Mumbai in 24 Hours: The Best Way to Explore India's Gateway City

A lot can be said about the city of Mumbai; sitting along the coast of the Arabian sea, it is often called “the front door of India.” Mumbai is both the financial capital of India, and the country’s largest city. But it is also home to artists and movie stars, exotic forests and ancient temples.

With so much going on, Mumbai can be a busy place for new travelers. So we spoke with Mumbai local and Lokafy guide, Sukanya Roy Choudhary, to plan the perfect 24 hour itinerary.

Mumbai streets

Getting downtown from Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport

Mumbai has one just one major airport – although some locals will refer to it as two separate airports – and is nearly 40 kilometres from the city centre. Unless you’ve arranged for your own car, getting a taxi is the best option for travelling. While there are trains that can get you downtown pretty quick, they are often very crowded. If you’ve travelled light and are feeling adventurous, three-wheeled motorbikes known as rickshaws are a popular way to navigate the city.  

Mumbai rickshaw India

Spend the morning exploring traditional fishing villages

Along the shorelines of the city, you will find many small fishing villages, which are home to the Kolis people, Mumbai’s fisherfolk community. The Worli fishing village is a great place to experience this tradition. The people are friendly, and the narrow passageways are lined with picturesque pastel buildings and vibrant street art. Being situated next to a 17th century British fortress, Worli also offers the perfect setting for travellers to get a sense of the country’s colonial history.

Mumbai fishing boats

Stop in south Mumbai for a traditional Indian lunch

Mumbai is a never ending source of amazing food. While well-known spots such as Cafe Leopold, and Cafe Universal offer a mix of Indian and anglo- European dishes, we have a few of our own recommendations for a true Mumbai experience. Oh! Calcutta is a casual spot known for its Bangali inspired dishes. Or if you’re in the mood for kebab, Bademiyan is a famous food stall and restaurant chain native to Mumbai. And if after lunch you find yourself craving sweets, try Candies, where hot food and baked goods are prepared daily.

Mumbai restaurant food

Take the ferry to see the stunning Elephanta Caves

The five Hindu and 2 Buddhist caves located on Elephanta Island make up the World Heritage Site known as the Elephanta Caves.  Over 1200 years old and exceptionally stunning, the Elephanta Caves are one of the must-do sights for any first-timer in Mumbai. To get to the caves, you first need to travel to the Gateway of India, which is an equally beautiful site. From there, you can get tickets for the one-hour ferry ride that will get you to the island. Exploring the caves can take a couple of hours. But if you’re enjoying yourself and want to stay longer, the rest of the Island is a great place to relax by the water and escape the busyness of the city centre.

Mumbai Elephanta Caves

Get lost wandering Mumbai’s cultural district, Kala Ghoda

Kala Ghoda, meaning “Black Horse,” is a district north of Colaba known for its beautiful heritage buildings, hip cafes and bustling art community. Here you will find the Jehangir Art Gallery and the National Gallery of Modern Art, as well as the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya museum, offering a mix of both history and art. Kala Ghoda is also next to a large green space, where locals like to play cricket, kick a football, or go for a jog around the track.           

Mumbai horse statue

Finish your night with a drink, and enjoy the beauty of the city lights

No day in Mumbai would be complete without a few drinks and a late night walk along the water. Beer and whiskey are the favourites of many Mumbai locals, but wine and vodka lovers will have no problem getting their fix. Kala Ghoda offers a few good night spots such as Bar Stock Exchange. Or if you’re looking to move away from old town Mumbai, try Kahr Social in Pali Hill. Once you’re good and buzzed, take a walk until you hit the water.

Mumbai has many seaside promenades such as Marine Drive, The Bandstand or Cater Road where one can take a stroll and relax in the evening. And if you’re lucky enough to be visiting Mumbai during a festival, like Diwali and Christmas, you’ll have the chance to take in the city lights and firework shows.

By the end of the night you should be well-fed, maybe feeling a bit tired, but ready to wake up the next day and do it all over again. By the end of your trip, you’re sure to be more in love with the city of Mumbai than ever. And maybe feeling a bit more like a local.

Mumbai Diwali lights lantern festival