There are very few cities that can capture the spirit of togetherness, diversity, and inclusion as well as Mumbai does. Formerly known as Bombay, Mumbai is India’s financial capital and (arguably) the country’s heart! It is a city that welcomes everyone equally, with warmth and love radiating everywhere. While there are a ton of touristy places to explore in Mumbai, the city also plays host to certain extremely quaint and unique experiences that you must partake in.
1. Discover The Beauty Of Ancient Rock-Cut Buddhist Caves
The Mahakali Caves, just outside Mumbai are a must-visit for all history and archaeology buffs. Carved out of black basalt rock, the caves date back to almost 2000 years, to the ancient Ashoka Empire. Most of the caves are small and contain minimal ornamentation and carvings, representing the meditation and dwelling chambers of monks. The exception is the main Buddhist shrine and prayer hall, also called the chaitya. This is larger and adorned with stupas and several carved statues of Buddha idols. Interestingly, there are many wall scriptures carvings in Pali at the chaitya, a language even older than Sanskrit. While many of the low-lying rock caves have fallen into ruins due to disrepair over the centuries, these caves represent a lost time and a must-visit on your Mumbai itinerary.
2. Take A Walk Through The Village Of Khotachiwadi
There are many small villages within Mumbai’s city limits. One among them is Khotachiwadi in Girgaon, in South Mumbai. Culturally diverse, Khotachiwadi is especially remarkable for its narrow lanes and colorful houses in stunning Portuguese-style architecture. This small, heritage village is almost two centuries old and flanked by remnants of its rich and vibrant history. There’s also Girgaon Chowpatty nearby which is perfect for a beachside stroll, kite flying or just having a good time!
3. Visit Mumbai’s Only Chinese Temple
Built in 1919, the Kwan Kung Temple is an important structure, symbolic of the city’s once-thriving Chinese community. The Sino-Indian War in 1962 forced many of the native Chinese residents to leave the city, however, the neighborhood of Mazagaon (Mumbai’s Chinatown) today still has traces of its glorious past. The temple is located in a two-story house with wooden stairs leading up to the top. There is a mural of three deities as you enter, representing the Chinese gods of blessing, prosperity, and longevity. The temple itself is one large room, at the center of which is a red altar, above which is a painting of the Chinese god of justice & protection and the temple’s keepsake, Kwan Kung. Intricately decorated with chimes, paper lanterns, and wall inscriptions, the temple is a sight to behold during the Chinese New Year and Moon Festival!
4. Explore Bandra’s Street Art
Walking through Bandra is like walking through an art gallery. Incredibly rich in diversity and style, Bandra’s street art scene is a must-visit for just about everyone. Bandra is full of unique and interesting graffiti all around. From commentary on social and political matters to surrealist art and symbolism to tributes to Bollywood, the art pieces here are as diverse as the artists themselves who come from all walks of life. Take a walk through Bandra to see some amazing artworks.
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5. Have Lunch At Britannia & Company
Britannia & Co is an iconic Parsi restaurant in Mumbai, known for its delectable food and Parsi authenticity. Located inside a colonial bungalow in Ballard Estate, Fort, the restaurant was run by late Mr. Boman Kohinoor – a third-generation Kohinoor, since it opened in 1923. Mr. Kohinoor loved interacting with his guests, and his humor, charm, and friendliness added character to the place. Eating at this fine place should be on your list for their food is out of the world. Do make sure to try the berry pulao, sali boti mutton, and the dhanksak. Oh, and for dessert, don’t miss the caramel custard!
6. Catch A Movie At Iconic Cinema Houses
Mumbai is home to a thriving social and entertainment scene. The city houses some of the oldest and most historic cinema houses in India. Once glamorous and thriving, some of these are today dilapidated, but still continue to exist as heritage sites, symbolic of a rich cultural past. Head to the famous Maratha Mandir to catch a screening of Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, or visit Regal Cinema, which is considered to have been the first air-conditioned theater in India. There’s also the 80-year old Eros Cinema which plays the latest releases and is a treat for the eyes with its Victorian-Gothic and Art Deco style architecture. For any movie buff, catching a movie at one of Mumbai’s iconic theaters is a dream come true.
7. Book A Nature Trail At Sanjay Gandhi National Park
The appeal of this park lies in its accessibility. Sanjay Gandhi National Park is the world’s largest national park located within city limits. Spread over 104 square kilometers, this densely forested national park houses rich flora and fauna and offers various treks and nature trails for enthusiasts. The main attractions include lion and tiger safaris, trekking trails, rock climbing, boating, and a toy train ride. It is advisable to make prior bookings for nature trails as per the park rules, and many trails also require visitors to have a naturalist accompany them. The diversity and natural beauty of the park attract more than 2 million visitors every year. The 2400-year-old Kanheri caves that are sculpted out of the rocky cliffs also lie within the park and are popular with visitors.
8. Visit The Magen David Synagogue
Built in 1864, the Magen David Synagogue is an orthodox Sephardi synagogue located in the busy neighborhood of Byculla. Built for the growing population of Baghdadi Jews in Mumbai, today the synagogue is the largest one for Baghdadi Jewish people in all of Asia. With its bright blue facade, large frontal columns, and intricate stained glass windows, the building is stunning. While open to people of all religions daily, it is advisable to not visit during certain holy days such as the Jewish New Year and the Day of Atonement as these observances are prayer intensive and require complete focus from parishioners. Take a day out to visit this synagogue to witness something off-beat, different, and very much a part of Mumbai’s rich cultural diversity.