Mumbai may be the commercial capital of the country, but it doesn’t just draw business travelers. Hordes of tourists flock to this city to marvel at its glitzy skyscrapers and admire its magnificent historic monuments. Mumbai has a lot to offer, beyond the usual tourist attractions, so the next time you are in the city, dig a little deeper. From parks and seaside promenades, to heritage colonies and historic buildings, Mumbai is filled with underrated attractions that most tourists rarely see.
When you are out exploring the city, don’t just visit the Gateway of India, Juhu Beach, and Sanjay Gandhi Park; instead, extend your stay in the city and add these hidden gems to your itinerary.
Talk to any of Mumbai’s old-timers and those who grew up before the age of social media and smartphones, and chances are that they will reminisce about school or family picnics to Aarey Colony’s Chota Kashmir Park. This is one of the city’s best kept secrets and it offers a green escape to inhabitants living in a concrete jungle. The park is an essential part of Mumbai’s heritage and it even houses a tree planted by the country’s first president, Dr. Rajendra Prasad. Perfect for picnics and lazy afternoons, the park has a variety of trees and plants, beautiful flowers, manicured lawns, and tree-shaded paths. It is also home to some rabbits and a section of the park also has joyrides and amusement rides for children. The adjacent lake also offers boating activities.
Carter Road is a coastal road that is lined with a beautiful promenade. This stretch may not be as famous and spectacular as Marine Drive, but what it lacks in glitz and glamour, it more than makes up for in warmth and comfort. Carter Road is one of Mumbai’s upscale areas, filled with some of the best restaurants, pubs, and eateries, but it is the promenade that is its biggest draw. Welcoming to everyone, you will always find walkers, joggers, senior citizens, couples, and even families enjoying the sea breeze and beautiful view. The promenade even has a doggy park, for pet owners, and a children’s play area. Free events, including musical performances and plays are held at certain locations along the promenade from time to time, especially during the ‘Celebrate Bandra’ festival.
The David Sassoon Library was founded in 1847 and the elegant building that houses it was built in 1870. It was the first structure to grace the Esplanade , having come up just before Crawford Market. The heritage structure is a landmark in South Mumbai and as visually striking as it is from the outside, its interiors are even more captivating. Walking into the library is like stepping back in time, with its dimly lit lobby, sketches of old Bombay, old lamps and chandeliers, arched doorways, and a winding staircase leading to the upper levels. Yes, this is the perfect haunt for book-lovers, as you can even laze in the garden or on the library terrace reading. With more than 40,000 books in English, Marathi, Hindi, and Gujarati, the library even made it to the list of 47 classical libraries of the world, in 2006. It’s also a place of history, with its books having helped shaped the minds of eminent personalities like Dr. Babasaheb Ambedker and Mr. Nani Palkhiwala, among others.
Sewri jetty is home to a huge expanse of mangrove swamps and mudflats, along Mumbai’s less famous eastern coast. This seemingly desolate region is an ecological treasure for the city and it puts on quite a show during the months of October to March every year, when the migratory Lesser flamingoes visit the area to breed. As many as 20,000 of these graceful birds descend on the area, and bird-watchers and nature-lovers are treated to a spectacular display. The region also attracts a number of other birds like the Grey Heron, Black-tailed Godwit, Western Reef Egret, Gull-billed Tern, Black and Brown-headed Gulls, Curlew Sandpiper, and many more. Cleartrip hosts a flamingo watching tour to the region that gives you the opportunity to meet other bird-enthusiasts and learn more about these graceful creatures. So, grab your camera and signup for the activity using Cleartrip’s mobile app.
While the Bandra-Worli Sea Link is a sight to behold and is a testament to Mumbai’s modernity, its sometimes nice to escape from the maddeningly fast pace of the city. As soon as you get off the sea link at its Worli end, the area’s sea facing promenade is just the perfect spot to relax, unwind, and escape from the chaos. A popular hangout with the locals, Worli Seaface promenade is another one of Mumbai’s underrated attractions and a truly open public space. You will always find people, young and old walking down this stretch and, more often, simply sitting on the benches or promenade wall, enjoying the breeze and views of the bay.
Powai Lake and its surroundings are a sight for sore eyes, especially to Mumbaiites, beleaguered by urban living and disappearing greenery. At Powai, you are treated to the vast blue expanse of Powai Lake, surrounded by a periphery of lush green. The artificial lake was originally created by the British at the end of the 18th century, but it began to suffer degradation because of neglect and pollution. Restoration and conservation efforts over the past few decades have helped preserve the rich biodiversity of the region. The lake itself is home to crocodiles and due to its green surroundings it attracts a number of resident and migratory birds like the white-throated kingfisher, small blue kingfisher, brahminy kite, cormorants, lesser whistling ducks, great egrets, and Alexandrine parakeets. Powai Lake is the perfect getaway for the city’s inhabitants and nature-enthusiasts and it now welcomes visitors with its beautiful 2km long jogging track, children’s play area, and musical fountain.
Lamington Road is a street in South Mumbai, located just next to Grant Road station. The place has long been a favorite haunt for electronics-enthusiasts, tech-savvy Mumbaiites, and obviously price-conscious shoppers as well. It is like a giant flea market that deals in electronics, with lines of shops only selling electronics and electronic components. You will even find hawkers selling gadgets on the street and sidewalk. From computer accessories and components, to amplifiers and microphones, there is no electronic device or hardware appliance that you will not find at Lamington Road. Moreover, the prices at Lamington Road are unbeatable, with many vendors selling goods at less than their retail price.
Walkeshwar Temple was originally constructed in 1127 AD, along with the adjacent Banganga Tank. It was built by the Silhara dynasty Kings, who ruled over the regions of Mumbai and Thane at the time. The original temple was destroyed later, during the brief Portuguese reign, but was rebuilt in 1715. The temple has undergone numerous renovations since then and it began to grow in popularity during the 1800s, when a number of smaller temples sprung up alongside it. Today, this site is revered as a pilgrimage site by the city’s Hindus, who regard the waters of the tank as being holy and with healing properties. This is a tranquil spot in the heart of the old city and is a must-visit site to experience the deep religious and cultural traditions of the city.
Khotachiwadi is an architectural treasure trove, as the entire area is classified as a heritage precinct. Seeming to have been frozen in time, with its well-preserved cottages and bungalows, this heritage village, smack in the middle of the city is an oddity of sorts. In a city that has failed to preserve most of its heritage sites, in its unwavering march towards progress and development, Khotachiwadi is an exception. With its narrow lanes and old-Portuguese style houses, you wouldn’t be blamed for thinking you’d somehow landed up in Goa. Most of the houses in the village were built in the art deco style, over a 100 years ago. The village is home to Mumbai’s original inhabitants, the East Indian Christian community, who happen to be quite an amiable bunch. If you really want to explore this hidden gem, signup for the Cleartrip activity that takes you through the Fort area, leading you through Khotachiwadi’s winding lanes.
Cathedral of the Holy Name may not be nearly as well-known as Mount Mary, in Bandra, but it is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful churches in the city. The cathedral is located in one of the busiest tourist hubs of the city, Colaba, but you will find serenity when you step into the environs of this church. Constructed in 1905, the cathedral is an imposing Gothic-style structure, with magnificent towers and spires. But nothing from its external appearance will prepare you for the sight that greets you as you enter the church. Aside from a life-sized statue of the Christ, the church is adorned with a beautiful marble altar, breathtakingly beautiful stained-glass windows, gorgeous frescoes, and murals.
The Reserve Bank of India Monetary Museum is without a doubt one of Mumbai’s underrated attractions. Many of the city’s inhabitants are themselves oblivious to its existence, but this one site that you definitely should not miss. Unlike other small museums that simply present you with fascinating exhibits, but are devoid of any informative explanations, the RBI museum is well-planned, well-organized, and extremely informative. It engages visitors with fascinating stories about the evolution of currency and coinage, mainly with a focus on coinage in India. It has an interesting collection of coins, from the earliest coins used for commerce in the country to the smallest coin in the world, as well as Neolithic axes, ancient coinage equipment, and lots more.
Ballard Bunder Gatehouse was constructed in 1920 on the site of a pier that formerly existed at the spot, called Ballard Pier. It was built to commemorate the development of Ballard Pier into Ballard Estate. The structure fell into disuse and was forgotten after independence, when it became part of the Naval Dockyard. In 2005, the Indian Navy reopened the building to the public after conducting extensive restoration work. Today, it serves as a maritime museum and it houses some interesting black and white photographs of colonial Mumbai, as well as maritime instruments and artifacts like compasses, colossal ship-anchors, old maps, and lots more.
Horniman Circle is one of Mumbai’s renowned commercial areas and it comprises of a number of striking buildings that were constructed to form a semi circle. The picturesque Horniman Circle Garden occupies the center of this circular layout. The garden itself was planned in 1869 and it was finally opened in 1872. The park is well-planned and it attracts plenty of fitness-enthusiasts and joggers because of the lovely walkways. It’s also a great place to simply relax and rejuvenate, amidst the greenery, provided you can manage to find any empty bench, as it does get crowded at times. If you happen to visit at a time when it’s too crowded, you can marvel at the architectural monuments that surround the park. The park also hosts musical and cultural events from time to time.
Phool Galli, located in the Dadar area of the city, is just outside Dadar station. Chaotic and colorful, you will be mesmerized by the sights and smells that greet you here. If you pass through this area in the evenings, you will find nothing out of the ordinary; just the usual crowds, grime, and busy markets that are characteristic of roads leading to and from most of the city’s local railway stations. To actually explore Phool Galli, which literally translated means Flower Street, you need to get here early in the morning – before 10 am. Although open 24 hours, the flower market is at its peak between 4 – 9 am, as most of the vendors and heaps of flowers arrive early morning around 4 am. Street vendors, stalls, and shops are overflowing with flowers of every color and variety, including orange and yellow marigolds, pink, yellow and red roses, bright fuchsia aster flowers, tulips, oriental lilies, and orchids, among others. The prices are also unbeatable, as this is one of the largest wholesale markets.
Dharavi is a source of fascination, often of the morbid kind, for both India’s urbanites and visiting tourists, as it is regarded as one of the biggest slums. To cash in on its infamous reputation, many marketers sell ‘slum’ tours, but what they reveal is not a world of poverty and despair, but one of hope and self-sustenance. While there are infrastructural problems and conditions of extreme overcrowding, Dharavi is actually filled to the brim with thriving small-scale industries. It is especially renowned for its ingenious recycling programs that help keep the city clean, as well as for its dyeing and textile industries. The area is so successful and productive that it is estimated that the region contributes between USD 500 million to USD1 billion to Mumbai’s economy.
Mumbai is a huge city and although it is quite easy to get around, no amount of time would be enough to truly explore this magnificent city. So, don’t try to fit every site onto your itinerary; instead enjoy them thoroughly, visit at least some of these underrated attractions and visit the remaining when you return to the city, which you will undoubtedly do.