The subcontinent’s most populous metropolis is a frantic mix of skyscrapers and slums, an intoxicating attack on the senses that bounces the visitor from traffic-clogged streets to sweat-soaked nightclubs by way of stinking open sewers.

Day 1

9:00 Throw yourself into the mix by haggling for a street food breakfast. Walas (vendors) can be found on every street corner, but you’re guaranteed a good selection along Colaba Causeway.

Try vada pav (about 10p); this spiced fried potato in bread is a Mumbaikar take on the veggie burger. Wash it down with a cup of chai – milky, sugary tea for about 5p. Bargain.

10:00 Walk from here to the Gateway of India: an 85ft-high arch built to commemorate King George V’s visit in 1911.

The dramatic landmark is so named because it was the first glimpse of Mumbai for those arriving by boat. 

11:00 Hop on the ferry from the Gateway of India and take the 45-minute ride to Elephanta Island (£1.20 return trip, plus £3 entry) to marvel at the Elephanta Caves.

There are two sets, one Hindu and one Buddhist. Both boast ancient stone carvings, some of which date back to 5AD. Watch out for the monkeys that live on the island; they’ll fearlessly snatch snacks out of your hand if you’re not careful.

14:30 Back in the city, head for a lunch of Indian, Chinese or continental grub at the legendary Leopold Cafe (meals from £2), which is an institution for backpackers and expats.

15:30 Time to take in some art. Flag down a rickshaw, and ask to be taken to the Jehangir Art Gallery (entry free) in the Kala Ghoda Art Precinct, a district full of museums and galleries.

Celebrating its 60th birthday this year, the Jehangir displays contemporary Indian works. Outside is the Pavement Gallery, where you can chat to young artists who display their art along the road.

18:00 Grab dinner at Jehangir’s restaurant, The Samovar (meals from £3). The colonial-era decor and manicured grounds of the neighbouring Prince of Wales Museum give a sense of what old Bombay might have been like.

20:00 Pop into the relaxed Woodside Inn (beer £2.60, cocktails £3.50) for an after-dinner tipple. This cosy spot is always full of chatty regulars.

22:00 Once you’ve had a few, move onto Bonobo (cocktails from £4.65, beer £1.50).

This classy, compact bar is a hit for its impressive cocktail selection: if the menu isn’t enough for you, you’re even allowed to mix your own at their “interactive bar”.


10:00 After spending the night at Traveller’s Inn (dorm beds from £6pn), soak up the booze at Cafe Basilico (from £3.50). They do a mean eggs Benedict, perfect for lining the stomach if you’re still feeling a little fragile from last night.

11:00 Now shop up a storm at Chor Market (Mutton Street), where among the heaps of junk and tourist tat you’ll find some brilliant souvenirs such as old Bollywood movie posters.

These should cost you about £3.50 each – as long as you use your best haggling skills.

13:30 It’s been a hard morning of pounding the pavements, so treat yourself to lunch at swanky restaurant Olive (mains from £6), which offers a Sunday brunch menu of Mediterranean fare from top chef Manu Chandra.

14:30 Now you’ve refuelled, it’s time to dip into Mumbai’s spiritual side. Haji Ali Dargah is a prestigious landmark.

The complex of domes and minarets, open to all, entombs a Muslim saint, and up to 30,000 devotees come here to pray at the weekends. You can only reach it by crossing a narrow pathway during low tide.

15:30 Next, visit one of Mumbai’s colourful Hindu temples. Siddhivinayak Temple (entry free) is where Lord Ganesha, the elephant-headed destroyer of obstacles, is enshrined.

16:30 Time to get out in the sunshine at Marine Drive Chowpatty, one of the city’s cleanest beaches.

You’ll receive some stares if you try and sunbathe here, though, especially if you’re female.

Wander along the sand snacking on a cone of bhel puri instead – a mix of puffed rice and vegetables sold by street vendors.

18:00 Get a hearty curry down you in Copper Chimney (12-A, Lotus Court, Dr. Annie Besant Road, tel +91 22 2492 5353), which serves some great paneer makhanwala – cottage cheese in a buttery tomato-based sauce.

 20:00  Splash out on a final cocktail at Mumbai’s most scenic bar, Aer, where you can gaze at the skyline over a drink or two (cocktails approx £8,


Fly direct from London Heathrow to Mumbai with Air India from £772 return

Photos: Getty