Mumbai (formerly Bombay) is India’s financial powerhouse. It has its own language, Bambaiyya Hindi, plus the country’s most prolific film industry, one of Asia’s biggest slums and the largest tropical forest in an urban zone.
So make time to enjoy its stately architecture, gardens and chaotic street life.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya is Mumbai's best museum, a hodgepodge of Islamic, Hindu and British architecture with exhibits from all over India (00 9122 22 84 44 84; bombaymuseum.org; K Dubash Marg; 10.15am-6pm Tue-Sun; £4.50).
Built on land reclaimed from Back Bay in 1920, Marine Drive arcs along the shore of the Arabian Sea, from Nariman Point past Chowpatty Beach to the foot of Malabar Hill. Lined with art deco apartments, it's one of Mumbai's most popular promenades.
In the middle of Mumbai Harbour, the temples on Elephanta Island are a Unesco World Heritage Site. Home to a labyrinth of cavetemples carved into the basalt rock of the island, the artwork is some of the most impressive temple carving in India (asi.nic.in; boats leave from the Gateway of India; 9am-5pm Tue-Sun; £3.50).
Nobody is sure how Mumbai's Chor Bazaar ('thieves' market') earned its moniker. One theory is that Queen Victoria discovered her violin/purse/jewellery missing and it was found here. The main area is Mutton Street, with shops specialising in antiques (Mutton St; 10am-7pm Mon-Sat).
In any given week, The National Centre for the Performing Arts might host Marathi theatre, poetry readings or Indian classical music (00 9122 22 82 45 67; ncpamumbai.com; cnr Marine Dr and Sri V Saha Rd, Nariman Point; tickets from £3).
Eat and drink
As Mumbai as traffic jams, Bademiya buzzes nightly with punters from all walks of life. This street-stall-on-steroids is a must for fresh, spicy grilled treats. Grab a chicken tikka roll to go or try the boti kebab (lamb kebab) or paneer masala (unfermented-cheese and tomato curry) on the footpath (Tulloch Rd; dishes from 70p).
Tucked away in a Tamil enclave near King's Circle, the restaurant of Hotel Ram Ashray is popular for its spectacular dosas - savoury pancakes - and upma - semolina cooked with onions, spices and coconut (Bhandarkar Rd, Matunga East; lunch and dinner; meals from 60p).
As the Culture Curry folks like to point out, there's more to Southern food than dosas. Exquisite dishes from Andhra to Kerala are the speciality here. The Kooru Curry - kidney beans and green beans in coconut gravy - is extraordinary (Kataria Rd, Matunga West; lunch and dinner; mains £2-£6.50).
Trishna might just serve the best seafood in town. It specialises in Mangalorean preparations and the dishes - all brought to your table for inspection prior to cooking - are outstanding (00 9122 22 70 32 13; Sai Baba Marg, Kala Ghoda; lunch and dinner; mains £2.50-£7).
Khyber cooks North Indian dishes for a who's who of Mumbai's elite. The food is some of the city's best and the pièce de résistance is raan - a whole leg of slow-cooked lamb (00 9122 40 39 66 66; 145 MG Rd, Fort; lunch and dinner; mains £4-£7).
The charming Bentley's Hotel has old-school floor tiles and colonial wooden furniture. Spread out over several buildings on Oliver St and nearby Henry Rd, rooms come in dozens of styles: rooms 31 and 21 both have balconies overlooking a garden, while the cheaper ones on Henry Rd are a bit noisier (00 9122 22 84 14 74; bentleyshotel.com; 17 Oliver Rd; from £30).
The Grand Hotel is a good deal, with lots of retro character - note the plaques labelling everything in the 1960s-era lobby. The place is also super-quiet. Rooms are dated but simply furnished with period-style teak beds (00 9122 66 58 05 00; grandhotelbombay.com; 17 Shri Shiv Sagar Ramgulam Marg, Ballard Estate; from £60).
From the decadent marble bathrooms with soft lighting to its huge, uncluttered rooms, the Ascot Hotel is all class. Front rooms are preferable as they get lots of natural light and have views across the treetops (00 9122 66 38 55 66; ascothotel. com; 38 Garden Rd; from £80).
Sun-n-Sand has been offering up beachfront hospitality for decades. The seaview rooms are the best, although all rooms are decorated in a faux-colonial style. Tangerine sun shades complement the pool, palm trees and ocean views (00 9122 66 93 88 88; sunnsandhotel.com; 39 Juhu Beach; from £150).
The Taj Mahal Palace has been a Mumbai landmark since 1903. With its sweeping arches, staircases and domes, it's both elegant and distinguished. The rooms are decorated in heritage style with soothing white-marble bathrooms (00 9122 66 65 33 66; tajhotels.com; Apollo Bunder, Colaba; from £280).
When to go
To avoid Mumbai's humid weather, visit between October and February, when the city enjoys refreshing breezes. If you don't mind the humidity, visit in August or early September when the ten-day, mega festival Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated by millions.
Mumbai's buses are great for short distances. Pay the conductor once aboard (5p; bestundertaking. com). The black-and-yellow Premier taxis are also a good way to get about. Drivers don't always know the street names, so use nearby landmarks to find places.
How to go
Air India and British Airways fly from Heathrow (from £325; airindia.com) and British Airways also flies from Manchester (from £530; ba.com). The prepay taxi booth at Mumbai airport has set fares of £6 or less to the city.
The article 'Mini guide to Mumbai, India' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Magazine.