While Mumbai tops the bucket list of spiritual pilgrims, we suggest an itinerary that’s more eat, play, love. Yes, the city is an intoxicating blend of saturated colors, street food sizzling on outdoor grills and about 13 million inhabitants, but it’s also a modern metropolis that celebrates the good life with thumping dance clubs, upscale restaurants and some of the most gorgeous and stylish women on the planet.
Time your trip for late March and catch the citywide street party that is the Holi festival if you’re blessed enough to be in town on an expense account, check in to the centrally situated Four Seasons which has a dramatic rooftop bar, or the Taj Mahal Palace hotel in the Colaba business district, which can serve as a posh yet practical HQ for your stay.
Check off tourist must-sees such as the crowds of Chowpatty Beach, bustling Fashion Street for sartorial finds and the field of amateur cricketers at Oval Maidan. Then let your stomach be your guide. Tuck into a plate of fried giant prawns and a frosty Kingfisher beer at Trishna in Fort for a reminder of the city’s fishing-village roots. (Later, visit nearby Everyday Project for mod stationery.) And if you’re wondering where to find a refined take on chicken tikka masala, it’s at Ziya at the Oberoi, Nariman Point. It’s approximately 100 times more flavorful than any version of the takeout staple available in the States and 100 percent less neon color.
Bypass the tacky stalls (and pickpockets) along the crowded Colaba Causeway in favor of concept shops where souvenirs deserving of suitcase real estate await. Just off the main drag, behind a heritage building facade, Bombay Electric houses the best of India’s indie fashion and a quirky stash of gadgets. A five-minute walk and a few flights of rickety stairs later, find Bungalow Eight’s three floors of clothing, accessories and housewares that are made using mostly traditional techniques and materials but styled for the here and now.
When the sun sets, head to Bollywood stomping ground Bandra and dance the night away to a DJ set at Blue Frog to see why Mumbai’s the word.