One day in Mumbai – things to do in Mumbai in 24 hours

To be honest, I feel a bit intimidated to write a guide for one day in Mumbai. Picking up activities and sights in a city that has so much to offer is a daunting task. Needless to say, 24 hours in Mumbai is far too little, but you can still get the essence of the city if you set your priorities right.

If you’ve been following my blog, it’s no secret that I’m extremely fond of heritage buildings in India, and Mumbai is a prime destination for an architecture enthusiast. So it’s an architecture oriented guide with a brief introduction to other aspects of the maximum city, and if you’re anything like me, you may find it useful.

One day in Mumbai – best things to do

Enjoy the architectural splendour

Let’s assume you’ve arrived at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, formerly known as Victoria Terminus. I would suggest walking to the full length from this place right to the Getaway of India overlooking the Arabian Sea. It’s a 2.5 km walk, but you can do it in a relaxed manner, stopping near each sight and exploring it at your own pace. The route goes through the Fort and Colaba – some of the most beautiful neighbourhoods in Mumbai studded with imposing heritage buildings.

So what monuments are bound to catch your eye in this part of the city?

Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (formerly known as Victoria Terminus)

I should confess I’ve just caught myself extremely envious of you as you’re going to see Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus for the first time. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is absolutely gorgeous, and the chances are it’s the most beautiful railway station you have ever seen. Do take time walking around the structure, noticing the smallest details (there are so many!), and admiring the stone carvings. Don’t forget to look up to see the gargoyles. Cross the road, look at the panoramic view of the building, and take some astounding pictures.

Designed by brilliant architect Frederic William Stevens, the terminus was built in the end of the 19th century in honour of Queen Victoria. The building is a daring amalgamation of different architectural styles with an observable predominance of Gothic Revival, Hindu and Mughal influences. There is a Heritage Museum inside the terminus, but with only one day in Mumbai, you’d better leave it for another time.

Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus - a must see place with only one day in Mumbai

Showing the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus to my mom

The Municipal Corporation building

Across the road from the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus you’ll see another jaw-dropping construction with domes, and turrets, and winged mythical creatures standing guard at the sides. Designed by the same architect, the Municipal Corporation building is constructed in the matching style. At present day it’s home to one of the largest civic organisations in India.

The General Post Office

Commonly abbreviated as GPO, the General Post Office in Mumbai is nothing short of stupendous (am I using this sort of epithets too much? Well, it’s absolutely justified!). The iconic building was designed by Brutish architect John Begg and build in the beginning of the 20th century. Not only it’s one of the most prominent landmarks in Mumbai, but also one of the largest post offices in the world, handling a huge volume of mail for over fifty thousand addresses.

The Flora Fountain

Created in 1864, the beautiful Flora Fountain was meant to be installed in the sprawling gardens near the Vitoria and Albert Museum (today known as Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum). Instead, it was erected in the middle of a busy street, making the presence of the Roman Goddess Flora even more ethereal.

The High Court of Mumbai

Constructed in the Gothic architectural style, the Bombay High Court bears an undeniable resemblance to a European castle. With the statues of Justice and Mercy atop, this building stands proudly in front of the Oval Maidan. I would suggest crossing the road and exploring the Art Deco buildings galore on the opposite side of the Oval Maidan, but perhaps it would be too much with only one day in Mumbai.

The Rajabai clock tower and the University of Mumbai

Right next to the High Court of Mumbai you’ll find the highly ornate building of the University of Mumbai and the 80 m high Rajabai Clock tower. Commonly known as the Big Ben of Mumbai, this tower truly forms the skyline of the city. It was named after the mother of a rich businessman who sponsored its construction in the end of the 19th century. An interesting fact – the tower is lavishly adorned with sculptures which were made by the students of the local art school under supervision of Sit Lockwood Kipling, father of world famous writer Rudyard Kipling. 

David Sassoon Library

Constructed in the middle of the 19th century in the Gothic Revival style, this building is bound to catch your eye as you walk towards the Gateway of India. Named after the wealthy Jewish entrepreneur David Sassoon, this library and reading room is one of the oldest libraries in Mumbai. If you’re interested in other literary landmarks of Mumbai, I have a separate post dedicated to them.

David Sasoon Library Mumbai

The Regal Cinema

The Regal Cinema is the first Mumbai’s cinema built in distinctive Art Deco style. The first movie was shown here back in 1933, and it still functions today.

The Taj Palace hotel

Ah, the Taj Palace! Mumbai’s iconic landmark was built in 1903, and it’s been one of the most recognised sights of the city since then. Its remarkable structure pleases one’s eyes with elegant domes, turrets, and archways. The Taj Palace hotel is an unrivalled architectural gem that brings together European, Mughal and Oriental styles.

The Gateway of India

And finally you’re near the Gateway of India, which was constructed back in 1924 to commemorate the visit of King George V to Mumbai. The gateway was designed to be the first sight that visitors would see when reaching Mumbai by ship. It’s also one of the most illustrious symbols of the British cultural heritage in India. The area around the Gateway of India is always lively and full of tourists, both foreign and Indian alike. There are also plenty of vendors offering all sorts of snacks and services.

People take pictures of me with their kids near the Gateway of India 🙂

Lose yourself among the galleries of CSMVS (Prince of Wales Museum)

One could actually spend half a day in this museum, but with only one day in Mumbai you can get a good insight of what it has to offer in just about two hours. The museum houses a rich collection of ancient Indian sculptures, coins, oriental ceramics, weaponry, paintings, and so on.

To get a better idea of what this museum is like, have a look at this post – Virtual Museum Tour in Mumbai – Visiting CSMVS (former Prince of Wales Museum).

There is also a cafe in the museum where you can have lunch if you wish. We’re going to talk about places to eat in Mumbai a bit later.

Get a glimpse of the Chor Bazaar – the thieves’ market

After that, you can grab a cab and head to the Chor Bazaar to get the vibes of an authentic oriental market with all its exotics intact. You can either take an app-based taxi (both Ola and Uber apps are extremely popular in Mumbai) or go for a traditional metered black-and yellow taxi. Perhaps you’d prefer the second option as part of the “unique things to do in Mumbai” experience – after all, these cabs were an essential part of the city life since the beginning of the 20th century.

Located in the Muslim neighbourhood of Mumbai, the Chor bazaar is one of the biggest and most interesting flea markets in India. Even if you end up not buying anything, it provides a great photography opportunity with all its vintage gramophones, wooden toys, old furniture, watches and clocks, Bollywood posters, vinyl records, and what not. Some of them are fake antiques, but who cares! The Chor bazaar literally means “the thieves’ market”, and according to the legend, if anything goes missing in Mumbai, it can later be found among the goods of the Chor Bazaar.

   

Take a promenade along the Marine Drive

Walking along the Marine Drive is one more must-do thing, even if you have only one day in Mumbai. Lined up with art deco buildings from one side, the promenade curves around the Arabian Sea, allowing one to enjoy the most beautiful vies. Take a pleasant stroll towards the Chowpatty beach to see the sun setting over the Malabar Hill, painting the sea all shades of orange and red. There are also all sorts of snacks to try at the beach, so make sure to please your taste buds with some yummy street foods.   

Chowpatty beach - places to visit  with only one day in Mumbai

Watch a movie at the Regal Cinema

In the of the day, how would you like to watch a movie in the oldest Mumbai’s cinema? Even if you don’t know a word in Hindi and Bollywood is not your thing, it’s still worth it. After all, it’s not about movies, but about the experience. 

Where to eat in Mumbai?

There are quite a few good eateries in the Fort and Colaba neighbourhoods where you can have a very satisfying meal.

Delhi Darbar – the place is known for its delicious Mughlai cuisine especially mutton biryani (mixed rice dish) and butter chicken.

Leopold Cafe – a very touristy place with a costly dishes, but it’s become famous thanks to extensive mentions in  Gregory David Roberts’ novel Shantaram and terrorist attacks in 2008 (the bullet holes can still be seen on the walls and glass panels). Many people consider visiting this cafe one of the essential Mumbai experiences and try to tick it off the list even if they have  only one day in Mumbai.

Britannia & Co – one of the most popular Parsi cafes in the city, as well as Yazdani bakery.  

Bademiya – an iconic roadside restaurant (or just a food stall, to be precise) that has been coking excellent kebabs since 1940s.

Chetana – visit this place for a delicious vegetarian thali (a selection of various dishes on a platter).

Lalit Refreshment – taste of Kerala. As the name suggests, this restaurant offer a variety of authentic Kerala food, but you can order North Indian and Chinese dishes as well. 

Street foods to try in Mumbai

Mumbai is known for its unique street foods, and leaving the city without tasting some of them would be a shame. Here is what you can go for:

Pav Bhaji. Pav bhaji is a delicious vegetable curry served with buttered buns. This yummy street food takes its origin in the 19th century as an easy to prepare lunch option for factory workers. Today it’s one of the most popular dishes across the city.

Pav Bhaji is being cooked

And this is what it looks like

Bhel Puri. Bhel puri is a mix of puffed rice with chopped vegetables and tamarind sauce. Yum!

Pani  Puri. Pani Puri is a hollow crisp filled with mashed potatoes and peas, spices, tamarind sauce and flavoured water. Put the entire concoction into your mouth and savour the outburst of tastes.

Vada Pav. Vada Pav is a spicy potato and peas filling deep fried in gram flour batter and placed inside a bread bun.

Dabeli. Dabeli can be described as a kind of burger with spicy potato mash, fried peanuts, pomegranate seeds and a number of other ingredients. Easily one  of  my favourite street food in Mumbai!

Some of the most sought-after roadside drinks in the city include sugar cane juice, coconut water, and nimbu pani (lime soda with spices).

Delicious nimbu pani

Where to stay for one day in Mumbai?

With only one day in Mumbai, you may or may not need a place to stay, depending on your train or plane departure time. Mumbai is not the cheapest city in India, and you may find it challenging to book budget accommodation. One of the most cost-effective options is to stay in a hostel. The only hostel you can find in this part of Mumbai is Backpacker Panda Colaba Hostel, and it boasts both the perfect location (only a few minutes’ walk from the Gateway of India) and good facilities. To check out the prices, click on the image below.

If hostels are not your thing, you can book one of the numerous hotels in the area. Some of the most attractive options include Abode Bombay (a lovely boutique hotel with spa and wellness centre),  Carlton ( a heritage hotel located opposite the Taj Palace Hotel), and Bentleys Hotel, located just 500 m from the Gateway of India.  

And of course, if you feel like pampering yourself, you can stay in the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel – aren’t you curious what it’s like to stay in one of the best hotels in the world? To look into prices and availability, click on the image below.

Alternatively, you can check out the map below to find the best deals on hotels.  

Booking.com

Some final words

As mentioned above, one day in Mumbai is far too little to explore the India’s financial capital, and I’ve touched only a fraction of experiences the city has to offer. Also, I’ve hardly extended the suggested activities beyond the Colaba and Fort districts in South Mumbai. The thing is, you wouldn’t want to travel to another end of the city with only one day n Mumbai – the distances between the districts are huge, and traffic jams are real, unless you feel like taking a local train (which is an adventure in itself, by the way).

Also, I haven’t included visiting the Dharavi slums into this one day Mumbai itinerary. I’ll tell you honestly, in spite of all the articles on the net talking about a respectful and ethical way to go on a slum tour, I’m still not convinced. Although I’ve been invited to visit the Dharavi slums by various companies and independent guides countless times, I haven’t made my way there so far. You can read what other travel bloggers have to say about their experience (here, here and here) and decide for yourself.

Hope your visit to Mumbai will be enjoyable!

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