If you’re going to splurge on anything in Mumbai, India, during your visit, I’d recommend you spend the extra money on your accommodations. There are enough fun free things to do in Mumbai, so you don’t have to spend a lot on excursions – if you don’t want to.
Mumbai is like a cross between Los Angeles and New York, and while general prices are of course much lower than in the USA, real estate is at a premium in this mega city. The most basic Airbnbs in this Indian city cost more than in bigger cities of other Asian countries like Thailand or the Philippines.
You can eat cheap, or not. There are plenty of options at every price level.
Again I say: spend the money on the accommodations. After wandering around the city streets in a mega city, you will enjoy a return to a clean, quiet, comfy home base.
Fun free things to do in Mumbai
- Fun free things to do in Mumbai
- Top 10 free things to do in Mumbai
- 1. Hall of Culture at the Nehru Centre
- 2. Walk Juhu Beach
- 3. Walk Bandra’s Promenade (aka, Bandstand Promenade)
- 4. Visit Bandra’s Fort
- 5. “I Love Mumbai” sign
- 6. Gateway of India
- 7. Taj Hotel
- 8. Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (aka, CSMT)
- 9. Hanging Gardens and Pramod Navalkar Viewing Gallery
- 10. The Gandhi Museum (my favorite)
First, getting around
An ideally located spot in the Coloaba area will help in your quest to experience free things to do in Mumbai. Actually, any neighborhood near common bus routes and train tracks can save money on getting around.
Uber and Ola are readily available, as are a million taxis, but those e-hail car rides will cost you two bucks or more to go a couple of kilometers.
Trains and buses – if you have the patience – cost around 10 to 25 cents depending on your destination. (I don’t recommend travel on public transport during rush hours – it is crazy crowded.)
Rickshaws, aka tuktuks, are not available in the city center, but dominate the roads in places like Juhu and Bandra. Base fare starts at 21 rupees. We always rounded up for a little tip – at which the drivers were delighted.
Top 10 free things to do in Mumbai
1. Hall of Culture at the Nehru Centre
- Located in the Worli district, this museum gives visitors an overview of Indian history dating back to pre-historic times.
- It is not a fancy place, by any stretch, but the basic information is key to understanding the background of this country and its people. –
- Admission is free, but if you don’t have a few hours to stand around and read the exhibits, you can spend $1.25 for a 90 minute audio tour (60 minutes is enough if you don’t dilly dally).
- Bonus tip: for less than $2, visit the Planetarium at the Nehru Center. –
- Read more about the Centre on a previous post.
2. Walk Juhu Beach
- Juhu Beach is one of the city’s most affluent areas. It’s roughly 15 kilometers north of Mumbai’s city center.
- Juhu Beach is a couple of kilometers from the western rail tracks and stations.
- This is a great walking beach because it’s mostly flat, sandy, and it’s more than five kilometers long, with a few vendor options (no beer).
- Locals do swim here, but water quality is questionable.
- Bonus tip: the International Hare Krishna Center is a short walk from the beach and offers a wonderful vegetarian lunch buffet for less than $7 at its restaurant, Govinda’s.
3. Walk Bandra’s Promenade (aka, Bandstand Promenade)
- This paved walkway along the rocky waterfront is only a kilometer long, and it’s also a popular spot with locals.
- Joggers Park is between two sections of waterfront walkways.
- The promenade ends at the Fort, which is next on the list.
4. Visit Bandra’s Fort
- This old Portuguese place (built 1640) is a great spot to get a view of the Worli-Bandra Sea Link Bridge, with a partial Mumbai skyline. The best view is at the top of the Fort’s hill.
- Enjoy the park on the way down the back route – there are plenty of places to sit and catch a breeze with the local people.
5. “I Love Mumbai” sign
- There are more than one of these signs, but the one south of the Bandra highway gives you a view of the city across the water. It’s a bitch to find the park entrance – it’s sort of adjacent to a ramp onto the highway, and we saw no directional signs.
- Also, the park is closed from noon to 4:30 p.m., which we didn’t discover until we arrived.
- Note the maps so you don’t struggle like we did.
6. Gateway of India
- This giant archway was built for the British royals as a welcoming sign to India. It is a popular place for locals and tourists alike.
- Boats docked around the archway ferry people to other areas in the region, including the famous Elephanta Caves – a UNESCO World Heritage site. (But that trip isn’t free – it will cost about $10 for the ferry and the admission.)
7. Taj Hotel
- This is a beautiful hotel near the Gateway of India and it’s another popular spot for tourists and locals. An oceanfront walkway crosses the front of the hotel where people line up for selfies.
- The hotel was one of the sites where terrorists attacked in 2008. Therefore, security in the area is tight, and if you wander into Starbucks for the clean facilities and an expensive cup of coffee ($9 (!) for one small and one medium latte), you will be searched and go through a metal detector.
8. Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (aka, CSMT)
- An impressive gothic-sytle building that is the headquarters of the Great Indian Peninsular Railway. Formerly named Victoria Terminus, it is an UNESCO World Heritage site.
- Local and some long-distance trains use this station.
- It’s especially gorgeous at night with the special lighting. There is a viewing platform across the street (it’s a wild intersection with many roads going this way and that).
- The best viewing, however, is on the street corner directly across from the station. Just mind the crazy traffic.
- Bonus tip: the bus station on the side has buses on main routes around Colaba.
9. Hanging Gardens and Pramod Navalkar Viewing Gallery
- Fantastic oasis of nature in Mega-Mumbai. The Hanging Gardens draws out the local people for walks around the track when the sun is lower and it’s cooler.
- The viewing platform on the western edge of the gardens is three floors up. It showcases a spectacular view of a good part of the city, including Girgaon Chowpatty – an inner-city public beach.
10. The Gandhi Museum (my favorite free thing to do in Mumbai)
- Technically this is free, but a donation is much appreciated.
- Mani Bhavan is the house where Mahatma Gandhi stayed when he was in Mumbai.
- It’s stuffed with pictures and books and some of his most famous quotes. It also features items he used, such as spinning wheels to make cloth in the room where he stayed, shown in the photo below.
Those are my top 10 free things to do in Mumbai, with some bonus tips for a little extra money. There are more free things to do in Mumbai, of course, such as temple visits and other areas to walk around the city.
Whatever you do and wherever you go, the people will greet you warmly and you will enjoy one of the most populated cities on Earth if you keep an open mind.