Did you know that Shakespeare’s face is etched on an insurance company’s building in Fort? Or that the end of the prohibition era in the US gave birth to a cocktail that’s still served in the oldest licensed bar in the city? These are just some of the gems you uncover when you sign up for a walking tour in Mumbai. Whether you’re visiting the city for the first (or fifth) time or have lived here all your life, these walking tours are a great way to get under the skin of India’s most multicultural city.
1. Khaki Tours
One of the OG walks in the city, Khaki Tours was founded in 2015 to create awareness about Mumbai’s history and heritage in a fun and interesting manner. The word KHAKI is an acronym for Keeping Heritage Alive & Kicking in India, which is exactly what they do through a plethora of group and private tours. Apart from Fort and Bandra heritage walks, Khaki also offers city tours in a double-decker bus, a walk in the temple precinct of Banganga, and even a ghost walk in Girgaon. Amongst Khaki’s many offerings, I highly recommend their weekend Urbs Prima tour that takes you inside the BMC headquarters building opposite CSMT. It gives you a chance to admire its grand architecture and hear stories about Mumbai’s history and growth.
2. No Footprints
No Footprints is another fantastic tour company in the city with a range of tours across culture, heritage, and food. Their forte is spotlighting community-based stories and unknown narratives, for example a walk through Matharpacady. This is one of my favourite walks in the city, exploring the quaint East Indian hamlet, admiring ornate homes, and listening to fascinating tales of lesser-known freedom fighters. Another tour that I would recommend is their Mumbai by Dawn tour that takes you on a wild ride from Sassoon Docks to Dhobi Talao to Dadar Flower Market, giving you an unforgettable glimpse of a thriving city that’s just waking up.
Mumbai’s art deco architecture is a defining symbol of the city. In 2018, this iconic ensemble was recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site (along with the city’s Victorian-Gothic buildings). While many tours cover art deco heritage, exploring it with an architect is a different experience, so I recommend signing up for one of Walkitecture’s tours with Architect Nikihil Mahashur. Apart from walks in Marine Drive, Churchgate, and Kala Ghoda, Mahashur also explores neighbourhoods like Kemps Corner and Shivaji Park. Some walks are in partnership with art galleries, adding another dimension to your exploration, while a monthly walk with Mag St. Café includes coffee and croissants to fuel you up.
4. Art & Wonderment
Run by two art curators, Art & Wonderment (formerly Art Walks Mumbai) is here to make modern and contemporary art more accessible to everyone. They conduct regular art gallery hops in the city, picking 4-5 galleries at a time, particularly those showcasing new exhibitions. If you find walking into an art gallery intimidating, these walks will help you see just how welcoming most Mumbai galleries are. Art & Wonderment also offer curated walks during events such as Mumbai Gallery Weekend, Art Mumbai, Mumbai Urban Art Festival, and more. In addition to walks, they conduct studio visits where you can not only understand an artist’s creative process but also participate in hands-on workshops.
5. Marine Life of Mumbai
We often forget that Mumbai is an island city. We might hang out at Marine Drive and eat chaat at Chowpatty (and other beaches), but we don’t really pay attention to the sea and its incredible biodiversity. This is what Marine Life of Mumbai hopes to change with their shore walks. Held at various locations such as Girgaon Chowpatty, Haji Ali, Bandra Bandstand, Juhu Beach, etc. these walks give you a glimpse of all the creatures that call the shores of Mumbai home — from colourful sea sponges and anemones to hermit crabs, sea urchins, and even corals, you will see a whole different world. Marine Life of Mumbai also holds workshops, talks, and other events to spread more awareness about the city’s marine biodiversity.
6. Walks with Priyanko
Journalist and editor of the beverage-focused digital publication Gurgl, Priyanko Sarkar brings his storytelling skills and his interest in drinks (alcoholic and otherwise) to curate offbeat walks around Mumbai. His popular Past Forward walk connects Mumbai’s history of water and alcohol with a detour into the ice trade and how ‘From the Harbour’ cocktail was created at the Harbour Bar to commemorate the end of Prohibition in the US. Mumbai’s own prohibition history and the rise of the underworld on the back of illicit liquor trade is explored in another walk, Gandhi to Gangsters, which also shines the light on the so-called “aunty bars” that proliferated during this time. Sarkar’s newest walk Tabela to Table explores Mumbai’s starring role in India’s White Revolution and how milk distribution evolved in the city, with a healthy dose of cow politics and godly miracles thrown in. It ends at Parsi Dairy Farm for more stories along with samosas and lassi.
7. Hallu Hallu Walks
‘Hallu’ means slowly in Marathi, and it perfectly encapsulates the spirit of Hallu Hallu Walks. This slow walking project aims to help you discover Mumbai’s lesser-known spots beyond South Mumbai and Bandra. Their signature walk is the Dahisar River and Warli Village Tour where you go on a walk along the river, venture into Sanjay Gandhi National Park, and meet a Warli artist. You can even try your hand at warli painting or tribal fishing as well as get a taste of warli food. Another offbeat walk by Hallu Hallu is the Ambu Island Tour in Versova Koliwada where you explore the fishing village and then take a boat out to the island to visit three shrines. You get a peek into the lives of Mumbai’s original inhabitants, and if you’re lucky, you may even spot dolphins on the boat tour.
8. Asiatic Society Mumbai
The venerable Asiatic Society of Mumbai is a treasure trove of history and heritage in its hallowed halls and heaving bookshelves. Apart from regular workshops, talks, exhibitions, and other events, the society also brings its deep expertise into the streets of Mumbai — from meandering through an old Bandra neighbourhood around Christmas listening to local stories to savouring Gujarati food in Charni Road, and even a fun treasure hunt in South Mumbai solving historical puzzles on the way. While these are not regularly scheduled, keep an eye on their Instagram where they announce upcoming walks that are open to Asiatic members (who get a discount) and non-members.