x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Short walking tours are the best way to see south Mumbai

Ask the Expert A reader wants to tour South Mumbai's attractions, from the art precinct to the sprawling Crawford Market, on foot.

I'll be visiting Mumbai for the first time on a business trip next month, with a free day to wander around the city. I'm going to be staying in south Mumbai, and would like to explore the area on foot. Can you recommend a tour company offering guided walks with stops at important sites?

Crowded, traffic-ridden and, in some places, nearly un-navigable, thanks to broken pavements, hawkers, unlicensed food stalls and - the biggest cliché of all - the odd cow, Mumbai can be notoriously difficult to explore on foot for a first-time visitor.

Since you only have a day to yourself, look for a tour that's not too long and doesn't go too far from your accommodation, because getting back will be a nightmare, especially in rush-hour traffic.

Mumbai Magic (http://mumbaimagic.com; 00 91 986 7707 414), a local tour company, offers two-hour walks in south Mumbai, home to some of the city's most popular attractions. Led by informative guides, these tours cover everything from markets to temples, art galleries to beaches.

The "Bazaar Walk" winds through the alleys of Bhuleshwar, one of Mumbai's most atmospheric neighbourhoods. You'll visit Crawford Market, which sells everything from livestock to crockery; Zaveri Bazaar, full of gold shops; the 18th-century Mumbadevi temple, which gives the city her name; and Jama Masjid, a mosque at the centre of one of India's oldest Muslim communities. The two-hour (4pm to 6pm) tour costs 1,500 rupees (Dh110) per person.

The "Art Walk" will take you through Kala Ghoda, the art precinct of the city's interesting "British heritage district", for a quick lesson in Indian contemporary art. There's plenty of historic architecture along this route, plus art galleries, museums and restaurants. The guides are knowledgeable and, if you wish to buy artwork, can even assist you to make a purchase. The two-hour tour (11am to 1pm) costs 2,500 rupees (Dh185) per person.

The "Beach Life" stroll will take you along Chowpatty, a renowned stretch of sand busy with stalls selling all kinds of Indian fast food, from bhelpuri, a puffed rice and chutney snack (25 rupees; Dh2), to kulfi, cardamom-flavoured ice cream (40 rupees; Dh3). Stops along this tour include Wilson College, founded in 1832; Soam restaurant (try the spinach samosas); and Babulnath temple on Charni Road. The two-hour (5.30pm to 7.30pm) tour costs 1,500 rupees (Dh110) per person.

The "Food Walk" through Matunga Market, a large, prosperous district settled in the 1930s mostly by Tamils and Gujaratis, offers a glimpse into two communities whose cuisines, though both vegetarian, couldn't be more different. You'll visit several restaurants to sample dishes particular to each community, from dhokla (steamed gramflour squares) to dahi vada (savoury lentil doughnuts in yogurt). Sites along this walk include Kannika Parameswaraj temple and a local produce market. The tour costs 1,750 rupees (Dh130) per person; available daily except on Monday.

If you're feeling adventurous enough to strike out on your own, start at Mumbai's best-known landmarks: the Gateway of India built in 1911, and across the road, the iconic Taj Mahal hotel. (Remember to give the photography touts lurking in the area a wide berth.) Make your way towards Kala Ghoda, stopping for coffee at Café Samovar at Jehangir Art Gallery; wander in the grounds of Mumbai University, famous for its 80m clock tower and Gothic-inspired architecture; and finish at Flora Fountain, a 19th-century white marble water feature in Hutatma Chowk, a commercial and tourist hot spot.

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