Having visited Phuket, Thailand twice in a span of six months we can safely say that this island paradise is not just about beach lounging, turquoise waters, trips to Phi Phi islands, strolling past strip bars and shopping streets. Phuket is also home to some very interesting local cuisine—this mountainous island located in the Andaman Sea has its fair share of tourist traps as well as hidden spots for every kind of holidaymaker—so, forget about calories and think Pad Thai, delectable curries, stir fry everything, mango sticky rice and…drumroll….hand churned coconut ice-cream.
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.
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.
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.
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).
Basic: The Regency Hotel, Nepensea Road
Breaking the budget: The Shalimar Hotel, Mumbai
To book accommodations we recommend: https://www.booking.com/
For more information on food: https://www.zomato.com/mumbai
Photographed by: Chail Shah Photography
If there ever was a country that had terrain that seemed like it is from another planet, it is Iceland and where better to celebrate your marriage turning one than in a freezing country surrounded by absolutely nothing! My husband and I landed in the capital city of Reykjavik and began a 10-day journey traversing volcanoes, lava fields, icy, and snow laden roads with air so pure and views so magical; we may have lost our hearts to another world.
We touched-down in Barcelona on a day that wasn’t sure if it was going to be sunny or cloudy – but one look at the bi-polar sky, the Gaudi-strewn streets and the air of easy nonchalance, we were sure we’d love the city.
And with burgers for brunch, mini-sandwiches for lunch, gelato for a snack and sit-down meals (Asian to Spanish) for dinner – Barcelona is a virtual potpourri of cultures. If all you have is 24 hours in the city, we show you how to make the most of gourmet offerings. Join us on a cross-city culinary chase.
Marmalade, las Ramblas
While their Bloody Mary is simply rumoured to be the best in town, we can vouch for it. The ideal companion to a brunch that’s heavy on the calories and the cheer, head down to the cool, chic restaurant and cocktail bar for your first meal in Barcelona – choose from the succulent hamburgers or classic breakfast offerings (eggs, bagels, pancakes). If you’re looking to end your evening here, we suggest you try the sangria, pair it with the delectable fully loaded nachos (that we couldn’t stop eating) – and that incredible ramen burger. Ah, Barcelona! Marmaladebarcelona.com
Txapela, Passeig de Gracia
Passeig De Gracia, one of the most luxe streets in the city is home to an array of designer stores and restaurants – if you’re tired from all the walking through Barcelona city, Txapela is the place for you. Described as an authentic Basque tavern, we prefer the outdoor seating so you can make the most of the summer (or winter) sun and settle down to choose from their extensive range of pintxos (small snacks, of which they have 51 on the menu). Think everything from mini baguettes filled with salmon to fried eggs and Iberian ham ensconsced between the softest bread. We tried at least 15 of the 51, and we’re definitely going back for more. For breakfast fiends, they have a menu that includes donuts, croissants and mini sandwiches, naturally. Txapelarestaurant.com
Restaurante Nuria, las Ramblas
If you’re hankering for a dose of authentic tapas in the midst of the frenetic las Ramblas of Barcelona, head down to Nuria – which dates back to 1926. Set in quirky, cheery interiors, the well-lit space is perfect for a glass of wine and range of tapas. On Nuria’s side is its ace location and quick service – topping our list were the fried calamari and assortment of sausages. The Paella is super fishy and only meant for those who have developed a taste for the deep and lasting intense flavour. Nuria.com
Santagustina, El Born
Set in Barcelona’s beautiful El Born district, we headed down here for a few drinks – and ended up staying for tapas and dinner. The bartender’s friendly wine advice and great selection of cheese, coupled with the relaxed environment and moody music were the key factors – set in quaint, kind of rustic interiors, we loved the friendly vibe (even if the tables were a little too close together) and service. All in all, leaving us with an intimate, fun experience. And wine connoisseurs, you’re going to have plenty to choose from – making this the perfect place to while away a boozy evening at. Santagustina.es
Bananas, El Born
Specialists in “international cuisine with orientalized touch” , the offerings at Bananas restaurant in the heart of El Born are global and yet fusion. The fried duck wontons were the best we’ve ever tasted and the Nasi Goreng could give any Indonesian restaurant a run for its money – the Desperado on offer didn’t hurt either. Bananas-barcelona.com
Gelato, Italiano, In Espana
If you can’t quite make it to your Italian sojourn, worry not – you can satiate your gelato cravings at any of Italian chain Amorino’s many outlets in Barcelona. The fact that you can mix more than two flavours (we pick Belgian chocolate and dulce de leche) that are then decorated adorably into a rose flower – makes this ice-cream adventure more an experience that just a snack. Perfect mid-morning, mid-afternoon or midnight snack if you ask us. Amorino.com