WHY GO NOW?
MC INDIA's beauty director, Anubha Charan, takes us on an intimate tour of all that's hip in this tropical metropolis. Mumbai is India's film epicenter (hooray for Bollywood!) and the country's influential fashion capital. March must-do's: Lakme Fashion Week (March 29–April 2), headed up by IMG, known for New York's fashion week. Top labels like Sabyasachi and Manish Malhotra come to life for local A-listers, global retailers, and fashion press. On the 22nd, the Hindu street festival Holi has revelers hurling colored powder and water at each other. Wear cheap clothes you can toss!
The fashion set hole up at Taj Majal Hotel & Palace or Taj Lands End for views of the Arabian Sea.
Well-heeled expats gravitate to the ultramodern Zenzi, where leggy "Bom-babes" sip Indian beers to Hindi hip-hop. Cool students head to less pricey Leopold Café & Bar, going strong since 1871, with its wobbly ceiling fans, faded walls, and local comfort food — chicken curry, natch.
GIVE ME A VICTORIAN TEA!
Tea Centre recalls the raj with waiters in turbans serving scones and tea in silver pots amid glass lamps, while a pianist bangs out 1930s tunes.
WHOSE SARI NOW?
Kala Niketan is the one-stop shop for saris. Spend $20 on simple cotton, or splurge on lavish silk for a few thousand. Fabindia carries budget-friendly kurtas, those loose cotton tunics — so groovy with jeans.
WHAT A STEAL! Once a place only for stolen goods, Chor Bazaar (Thieves' Market) now houses reputable antiques and repro shops full of colonial furniture and vintage Mumbai kitsch. The Colaba Street Market is lined with hawkers' stalls of garments, perfumes, and pirated CDs.
WHAT'S FREE? Meander around the Gateway of India, an 84-year-old golden arch with lavish yachts and naval ships on one side and charming 19th-century houses on the other. People-watch at the always bustling Chowpatty Beach, or listen to live music while getting an outdoor massage.
GO BOLLYWOOD! Tour a film studio and pose as an "exotic" extra (bollywoodtourism.com). The thrill is priceless.
READ ON THE PLANE Shantaram, the autobiographical novel by Gregory David Roberts, an Australian drug-addict convict who escaped to Mumbai in the '80s and masqueraded as a doctor. Johnny Depp will star in the film version, directed by Mira Nair.
WATCH ON THE PLANE Salaam Bombay! (1988), Mira Nair's breakthrough Oscar-nominated film about street children. Shot entirely on location.
OH, BEHAVE It's taboo to taste anyone's food or drink or to kiss in public in India. When chatting up strangers, avoid charged political topics, like Pakistan. Happy travels!
BOMBAY BEAUTY Delve into a treasure trove of ayurvedic and organic goodies. Find brands like Forest Essentials and Himalaya Herbals, or troll Shama Plaza on Colaba Causeway for attars, the world's oldest form of perfume.
SPA NIRVANA Flock to Antara Spa for the 30-minute Foot Reflexology Ritual based on ancient Indian techniques.