With three days in Mumbai, you’ll have time enough to really get a feel for the city, from its blockbuster tourist sights to its thriving houses of worship, with plenty of time to shop, sample local food, and visit surrounding historic attractions. Here’s one way to do it.
Day 1: The Best of Central Mumbai
Spend your first day exploring the sights of central and southern Mumbai. Start at Mahalaxmi Temple, one of the most important Hindu temples in the city. Then stop by Dhobi Ghat to take a few photos of the world’s largest laundry operation before continuing to Haji Ali, a mosque and Sufi shrine situated at the end of a long pier jutting into the sea. From here, head south to the popular flea market Chor Bazaar, a great place for people watching, before visiting Mani Bhavan, a museum dedicated to Gandhi and the Indian Independence Movement. Continue on to the Hanging Gardens, a popular park full of intricate topiary; try to make it in time to watch the sunset over the sea. Finish your evening at nearby Chowpatty Beach, a popular coastal hangout spot best known for its ample street-food stalls and a great place to graze for dinner.
Day 2: Heritage and Food
Spend your second day delving deeper into southern Mumbai, visiting popular architectural sights such as Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station, one of the world’s finest examples of Indo-Saracenic architecture and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Also visit the Bombay High Court, another fine example of colonial architecture, before making your way to the Colaba neighborhood in the heart of touristy Mumbai. From here, hop a ferry to Elephanta Island to see the Elephanta Caves, a collection of Buddhist and Hindu rock-hewn caves dating to the seventh century. Alternatively, spend your afternoon shopping at the sprawling Crawford Market or opt for a cooking class where you can learn to make South Indian dishes. Either way, sample street food favorites such as puffed-rice bhel puri and pav bhaji, spiced potato curry.
Day 3: A Day in the Caves
For your final day, head out of town to visit area ancient cave temples. A nearby option is the Kanheri Caves in Sanjay Gandhi National Park, 109 basalt caves carved between the first century BC and the 10th century AD that served as Buddhist monastic dwellings. Alternatively, head farther afield to the Bhaja and Karla Caves, two complexes about 20 minutes apart by car. Each boasts rock-hewn cave structures dominated by Buddhist shrines and monastic dwellings, many dating back to around the first century BC. Return to Mumbai for a final dinner of South Indian cuisine, either in a restaurant or gathered from your favorite street-food stalls.