Katrin Pasvantis | Director  | Germany Trade & Invest (Mumbai)

First published M+V’s India Insight in September 2011

Mumbai is India’s most populated, modern and dynamic city. Home to Bollywood stars, fashion designers and industrialists: Mumbai is the city of dreams. Millions come here in the hope of a better life. Mumbai is glamour, shopping, nightlife and big money, but also dirt, noise, traffic jams and extreme poverty. The infrastructure cannot keep pace with the population influx and economic growth. Space is precious and real estate prices are among the highest worldwide. With three sides surrounded by sea, Mumbai can only expand northwards. At 9 a.m. Mumbai‘s heartbeat begins to race and doesn’t slow down until late at night.

Hotels

The Taj Mahal Palace: A Mumbai institution since 1903, this luxury grand hotel is loved by locals and visitors alike. Legend has it that Jamsetji Tata built the Taj after being refused entry to another hotel as it did not permit Indians. It’s located in Apollo Bunder.

JW Marriott: A modern, luxurious hotel located on Juhu beach, frequented by Bollywood stars and Bombay society. There is an outstanding Spa, a beautiful garden with a pool area facing the beach, a famous nightclub and some of the finest restaurants in the city. It is located on Juhu Tara Road, Juhu.

Eating out and nightlife

Peshawri: This award-winning restaurant with cuisine from India’s western frontier has a rustic décor. Carpets hang on stone walls, and wooden stools and benches surround tree-trunk tables. Food is served on copper and earthen plates. Mumbai restaurants start filling at 9 p.m. It’s located at ITC Maratha, Sahar, next to the International Airport.

China House: Half the delight of eating at this Szechuan restaurant is the stunning set-up. High wooden doors open to a dining area with five show kitchens. Watch ducks roasting over fire, noodles being hand pulled and chefs setting fire to their woks. Try the crunchy lotus fritters, Kung Pao Chicken with fiery chillies and cashews or Peking Duck glazed to perfection. After dinner, have a lychee caprioska at the China House Lounge. On a Saturday night the place is rocking with glamour and celebs. It’s located at Grand Hyatt, Off Western Express Highway, Santacruz (E), near Domestic Airport.

For outdoor dining and cocktails, try the beach restaurant-bars Aurus, and Vie Lounge & Deck on Juhu Tara Road in Juhu or for panoramic city and sea views the rooftop bars, Aer at the Four Seasons in Worli and Dome at the Intercontinental on Marine Drive.

For an industrial setting, visit the chic Pan-Asian bar and restaurant Shiro or Hard Rock Café  at the Bombay Dying Mill Compound in Worli.

Excursions

Mumbai’s appeal is not any one distinctive tourist hotspot, but the buzzing city life with scenes that unfold unexpectedly. Take a fun ride in an autorickshaw in Bandra along the shopping mile Linking Road and stop at street stalls hunting for a bargain.

Have you noticed that there are no rickshaws South of Bandra? Change to a taxi and travel over the newly built Sea Link across the bay from Bandra to Worli. The highway on the Bandra site just before the bridge has become a ‘romantic hotspot’.

In the evening, couples come here to hold hands. On your way South, just after Worli, you will see the prominent Haji Ali Mosque, surrounded by water except for a narrow walkway to the coast. Ride up Peddar Road. On your left is the talk of the town, Mukesh Ambani’s 27-floor residence. The electricity bill alone is claimed to be over 100,000 euros per month. Head to Marine Drive, called Queen’s Necklace, pass Chowpatti Beach with a Jain pigeon feeding station, and join the locals for a stroll along the sea. In the centre of South Mumbai enjoy the old colonial buildings like Bombay University, High Court or the train station Victorian Terminus. Try to join a cricket match at Oval Maidan. In Churchgate you may spot the Mumbai Dabbawallas with their signature white Gandhi cap delivering tin lunch boxes to offices.

MUMBAI FACTS

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QUICK FACTS

Area: 440 sq km
Population: 14.3 Mio. (21 Mio in Mumbai Metropolitan Region)
Climate: Warm, especially hot and humid before monsoon
Average Temperature:  35ºC (max) usually in March-April and 25ºC (min) usually in December-February
Best Season to visit: November to February
Languages:  Marathi, Hindi, English, Gujarati and Urdu
Major Religions: Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Jainism, Christianity, Sikhism, Zoroastrianism and Judaism
Miscellaneous: Officially renamed as Mumbai from Bombay in 1995, but many still use the colonial name; streets and places with British Raj-era names were renamed too, leading to naming chaos even today. Mumbai includes suburbs, parts of the Thane district with Navi Mumbai and Raigad.