As the largest city in India, it’s unsurprising that Mumbai has a million and one things for tourists to get their teeth into… and that’s not just a reference to the myriad culinary delights that India has to offer. From taking a stroll down Marine Drive to passing through the Gate of India to visiting the Global Vipassana Pagoda, Mumbai’s bucket list is as long as even the lengthiest of arms.
Having said that, repeat travellers to the city – or those simply in search of something a little bit off the beaten track – might appreciate a slightly more skew-whiff take on its activities. For anyone looking for offbeat things to do in Mumbai and its surrounding environs, the 10 suggestions below might be just what the Swami ordered.
Packed full of up-and-coming cafes and restaurants, Bandra is one of Mumbai’s most vibrant neighbourhoods – and not least because of its incredible street art culture. With graffiti depicting everything from Bollywood stars to social pastiches, there’s a rich variety of content and colour on show, making a stroll around the district a rewarding experience in itself.
Clap Global is an innovative new project which allows travellers from all walks of life to visit school classrooms in select locations around the world and share their cultures, experiences and opinions with local kids. Mumbai hosts one of the schools participating in the programme, allowing for eye-opening discussions for both the students and the visitors.
The ancient sport of Kushti (from the Iranian Koshti) is still practiced in certain hotspots (known as akharas throughout India and as talims in Maharashtra) and men still come along for a good, old-fashioned wrestle in the mud to the more popular locations. As an activity that is definitely not just a tourist trap, it’s best to interact with the competitors, rather than just observe.
Go all the way to the other side of the world just to hide away in a darkened cinema? Absolutely. No one does the silver screen quite like Mumbai. Whether it’s the rickety, ramshackle charm of Gaiety Galaxy, the art-deco splendour of the Eros Cinema or the tried and tested formula of Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (which has screened at Maratha Mandir every day since 1955!), vintage Mumbai cinemas are sure to hit the spot.
While there’s more to Mumbai than morsels of mouth-watering cuisine, the gastronomy of the city certainly comprises one of its biggest assets. Hop aboard a Mumbai food tourand awaken your taste-buds as you use the vast public transport network to flit from hotspot to hotspot, lapping up curries, crunching down chapatis and licking clean ice creams all the while.
Nādi astrology is more popular in the south of India, in the states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, but Nādi astrologers can be found in Mumbai, too. The practice works by “reading” your fortune from the imprint that your thumb makes in palm leaves (the right thumb for males, left for females). Although there are essentially only 200 or so different fortunes which can be read in this manner, there’s always the chance that you might comprise one of the few unique souls that can’t be pigeonholed.
The Mumbai skyline is an inviting sight for cyclists, but the hectic traffic during daytime hours makes a bike ride not quite the pleasant experience it could be. That’s why many people wait until darkness falls and the pace of life slows down, before strapping on a helmet and taking to two wheels to gain a new perspective on all the city has to offer.
Once a mainstay of the city’s gastronomic scene, Irani cafes in Mumbaihave fallen prey to increased competition from hipper, trendier locales, but fortunately there are still a handful of these charming hotspots dotted around the city. As well as offering delicious Parsi cuisine, they’re also a melting pot for meeting people from every social stratum of the city, making them a must-do for any visitor.
Mumbai plays host a number of cave networks frequented by monks for centuries. The Mahakali and Kanheri Caves on the outskirts of the city centre are perhaps the most famous, but the Elephanta Caves (on aptly named Elephanta Island) are well worth the extra legwork to reach them. Dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva, the ornately-carved cave temple is believed to date from the 6thcentury BC.
There’s nothing quite like an intimate venue to add atmosphere to a music gig. Sofar Sounds Bombay host secret concerts across the city, with attendees treated to a homely environment and a sense of community among the audience that just isn’t possible elsewhere. From someone’s living room to a rooftop terrace, the locations are varied but never pedestrian.