This vibrant metropolis is home to the heart of the Bollywood film industry and is considered to be the fashion capital of the country. It is the business epicenter of India and the scene of some of the most extravagant events. With a population of nearly 12 million, Mumbai is a popular starting point for tourists seeking to explore the Indian culture.
Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay, is a big city on the west coast of India. For some tourists, a trip to India can be overwhelming due to the stark cultural differences. While it isn’t impossible to explore the city of Mumbai within one trip, it might be more enjoyable to concentrate the adventure on discovering the beauty of one specific area. The Santa Cruz region of Mumbai, only 15 minutes from the Chattrapati Shivaji International Airport, is an ideal area to spend some time in, as it offers an endless abundance of shopping and is situated in close proximity to a handful of famous attractions.
Photo courtesy | Grand Hyatt
After traveling for almost 24 hours and spending the majority of that time crammed in the plane, it’s comforting to know that plush pillows await you at your hotel. With the Santa Cruz neighborhood a destination for both business and leisure, there are a handful of hotel options for visitors. One of the better hotels in the area is the Grand Hyatt Mumbai, a five-star luxury hotel recognized for its exceptional service and an elevated level of comfort. The Grand Hyatt encompasses all the basic amenities and much more, with a total of four high-quality restaurants serving international cuisines from around the world. The extensive recreational facilities, including the swimming pool, spa and 24/7 gym, are bound to delight guests of all ages. Also, there are several unique art galleries scattered throughout the hotel that can be explored individually or with a tour guide. The Grand Hyatt Mumbai provides the familiar comforts of home, which helps guests to gradually adjust to the Indian culture.
As the host city of fashion week, Mumbai is the best place to shop in and Santa Cruz has an abundance of stores that feature both western designs and traditional Indian clothing. Phoenix Market City and Palladium Mall can be described as the typical shopping center with stores like Zara and Swarovski. The bazaars of Santa Cruz are more reflective of the exotic culture of the region, where storeowners are prepared to bargain with customers. Along Swami Vivekanand Road, more commonly known as SV Road, there are large stores that sell the colorful Indian clothing the culture is known for. The smaller shops provide simpler materials whereas the larger, more upscale stores sell much more elegant pieces. Shopping in India is truly a unique experience because it’s one of the few places where stores will give you complimentary water, chai, coffee, and even food at times. Sales representatives work tirelessly unwrapping packed clothes to showcase the latest designs, as you sit back and wait until something catches your eye.
Photo courtesy | Adam Cohn
While there are hundreds of clothing stores throughout the Santa Cruz area, some of the most notable ones include Magic Mirror and Telon. The owners of these stores are brothers and although they cater to different markets, they share the same customer values. Magic Mirror is large boutique that sells jewelry and clothing for women. Telon, a few blocks down from Magic Mirror, is a designer men’s clothing store that has one of the best tailor’s in the area. Whether you are familiar with the area or exploring Santa Cruz for the first time, these stores are definitely worth spending some time in, as their sales representatives will work with you to find or design exactly what you are looking for.
There are multiple tourist destinations surrounding the Santa Cruz area. Only a short rickshaw ride away from Santacruz, Juhu is another suburb of Mumbai that houses the homes of some famous Bollywood celebrities such as Amitabh Bachchan and Hritik Roshan. It is also known for its beach, a relaxing spot where visitors can stroll along the three-kilometer stretch or possibly watch a movie being filmed. There are a series of stalls set up on the beach that serves authentic Mumbai street food such as pani puri, sev puri, and pav bhaji. For the more historical sites, visitors might be interested in the Gateway of India sometimes referred to as the Taj Mahal of Mumbai. This structure dates back to 20th century and was used primarily as a ceremonial entrance. Other must see sites in the area include Dhobi Ghat, an open-air laundromat where washers, known as dhobis, wash clothes from neighboring hotels and hospitals, and Victoria Terminus, Mumbai’s version of Grand Central.
Photo courtesy | Michael Kohli
With a long itinerary, it becomes difficult to schedule time to eat in between activities. Street stalls, such as the ones on Juhu Beach, are a great way to taste some Indian cuisine while on the move. These stalls also serve some of the best coffee and chai. Most restaurants in Mumbai only offer vegetarian dishes, adhering to the beliefs of the predominant Hindu religion, but there are some that serve non-vegetarian food too. For casual dining, Lucky Restaurant in Santa Cruz is a typical Indian restaurant serving dishes such as biryani and chicken tikka masala. Those looking for some entertainment with their meal might prefer eating at Sheesha Sky Lounge on Linking Road, where there is a live musical performance on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The menu encompasses both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. Although not listed on the menu, guests should definitely order the sizzling brownie made with pure chocolate and served with ice cream.
Photo courtesy | Andreas Mariotti
As glamorized as Mumbai may appear to be, the city is filled with poverty and pollution that affects the majority of the population. But there remains an uncovered beauty hidden beneath the smog that photos do not capture. Rickshaw rides through the city allow tourists to see the poor living conditions, including rickety roofs and dirty walls. The splendor of Mumbai isn’t the upscale hotels, clothing boutiques, or historical monuments, but the lifestyle of the people. They are content with the life they are living and what they have, finding joy in the simple pleasures. That’s the true beauty of Mumbai.
Photo courtesy | Adam Cohn