Mumbai’s Best Walking Tours to Help You Rediscover the City
The dilapidated Watson Hotel building is easily overlooked, until you learn that on 7 July 1896 it’s where the Lumière brothers screened a motion picture. It was here that they debuted their Cinématographe, just a week after Paris. Walking around Ballard Estate, you can’t miss the siren red Bombay Samachar building. The Instagram-worthiness of this block is helped hugely by the fact that it houses India’s oldest surviving newspaper.
Interesting stories are tucked in unexpected corners. If you don’t want to pore over a guide book to seek them out, you’d do well to wear to wear your comfiest sneakers and take a guided walk around your own city on a weekend.
Here’s who to tap:
How did one of Mumbai’s infamous red-light areas come to be called “Congress House”? Khaki Tours reveals the answer on their #OperaHouse heritage walk. If you thought history is a snooze, they will change your mind. Discover the city’s treasures on their 2.5 hour long trails, which go beyond Fort and include areas like Lalbaug, Gamdevi, Kalyan, and Alibaug. If you’re not up for a walk, you can opt for their Urban Safari, which lets you hop on a jeep and soak in the sights and stories. Choose from over 50 plotted trails.
Mumbai historian Simin Patel (aka Miss Bombaywalla) is chipping away at her book on Irani cafés. Somehow she also finds the time to conduct guided tours (updated regularly on her Facebook page) and blog about Bombay’s forgotten shops, barbers, and old Parsi hotels on Bombaywalla.org.
On January 26, she'll take you back to 1846 Grant Road; to a time when a vibrant theatre scene was developing in and around the Royal Opera House. The walk is called ‘Delicate Ground’. “Drawing its title from a play performed at the earliest theatre in Grant Road, our walk unearths the delicate negotiations over grounds that were once used as graveyards and then developed into play houses,” the note announces. Sign us up!
Art Deco Mumbai
Bombay’s Deco gems are rivalled only by those in Miami. Art Deco Mumbai's Instagram and blog, is a neat record of South Bombay's everyday treasures that should be cherished – balconies, doors, winding stairways around old elevators. Their guided walks, led by an architect, are meant for design fiends – with two to five in a group. ‘Art Deco at the Oval’ typically lasts around 60-75 minutes, and promises a flood of Instagram Stories.
Electric House or BEST Bhavan. 1936. Arch. Frederick McKnight. Grand entrance with fluted columns, brass lamps & wave like streamline grills on doors & sun window. Decorative bands above ????? ??? accentuate verticality. Pic: photography intern Ruchira K #artdeco #mumbai #lamps #brass #hindi #grills #elegance #vertical #columns #colaba #wave #streamline #utility #photo #framed #travelgram #nofilter