Landmarks of Mumbai city: your insider guide

 

Electric. Dynamic. Chaotic. The maker (and breaker) of dreams – Mumbai city, India is a pulsating metropolitan city that’s filled with the best of the best (restaurants, hotels, eateries, shops), and the worst of the worst (weather, garbage, crowds). It also just happens to be our home. With our ongoing Landmarks of Mumbai series, we’ll explore small areas of the city, piece by piece, lending our insider knowledge and expertise to each area – so you, traveller, tourist and fellow Mumbaikar – know exactly what landmark to visit, where to stay and where to eat.

Gateway of India
This arch-shaped monument has been standing tall, (and pretty-much graffiti free) since 1924, when it was built to welcome British officials into the city. While the English left us a while ago, we’re not complaining about what they left behind—architecturally gorgeous, built in the Indo-Saracenic style, this imposing gateway is pretty much synonymous with Mumbai, and Bombay before it. Unmissable.

Why you should see it: The best time to ‘see’ this spectacular English-constructed landmark is just as the sun rises—the crowds at the lowest and you’ll get views against a spectacular skyline. While you can see the Gateway from the promenade nearby, it’s officially open for business between 7am-5:30pm, all days of the week, when it gets crowded with everyone from click-happy tourists (Look Ma, I’m holding up the gateway) to frenzied professionals going about their daily commute. But if you get there around sunset, the area comes alive with hordes of people taking walks along the seafront and meandering the nearby streets for food and drink spots, popular in this area. Walking around here is the best way to get a feel of the city as a local.
Tourist haunts: Around the corner from the gateway sits Colaba Causeway—practically as popular as the former; the popular go-to food stops for out-of-towners tend to be The Leopold Café, Café Mondegar, Bade Miyan (a food truck-turned-restaurant), Theobroma, Cafe Churchill and Delhi Darbar (for biryani). This area is extremely famous for Mumbai’s street shopping that includes artificial jewellery, bags and clothing. (Make sure to bargain)
GYG picks: A whole in the wall old-school Indian-styled Chinese restaurant Ling’s Pavillion, Bagdadi,a little Irani-styled eatery best known for their range of pulaos, fried fish and caramel custard,Le 15 Café for its quaint English-café charm, Colaba Social for a fun-well-priced drink and Bombay Stock Exchange’s terrace-top bar, Cafe Churchill for old school continental cuisine and freshly bakes pastries.
Hotel recommendations:
Basic: Abode Bombay
Breaking the budget: Taj Vivanta, Taj Mahal Palace & Hotel

Taj Mahal Palace & Hotel
The resident ghost of Taj Mahal Hotel is an urban legend that dates back to 1903. While the building was commissioned to three Indian architects, the main architect passed away whilst it was still under construction and was replaced by English engineer WA Chambers. Rumour has it, when he discovered the building had been constructed facing the opposite direction to his intent, he committed suicide and haunts the halls, even today. A ghostly tale not enough to entice a visit to the gorgeous India-Saracencic styled building?

Why you should see it: Go for the incredible hospitality at any of its great restaurants (The Golden Dragon is a personal favourite) – or just to marvel at its incredible architecture (tourists are allowed to walk in and explore the lobby and stores). You can also get gorgeous images against the beautiful building.
Tourist haunts: The Sea Lounge coffee shop at the Taj, overlooks the Gateway of India and offers the most sublime tea time service. (think layers of coffee cake and finger sandwiches). Around the corner are little sugarcane juice vendors to get through the heat that a day in Mumbai is bound to impress upon you.
GYG picks:
While we love all the restaurants at the Taj hotel, venture to causeway where Piccadilly has the best shawarma’s we’ve had in the city, Gables for unique Goan cuisine, Olympia Coffee House for their old-world charm, keema pav, caramel custard and Mumbai-staple chai. The Strand Hotel rooftop bar for gorgeous views along with your drinks.
Hotel recommendations:
Basic: Abode Bombay
Breaking the budget: Taj Vivanta, Taj Mahal Palace & Hotel

The Asiatic Society of Mumbai
Home to more than a hundred thousand books, of which 15,000 are classified as rare and valuable, this heritage structure influenced by Greek and Roman architecture with its pristine white exterior is better known as a venue for loved-up pre-wedding photo shoots and general photo ops. We kinda like it for both, as you can see. Hehe. Asiaticsociety.org.in for details of accessibility and opening hours.

Why you should see it: One of the prettiest buildings in Mumbai has gone through extensive refurbishments to stay perfect. The interiors with their winding staircases, long columns and antiquated-style are perfect to take you back to Bombay of the past.
Tourist haunts:
Horniman Circle Garden down the road from the Asiatic is the perfect spot of greenery in the midst of the bustling city, and if you saunter around in the afternoon, you’re likely to find a bunch of snoozing men under the shade of the tress. It’s also home to popular Indian-style stores like The Bombay Store, Chumbak and FabIndia for touristy (and quality) memorabilia.
GYG picks:
The Nutcracker veggie restaurant for its delectable pancakes, Kala Ghoda Café for those who love being healthy on holiday, Trishna (arguably the best seafood restaurant in the city) and Ayubs (a hole-in-the-wall roll guy) who went from operating out of a car to having his own little space in Kala Ghoda. He’s also open until 3-4 am for late-night cravings. Britannia & Co. Restaurant a is synonymous with serving the best Parsi food in the city with its berry pulav (his berries are imported all the way from Iran) and salli boti (mutton gravy) are definitely not to be missed. You also get live entertainment from the kind old owner who dishes out tales from the British era. 
Hotel recommendations
Basic: Ascot Hotel, Residency Hotel Fort, Grand Hotel
Breaking the budget: Trident Nariman Point, The Oberoi Mumbai

Hanging Gardens of Mumbai
For endless, unfettered views of Mumbai’s iconic marine drive promenade and gorgeous aerial views of the city, and sunset views over the Arabian Sea, head down to this terraced garden, settled comfortably in a residential area of South Mumbai. From morning walkers to busloads of tourists, they all descend upon the garden for a look at ‘The Old Woman’s Shoe”. Sitting in Kamala Nehru Park complex, the shoe structure is inspired by the nursery rhyme, ‘There was an Old Woman who Lived in a Shoe” and makes for a great whimsical photo-op.

Why you should see it: For the gorgeous sunset views of the city’s famed Queen’s necklace, for the quietude in the middle of this chaotic city and to take a quiet breath.
Tourist haunts:
Banganga Tank an ancient water tank part of the Walkeshwar Temple Complex.
GYG picks:
Dakshinayan, an authentic South Indian restaurant with high quality food and the best filter coffee; China Garden, an old-school, award winning Chinese restaurant, Narayan’s Dosa, grant road (a little hard to find, but Zomato should help you out).
Hotel recommendations
Basic: The Regency Hotel, Nepensea Road
Breaking the budget: The Shalimar Hotel, Mumbai

Outfits: https://www.6ycollective.com/

To book accommodations we recommend: https://www.booking.com/

For more information on food: https://www.zomato.com/mumbai

Photographed by: Chail Shah Photography

How to live it up in Dubai if you’re tired of shopping

It’s almost like a scene out of The Stepford Wives, sans the wives. The lawns are manicured, the homes, pristine — not a soul where he shouldn’t be – the drive from Dubai International Airport to the JBR area (Jumeirah Beach Residence), was like being ferried through a suburban Utopia. And even as the row houses gave way to metallic buildings and complex high-rises, everything seemed perfect in Dubai – or at least functioning in a well-oiled, processed manner.

And coming from Mumbai, where (mostly) organised chaos takes centre stage — roads are littered with buildings with peeling paint and people are everywhere— on my first visit, the perfection of the city seemed almost too perfect, even after I witnessed the crowded malls on weekends and the “bad” Thursday night traffic. But on my third visit there, I had finally scratched its seemingly perfect surface and begun to feel a little more comfortable around its manufactured perfection. And while I’m grateful to Emirati city and the access it gives me to global favourites like Cheesecake Factory to iHop and the hoard of malls to appease every shopaholic, I found there’s a lot to do in Dubai beyond simply shopping. From exploring Bur Dubai, the historic district, located on the western side of the Creek and Diera to picnics at Zabeel Park (when the weather permits) to making the most of its luxe food and nightlife scene, I’ve rounded my favourite things to do and the places you must eat at – if you want to give more than just your credit card a spin in the Emirate. Fair warning: This is a luxury holiday destination… so be prepared to spend a little money, even if you’re skipping out on the shopping.

Visit 
Ski Dubai
Ski Dubai, an indoor ski resort created within the Mall of Emirates offers a bunch of snow sports and the chance for you to play in the snow, while technically still in the desert. My inner snow angel was particularly partial to the chubby penguins that we met there.

Dubai Frame
Officially opened in early 2018, The Dubai Frame at Zabeel Park, designed by Fernando Donis is made of glass, steel, aluminium, and reinforced concrete and stands in such a way that on one end the landmarks of the new part of the part of the city are visible, while the other end offers views of the old city—making it a great representation of a city that seems to change every time you visit.

Dubai Opera
In less than two years, the Dubai Opera has gained a steady fan following—with good reason. Located in the Opera district, in a stunning glass façade building, a trip to this 2,000-seat, multi-format, performing arts centre is the perfect way to spend an evening. We were partial to emotional classics like Romeo & Juliet.

Dubai Fountain
The world’s largest choreographed fountain system set at the centre of the Downtown Dubai development, watch the fountains dance and swirl under the moonlit sky – it’s free and is lovely in the winter time.

La Perle by Dragone
Franco Dragone is well-known for his aqua-based shows and it was in late 2017 that this Emirate got a taste of the Cirque du Soleil veteran’s vision, with a resident show in a theatre built at Al Habtoor city. Think 65 super in-shape artists who range from dancers to Olympic athletes, performing gravity-defying acrobatic, aquatic and aerial stunts that made sure I kept my groggy eyes wide-open even after an entire day of touring through the city.

Eat at
Seven Sands
Want to sample traditional Emirati cuisine? Seven Sands, situated at the JBR walk, should be on your list – think shark sambousas (which apparently inspired the Indian samosa), several rice-based main courses and of course, hummus in all its glory.

The Cocoa Kitchen
We love all things chocolate – so when a café promises that each of its dishes will include an element of cocoa, we couldn’t wait to try it. We visited Cocoa Kitchen at Citywalk and that hot chocolate is something we won’t be forgetting for a long, long time.

J&G Steakhouse, St Regis
With candlelit tables and a gorgeous, endless stairwell leading to the restaurant, J&G is hardly your average steakhouse (though it is well known for its range of American classics). For those who aren’t a fan of the meat, we recommend their foie-grass stuffed chicken, paired with a delicate white wine, from their elegantly curated seafood and steak menu.

Sean Connolly at Dubai Opera
Nestled within the opera building, I almost didn’t notice the Burj Khalifa peeking down at me as I sat down at the rooftop terrace of Sean Connolly at the Opera for a winter-night meal. At the British-born chef’s first restaurant in the Middle East, a contemporary brasserie that opened its doors in late 2017, the menu features a range of seafood and steak, all impeccably cooked and plated. We loved the lobster burger and entrée of grilled white peaches, buffalo mozzarella and pistachio pesto.

Bleu Blanc by David Myers at Renaissance Downtown Hotel Dubai
Designed like a chic southern French farmhouse, a wood-fired grill takes centre stage at this in-hotel restaurant – we loved the roasted baby chicken and lamb kebabs! Morimoto Dubai is slated to open at the property soon – so stay tuned for the Japanese favourite!

Fact file
Location: Dubai, UAE
Getting there: Easily accessible via air
Best time to visit: November to March
Other attractions: Burj Al Arab, Jumeira Beach, Palm Jumeira, Grand Mosque, Dubai Gold souk, Dubai Spice souk, Textile souk, Al Bastakiya
For amusement park fans: IMG Worlds of Adventure, Motiongate Dubai, Legoland Dubai, Bollywood Parks