Synonymous with Bollywood and home to India’s rich and famous, Mumbai may be known domestically as the ‘City of Dreams’, but, having undergone a nightlife revolution in the last decade, there are now less reasons for getting an early night here than ever before.
Musty pubs have given way to fine-dining hotspots and chic cocktail lounges, hip neighbourhoods line up choc-o-block nightclubs for party lovers, and experiential tour groups have emerged to engage the intellectuals after hours.
So at the end of another fast-paced, frenetic, frenzied Mumbai day, hold off on hitting the hay, and stay up to see how Mumbai unwinds after dark. Here’s our list of things to do to make the best of a big night out in the City of Dreams.
Fine-dine in South Mumbai
While Mumbai takes pride in having lip-smacking street food on every corner, it’s the city’s fine-dining scene that has undergone a major transformation in the last few years, with domestic and international restaurateurs bringing in new innovations and cuisines to widen the city’s culinary gamut.
To really appreciate the change, head to Wasabi by Morimoto, in the iconic Taj Mahal Palace, and crunch scrumptious Japanese cuisine while taking in views of South Mumbai’s skyline fading into the Arabian Sea. Alternatively, sip complex cocktails, all complemented by a sea breeze, at the 8th-floor Dome at Intercontinental.
Heading north to Bandra and Lower Parel, there are a few hundred up-scale dining options in the former industrial mills that have now been transformed into swanky new malls. Try Parsi cuisine in SodaBottleOpenerwala in the High Street Phoenix mall or sample sushi in KOKO in the Kamala Mills Compound. Nearby in Khar, Olive Bar & Kitchen is a stalwart of Mumbai nightlife, where beautiful people sit down together for elegant evenings. It’s also a favourite spot for romantics to pop the question (though there’s no shortage of great destinations for that).
Hit the dance floor in a Mumbai club
If you’re looking to let off some steam after a heated day hunting down the sights of Mumbai, you’ll be pleased to know the city has plenty of cool places to cut a rug when the sun goes down.
For a dance floor and heavy beats, head to LIV, a tiny club in Kala Ghoda, South Mumbai, that is a favourite for trance and techno music lovers. Kitty Su at the Lalit Mumbai hotel is the place to come for house, hip hop and R&B, with guest DJs who keep the dance floor packed until 3am on weekends. Swanky Bonobo, in Bandra, is another spot to let your hair down. If you’re lucky, you might bump into a Bollywood celebrity sipping their cocktails.
Hunt for ghosts in the city’s empty alleyways
For the last couple of years, Khaki Tours has been leading curious visitors through the narrow, dimly lit alleys and empty roads of night-time Mumbai, narrating thrilling and macabre stories of headless hunters, cursed temple stones and unwieldy ghost horses as they go. Be ready to be both spooked and enlightened by these tales of Mumbai’s past.
For a more tranquil offering, the outfit also runs ‘Cycling at Midnight’ tours, a guided late-night bicycle ride through the city’s silent, moon-lit lanes – with no ghosts in sight.
Haggle for a late-night bargain
After their appetite, the one quality Mumbaikars are famous for is their bargaining skills. At sunset, the city markets come to life, selling food, fashions, hip junk jewellery and vintage lamps, which light up night-time nooks and corners of the city.
If you’re in the mood to shop after the sun’s gone down, head to Colaba Market, close to the Gateway of India and pick up embroidered tops, shirts and purses. If you’re more into streetwise fashions, then VT’s Fashion Street or Bandra’s Linking Road are your main stomping grounds.
Spend a night in the wilderness
If you’re seeking a dose of nature outside the concrete jungle, head for the pristine waters of Palghar and Palghar, two rural towns both a few hours' drive out of Mumbai.
On full moon days, local tour companies set out on night-time kayaking trips along meandering rivers and across pristine lakes, with the starlit sky reflecting in the calm, quiet waters. Some trips include overnight camps along the banks of the lake, where chefs cook up tasty barbeque meals before campers settle in for the night. Organise trips for both through operators such as Small Steps Adventures and Evercamp Adventures.
It’s also possible to camp overnight inside the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP), located a little to the north of Mumbai. Spending a night in the park gives guests a greater chance of spotting some of the park’s wildlife – including antelope, hyenas, macaque monkeys and even leopards – after the daytime crowds have left. Find out more on the park’s official website.
Indulge in Mumbai’s art scene
Mumbai serves as India’s creative dynamo. In this eclectic city you can spend an evening taking in classical concerts at the Royal Opera House, enjoying experiential plays by Mumbai’s leading dramatists at the Prithvi Theatre or experiencing the rhythms of Indian dance at one of the regular dance festivals held at National Centre for Performing Arts (NCPA) in Nariman Point.
For a different pace, visit Canvas Laugh in Lower Parel, where a stand-up comedian might leave you rolling on the floor, or explore the mural-covered ‘gulleys’ (backstreets) of Bandra, where there’s always something creative going on (check out Bandra Info for event listings).
To something more mainstream, Mumbai is home to more than 120 cinemas and seeing the latest Hindi flick in the home of Bollywood will make for a memorable night out. Art Deco Regal Cinema and the ornate Edward Theater are two of the most atmospheric options in the city.
Stargaze after dark
Looking to the sky might seem an unusual suggestion in a built-up city such as Mumbai, but with the sea creating a light-pollution free zone offshore, the stars are often surprisingly visible on a clear night.
Book a session with Stargazing Mumbai and let amateur astronomers take you on a tour of the cosmos, as part of their mission to spread the love for telescopes, constellations and astrophotography. Overnight workshops take place in nearby Mahuli, a forested region an hour or so from central Mumbai. Alternatively, enjoy the indoor version from the comfort of a padded seat at the Nehru Planetarium in Worli, one of the most charming ways to discover Mumbai’s skies.