A teeming metropolis of 20 million people, Mumbai has a frenetic pace that can both overwhelm and tantalize visitors. When you’ve checked off the must-sees and done the must-dos, do you wonder what it’s like to actually live in the “Maximum City”?
Follow the daily life of a local to get a taste of distinctly “Bambaiyya” experiences unlike anything other Indian cities have to offer.
Visit the Sassoon Docks Fish Market
While the rest of Mumbai is just beginning to wake, the iconic fish market is already in the throes of activity. At dawn, boats roll up to the 19th-century Sassoon Docks loaded with fresh red snapper, tuna, Bombay duck and pomfret. Wholesale buyers rush here to bid for the freshest catch.
Prepare your olfactory senses for smells of the ocean — and a whole lot more — as you navigate this chaotic, vibrant market alongside locals. Watch as Koli fisherwomen from Maharashtra’s fishing community deftly shell shrimp and hawk their wares.
Ride the Mumbai Local
Ferrying more than seven million passengers each day, Mumbai’s incredible local train system is the lifeline that keeps the city moving. Locals often spend hours aboard train cars commuting across the expansive city each day.
To observe a microcosm of Mumbai life, board the iconic Western railway line at Churchgate and take a ride in the afternoon when the crowd is not as dense. The human crush is at its peak during morning and evening rush hours. Commuters eat, exchange gossip, play cards and sing songs.
Eat Bombay-Style Street Food
Vada pav, Bombay sandwich, bhelpuri: With so many savory foods in Mumbai, you’ll never go hungry. Tiny stalls or pushcarts dot nearly every street corner and do brisk business serving up an array of fresh snacks.
When locals want a change from their packed lunch, they simply step out of their offices and queue up for these delicious, cheap Mumbai favorites. The most iconic of these — the vada pav — consists of a spicy potato patty stuffed into a bun and sprinkled with spices.
Before you leave, try the humble Bombay sandwich with slivers of cucumber, tomato, beetroot, boiled potato and a slather of coriander chutney.
Stop at a Shrine
Temples, mosques, churches and synagogues dot Mumbai’s landscape. Locals often frequent these shrines on their way to or from work. When the tide is low, walk over to the 15th-century Haji Ali mosque and tomb on an islet in the ocean.
To observe temple rituals, stop by at the grand Siddhivinayak Temple, dedicated to Ganesh and always buzzing with activity. The city’s Bandra neighborhood has several atmospheric churches. The grandest of these is Mount Mary’s Basilica, with an ornate, spired Gothic frontage and a 16th-century idol of Mother Mary.
Catch the Sunset at Marine Drive
Joggers, couples and idlers throng this curved South Mumbai promenade along the Arabian Sea in the mornings and evenings. Bordered by old art deco buildings and palm trees, the stretch is a perfect spot to wind down with the locals after a busy Mumbai day.
Go for a run or grab a sea-facing spot, feel the ocean breeze, and watch the sun dip into the ocean. Chowpatty Beach, at one end of Marine Drive, is a buzzing hangout where families and friends catch up and snack on chaat from stalls.