Mumbai, a vibrant and bustling coastal city, has always oozed style and sophistication. A port city overlooking the Arabian Sea, it is famous for its mega-population (16 million people packed onto a curving promontory), its dhobi wallahs or tiffin carriers and the extremes of wealth and poverty. Mumbai, formerly Bombay, is in fact an island, divided from the mainland by a narrow meandering creek, and its prosperity soared with the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869. Typically, fashionable Mumbai swirls around Colaba, to the south of the city centre, but the northern suburbs are becoming popular nowadays too.
The city is famed for its glittering film industry. “Bollywood” produces on average 364 Hindi films annually and helps to render India as the world’s leading film provider. Stars of these films are looked up to with intense fervour and, as they light up the cities trendiest bars and restaurants, emanate an air of glamour that permeates the entire city.
Indeed, this glamour is aided by the fact that Mumbai has also become the beating heart of India’s financial services sector. The wealth and financial opportunities that are available have drawn a huge number to the city, not just from within the domestic sphere but internationally as well, with the city boasting the country’s highest number of millionaires and billionaires. What results is a city with a hugely cosmopolitan nature, culturally more akin to the West than you will find in other Indian metropolises. It is also notable for holding one of India’s largest Parsi communities – an ethnic group of Persian descent who fled persecution during the Arab invasion of Greater Persia between the 8th and 10th centuries, and who now run several cafes popular among local Mumbaikars.
It is fair to say that Mumbai is a city impossible to get bored in. There are bars, restaurants, shops, movies, nightclubs, parties and festivals everywhere: it truly is a city that never sleeps. Sights include the Taj Mahal Hotel – an early 20th century gem that was the first luxury hotel to allow Indians to enter, the Chhatrapati Shivaji (formerly Victoria) Terminus, one of the world's most spectacular railway stations, the Gateway of India, Crawford Market and Chor Bazaar. Marine Drive makes an ideal evening escape, and you will be joined by hundreds of other people strolling by the sea. Should you want to go further afield, you can also enjoy a boat ride from the Mumbai Gateway over to Elephanta Island, where you can find magnificent cave temples dating back to 450 AD.
>> Read our blog: Mumbai Moments: Insider Culture
Features in the following itineraries
- A Jewish Heritage Tour of India
- A Royal Visit to North India and Bhutan
- ABC of India: Art, Books & Culture... An Arty Tour of North India
- Ancient India: A historical Journey through Central India
- Diwali - India's Festival of Lights: November
- India & China; Past, Present & Future
- Lions & Wolves: Gujarat's Exceptional Wildlife
- Taj Palace Tour... The Ultimate Indian Indulgence
- The Jungle Book Wildlife Adventure