As business travelers to India’s so-called “Maximum City” will soon realize, Mumbai’s commercial quarters rub shoulders with its cultural and entertainment districts. Make the most of your free hours outside the office to experience the city’s art, architecture, food and drink.
Stretching from the offices of Mumbai’s Fort district to Colaba Causeway, the art enclave of Kala Ghoda is chock-full of galleries and heritage architecture. The area (its name literally translates to “black horse”) is synonymous with the annual Kala Ghoda Arts festival, held every February, when the streets come alive with art installations and live music.
Explore the galleries, most notably the Jehangir Art Gallery, filled with contemporary works; the National Gallery of Modern Art, with modernist pieces in the crescent-shaped galleries; and the newly opened Rukshaan Art Gallery, a minimalist space with sculptures and paintings housed in a heritage building.
Craft Beer Trail
After-work drinks got a lot more interesting in Mumbai in the last four years thanks to the arrival of microbreweries. If you’re working in the business district of Lower Parel, you don’t have to venture too far for a fresh craft beverage. Even better, the St. Regis Mumbai is in walking distance from the pubs in the district, so you can return to your room easily after a night of sips.
Try the Bombay Blonde Ale or the honey-infused Honey Bee Braggot at Mumbai’s first brewpub, The Barking Deer. Also in the neighborhood is The White Owl, where locals swear by the citrusy Belgian Wit and American Pale Ale. Pune import Doolally Taproom has five buzzy branches across the city with a range of fruity ciders and an oatmeal stout on tap.
In the south, old-school favorite Woodside Inn has long been an office-crowd puller, with great nibbles and warm wooded interiors. Though not a microbrewery, you’ll find Indian-made specialty brews by Gateway Brewing Co. and Independence Brewing Co. here.
Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum
Opulent interiors dazzle visitors at Mumbai’s oldest museum, which dates back to 1872. The high-Victorian arches, glass-and-gold interiors, intricate mosaic ceilings and tiled floors are the results of a four-year-long refurbishment that restored the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum to its former Victorian glory.
Within the colonial-era building lies documentation of the city’s history, culture and communities from the 18th to 20th centuries in the form of art, clay models and old books. Keep an eye out for ongoing events — the museum is a space for film, performance arts collectives and workshops.
Art Deco Treasures
A post-work stroll through Colaba and Marine Drive reveals a clutch of iconic, yet often overlooked, art deco gems, with typical features such as rounded balconies, porthole windows and streamlined curves.
While ornate Victorian structures like the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus dominate most travelers’ photos, the art deco buildings that stand in their shadow tell an interesting story.
Posh enclaves in South Mumbai borrowed liberally from the style that dominated Europe’s architectural landscape in the 1900s. Among them are the iconic 84-year-old Regal Cinema on Colaba Causeway, the Liberty Cinema and sea-facing apartments along Marine Drive.
Sign up for a tour with Art Deco Mumbai, the organization responsible for documenting the city’s art deco gems, or use its listings to design your own walk.
With stately Victorian-style buildings and tree-lined avenues, Ballard Estate is a gorgeous business district. There’s also the added bonus of finding a great midday meal here every day. Make the most of lunch hour and head to Mumbai’s iconic Parsi eateries.
This small Zoroastrian community migrated to India from Persia and left an indelible mark on Mumbai’s social, economic and culinary legacy. The immense popularity of Parsi restaurants is testament to this fact, and they are frequented by both locals and visitors for their unique food.
Legendary eateries include the nearly 100-year-old Britannia & Co. — helmed by nonagenarian Boman Kohinoor — where the berry pulav (flavored rice with saffron and tangy berries) and dhansak (goat meat in a lentil gravy) will leave you in a happy stupor. Head to Jimmy Boy for a snack of kheema pav (a minced-meat-stuffed bun) and caramel custard.
Royal Opera House
Catch a grand performance at India’s only opera house, the century-old, colonial era Royal Opera House. Restored to its former glory with gilded white-and-gold columns and plush velvet seats, the iconic Mumbai landmark threw its doors open in 2016 after a 23-year hiatus.
An intrinsic part of Mumbai’s (then Bombay) cultural fabric when it first opened in 1912, the opera aims to revive Mumbai’s arts and culture scene with theater, music performances and opera regularly filling the space.