Day 1: Settling in
With five whole days to explore the city, you can afford to slow down during the first. A guided food tour is one of the best ways to get out and about in the city on day one, without any worries of getting lost or being overwhelmed. You will get a feel for the city and its busy culture as you dig into scrumptious vada pav and cutting chai and learn a thing or two about getting around from your guide. To end your first day on a memorable note, book yourself a seat at an evening theatre or performance arts show at the National Centre for the Performing Arts at Nariman Point. Make sure to squeeze in some time after your show to sit and stargaze at Marine Drive, as hundreds of Mumbaikars do every night.
Day 2: A history lesson in South Mumbai
Mumbai is a city steeped in history – ancient, medieval, colonial and modern. A fair number of its historic sites are concentrated in the south, so it’s easy to slot them all into a one day tour of South Mumbai. Start your day with visits to the Gateway of India, the most emblematic monument of the city, and its historic neighbour, the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. Adjacent to both sits Colaba Causeway, one of Mumbai’s busiest and most bustling street shopping stretches, which also happens to be home to culinary landmarks such as Cafe Mondegar, Leopold Cafe and Olympia Coffee House. South of the neighbourhood is another deeply historic yet relatively under-visited site, the Afghan Church.
Once you’re satisfied with your dose of historic Colaba, head just a little north of the city’s arts precinct – Kala Ghoda – to stop by the famous Jehangir Art Gallery. End your day venturing further north to Fort, one of the city’s most historic neighbourhoods, to visit the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, another of Mumbai’s most famous landmarks.
Day 3: Elephanta Island
You can’t truly appreciate just how historic Mumbai is without a visit to the 2,000-plus-year-old cave temples of Elephanta Island. So, schedule a visit to this densely forested island on day three and get yourself to the Gateway of India by morning to book your ferry tickets. About an hour’s ride into the Mumbai Harbour, the island houses three small villages and is home to about 1,200 residents, in addition to five Hindu and two Buddhist cave temples. The Great Cave, among the most famous of these, houses a six-metre high Trimurti sculpture, which features three faces of Lord Shiva – it is not to be missed in any case. Make sure you’re done with the island and on a ferry back to the mainland by the closing time of 5.30 pm. Once back in city limits, plan to end your day at one of the city’s many bustling rooftop bars.
Day 4: Bandra and Bollywood
Venture north on day four to visit Bandra, a historic and trendy Bollywood hub. Start your day with a walk through Bandstand Promenade, which stretches by the Arabian Sea to culminate at the neighbourhood’s southern tip at Bandra Fort. Next on your itinerary should be Mount Mary’s Basilica, a century-old church that is home to a 16th-century statue of Mother Mary brought here by the Portuguese. The area houses many popular bakeries, cafes and tea houses, including Taj Mahal Tea House, in the immediate vicinity, and Candies, at about 10 minutes away. Bandra is also home to some of the city’s most recognized street art pieces, some of which you can gawk at on Chapel Road. Wrap up your day with walks through the street bazaars of Hill Road and Linking Road.
Day 5: Bazaar hopping
Mumbai is home to many historic bazaars and you should definitely aim to visit a few. Chor Bazaar, or Thieves Market, is a storied market whose vendors stock up on all sorts of eccentric items from antiques and Bollywood memorabilia to automobile parts. It’s one of the best options for picking up odd souvenirs. Some of the more mainstream bazaars include Crawford Market by the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in Fort, founded in 1869 and still one of the city’s prime trading venues. There are also plenty of specialized markets such as the Lalbaug Spice Market, if you are looking to pick up freshly ground spices, and Zaveri Bazaar, which is known for housing century-old jewellery stores.