Best parks in Mumbai
It’s about three times the size of New York City’s Central Park and a protected zone that’s home to over 35 species of mammals, 274 species of birds and 170 species of butterflies. Sign up for a trail and meet with Adivasis, the forest-dwelling tribals who co-exist with the animals (even man-eaters!). Spot the flying fox, leopards or hear songs of bulbuls. Learn about snakes from sarpamitras (“friends of snakes”) volunteers who rescue the creatures while educating locals to quell their fears. Too scared? You can take the tours while sitting in a Jeep.
Immediately ask about the airplane garden: a concrete replica of a Boeing takes centre stage here. For many Mumbai natives, this happens to be the first plane they’ve ever stepped on—complete with staircases and slides. Remember: the aircraft is fueled by imagination, so just picture yourself traveling to Delhi’s amusement park, Appu Ghar.
Mumbai’s Hanging Gardens have no historic link to Babylon, but they sure share a similar topography to one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World: this garden, too, is built on an incline (Malabar Hill). It’s an immaculately manicured area with hedges shaped as animals and even a clock made of colourful flowers.
The Kamala Nehru Park is part of the Hanging Gardens’ complex, but comes with its own unique feature: a gigantic structure depicting an old woman’s shoe, inspired by the nursery rhyme “There was an Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe.” This shoe comes with a door, steps, windows and even a little balcony. Kids, or the child that lives inside every adult, can climb right into it. Make your way to the top of the boot to see Malabar Hill from above.
Cricket is more than a sport in India—it’s a religion that binds the nation—and this park, dubbed “Mumbai’s cricket school,” is where legends like Gavaskar and baby-faced Tendulkar trained as boys. In the wee hours of a Sunday, find kids dressed in white, slaying it with their bats on the open ground while parents cheer them on. The park also boasts an open-air gym, football fields, walking tracks, areas to practice gymnastics and badminton.
Situated within the UNESCO-tagged precinct of Fort, this garden is flanked by Victorian buildings. In the 18th century, this patch of land was the city’s first stock market: it saw traders gather under Banyan trees to sell wares and quenching their thirst from the stone-carved water fountain on premise. Later on, the British enclosed the area and built a garden. Over the years, the water feature fell into disrepair but it was recently restored to its full glory. We suggest you stop by after nightfall to see it light up.
On the edge of the gritty, over-crowded neighbourhood of Dharavi (which houses Asia’s largest slum) lies a notified forest. A former landfill, the 40-odd acres are now dotted with around 14,000 trees, from teak to the golden apple. The flora and fauna render it a paradise for bird watchers. Bring your camera to click the white-spotted fantail, the purple-rumped sunbird or even the blue tiger butterfly. You can also spread out a blanket and picnic in the woods, smack-dab in the heart of the city.
What do you do when the dimly-lit space under a fly-over attracts the wrong crowd? The locals in Matunga, a residential area in Mumbai, had a light bulb moment. They crowd-sourced funds, worked with the municipality and converted the dingy space into a gorgeous garden. Today, you can walk amidst grass and tall shoots. Since nature has a way of turning up in unexpected places, even the blue-tiled walkway replicates the flow of river Narmada.
The area was the first planned scheme in Mumbai, built under the Bombay City Improvement Trust. A Parsi Zoroastrian engineer, Mancherji Joshi, worked with the trust to convince his community’s elders to make this land exclusively available to Zoroastrians. He was able to successfully lease 103 plots for 999 years and, today, the largest Parsi Zoroastrian enclave in the world sits here. The tree-lined lanes are flanked by fire temples and heritage homes.
In the island city, this is yet another park that overlooks the waters. Credited to the effort of ordinary citizens, this park has grown into a community of sorts. Whether it’s a walking club you’re looking to join or a laughing club (yes, that’s a thing) where you pretty much start the day by laughing together, you’ll find comrades here.
Yet another haven for cricket lovers, this ground is named after its egg-like shape. Situated in South Mumbai, this precinct recently earned a UNESCO heritage tag given the stunning colonial structures that dot the area. Walk the grounds and look upwards at the 19th century Rajabhai clock tower that was modeled after London’s Big Ben, the soaring spires of the Mumbai High Court and the many colourful art deco buildings.
This sea-facing park sits in the upmarket suburb of Bandra. The enviable pin-code is home to more than a handful of Bollywood bigwigs. If you’re looking to go celeb spotting, it really can be as easy as a walk in this park. In case the stars don’t come out to play, there’s always the stunning view of the sun dipping into the Arabian Sea to keep you thoroughly entertained.
Although Shivaji Park gets all the attention, this little-known grassy beachfront park, opposite Shivaji, boasts its own charm. It offers uninterrupted views of the beach and access to the sea-link that runs between Worli in South Mumbai and the suburb of Bandra. Seen from the garden, the metal bridge held up by cables looks like a harp suspended over water and the the vehicles traversing it appear like toy cars. It’s almost surreal to catch this busy urban sight to the tune of crashing waves.
Feeling the hunger pangs?
Mumbai’s food scene—made up of a mix of high-end restaurants, cheap eats, street food and more—is shaped by a fusion of cultures, including an indigenous fishing community and the secrets from the home kitchens of century-old migrants (the Muslim sultans! Jews! Portuguese and British colonialists!).