mumbai city guide


illustration by julia rothman

today’s newest city guide comes from copywriter and food blogger mishti bhattacharjee.  mishti grew up in muscat, oman, attended college in india, received her graduate degree in england and recently moved to dubai after many years in mumbai (formerly known as bombay).  she now shares her expert travel experience with us on this guided tour through mumbai’s eclectic markets and delicious dining.  thanks mishti for this wonderful guide!–stephanie

*a quick note- many mumbai locals still refer to the city as bombay. but for our purposes, we’re using mumbai because it’s the standard use in most american publications

CLICK HERE for the full guide after the jump!

Mumbai is for a certain kind of people. You either love it or you hate it. If you love it, you’ll never want to leave. And if you hate it, you’ll never be able to stay. Mumbai is simply for the brave, the fun, the bold. For people who are always on their feet, people who talk to strangers with no prejudice, who accept each other without compromise or compulsion. Mumbai is one of my favorite cities in the world.

And Mumbai is a haven for design lovers.

India is diverse in its art. All of the races and cultures that reside here have brought forward their own types of art, design and craft. And in Mumbai, you will find almost everything that India has to offer simply because Indians from all over the country come here to live, work and make it their home.

Understand the city’s geography before you plan a visit: Mumbai, by the residents is distinctly divided into two parts. The town (spanning right from the Gateway of India to Mahim) and the suburbs (which include everything else).  The city in itself is just a long stretch of land, tapering down in the south (the town) and broadening up north (suburbs).  Most suburbs are divided into East and West versions of the same area.

TOWN

1 BHK, G1 Trade World, A Wing, Kamala City, Senapati Bapat Marg, Lower Parel, +91 22 24930004

Great lighting accessories, wine racks and furniture. This eclectic store also has a fine range of art pieces.

Tappu ki Dukaan, 27-A, Kermani Building, Sir PM Road, Opposite Citibank, Fort, +91 22 22043716

The only store in Mumbai to stock Haathi Chaap (stationery made from elephant poo paper, yeah!). Lots of other goodies from the likes of Mukul Goyal, Happily Unmarried and other brands.

Cottonworld, Ram Nimi Building, Mandlik Road, Opposite Colaba Police Station, +91 22 22850060/73/74

Though they are now open in various cities across the country, for first timers in India, this is a store well worth a visit. High quality cotton fabric and simple designs make their clothes comfy and stylish.

Fab India, Jeroo Building, 137, M.G. Road, Kala Ghoda, Colaba and at multiple locations across the city, +91-22-22626539/40

What started out as an initiative to help craftsmen from various parts of the country, is now a thriving business with a small, but growing global brand presence. The FabIndia store in Colaba, will bedazzle you with piles of fabric, mainly cotton and silk; organic jams, pickles and spices; and absolutely stunning range of furnishings. While you might not be able to fit a teakwood bed in your luggage allowance, you might want to take home a beautifully carved bed tray, a block-printed quilt or a set of lovely organza curtains. They also have a range of stationary that is to die for. The Colaba store has a Moshe’s café that serves the most delectable desserts.

Neemrana Purshotam Bldg. Shop No. 6, Ground floor; New Queen’s Road, +91 22  56821432

If you are a fan of embroidery, this boutique is an absolute must-visit. Chikankari had been introduced in India by the Mughals. What began as a white on white embroidery has now transcended into pale summer pastels. A little about the Chikankari craft here.

Bunglow 8 Grant’s bldg, 1,2&3 floors, 17 Arthur Bunder Road, Near Radio Club, Colaba, +91 22 22819880/1/2

Great collection of wood, paper, ceramics and terracotta.

Contemporary Arts and Crafts, 19, Napean Sea Road, +91 22 23630740

Not too far away from Bunglow 8, is CAC. Much more affordable that a lot of places in the area, the centre stocks many unique pieces like the Ganjifa cards, amidst it’s brilliant regular fare.

Bombay Electric 1, Reay House, BEST Marg, Colaba,, +91 22 2287 6276

Often touted as Mumbai’s answer to Collette, Bombay Electric is super high on style. A collection of unique local brands, independent designers and some known names (like when Liz Hurley launched her swimwear line here) this store is a must visit for one and all. If you find their prices too high, drop in for one of their book readings or photography shows.

Good Earth , multiple locations

Style and comfort come together in the serene Good Earth stores. Cushions made of raw silk, hand-painted earthenware and much more on sale here. If you visit the flagship store at Parel, stop by the lovely restaurant, The Tasting Room.

Anupam Chappal Citywalk House, next to Citywalk Shoes, N.F. Road, Colaba, +91 98207 78409

A typically Indian invention, the Kolhapuri chappal is given a facelift in different colours here. If you have 10 days on hand, you can always get them custom made in children’s sizes.

Chimanlal’s, A-2 Taj Building, 210 D.N. Road, Wallace Street, Fort, +91 22 2207 7717

Handmade paper with beautiful Indian motifs. From notepads to all kinds of stationary, this is a store for lovers of all things paper.

Market Places:

Chor Bazaar

For the truly brave, Chor Bazaar (literally, Market of Thieves) will be a trip to remember.  Here you can find stuff that can range from being avant-garde to rustic, from techno-cool to vintage. A friend once picked up beautiful coasters with hand drawn period cars. Be careful as you step in, it is after all where all the con folk are.

Colaba Causeway

This strip of stalls and vendors on one side of the causeway is a shopping trip by itself. It is common to see students looking for a bargain, especially factory rejects of brands like GAP and Aeropostale. But the causeway is a street where you will find some beautiful Indian stuff for very little. Little metal lamps, traditional Indian hand fans, embroidered footwear, timepieces and compasses, this is the place for a lover of all things vintage. Be ready to haggle and instantly bargain at a price one fourth of what they first ask, because then you will eventually pay half. Also, remember that prices are shot up for tourists, so keep your ears open for the price at which the closest local person is buying for.  Most people say the prices in English, even the locals, so it shouldn’t be mighty tough.

Crawford Market

From the famous Crawford Market candles, to fresh fruits and cheese, Crawford market is a different experience. During summer, get some of the most sought after Indian Alphonso mangoes here, or get bars of chocolate and aromatic spices at wholesale prices for baking and cooking. Till half a century ago, this market used to be the main wholesale market of the city.  The Victorian buildings that surround this market still lend it an ethereal charm.

Restaurants, Cafes and Galleries

Midway your shopping at the Causeway, don’t give in to the temptation of the Mc Donalds. Head instead to Leopolds, one of Mumbai’s oldest hangouts that started in 1871 as an oil shop. Now made famous in Shantaram and by the unfortunate 26/11 terrorists attacks, it is a must visit for most people in the city. Though extensively damaged, the restaurant opened within a few days of the attack, in true Mumbai spirit. Another favourite café is Mondegar’s, lovingly called Mondy’s, just at the beginning of the Causeway. With walls adorned with Mario Miranda caricatures, Mondy’s has a unique aura – one that fuels long chatter punctuated with great music. Both cafes sell their own tongue-in-cheek merchandise.

When you’re tired at the Causeway, head out to Jehangir Art Gallery, just a 10-minute walk. When the ever-changing wide display of art stuns you into silence, it is time for a drink at the in-house Samovar, arguably one of Mumbai’s most loved cafes. In a city starved of space, Samovar is one café where you will never be frowned upon for sitting too long with just a cup of tea or a pint of beer. Another gallery to watch out for in the vicinity is the National Gallery of Modern Art.

A lovely Italian restaurant tucked away in Causeway is Café Churchill, serving the most amazing lasagna and spaghetti. With just about six tables, getting a place can be difficult but thanks to their quick service, the wait is never too long.  An absolute must-go in the area is Theobroma, known for their famed “Adult Hot Chocolate” and desserts par excellence. (Theobroma also has a new branch at Bandra)

Mahesh Lunch Home, a wonderful range of Konkan (the Indian western coastal belt) cuisine.  Arrive early enough to not wait very long for a table.

The Banyan Tree, great bakery and café at two locations in town, Worli and Fort.

Trishna, Birla Mansion, Sai Baba Marg (next to Commerce House), Kala Ghoda, Fort, 0091-22-22703213/4/5

Trishna is the best when it comes to food, and if you google it, you’ll find many including the New York Times, agree. However, when you go here, you should know that you are going ONLY for the food. The service is average at best, no one smiles at you and there is nothing to say about the shabby décor. But once your teeth sink into buttery prawns and succulent crab, you will be ready to forgive and forget all else, I promise.

Naturals Ice Cream at multiple locations across towns and suburbs.

Fresh fruit ice cream. Go for the traditional tender coconut or anjeer (dried fig). Also ask for seasonal picks, strawberry, lichi, sitaphal (custard apple) and mango. If you’re visiting in May or June, don’t miss out on a bowl of fresh mango with malai ice cream.

For an evening out, hop into Blue Frog, arguably Mumbai’s favourite spot of music lovers. This is where world class musicians come to do their gigs six nights a week. Passionately promoting good music, Blue Frog also has theatre-style dining and a sumptuous Sunday brunch.

SUBURBS

While townside definitely is more beautiful with classic colonial architecture and a rich history, (and strictly if you are short on time) I suggest heading to the suburbs for a design pilgrimage. Real estate pricing in Mumbai is sky-high, and while suburbs are also not anywhere close to cheap, they are a better deal for young, independent storeowners than townside.

Loose Ends, Shop no. 1, AN House, 31st Road, Opp, Shoppers Stop , Bandra, +91 22 62554725

This store is my absolute, all-time favourite for quirky home accessories and gifts. Also great for gifts, this quaint little shop, tucked in the bylanes of Bandra has cheeky “Pillow Talk” covers, rock star coasters, magazine racks and traditionally painted bharnis, or Indian ceramic jars used to preserve pickles. The owner, who is often found in store with her tiny tot has designed a lot of the stuff herself and will be happy to tell you about it in detail. They also stock a lot of stuff from brands like Happily Unmarried and handmade soaps by Gulnar.

Frazer and Haws, Landmark Building, Pali Naka, Bandra, +91 22 66750200

A good colonial hangover, this. Beautifully crafted silverware makes this Bandra store a delight for the eyes.

Dhoop 1st floor, Sheetal Apartments, Dr Ambedkar Road, Khar West, +91 22 26498646/7

Set in between Bandra and Khar, on Dr Ambedkar Road, is Dhoop (meaning sunlight in Hindi) where it is tough to go in to buy a gift for someone and not also end up buying more stuff for yourself.

With blue pottery pieces from Jaipur, utensils from the North East of India and unique stained glass lanterns, Dhoop is a charming store than instantly makes you feel at home. They also stock a beautiful collection of silver and oxidized jewellery, idols and incense holders. Pity they don’t have a website yet, but look at their Facebook page for features on a lot of their products.

Attic, Bir Sagar 396/20, Flat #1, End of 17th road, Santacruz(w), Mumbai 400 054, +91 22 3216 9292

One of the first stores of its kinds, Attic stocks fashion and lifestyle products by young designers across the countries. Find brands like Fun Bunny Life, Designwallas, Pop Goes the Art, Play Clan, Tara Books and lots more. The girls who started the store also have their own labels, the nifty Him, Her and the Apple by Shweta Deliwala and Half Full by Rixi Bhatia.

The White Window, Palatial Building, Dr. Ambedkar Road, Bandra West, +91 22 66750367

Created by Bollywood star wife Twinkle Khanna and friend Gurlien Manchanda, the White Window is home to everything beautiful. Fine art by Yusuf Arrakal, Ritzenhoff vases and furniture designed by the store owners. They also have an interior design service, that consists primarily of rustic tones.

Satguru’s , various locations

Though this art store has a branch in town in Fort, it is worth trekking down to their flagship store at Linking Road. A sculpture of an Indian village belle churning butter is actually a centre table, another woman holds up a full-length mirror for your dresser. Also, some of the best name-plates you will find along with a huge collection of Ganesha – the Indian elephant God.

Rajasthani Exhibition, Linking Road

Though this exhibition keeps moving around the city, it is almost always there on Linking Road in Khar, very close to Satguru’s.  Perfect place to pick up very well priced paper lanterns, wooden knick-knacks, and a lot of other stuff that’s distinctly North-Indian. Expect a lot of colour, both bright and pastels.

Anokhi, Govind Dham ,210 Waterfield Road, Bandra West (Also, in town)
+91 22 26408261, 26408263

Lovely dresses with the traditional Indian mango paisley design, my personal favourite and hip casual wear like this one, Anokhi is full of pleasant surprises.

Bliss, Aram Nagar 1, 180, Near Legacy of China, Andheri (W), +91 22 26332111

A lovely villa converted into a design store complete with well known brands and handpicked pieces of glassware from all over the country.

Yamini 380 Shanti Niwas, 14th Road, Khar (W), +91 22 2646 3645

A lovely collection of unique and outstanding fabric, mostly cotton. Lovely tableware.

Ceramic Corner, 31st Road , Opposite Shoppers Stop, Linking Road, Bandra (W), +91 22 26512683, 32204220, 9892235992

This tiny stall sells some great ceramic kitchenware. Indian styled pots to serve curries in and mugs is many, many colours.

Abracadabra, Neelnandini Building, Linking Road, Khar (W), +91 22 26057920/22

Amazing rugs, lighting accessories and lots of other stuff to drool over.

Butter, Rembrandt, Pali Hill, Nargis Dutt Road, Bandra (W), +91 22 2605 6554

A tiny store with loads of oomph. They stock clothes from China, Turkey and India and you will also find known names like Karen Fernandes and Honey Kasturi.

Mela, 2 Fiffin Apts, Ambedkar Road, Bandra (W), +91 22 2649 7562

“Mela” means a fair in Hindi, a place where people go to have fun, play games, eat street food and enjoy themselves. The store is designer Dilip Mehra’s little haven’t of unique styles and bohemian cuts.

Taxxi & Vitamin K Store, Kusum Kunj, next to Mango, Linking Road, Khar (W), +91 22 6522 9200

Started by three independent designers, these two labels come under one roof to create quirky clothes and accessories.

Zeba, Queen Palace, 205, Waterfield Road, Bandra West (Also in town), +91 22 26424727, 26424803

Drapes of raw silk, flowing linen and rich tapestry. Pricey, yes; but still so worth drooling.

Market Places

Linking Road, Bandra

This road stretches from the Bandra station junction, all the way to Santacruz, but the market place is the patch from National College to KFC. Be ready to bargain and pick up an entire new wardrobe, complete with clothes for every occasion and accessories to match them all.  To take a break, grab a Mumbai-style grilled sandwich at A1, right outside the National College.

Hill Road, Bandra

Another stretch full of local finds. Also watch out for little carts with export reject and surplus pieces, letting you pick up known brands for a fraction of the cost.

Lokhandwala Market, Andheri

Along with carts and street vendors, this market has a line of little shops opened by individual designers and entrepreneurs. Worth a visit to bump into those little pieces of oxidized jewellery and nifty bags that you never thought existed.

Cafes and Restaurants

The Bagel Shop, Anand Villa, 13 Pali Mala Road, Bandra West,+91 22 26050178

It’s worth taking the trouble to find this little café atop one of Bandra’s little hills. Cozy, cozy place where you can warm up to a book or sit for hours and watch the rain. Oh yeah, the bagels, especially the one with grilled veggies, aren’t bad either.

Candies

Ashok Apartments, Union Par, Pali Hill, Bandra (West), +91 22 26442708

Candies is essentially Bandra. Should you ask why, then you probably won’t after you’re told that it is open at THREE places, two cafes and one takeaway parlor – all in Bandra. (Yes, also ONLY Bandra West). As-messy-as-they-are-delicious burgers, sandwiches galore, milkshakes, desserts, even classic Indian and Chinese dishes like rogan josh and Szechuan noodles, you name it, they have it. If you go to the branch at Pali Hill (which is really the one you should go to because it’s huge and you won’t have to wait for a table), you can also see some stunning mosaic art on the walls and some pretty impressive décor.

Soul Fry Silver Croft, Pali Naka, Bandra West, +91 22 26046892

Mouth-watering Konkan cuisine and a live band a couple of times a week.

Zenzi 183, Waterfield road, Bandra West, +91 22 56 430 670

Heard of the really cool Vakzuid Bar in Amsterdam? Co-owned by the same guys, this bar is your best bet for a nice, lively evening, especially if you don’t know a lot of people locally. The food ranges from Japanese and Indonesian to Thai and French, served with some of the world’s best wines. Step in on Wednesdays for some amateur group Salsa classes.

Mocha Mojo, Classic Corner Building, Hill Road, Bandra (W), +91 22 2643 3098

There are several Mocha’s around Mumbai, but Mocha Mojo is definitely the one where the city wants to hang out.  Amongst all its sinful treats, try the 70-percent Amedei Chuao chocolate pudding that comes with an 18k gold-coated truffle.

Five Spice 3/4, Dheeraj Pali Arcade, Pali Naka, Bandra West, +91 22 26421941

Also opposite Mega Mall, Oshiwara-Link Road, Oshiwara, Andheri West,+91 22 26335550

Excellent Chinese food and divine desserts. Try the Mission Impossible, an aptly named 7-layer chocolate cake. The Bandra branch has a nice bar on the topmost floor.

Where to stay:

Sutra d’Onyx Small, cozy and comfortable, this is India’s first art hotel.

Taj Hotels – From Colaba to Bandra, pick the luxury hotel you want to be pampered at.

Gordon House Suites – Beautiful boutique hotel in South Mumbai and near the airport.

Juhu Residency – Boutique hotel in the suburbs.

The Oberoi – Luxury hotel in South Mumbai.

Hotel Marine Plaza – Cozy, premiere hotel in South Mumbai.

Chateau Windsor Hotel – Budget hotel in South Mumbai.

hellolover

A friend of mine just returned from Mumbai and he absolutely loved it! This is a great guide and it has definitely been added to my list of places I must visit!

Kay* (from india. with love)

As someone moving to Delhi soon for 1 year (to volunteer) I am thrilled to see this city guide since I’ll definitely be visiting Mumbai while I’m there! Ever since I’ve made the decision to go it’s like everywhere I turn I see something India related-like this wonderful guide! Makes me even more excited!

Thanks to Mishti, Stephanie, and DS for sharing! Definitely bookmarking this one!

Caroline

India is great for shopping– not only can you find unique handcrafted items, but the dollar goes so far. Definitely bring big suitcases and pack light, because they’ll be stuffed on the way back!

Melissa Anderson Sweazy

Thank you so much for this! My father is spending an increasing amount of time in Mumbai on business, and I’m happy I can direct him to interesting places to visit beyond hotel conference rooms.

Gargi

I call Mumbai my hometown and for a while I wondered that I should do a similar post, about the city. This is however extra ordinary. Makes me think about all the ways a tourist looks at a city and we while staying there miss.

notabilia

LOVED this guide. It really covers all the major design highlights of the City. Don’t forget to see all the wonderful architecture in Mumbai, too!

Neha

The list seems a little dated since the Zenzi in Bandra shut down over 6 months ago and has a new location. Also there’s a beautiful store called Bombay Paperie (http://www.bombaypaperie.com/) across from the bombay stock exchange building that’s really good! I live in Bombay and would be happy to help put together another version of this post which could cover more local joints!

Mattu

Mumbai is one of my fav cities… and i’ve traveled there a lot growing up with my parents. Very excited to see a guide on a city in India and some excellent suggestions… Anokhi n Fab India are two of my must shop-stops! :)

CH

Where can I buy the Julia Rothman illustration pictured? I didn’t see it for sale on her website…

grace

neha

are there other listings that are out of date other than the zenzi shop? an occasional miss or two is not common in a large city guide like this, so i don’t see the entire guide as dated or needing to be changed.

grace

Neha

Grace, this is a good guide, I didn’t mean to imply otherwise. Zenzi is now in lower parel. There’s an old ice cream place called K. Rustum near churchgate which is an institution and serves the best walnut crunch! There are a few old restaurants that are dying because of globalization which has some very good food to offer, but maybe its for another guide.

amishi

first: thanks for attempting a guide on mumbai, definitely a daunting task. i’ve lived in bombay most of my life i do agree that this is a bit dated and generic and doesn’t begin to cover the explosion of art galleries and restaurants in recent years.

Krassi

This is an absolutely great blog!!!! I’ve been a number of times to Bombay and have visited most of these places! A great selection!

Sandra

Zenzi’s moved??? Wow, I live in Bandra and didn’t know that. I was told by the management they’re just shut for renovation. Will probably have to wait till they update their site.

Love, love, love this list. I’ve been living in the city after my husband got transferred here two years back. Love 1 BHk and Loose Ends, very kitschy stuff. Will check out some of the other stores listed here now, Attic looks divine. You guys have got the locations in well too, because though I’m sure in a huge city of so many people there are many more gems, I doubt travellers will really go beyond Bandra. I came in from Manchester and still haven’t gotten used to the “bigness” of this lovely city. On really bad days, a cab ride from town to Bandra is sometimes as long as my train ride to London!

Daria

how timely! i’m planning my trip to india for december! cant wait to check out these recommendations – especially since we will be in mumbai for a bit for a wedding!

Neha K

Although I always fantasized about having a Bombay city guide on design sponge, I just assumed that not many people would be interested (dunno why?! ..I’ve lived here practically my whole life and absolutely LOVE it)

This guide does a great job but falls a little short…..simply because the sheer variety and volume of Mumbai’s markets with its labrynthine by-lanes , the list is looong and mishti must’ve had a tough task editing her list.
Examples: hand embroidered lace/ trim market; leather bags, jackets shoes market; huge cloth markets; science laboratory market for bell jars , skull and brain models :) ..
flower market, the smaller version of chor bazaar in the ‘burbs….for the faint-hearted……etc etc

And then there is alll the great street food….Bombay lives in its Streets…(quite literally)…

….On a different note…another D*s follower from B’bay who’s my namesake…. :-)

Mishti

Yup, Neha; you guys are right about there being a lot more places in Bombay than this list mentions, but this list is made keeping in mind travelling design lovers who may have a couple of weeks to spend in the city. Also, a lot of places don’t have websites, FB pages or a lot of info on the net, making it very difficult for visitors to find them. Thanks for your suggestions though, its always nice to hear from someone who shares an equally passionate love for the city :)

Jennifer

I am so glad that you did a design guide for Mumbai! I lived in Pune’ for 6 months, and can’t wait to go back to visit. I will definitely have to visit a few of these places before hitting up the airport to fly home! Mumbai is such a large city that it can be hard to find things and navigate, but with this information, I should be able to locate these stores/markets without getting lost or paying a arm and a leg for a taxi!

This list also brought back great memories of my time in India. I really miss sitaphal (can’t get it in Indianapolis). If you visit India you must try some, they are also known as Custard Apples and are available from most road side vendors or in markets.

Nested Yellow

We loved our city experience here although we were there when a typhoon was just off shore! We stayed at the Gordon House suites which placed us within walking distance of the Gate of India, beautiful architecture, museums, restaurants and shops. Wish I would have stumbled upon your lovely guide while we were there to find our way to local treasures.

We visited friends in Pune which was our base and home for the month of travel through northern India. Our top three places to visit and experience were Jaipur, Udaipur and Mumbai. India is truly a beautiful adventure to experience in your lifetime!

Mumbai

I liked you theme and blog background..please do not change it..it looks cool.. keep it up!!

Avantika Sharma

heyy!! super love your blog…the content is great….in fact I will refer to exactly this before my next trip to mumbai!!
awesomee

Vivek

I was kind of amused finding few places that i regularly visited in this post.

Hill road and bagel shop etc. remind me of old college days

a spoonful of yumm

love it !! lived in bbay for 16yrs ….like its said, you either love it or hate it . bbay inspired me to be creative & artistic….its a great place to indulge in art :D nothing beats the energy of this city :-) its like being at nyc

Teresa

Awesome guide! I second Neha’s suggestion to go visit The Bombay Paperie in Fort, all their paper is handmade from waste cotton and hand block printed on and comes in a rainbow of colours!! Truly unique!

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