The capital of India's southwestern Maharashtra state is also the entire country's most populous, with a population of 21 million. Situated on the coast of the Arabian Sea, it's famous as a business and especially cultural hub - among other things home to the legendary Bollywood film industry. The best time to visit is winter, December through February, you'll find a wide variety of hotels to suit your budget, and there's something for everyone here; it's worth noting as well that Mumbai is a safe and welcoming place to visit for women traveling solo.

Without further ado, here are the top ten places you shouldn't miss on a visit:

Gateway of India

One of Mumbai's most recognizable icons, on the waterfronnt across from the also iconic Taj Hotel and Tower, this triumphal arch was completed in 1924 to commemorate the 1911 visit to India of King George V and Queen Mary, rulers of the British Empire, of which India's Raj was then a part.

Victoria (Chhatrapati Shivaji) Terminus

Another grandiose and iconic landmark of the British Raj, built in 1887 melding Indian and Italianate Gothic elements to mark the 50th anniversary of Queen Victoria's rule, this remains one of India's busiest railway stations. It was renamed in 1996 for Shivaji, the 17th-century founder of the Maratha Empire. (Fun fact: it's the backdrop for the final dance sequence in the 2008 film Slumdog Millionaire.)

Haji Ali Dargah

Built on a tiny offshore islet in 1431 (with additions/renovations in the centuries since), this mosque and memorial tomb complex honors a merchant originally from Uzbekistan, Pir Haji Ali Shah Bukhari, who became a Sufi saint instrumental in the spread of Islam in India. Accessible via causeway during low tide, it's a pilgrimage site where if you're lucky you can also catch Sufi musicians playing devotional music (especially on Fridays).

Juhu Beach and Marine Drive

The local beach is a favorite gathering place for locals, especially around sunset, and you'll find many stalls here selling street food. It lies along the city's waterfront boulevard, Marine Drive, dubbed "the Queen's Necklace" because of the glowing lampposts lining it; it's also home to many of Mumbai's better hotels and restaurants, occupying Art Deco buildings dating from the 1920s and 1930s.

Dhobi Ghat

Located in a district called Mahalaxmi, a half hour north of Marine Drive and near a railway station and 18th-century Hindu temple of the same name, this is an atmospheric open-air laundry where visitors come to watch Mumbai's dhobi (a caste of washermen and women) at work cleaning vast amounts of linens and garments from all over the city, especially hotels and hospitals.

There's much more where that came from! Get the most out of Mumbai with our easy two-dary Mumbai itinerary. And for more about Mumbai on this blog, click here.

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