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Mumbai’s train network, rightfully called its ‘lifeline’, is a unique and integral part of the city, and also happens to be almost tourist-free. What better way to both experience the city as locals do and also steer clear of the beaten tourist trail? Our comprehensive guide to taking the trains is a particularly handy guide.
Most of the city’s tourists flock to South Mumbai, with Colaba being the prime hotspot. The neighborhood’s many iconic eateries and its proximity to landmarks such as the Gateway of India and Colaba Causeway are good reasons to visit the area. However, avoid the tourist traps by staying elsewhere in the city.
Outside of South Mumbai, almost all of Mumbai’s tourist crowd is absorbed by the neighborhood of Bandra. The city’s many sprawling suburbs further north and east are all thriving, historic and just as worthy of exploring. Be it historic Vasai or bustling Kalyan, Mumbai’s suburbs are fantastic places to visit, and you can be sure of not bumping into other tourists.
Mumbai boasts many historic churches with exceptional architecture. While almost all of these are devoid of large tourist crowds, those that do get some attention mostly located within Bandra. As our guide to the city’s oldest churches shows, others spread around the city are also worth visiting. Check out the 19th century St Anne’s Church, Mazagaon, or Gloria Church in Byculla, built in 1632.
St Anne’s Church, 39, Nesbit Rd, Byculla Railway Colony, Tadwadi, Mazgaon, Mumbai
Gloria Church, Sant Savata Mali Marg, Byculla East, Mazgaon, Mumbai
Mumbai has quite a few beaches for visitors seeking a relaxing spot on the shores of the Arabian Sea. The most popular have gained a reputation for being crowded with locals and tourists, but these are mostly concentrated in Juhu and Dadar. For anyone seeking to dodge the tourist crowds, the pristine and empty beaches of northern Mumbai are perfect options, particularly Erangal, Gorai and Aksa beaches.
Mumbai’s tourist crowds drastically wane during the monsoon (June-August). The rains may be inconvenient, but they are also quite an experience. The city’s pace slows, frequent chai breaks become the norm, and the city’s many eateries break out special monsoon snacks. Plus, you’re unlikely to bump into too many other tourists.
Mumbai’s suburbs to the southeast – the thriving neighborhoods of Navi (or New) Mumbai – receive very few tourists compared to other parts of the city. With stunning beaches like Uran to impressive natural spots like Khargar’s Central Park, Navi Mumbai has much to offer tourists seeking a well-rounded and complete tour of the city.
Mumbai has a rich collection of interesting boutique hotels as well as Airbnb stays for every budget. By ditching conventional hotels, you can carve a unique and personalized Mumbai experience for yourself.
Mumbai’s culinary world is rich, diverse and well worth exploring. Skip your hotel’s dining options and hit up the city’s legendary eateries to truly experience the city like a local. Mumbai offers cuisine from around the country, as well as rich choices for vegetarians and meat-lovers.
Attend a classical music performance at the Shanmukhananda Auditorium in Sion, or a play at the National Center for Performing Arts (NCPA), and you’ll be surprised to see how few tourists make their way to the city’s finest cultural and artistic institutions.
Shanmukhananda Auditorium: Plot No 292, Com. Harbanslal Marg, Sion East, Sion, Mumbai
From the popular hiking destination of Harishchandragad to the vineyards of Nasik, there are plenty of fantastic options for day trips from Mumbai that will give you a refreshing break from its crowds. Check out our guide to the best day trips from the city to get started.