City Guide

Four hours in Mumbai 2010

28 Aug 2010 by Sara Turner

1 - Chowpatty Beach

Chowpatty Beach, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Although not recommended for bathing, Mumbai’s city beach is an ideal place to start your tour. It offers fantastic views from the shore of Marine Drive with its art deco mansions as it curves around to Nariman Point. Chances are you’ll be exploring during the day, but if you get the opportunity to return in the evening, Chowpatty Beach offers the perfect vision of “the Queen’s Necklace” – the name given to Marine Drive by night, when it is lit up by a chain of street lamps.

The beach has a number of stalls selling street food, such as the popular savoury snack bhelpuri, a mix of puffed rice, spices and potato. You can also find kulfi, traditional Indian ice cream. Surprisingly, the most refreshing choice is often a cup of masala chai – spiced Indian tea. Served espresso-style in a small cup, it is made with plenty of sugar and dried loose-leaf tea boiled up with two-thirds milk, one-third water, ginger and spices. It is super-sweet so may take a little getting used to, but is as good a pick-me-up as any caffeine shot.

Beach Mumbai

2 - Bombay Museum

Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

If you’ve got the time and energy and you don’t hit the midday sun, you could walk all the way around the bay to your next stop, South Mumbai, in about an hour. There is a wide pavement and a sea wall, and the open panorama offers a welcome reprieve from this busy city. Otherwise, take a taxi to the Prince of Wales Museum on MG Road, making sure the driver puts the meter on.

The museum is now officially known as Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, but many people still refer to it by its former name, or simply as the Bombay Museum. Open since 1922, the Indo-Saracenic building houses a well put-together collection of art and artefacts from across the subcontinent. There is also a good audio guide included in the entry price, but bear in mind that this takes well over an hour.

The collection of miniature paintings is one of the best in the country. These painstakingly produced masterpieces show scenes from popular tales of Indian gods and goddesses. The attention to detail is amazing, with some of the smaller strokes having been painted with a single hair. The array of stuffed animals on show might leave you cold but if you don’t mind it, the extremely rare white tiger, thought to be extinct until recently, ranks among the more unusual specimens. Open Tues-Sat 10.15am-6pm; Rs 300 (£4); 159-161 MG Road; bombaymuseum.org

3 - National Gallery

Sir Cowasji Jahangir Public Hall, MG Road, mumbai

Opposite the museum is the white-walled National Gallery of Modern Art, which hosts mainly temporary exhibitions covering photography, painting and sculpture. Shows are often drawn from the art collection of the National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi, which includes some 17,000 works from the 1850s onwards. Past shows have included photography by Henri-Cartier Bresson, who spent some time in India, as well as drawings and paintings by the multi-talented Rabindranath Tagore, the first Asian to win the Nobel Prize for literature in 1913. Open Tues-Sun 10am-5pm; entry Rs 150 (£2); Sir Cowasji Jahangir Public Hall, MG Road; ngmaindia.gov.in

4 - Leopold Cafe

Leopold Cafe, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Wander down to Colaba Causeway (officially called Shahid Bhagat Singh Marg) to Leopold café, under the porticoes on the left-hand side. This friendly bar and eatery hit the headlines in November 2008 when it was attacked by terrorists along with the Oberoi Trident hotel and the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower, but it picked itself up and reopened shortly afterwards – the only visible signs are a few bullet holes in the wall and guards who check your bags at the door.

Serving good food and cold beer, Leopold’s has been around since 1871 and was originally made famous by Gregory David Roberts’ semi-autobiographical novel Shantaram –you can pick up a copy of the hefty tome here. Take a seat at one of the wooden tables, enjoy the breeze from the colonial-style ceiling fans, and tuck in. The menu includes local favourites such as mutter paneer (peas and cheese in a tomato sauce) and butter chicken, but it’s the cold Kingfisher lager that’s the real draw. Visit leopoldcafe.com

5 - Colaba market

Colaba Market, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

This lively market selling books, leather sandals, scarves, silver jewellery and handbags takes place outside Leopold’s – remember to haggle hard and you can pick up a real bargain. In India, haggling is an art form and is great fun if you don’t take it too seriously. As a rule of thumb, start at just below half the asking price and go up, begrudgingly, to two-thirds maximum. The stalls line one side of the road, while on the other are more upmarket jewellery and souvenir shops. Remember you can also bargain in some of the swankier stores – try asking “Is that the best price?” if you don’t want to offend, and the same rules apply.

Further down Colaba Causeway are jeans stores Lee and Levi’s, where you can pick up a pair at a steal. What’s more, they will alter your trousers free of charge so if you’re a little short in the leg, or narrow-waisted, you can get a perfect fit. Bear in mind that this service usually takes a couple of hours while they run your new clothes down to the tailors.

6 - Harbour Bar at the Taj

The Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Finish up at the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower’s Harbour bar, which opened in 1933 and claims to have been Mumbai’s first licensed drinking establishment. The atmospheric spot overlooks the Gateway of India, nearly always busy with tourists, touts and, inexplicably, people selling huge balloons. From this peaceful vantage point you can soak up the view and try one of the signature cocktails – “From the Harbour”, said to date from the age of prohibition, and invented here at the Taj, contains Tanqueray gin, peach syrup, chopped fruit, pineapple and cranberry juice and Chartreuse liqueur. Or opt for one of the many single malt whiskies or vintage wines. If this doesn’t tickle your taste buds, the hotel has another bar and eight restaurants. Apollo Bunder; tel +91 226 6653 366; tajhotels.com

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