing, lively vibe.

Saturday: Suburban Crawl

Cheers to a great trip! (Photo: Getty Images)

After breakfast at your hotel, head to one of the city’s sprawling markets, where you’ll find everything from heaps of spices to fresh flowers. Need some guidance? Gold and jewels dazzle at Zaveri Bazaar while the lanes at Mangaldas Market are filled with every imaginable fabric.

Once you’ve had your fill of shopping, make your way to the ultra-hip neighborhood of Bandra in time for lunch. Home to some of Mumbai’s trendiest spots, this cool little suburb is where the creative crowd hangs out. Grab a drink at Bonobo, followed by a lunch of poached-peach salad or harissa chicken at Pali Village Cafe. (Leave room for the panna cotta!)

Afterward, explore the area’s narrow, cobbled alleyways filled with street art and greenery and make your way to the Portuguese-era Bandra Fort, dating back to the 1500s. Perched high above the Arabian Sea, you’ll have sweeping views of the Bandra-Worli Sea Link. For a relaxed glimpse of local life, head for a nice long stroll along Bandra Bandstand — a lively seaside walkway where locals come to watch the sunset, go for a run or catch sight of their favorite Bollywood stars, whose homes line the sea-facing stretch.

For dinner and a nightcap, the sleek business district of Lower Parel is your best bet, where restaurants like the Bombay Canteen serve up contemporary Indian food. Wind down with post-dinner cocktails at the elegant St. Regis bar.

Sunday: Sunday by the Sea

girgaon chowpatty and skyline mumbai india
Spend some time stretched out on the sand. (Photo: Getty Images)

Enjoy a relaxed Sunday brunch at the seaside JW Marriott Mumbai Juhu‘s Lotus Cafe, after which you can take a stroll on Juhu Beach. The upscale neighborhood is home to many celebrities, and the beach is always lively, with locals playing cricket or picnicking. In the vicinity is the iconic Prithvi Theatre, a torchbearer in Mumbai’s performing arts scene, showcasing contemporary performances in English and regional languages.

As the sun lowers, head to Chowpatty Beach, buzzing with energy on a Sunday evening. You can’t leave without experiencing Mumbai’s street food, which is exactly the menu for your last night in town.

At the beach, you’ll find everything from the quintessential vada pao (potato patty in a bun) to spicy, tangy chaat. Try something new at each vendor, or stop by at the iconic Pizza by the Bay for a slice with a side of sea views. The flavors will be matched only by the views: The beach lies at one end of Marine Drive, possibly the city’s most recognizable and popular stretch. Lined with palm trees and Art Deco buildings, the curved promenade by the Arabian Sea is the best spot to take in the sunset, just as the city lights come on, twinkling like jewels and earning it the moniker the “Queen’s Necklace.”

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Experience Mumbai, India’s Old-World Charm and Glitzy Modern Side on a Three-Day Visit