First-time visitors to India have traditionally skipped Mumbai in favour of the Golden Triangle to the east, or Goa’s golden sands to the south. But with Virgin Atlantic’s new direct route from Heathrow to Mumbai, there’s more reason than ever to stay and explore India’s ‘commercial capital’.
You’ll hear time and time again that eating streetfood in India is asking for trouble, but that’s just not true. Some of the city’s best food is served up by expert chefs who specialise in one dish and then fry it up, hour in, hour out, every day.
Simply follow what the locals are eating and you’ll have an unforgettable culinary experience. It’s also worth making a beeline to some of Mumbai’s specialities. Pav Bhaji is a thick curry served with a chunky bread roll and some of the best is found at Sardars, close to Mumbai’s central station. Vada Pav are another Mumbai favourite, and are snaffled by commuters as they dash across the city. These are potato patties mashed with spices and garlic, deep fried and crammed in a white bap. If you want something with a little less bread, pani puri drenched in tamarind and filled with crunchy pastry, potato, coriander and mint can be found all over the city. You’ll see business people and Bollywood stars queing to eat at Mumbai’s streetfood stalls, so pull up a red stool, and get ready to feel stuffed.
Mumbai’s Monsoon rains are incredible
Wild, lashing rains whip the city, transforming it from a sweltering metropolis to an urban jungle that brings relief to residents. There’s a beautiful moment in September when the city moves away from overwhelming humidity to a lighter, happier place.
Being caught in a Monsoon is one of the best ways to experience Mumbai if you’re a tourist.If you haven’t been caught in one before, expect a total drenching - think having a shower, while wearing your clothes. You’ll see kids screeching and running in the street, delighted that the rains have finally come. Best of all, when a monsoon rain shower hits, you can be certain that ten minutes later, no matter how heavy the rain was, you’ll soon be dry, your clothes gently steaming in the now blinding sunshine.
Mumbai’s architecture is dazzling. Whether you want colonial grandeur or to see the world’s most expensive house, Mumbai has something for you.
Colonial buildings are centred around Mumbai’s old town. The railway station, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, looks more like a palace than a transport hub, while the Bandra Fort is a great place to watch one of Mumbai’s watermelon sunsets from.
If you want to see pure wealth distilled into accommodation form, then head to see Antilla from the outside, a slightly lopsided tower built by India’s richest man Mukesh Ambani. It cost 1 billion dollars to build and juts into the air like a floating tetris game.
In the evening take a walk to the Gateway of India Arch Monument, a colonial-era structure built to commemorate the King George V’s arrival to Mumbai in 1905. It’s a port city, and the arch is the first thing visitors arriving in the city by sea would have seen.
Mumbai is a big, brilliant city. It’s packed with over 22 million people (who all seem to ride the commuter trains at the same time!). There are dozens of independent art galleries, national galleries and private studios. Visit the Jehangir Art Gallery for some of Mumbai’s most popular contemporary art. Pay a visit to the fishy-smelling Colaba market, which is in the city’s port area. It may feel like an odd place to hang out, but the Sassoon Dark Art Project has created some massive murals dotted around the market area.
Find out more and book your flights to Mumbai from Tuesday May 28th on the Virgin Atlantic website.
Download the Virgin Red app to unlock the vaults and be in with a chance of winning 40,000 Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles.