The huge green park in front of the Bombay University and High Court was once a seafront esplanade. The land from here to Marine Drive was reclaimed in the 1920s. This area had served as the boundary of the British fort – it was earmarked for development after Independence, but local people campaigned to preserve the area as a public park. Today it is one of Mumbai's best loved public spaces, the setting for hundreds of impromptu cricket matches every afternoon.
One of the very few national parks in the world inside the limits of a major city, Borivali National Park covers 104 square kilometres of pristine jungle in the north of Mumbai. The park is home to 251 species of birds and 40 species of mammals, including deer and leopards. In the centre of the park are the Kanheri Caves, hollowed out by Buddhist monks in the 1st century AD.
This grand gallery in the museum and gallery district at Kala Ghoda shows a regularly changing collection of artworks by Indian artists, plus an interesting programme of visiting exhibitions from around the world. Modern art is the focus, and the building is almost a work of art itself, with a winding Guggenheim-like staircase linking the floors. From the outside, it resembles a miniature Albert Hall.
Housed in a dramatic Indo-Saracen building at Kala Ghoda, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Museum was named for the Maratha hero who freed the region from Mughal control. Inside you can see a fabulous collection of religious statues, Mughal miniature paintings, Indian crafts, ancient arms and armor, and treasures from Tibet, Japan and China. The ticket for foreigners includes a free audio guide.
The most famous monument in Mumbai, the Gateway of India was built in 1924 to commemorate the state visit of King George V. The gateway is a striking blend of Hindu, Mughal and European Gothic architectural styles, with Mumbai harbour as a picturesque backdrop. Since Independence, the site has been reclaimed by locals as a place to promenade, picnic and pose for photographs. Boats to Elephanta Island leave from nearby.
Housed in the building where Mahatma Gandhi launched the concept of Satyagraha (non-violent resistance) in 1919, this museum charts the life and works of India's most famous Independence hero. Gandhi lived at 19 Laburnam Road between 1917 and 1934, and many pivotal events in Indian history took place inside these walls. Displays include photographs, letters and personal effects owned by the great peace campaigner.
The main train station in downtown Mumbai, Victoria Terminus is a riot of carvings, gargoyles, arches, buttresses, domes and statues. 'Mughal Gothic' would probably be the best way to describe the fusion of European and Eastern architectural styles. Constructed by Frederick Stevens in 1887, this is one of the most photographed buildings in India. 'VT' is still a functioning railway station – tens of thousands of commuters funnel through the doorways every day during the morning and evening rush hour.
The Victorian building containing the Dr Bhau Daji Lad collection is a museum-piece all by itself. Wrought iron arches and brightly painted columns rise above a fascinating display of Indian crafts and artworks. Upstairs is an unusual collection of clay figurines showing the tribes, cultures and customs of the Mumbai area. The building and collection were brilliantly restored in 2006.
Mumbai's most famous public space, the beach at Chowpatty was run down and dirty before the municipal authorities transformed it into the gleaming strip of sand you see today. Locals come here to sit on the sand and munch on bhelpuri – Mumbai's favourite salad, made from lentil-flour noodles, green mango, onion and chilli. At sunset, a carnival atmosphere pervades: couples promenade along the sand and children play on hand-operated fairground rides.
A 40-minute boat ride across the harbour from the Gateway of India, Elephanta Island is famous for its ornately carved temples, hewn into a rocky escarpment in the 6th century. Although damaged, the carvings are still impressive. The central statue of Trimurti – Shiva as the creator, preserver and destroyer of the universe – is particularly dramatic. The temples are reached via a stone stairway from the ferry jetty, lined with vendors selling religious souvenirs. Ferry service is restricted during the monsoon.