While it’s India’s most polarizing city, Mumbai is also its most vibrant. For locals, an affinity for either Mumbai — colloquially referred to as Bombay — or Delhi draws a clear distinction of love and loyalty. For travelers, the abrupt nature of this boisterous city makes it a difficult place to appreciate without first having time to assimilate. But, as with any city, Mumbai is best experienced with a bit of advance insight.

Photo by Lauren Norling
Photo by Lauren Norling

So, if you find yourself craving a well-rounded experience, use this itinerary to help you plan your trip.

Stay near the Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC), located just a short ride from the airport. Modestly priced and conveniently located, there are plenty of fantastic places for a brief weekend in the city. 

After you check in and freshen up, head to Yauatcha. Although its founding restaurant is in London, Mumbai’s outpost of the famed contemporary dim sum tea house is a great place to grab dinner and drinks on a Friday night. Situated a mere five minutes from Sofitel, it’s both delicious and convenient. Just remember that dinner is served comparatively later in India, so aim for a 9 p.m. reservation. And, if there’s one thing you don’t want to leave without trying, it’s the truffle edamame dim sum. It’s as good as it sounds.

Photo by Himanshu Sharma

After you wrap up your first evening in Mumbai and get some sleep, start your morning off right by hailing a “black-and-yellow” (the local taxis) for a ride to Kala Ghoda. Located at the southern tip of Mumbai, Kala Ghoda is the city’s art district. Galleries, flagships of some of India’s most coveted designers, and prized restaurants fill the neighborhood. Before perusing the local art, stop in for a bite from at the Pantry, a European-style café where every item on the menu is simple, fresh, and delectable. Once you finish your meal, be sure to do a bit of shopping at Sabyasachi and Payal Khandwala — Sabyasachi is India’s foremost designer in ethnic attire, while Payal’s use of traditional and contemporary elements makes her handcrafted creations truly unique.

Photo by Dallas Intuitive

Saturday evening calls for a stroll down Marine Drive in South Mumbai to relish the views of the water beyond. But before the sun sets, head to a rooftop bar. While many rooftop bars come and go in Mumbai, one of the best views of the city is from AER. Enjoy a cocktail or a glass of wine while you take in the aerial view of the metropolis below.

Photo by Thirsty

Any trip to the city calls for a bit of decadence. One of the best and most quintessentially “Mumbai” spots is Wasabi, the Japanese restaurant set in the Taj Mahal Palace. As one of the city’s most coveted landmarks and beautiful hotels, it offers a picturesque experience accompanied by truly incredible food. Once you finish eating, venture outside and wander the Gateway of India. The area is packed with throngs of people during the day, but at night, it’s far more peaceful and, to some, even more beautiful.

Photo by Ian D’Sa

While visitors to Mumbai tend to shop at Colaba Causeway, the lesser-known Chor Bazaar (Thieves Market) has far more character, and simply more to offer. Rumored to have once been called the “Shor” (noisy) Bazaar, the market’s name changed over time because the British couldn’t pronounce it. Today, the market is full of interesting finds — everything from footwear to old cameras. That said, the area’s hidden gem is a poster shop run by the grandson of a man who collected original Bollywood posters for years. Hundreds of them now remain and they’re sold in the market at a small shop called, aptly, Poster Store.

Photo by Mumbai Foodie

Once you finish exploring the bazaar, end your trip the best way possible — with brunch. Located in the heart of Colaba, and not far from Chor Bazaar, the Table is a modern, ingredient-driven restaurant focused on global cuisine. Lively music, excellent food, and tasty cocktails act as a blissful mix as you watch the continuous hustle and bustle of the city pass by.

Photo by Discern Living

Finally, before you depart, take a taxi over to Mumbai’s historic Fort area. While it’s home to offices of prestigious companies like Condé Nast and the Bombay Stock Exchange, on a Sunday, it’s deserted and perfect for an architecture hunt. Once the heart of the city in the 18th century, Fort gets its name from Fort George, which was built by the British East India Company. Today, it stands as a glimpse into the storied past of the city’s ever-changing landscape.

As you ride back to your accommodation before continuing on to the airport, soak in the sights of the city. Mumbai is nothing if not a city full of character, and if you watch closely, you’ll see that much of its beauty lies in the chaos.