A caveat: it?s madness to spend just 24 hours in Mumbai. India?s largest city is much too dense, loud and confounding (not to mention humid) to explore thoroughly in so little time. But if you give up on the foolhardy idea of ?getting to know? Mumbai, then there?s plenty of fun to be had even on a short stopover. For a first time visitor, particularly one aiming to shop, the best option is to set your sights on Fort and Colaba, the historic heart of South Bombay.
Abode, Mumbai?s first luxury boutique hotel, is both witty and charming; for a more opulent stay, the Taj Palace is just around the corner and still the city?s standard bearer for gracious living.
Abode Bombay: 1st Floor, Lansdowne House, M.B.Marg, (Near Cafe Mondegar), Apollo Bunder, Colaba, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400039, India, +91 99 20 989650
The city?s most walkable district has a slew of caf?s, galleries and shops. The best are Samovar at the Jehangir Gallery, The Pantry and Kala Ghoda Caf? for coffee and snacks; Obataimu for hand-stitched garments in the city?s slickest retail space; Filter for cleverly designed accessories from stationary to poster art; Delhi Art Gallery for works by the modernist masters; and the Goethe Institut for an interesting roster of rotating exhibitions.
Cafe Samovar: 161-B, Jehangir Art Gallery, MG Road, Kala Ghoda, Colaba, Mumbai, 02222047276, +919820696255. The Pantry: Yeshwant Chambers, Military Square Lane, Near Trishna, Kala Ghoda, Fort, Mumbai, 022 22700082, 022 22678901. Kala Ghoda Cafe: 10, Ropewalk Lane, Kala Ghoda, Fort, Mumbai, 022 22633866, 022 33803418.
Monumental Bombay: The city?s best Victorian Gothic and Deco structures are concentrated in South Bombay. Walk along the Oval Maidan for views of the University and High Court, then up MG Road toward CST, formerly Victoria Terminus, stopping at Khadi Bhavan, an anachronistic government craft emporium, and Chemould Gallery, the first of the city?s contemporary art spaces, along the way.
From VT, hop a cab to Ballard Estate, a stately ensemble of Banyan-draped Edwardian office buildings. Here you can have lunch at Britannia, a beloved institution for Parsi dishes like Berry Pulav and Sali Boti.
Britannia: 11 Sprott Road, 16 Ballard Estate, | Wakefield House, Opposite New Custom House, Fort, Mumbai (Bombay) 400001, India, 2222615264
Colaba: After a rest (you?ll need it) spend your afternoon in Colaba?s boutiques, all of them around the corner from your hotel. Try Design Temple for slick interior accessories, Bombay Electric for clothing from top local designers like NorBlack NorWhite, Good Earth for elegant housewares, and Bungalow 8, a three-floor design emporium stocked with furniture, accessories, clothing and jewelry. If you?ve had enough shopping, you can do a gallery crawl, stopping at Sakshi, Project 88 and Clark House.
For a cheap rooftop refresher, grab a beer at The Bay View at the Hotel Harbour View or at Cloud Nine in the Godwin Hotel. For a taste of Mumbai?s best local brew, head to Woodside Inn for a pint of India Pale Ale from Gateway Breweries.
The Bay View: 25, P J Ramchandani Marg, Opp. Radio Club, Apollo Bandar, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400001, India, +91 22 6119 2222. Cloud Nine: 41, Garden Rd, Colaba, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400001, India, +91 22 2287 2050. Woodside Inn: Wodehouse Road, Colaba, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400039, India, +91 22 2202 5525.
Dinner: Seafood is Bombay?s specialty. Bypass the guidebook-approved Trishna and head instead to Ankur, serving dishes from the southern coastal city of Mangalore. Try the tisre sukha (clams in dry coconut curry), kori roti (a chicken curry, also with coconut) and neer dosa, a steamed, rice-based flatbread.
Nightcap: If your jetlag hasn?t defeated you, grab an aged Negroni at Nico Bombay, or, for something glitzier, any cocktail that catches your fancy at Ellipsis. As you drink, start rearranging your itinerary for a few extra days here at the end of your trip, and quietly curse whoever it was that told you there?s nothing much to see in Mumbai.