Moving to Mumbai – finding the right neighbourhood
20 Aug 2021
Are you moving to Mumbai, to Bombay, to the city of dreams? The city is as diverse as India itself and will surprise you over and over again. The sheer size of the city can be overwhelming. In this article, we will give you an overview of the different districts of Mumbai. Depending on where you work, what's important to you and what kind of experiences you're looking for, this article will help you find the right neighbourhood for you.
The city itself is a long peninsula, similar to New York. And similar to the Big Apple, the economic centre is located in the very south of the city. Above it stretches Colaba and Fort. This old part of Mumbai is characterised by colonial and Art Nouveau buildings. Further north, overlooking the rich Malabar Hills, Marine Drive stretches along the waterfront. In Central Mumbai you’ll find a mix of skyscrapers and the edgy factory buildings of the once booming textile industry. Past India's largest slum Dharavi, the so-called suburbs of Mumbai stretch north of Dadar. Among them is the lively Bandra and Andheri, an oasis for aspiring actors and actresses. And a little further out – the green Navi Mumbai.
When choosing your neighbourhood in Mumbai, you should make sure that you have good transport connections. Otherwise, the traffic will quickly take away your interest in the city. Check out what public transport Mumbai has to offer here.
Once formed from seven islands, Mumbai is one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in nowadays. But don't worry, there's still a place for you in the city's diversity!
Colaba und Fort – the historic heart of the city
The southernmost district of Mumbai is Colaba, where British colonial buildings contrast sharply with sky-scraping office blocks. Huge trees line the streets where you'll find boutiques, restaurants and cafés. This part of Mumbai connects the city to the world – whether at Sassoon Dock, the Gateway of India or the World Trade Center. This is why most travellers flock here in search of souvenirs and the nostalgic feeling of a bygone era.
The rich history becomes even more apparent the further north you go into the Fort district. New buildings are rarer here, as Art Nouveau and colonial architectural styles shine beautifully preserved. The Bombay Court, the university and the iconic building of the Asiatic Society of Bombay make Fort the intellectual centre of the city. Museums, galleries, old cinemas and the artists' quarter of Kala Ghoda cater to the culturally hungry visitors.
Not only the green-lined streets offer a great backdrop for evening walks. The kilometre-long Marine Drive promenade west of Fort is populated by all kinds of people as soon as the sun sets. The strung lanterns at night give the arched bay the nickname Queen's Necklace. The northern end of Marine Drive constitutes the wide sandy beach of Chowpatty, where you can rest your weary feet and fill your growling stomach with all manner of snacks. A walk along Marine Drive will not only bring you closer to the city, but more importantly, to the people!
Bars, restaurants, cafés and shopping opportunities abound in Colaba and Fort, and as quickly as new shops spring up, you will certainly never get bored here. The most important stations of the local trains are Churchgate and CSMT (also called Victoria Station). From here, the local trains will take you to other parts of Mumbai. You will not find any rickshaws in the entire south of the city, only taxis.
Malabar Hill and Breach Candy – luxury at the Arabian Sea
Malabar Hill and Breach Candy are the most exclusive neighbourhoods of Mumbai. This is where the rich and beautiful live. From their elevated thrones, Malabar Hill’s residents have a breathtaking view of the whole of Marine Drive and the city beyond. From Chowpatty Beach, Malabar Hill with its Hanging Gardens looks like a green paradise. A little away from the hustle and bustle of the city, luxurious villas and flats line up one after the other.
To the north of Malabar Hill, the equally rich Breach Candy stretches across a narrow strip with breath-taking views of the vast sea. Elite clubs and modern apartment complexes attract high-income earners, while the famous Mahalaxmi Temple attracts devotees and the curious from all over the world.
Between Breach Candy and Mumbai Central station you’ll find the busy Peddar Road, with small roads winding in its shadows to temples, parks and the Mumbai Opera. Both Malabar Hill and Breach Candy are accessible only by road. Whether by bus, taxi or private driver, getting around here depends on the traffic. You should keep that in mind before moving to Mumbai.
Breach Candy and Peddar Road offer a variety of bars, restaurants, cafés and shopping opportunities. From high-priced eateries to small snack shops and hip bars, you'll find everything your heart desires here. These are within easy reach of Malabar Hill which offers fewer options.
Worli und Lower Parel – contrast in Central Mumbai
In Worli, the paradox of Mumbai is revealed in a very small space. The luxury flats of the skyscrapers offer fascinating views of the city and the fishing village around Worli Fort. The original inhabitants of this village and therefore one of the seven islands were the Kolis, who still live on the northern headland in Worli. So as you stroll through the narrow alleyways past the village's colourful houses, you'll see the towering giants of glass and steel peeking through from time to time – a surreal sight.
The luxurious residential complexes offer all kinds of amenities such as gyms, pools, gardens and restaurants. Small communities form around each complex, where the service staff live in huts or simple flats. There are small shops and restaurants as well as huge air-conditioned shopping centres. Apart from the long promenade along the Worli Seaface, this part of Mumbai is not particularly pedestrian-friendly.
East of Worli is the much livelier Lower Parel. The bustling streets with stalls, hawkers and small shops lead you into the heart of the former textile factories to hip bars and restaurants. The industrial charm attracts countless start-ups and creatives. Rents in Lower Parel are therefore quite high, but still low compared to posh Worli.
Lower Parel is very well connected to the rest of the city by local trains. Worli, on the other hand, is only accessible by bus or taxi. Both districts are nevertheless conveniently located between southern Mumbai and the suburbs. The Bandra-Worli Sealink saves you from being stuck in noisy traffic jams on the way to Bandra and opens up an exciting view of the fishing village of Worli. This 5km bridge over the bay is one of Mumbai's prestige projects and indeed helps to decongest traffic in the city.
Suburbs of Mumbai
Bandra West – the hippest suburb
The Christian suburb north of the Bandra-Worli Sealink attracts people from all over the world. With a mix of Portuguese flair, cosmopolitan residents and a fair share of hipsters, it's easy to forget you're in India. Once Bandra has enchanted you with its charm, it's hard to say goodbye – especially since you'll find everything you need here. On long walks through the small lanes you will discover Portuguese villas next to lovely cafés. Creative shops and alternative stores give Bandra a cosmopolitan flair. New restaurants and bars will spoil you with culinary innovations from all over the world.
But as international as Bandra might be, it never loses its Indian charm. Rickshaws whizz through the streets where stalls sell snacks, jewellery and clothes on a bargaining basis. The equivalent of Marine Drive in the south of the city, are Carter Road, Bandra Bandstand and Bandra Reclamation to Bandra. At sunset, these seaside promenades fill with joggers, huge families and couples holding hands. Bandra's small town structure is ideal for families.
In the morning, at Bandra Station many commuters dive into the local trains that take them to the south of the city in 20 minutes. In Bandra itself, you can get around quickly by bus, taxi or rickshaw. If you work in the Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC) or in Andheri, you can reach your destination from Bandra by taxi or rickshaw. Taxis will take you quickly to the south of the city via the Bandra-Worli link.
When moving to Mumbai you should consider that rents in Bandra West are now very high because this suburb is so hip. In Bandra East, on the other hand, rents are falling drastically.
Khar, Santa Cruz, Juhu – quiet residential area with a bit of glamour
North of Bandra West, Khar, Santa Cruz and Juhu line the coast of the suburbs. Bandra merges seamlessly into Khar West and here too you will find many cozy cafés, restaurants and shopping opportunities. Santa Cruz West, on the other hand, is a little quieter and the international flair gives way to the Indian hustle and bustle in the markets. Just like Bandra, Khar and Santa Cruz West are pleasant places to stroll through small green-lined lanes and sit on benches in pretty parks.
Even further north in Juhu live the rich and beautiful of the suburbs. This is one of the neighbourhoods in Mumbai that is likely to take your breath away. In the evening you can admire the glittering chandeliers of the villas from the wide sandy beach. For upscale restaurants and exclusive bars and clubs, Juhu is the place to be. But like everywhere else in Mumbai, Juhu is also a place where contrasts meet: street food stalls on Juhu Beach, the renowned Prithvi Theatre and the glittering world of 5-star hotels ensure that Juhu never gets boring.
The connection to the rest of the city is very good thanks to the local trains. Rickshaws and taxis are also available on every corner. Moreover, the airport is only a stone's throw away. Where else in India can you be at the airport within 10 minutes by rickshaw? The disadvantage here is, of course, the aircraft noise – if you can even hear it over the honking and the usual noise level of Indian cities.
Khar East and Santa Cruz East are once again neighbourhoods in their own right – ideal for students with cheaper rents and quick access to the Mumbai University campus in Kalina, Santa Cruz East.
Andheri und Goregaon – creative hustle and bustle
North of Juhu, Andheri is bustling with young, hip people, most of whom are trying to find their fortune in Bollywood. In Andheri, the smell of ambition and expectation is in the air with a pinch of salt from Versova Beach. The fancy bars, restaurants and shops are populated by aspiring starlets, inquisitive students and creatives from all industries. Rents are still relatively cheap here.
Towards the northeast in Goregaon, a little more money comes into play. But here, too, the inhabitants of the upper and upcoming middle class are often active in creative professions. In Goregaon you will find many studios and offices of the Bollywood dream factory. There is no lack of shopping and nightlife options here either. Goregaon is close to the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, which is a great place for weekend outings.
The connection to the rest of the city is very good, both through the local trains and through the metro line, which is the only one so far.
Navi Mumbai – Peace on the mainland
Even though Navi Mumbai is no longer Mumbai, many who work in Mumbai live here. If you are planning to move to Mumbai and the chaos, noise and crowds already worry you, consider living in Navi Mumbai – away from all the hustle and bustle. The satellite city is situated to the east of Mumbai on the mainland and is much more orderly than Mumbai, having been laid out in a planned manner in the 1970s.
Navi Mumbai is less densely populated than Mumbai and offers many green spaces, which greatly enhance the quality of life. Moreover, the proximity to the mountains of the Western Ghats is a boon for all nature lovers. You can easily explore the Hill Stations of Matheran or Lonavala on weekend trips.
Besides fresh air, you can get everything you need in Navi Mumbai: diverse shopping, restaurants and schools. The connection to Mumbai is ensured over two bridges and the Harbour Line of the local trains will take you quickly to the Bandra-Kurla complex and eventually to Fort. In Navi Mumbai itself, you can even ride a bike.
As you can see, the different districts in Mumbai all have their own charm. Depending on where you work, what is important to you and the budget you have, you should carefully choose the neighbourhood when moving to Mumbai. Do you have any questions or would you like to tell us about your experiences with certain districts? Please feel free to share your thoughts!
Written by: Tanja Holbe
Cover Photo: Mumbai CST (Credit: Sonika Agarwal - Unsplash)
Photo: Bandra-Worli Sealink and Skyline Mumbai (Credit: Sudip Saha - Unsplash)
Photo: Juhu Beach (Credit: Dean David - Unsplash)
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