Incredible India: Mumbai, Agra and Delhi Guide

22 March 2022

There are plenty of reasons to visit India. Whether it’s mountains, beaches, bustling metropolitan cities, wildlife tours or adventure activities – it’s such a big country with lots to offer.  If you’re looking for a good time to visit India, I am constantly told March is the best month. It’s just starting to get hot (but not too hot) and if you time it right you’ll be able to celebrate Holi - the Hindu festival, also known as the Festival of Colours. I travelled out in the first week of March and visited the capital city Delhi, Mumbai and Agra.



Mumbai

Mumbai is India’s fashion and film capital, also known as the City of Dreams. It’s quite a multifaceted city - it’s got a very western feel to it but still lets traditional Indian culture shine through.

Where to stay

We stayed at Soho House, one of the first Soho Houses in Asia. It’s located in North Mumbai, right on Juhu Beach. It offers such a great escape from the hustle and bustle of Mumbai. There’s a host of bedrooms to choose from if you stay here - I highly recommend picking a sea-view room. We got upgraded from a small sea-view room to a medium sea-view room...and what.a.room. Not only did this room have everything from spare iPhone chargers, to full-size cowshed products but nothing beats waking up to the Arabian Sea with a coffee on a morning. The beach gets really busy after 5pm, which makes sense because there is a gorgeous sunset guaranteed almost every evening. 








There are plenty of options for food at Soho House, with dishes from all around the world offered at the rooftop pool, bar, club spaces and via room service. One of my favourite restaurants Cecconi’s is located on the ground floor by the sea.

The Taj Mahal Palace is a 5-star hotel that opened in Mumbai in 1903. Located across from a highlight of Mumbai, the Gateway of India. It's one of the most famous hotels in Mumbai and probably India. Anyone who is anyone stays there, from royalty to celebrities. It’s been recently refurbished and has decor that is a mix of rich, traditional history and modern. If you’re into fine dining, there are 9 restaurants in the hotel to choose from.

Things to do

If you want to see all the sights of Mumbai and learn the history, I really recommend using Magical Mumbai Tours (ask for Sahil and Samir, they’re great guides). Magical Mumbai will pick you up from your hotel at your preferred time then drop you off after your private tour. Your tour guide and driver can fully customise your tour to suit your needs - so if you don’t want to see a sight, you don’t have to or you can spend as little or as much time as you want at each stop.

The majority of attractions in Mumbai are located in the south of the city. 

Gateway of India is one of the main attractions of Mumbai. It was built in the early twentieth century to commemorate the landing of the first British monarch in India (but she never came). It’s also symbolic as a port for entry in and out of the city.
Mani Bhavan is a museum and historical building dedicated to Gandhi, one of the most recognised leaders in the world. The museum is currently getting renovated so opening times may be different to what is online (when we got there on a Saturday morning it was shut)
Crawford Market is one of the most famous markets in the city. Originally named after Arthur Crawford, you can find everything there from spices to jewellery, sarees and even tortoises. 
Dhobi Ghat is an open-air laundromat in Mumbai, India. The washers, known as dhobis, work in the open to clean clothes and linens from Mumbai's hotels and hospitals.
Marine Drive is a 3.6-kilometre-long Boulevard in Mumbai, known as one of the most romantic areas in the city. Highly recommend visiting at night and checking out the view from one of the rooftop bars or hotels located on the stretch. If you see it at night, you’ll understand why it gets the nickname of the ‘queens necklace’, as when you look down the street lights resemble a string of pearls in a necklace

Marine Drive

Gateway of India

Where to eat

Whilst on Marine Drive, check out Gaylord bakery where they have freshly prepared bread, cakes and Mughlai dishes at all times of the day.
Hakasaan is the best Asian fusion in the world, Hakkasan has all dim sum, cocktails, and a la carte dishes you could ask for in a fine dining experience.
Cecconi's is at Soho House and is my favourite Italian restaurant (with an added bonus as it overlooks the sea)
Yazdani Bakery in Horniman Circle is an Iranian eatery known for its chi and bun maska.


Agra

Just 3 hours from Delhi is Agra. Also known as the City of Love. Agra has a rich history, reflected in its monuments dotted in and around the city. Agra is famous for the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and Leather goods.

Where to stay

For the experience, the best hotel in Agra is Oberoi Amarvilas. It’s unlikely you’ll be spending more than 2 nights in Agra as there’s not much to see apart from the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort. So if you want your short and sweet visit to be decked out with Mughal palace designs, fountains, terraced lawns and reflection pools - the Oberoi is the place for you. It's also on the road leading up the Taj Mahal so perfect for luxury and convenience.
 
If you’re looking for just a bed, the Radisson Blu hotel is located just two kilometres from the Taj Mahal and offers rooms with a Taj Mahal view (we went for this). Although it was a decent bed for the night, I wouldn’t recommend eating at this hotel but it has a great bar with a happy hour all day (what more could you ask for)

Things to do

The main reason to visit Agra is because of the Taj Mahal. Built between 1631 and 1648 by Shah Jahan in memory of his wife, the Taj Mahal is the most stunning mausoleum made of white marble. It’s one of those buildings you see in pictures but when you see it in person, it is just unreal.

Top tips for visiting the Taj Mahal:

  • Don't go on a Friday (the Taj Mahal is closed for general viewing so that locals can visit the mosque to pray)
  • Buy your ticket online - due to COVID the only way to gain entry is with an online ticket. When you buy your ticket online, know what's included in your ticket - you can either get a ticket just for entry or a ticket for entry and to the mausoleum (recommend this one)
  • If you want to get photos without people photobombing in the background get there early we got there at 6:15am
  • There are lots of ‘professional photographers’ at the entry if you want to have some stunning pictures to remember your visit - they’ll take you to the best photo spots. Photographers usually charge £1 per picture. If you get a photographer, agree on a set number of photos before they start snapping away. We didn't do this and got 125 photos for £125!







Then there is Agra Fort. This was the main residence of the emperors of the Mughal Dynasty and home to some beautiful views of the Taj. It’s much more spectacular than the Red Fort in Delhi (I’ll come onto this later) so definitely worth a visit. 



Delhi

Where to stay

The Shangri-La in Delhi has everything you’d expect of a luxurious hotel. It’s really central being located 5 minutes away from Connaught Place (Delhi’s answer to Oxford Circus) and has a great spa called ‘Chi’ which offers Asian inspired treatments such as Thai, Malaysian, Balinese, Chinese and Indian massages.

The Oberoi in New Delhi is ranked #1 of 2609 New Delhi hotels on Tripadvisor. Yes, it may be a chain but it’s a 10/10 chain. Some rooms have private pools and floor 18 is home to Cirrus 9 - a gorgeous rooftop bar with a great atmosphere. Highly recommend trying the 5 spice Daiquiri.

Where to eat

Diggin is a really popular restaurant located in a beautiful green oasis with fairy lights (one for Instagram) - their menu is European based and has so much to offer. 

Tera Vita is in Khan Market - it’s very pink and the perfect spot for a girly brunch. If you are gluten-free, Tera Vita has lots of options.

Smokehouse at Ambience Mall - again a very Euro-inspired cafe. We went for a selection of small bites but the portion sizes are massive (word of warning) Definitely one to visit when you’re super hungry. Also a great bread selection.

CAARA at OGAAN takes one of India’s favourite eateries (CAARA) and most loved designer stores (OGAAN) to provide a great selection of brunch dishes.

Greenr Cafe is a community space, offering vegetarian and vegan dishes. It’s in the Vassant Vihar district (one of the trendiest areas to live in New Delhi)

Things to do

Khan market is slightly more expensive than the typical market in Delhi (think London prices) but it’s full of book shops, cosmetic shops and electronic shops. Random but if you’re looking for passport or visa pictures, I recommend heading to Fab Foto on the front stretch of the market to get high quality passport pictures for £3.

For a bustling city, Delhi has a few city parks. One of those is Lodi Gardens, a park spread over 90 acres, with lots of great photo opportunities inside (it features Mohammed Shah's Tomb, Tomb of Sikandar Khan) - it was definitely the Instagram central of Delhi.

Humayun's Tomb is a tomb commissioned by Persian architects and was the first garden-tomb on the Indian subcontinent. The architecture here is stunning.

Head to Rajpath Road where you will find India Gate - a war memorial and the Rashtrapati Bhavan (the official residence of the president of India). It’s a stunning building and home to Mughal Gardens also known as the soul of the presidential palace. At the time of writing this (March 2022), Rajpath Road was undergoing some reconstruction work and not open for visitors but you could get a good sense of the size and beauty of these 2 monuments from afar.

Another amazing tomb to visit in Delhi is Safdarjung's Tomb - a sandstone and marble mausoleum. I visited towards the late afternoon on a weekday, it was so quiet and peaceful.

Nehru Park is another oasis in the Diplomatic part of New Delhi. This park is named after India's first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru.

Safdarjung's Tomb
Lodi Gardens

Lodi Gardens

Nehru Park


If you want a taste of real Delhi, visit Old Delhi. Old Delhi (originally named Shahjahanabad) was founded by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in 1639. Don’t get me wrong - it’s slightly chaotic but is worth a visit as there are so many cultural sites and things to experience in Old Delhi. My biggest tip would be to get a guide to take you through the sites - you can find lots of guides at the start of Chandni Chowk (the main stretch of old Delhi). This street is also known for its authentic food, with locals queueing up from 6am for some of the best breakfast spots. There are plenty of temples in Delhi however the Jain temple and Jama Masjid Mosque are the ones to see. The Jama Masjid Mosque is one of the largest mosques in India. There is also a spice market called Khari Baoli — it’s a world-famous spice trade warehouse and is the largest spice market in Asia. Whilst we are on the topic of markets, there is a market for literally everything in Old Delhi. Whether it’s shoes, paper, sarees or jewellery you are after - there will be a street for it. On the other side of Old Delhi is the Red Fort. Very similar to Agra Fort, this was built in the reign of the Mughal emperor and has an outer wall perimeter of around 2-km long. It isn’t as grand as Agra Fort, however, I have been told there are amazing light and sound shows that take place every night - 7.30pm to 8.30pm (for the show in Hindi) and 9pm to 10pm (for the show in English). Also, head down to the Red Fort on Indian Independence Day (15th August) for huge celebrations.

If you want to do some luxury shopping, head down to The Chanakya - it's a mall located in the Diplomatic Enclave of Delhi and hosts shops such as Chanel, YSL & Ted Baker. There’s also a food court downstairs (think wholefoods but on steroids) and a luxury PVR cinema around the corner. 

The Lotus Temple could be mistaken for the Sydney Opera House. Designed like the shape of a flower, the Baháʼí House of Worship is a popular attraction for people of all religions.

Lotus Temple

Old Delhi

Khari Baoli

 


Getting Around 

Getting around Delhi is quite simple. I recommend taking a Tuk Tuk (you can hail them down from the roadside) When travelling in a Tuk Tuk, don’t pay over 200 rupees for any journey. 

Or you can use taxi services - Uber and Ola are both available in Delhi (and they are super cheap). They’re not that reliable so I definitely recommend sending a message to confirm your pick-up and destination when you are matched with a driver.

I will certainly be back to explore India again - let me know where I should go!

Mx
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