Inside Mumbai’s Top-Rated Luxury Hotel
Just as Mumbai’s earned the moniker “Maximum City,” the Oberoi has earned a reputation as the greatest luxury hotel in India’s commercial capital. Here’s what makes the perennial TripAdvisor favourite a worthy attraction in itself.
The Best Place to Stay in Mumbai
Mumbai is, well… Everything.
And I don’t mean that in the millennial-speak, “[insert must-have trend-of-the-moment] is everything,” kind of way. Rather, it’s every adjective I’ve ever used when describing a travel destination all at once, and ramped up to 10. It’s the most vibrant city I’ve ever visited, but it’s also the most crowded. It’s utterly fascinating, yet incredibly frustrating as well. In short, it’s unmissable—and, for a Canadian travelling to India for the first time—occasionally overwhelming.
Figuring that I’d be just that—overwhelmed—and more than a little jet-lagged after the 14-and-a-half hour flight from Toronto, my criteria for choosing a hotel in Mumbai was clear. It would have to be in the heart of the action in Mumbai’s Colaba district, but it also needed to serve as a serene escape from those manic city streets. Essentially, it needed to tick two boxes that were as contradictory as Mumbai itself. Perhaps unsurprisingly, what fit the bill was TripAdvisor’s top-rated hotel in Mumbai: the Oberoi Mumbai.
Travel tip: Although it’s officially referred to as “Mumbai,” you’re more likely to hear the city referred to as “Bombay” once you’re in India. The two terms can be used interchangeably without ruffling a single feather.
Inside the Oberoi Mumbai: The Lounge
From the moment you’re welcomed by the Oberoi Mumbai’s doormen, decked out in full royal durban attire of traditional sash (patta) and turban (pagada), it’s clear you’re in for a treat.
The lobby itself is designed to make the din of Mumbai’s traffic a distant memory. Here, the blaring horns of auto-rickshaws are replaced by playful twinkling from the impossibly glossy, candy-apple red grand piano that serves as the lobby’s focal point. It’s a cathedral-like space, basking in natural light that streams in through floor-to-ceiling windows and a skylight 21 storeys overhead. Check-in is as polished as the white Thassos marble flooring, and includes a warmth and personal touch that’s normally reserved for intimate boutique hotels. (Would you believe, your choice of three Indian newspapers delivered to your room daily?)
Travel tip: If, at check-in, you’re offered a guided tour of the suite that awaits, it’s in your interest to take it. If I hadn’t, nearly half of the hotel’s impressive list of amenities would likely have gone untapped.
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Inside the Oberoi Mumbai: The Views
If there’s ever been a time to splurge on an ocean view, the Oberoi Mumbai is it. Immediately upon setting foot in your suite, your eyes are drawn to the massive floor-to-ceiling windows and the spectacular sights beyond. There’s something almost hypnotic in watching the softly swelling Arabian Sea, which stretches off into a horizon so hazy (another of Mumbai’s characteristic quirks) it’s impossible to tell where the sea ends and the sky begins. Below, the crescent-shaped shoreline of Marine Drive—dubbed the Queen’s Necklace in a nod the majestic arc of streetlights that follow its curving path—veers north towards the soaring skyscrapers of Nariman Point.
It’s a view that you won’t soon forget—and one that you can turn off and on with the flick of a switch. The blinds are automatic, so you can go from blackout to brilliant sunshine each morning from the comfort of your bed.
Inside the Oberoi Mumbai: The Executive Suites
As the third most densely-populated city on Earth, space tends to be at a premium in Mumbai. But with Executive Suites bigger than most downtown Toronto condos, square footage is certainly not an issue at the Oberoi. Here, suites are outfitted with oversized everything, from king-size beds to full three-seater sofas. The floorplans are not only sprawling, but thoughtful, too, including sliding pocket doors so that the living area can be closed-off from the bedroom when you’re entertaining guests. (That comes in particularly handy if you’re the type of traveller whose method of unpacking resembles an exploded suitcase.)
Travel tip: Open the top-left drawer of the suite’s desk and you’ll find North American power points for phone charging, along with every possible port you could need for your electronic devices.
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Inside the Oberoi Mumbai: The Details
The decor—a neutral envelope dotted with accents in raspberry and saffron—is chic and modern, without being sterile. Of particular note are the nightstands, topped in magnificent “pietra dura”—creamy Indian alabaster inlaid with brightly-hued precious stones. Although fresh-cut lilies and floating orchid blossoms ramp up the room’s luxe factor, nothing compares to the fruit bowl. That’s right—the fruit bowl. That’s not down to any particular craving for kiwi, but rather the fact that laid out with the cutlery is a cotton napkin embroidered with your name. Seriously… Personalized table linens! It’s a custom flourish that I’ll never forget—and the only time I’ve ever been tempted to steal something from a hotel room.
(Alright, so I stole it. And so will you!)
Travel tip: Make use of the Oberoi’s quick, friendly and relatively affordable laundry service. (Given the heat, humidity and haziness of Mumbai, you won’t be able to get more than a day’s wear out of your outfits.)
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Inside the Oberoi Mumbai: The Executive Suite Bathroom
I’m not normally one to choose a tub over a shower, but I’m willing to make an exception to the rule—specifically when the tub is a freestanding soaker with a million-dollar view. Separated from the bedroom by a glass panel and automatic roller blind, the tub in the Oberoi Mumbai’s Executive Suites allows you to soak in the impressive skyline while you soak away your cares. For the full spa experience, treat yourself to the luxe Ayurvedic Forest Essentials bath products, specifically formulated for the Oberoi using organically-grown lime, tulsi and narangi.
Travel tip: Instagrammers, take note: The vanity mirror incorporates a halo light—the only thing you need for a flawless selfie. (Here are 10 more great spots to take a selfie.)
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Inside the Oberoi Mumbai: The Oberoi Spa in Mumbai
When I think of world-class massages, my mind instantly goes to destinations like Bora Bora and Bangkok. Never did I imagine I’d be adding Bombay to that list; yet the full body massage I booked at the Oberoi Spa in Mumbai remains one of the most memorable in my travels. Kicking off with a ritual foot-washing from a basin of aromatic, floral-infused water, the incredibly thorough 90-minute session managed to melt away that last lingering jet lag, leaving me fully refreshed for another day of exploring Mumbai’s treasures.
Inside the Oberoi Mumbai: Breakfast at Fenix
If your ensuite Nespresso machine isn’t enough to kickstart your morning, head down to the lobby for a table at Fenix, the Oberoi Mumbai’s all-day restaurant. Here you’ll find an impressive breakfast buffet, including western, Indian and even Japanese cuisine—not to mention a lovely lassi (a churned yogurt beverage that can be taken plain, salted or—as I like it—sweet). As with the rest of the hotel, the service is warm and welcoming, and the vibe—although never losing its five-star refinement—is refreshingly relaxed.
Travel tip: During your time in Mumbai, you might be tempted to sample local delicacies from streetside vendors. Nevertheless, hotel restaurants remain the safest way to enjoy things like lassi and puri bhaji (deep fried whole wheat flour bread with potato curry).
Outside the Oberoi Mumbai: Things To Do in Colaba
I find there’s no better way to get the feel of a city than to walk it, and Mumbai is no exception. From the Oberoi Mumbai, you can hit two of the city’s most popular tourist attractions by foot, provided you’ve packed comfy shoes and have a loose itinerary that allows you the freedom to wander at leisure.
The first of those attractions, Chowpatty Beach, should be considered an essential Mumbai experience—even more so if you arrive at sunset when the city’s most popular beach really hits its stride. The 45-minute walk from the Oberoi Mumbai is as easy as it gets: leaving the hotel, simply follow the gentle arc of Marine Drive north until you hit the tight cluster of food stalls, vendors and entertainers—and the inevitable crowds they draw. After dark, the street lights that give Marine Drive its charming nickname—the Queen’s Necklace—make for an incredibly romantic stroll home.
Even closer is the iconic Gateway of India (above), which will take you roughly 25-minutes to reach on foot from the Oberoi Mumbai. Heading southeast from the hotel, this trek will take you to the opposite side of Mumbai’s southern peninsula, and you’ll pass a great number of the city’s top attractions en route, including the National Gallery of Modern Art and the Oval Maidan—a park that plays host to countless cricket matches at any given time. Keep an eye out for the historic Regal Cinema, too. The gem of art deco architecture was India’s first air-conditioned theatre, and is a great place to catch the latest Bollywood blockbuster. The Gateway itself (not to be confused with India Gate, which is located in New Delhi), is an awe-inspiring structure built to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary in 1911.