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To mark the recent re-launch of our direct flights to Mumbai, we take a look at some of the best places to stay in one of India's most vibrant cities, from a small art hotel with a handful of rooms to glittering seafront towers and historic palaces...
Tucked away in the thriving northern suburb of Khar, Le Sutra claims to be the first art hotel in India. Packed with original artworks from more than a hundred artists, all of Le Sutra's sixteen rooms are inspired by Indian mythology, with each of the three floors themed around the three Gunas of Hindu philosophy, Tamas, Rajas and Sattva.
Gunas refer to a person's inherent personality traits, which have been interpreted by the designers into every detail of the rooms, from intricate wooden carvings and specially commissioned furniture to Buddha frescoes and inlaid floors. Tamas refers to opulence and gratification; the glitzy rooms on this floor are colourful and romantic. Rajas is associated with passion and style. These rooms are the most dramatic, with carved horse-head beds, wooden swan chairs and eleborate textiles. The calm, minimalist rooms on the Sattva floor represent purity, balance and order.
Once you're suitably immersed in Hindu serenity, take an opportunity to indulge at the day spa and three highly-rated dining destinations. Out of the Blue is a buzzy, alfresco restaurant famed for its aromatic sizzlers and Indian-inspired fondue. Upmarket Mediterranean affair Olive Bar & Kitchen is next door; a classy venue often frequented by Bollywood's younger stars. Sweet-toothed travellers should check out Delicae, a relaxed cafe serving a bewildering array of desserts and all kinds of hot and cold coffees.
Le Sutra - The Indian Art Hotel, 14 Union Park, Khar (W), Mumbai - 400 052
Overlooking the Arabian Sea on the far southern sweep of Marine Drive, the landmark Oberoi is a large modern luxury hotel in the premier commercial district of Nariman Point. Completely redesigned and renovated in 2008, the Oberoi vies with the Taj for the title of grandest hotel in the city - though their characters are so different it's hard to compare.
Walking into the Oberoi's lobby is akin to entering a vast contemporary gallery or museum. In the centre of the space is a bright red grand piano, offset by the gleaming white marble floor, potted palms, and a gigantic wall of gold blind-shaded windows overlooking the bay.
The red and gold colour scheme continues in the natural light-filled guest rooms and suites, which are pure understated luxury. Cool and elegant with dark oak floors and walnut furniture, they have views across the city skyline or ocean, with glass-walled bathrooms offering sea views from the bathtub in some cases.
Dining venues range from top-notch contemporary Indian restaurant Ziya, classic Italian fare at Vetro, and the modern global cuisine of flagship Fenix which includes a live sushi bar with more than 80 varieties of sushi and sashimi.
The Oberoi, Nariman Point, Mumbai - 400 021
Taj Mahal Palace and Tower
The Taj Mahal os one of Mumbai's true icons, with a history inextricably linked to that of the city itself. Along with the Gateway to India, which it sits diagonally across from (and pre-dates by 21 years) it is probably the most famous landmark in Mumbai. Since opening in 1903, the grandest of all grand dames has served as a 600-patient hospital during World War I, and hosted Maharajahs, European royalty, film stars, religious leaders and presidents.
The hotel incorporates a diverse number of styles and is filled with a rich collection of works of art from across the globe, including contemporary sculpture, rare Bastal tribal art and enormous Belgian chandeliers. Rooms reflect this eclecticism with classic decor paying homage to the century old heritage, but all the modern amenities you'd expect from a luxury five star hotel are here too: think surround sound home theatre systems, hydro massage showers, ultra fast wireless.
Classic hotel experiences include high tea or cocktail hour in the exclusive wood-panelled Palace Lounge, a rejuvenating post-flight Indian massage in the harmonious Jiva Spa, or a lingering poolside lunch under the whirring fans of Aquarius.
The Taj Mahal Palace, Apollo Bunder, Mumbai - 400 001
Intercontinental Marine Drive
An excellent choice for both business travellers and lovers of a late-night tipple, the Intercontinental Marine Drive is a modern property overlooking the bay with 24 hour meeting room and business centre services and the city's finest rooftop bar.
Neutral, understated rooms have polished wooden floors with occasional flashes of bold colour. They are all generously proportioned and quietly luxurious, with Bose sound systems and ample space for working and entertaining. All the views are good but the Deluxe rooms and suites have the most expansive sea views for drinking in the amazing Mumbai sunsets.
Dome - the rooftop sky bar which overlooks the sea - sits up on the 8th floor. The informal alfresco venue serves international grilled dishes in addition to a great cocktail menu, premium wines and cigars. Other restaurants include the cosy Mediterranean-inspired Corleone and the inspired Thai flavours and sultry low-lit decor of Koh by Ian Kittichai.
Intercontinental Marine Drive, 135 Marine Drive, Mumbai - 400 020
Set within a blossoming commercial district, this Swedish design chain's Mumbai hotel is the sister property to its Bangalore namesake. Its proximity to shopping malls, bars, coffee shops, restaurants and leading Bollywood studios makes it popular with young entrepreneurs, actors and tastemakers, who are lured by its clean minimalist style, in-room spa treatments, non-extortionate rates and gadget filled rooms (iPad, games consoles). Unsurprisingly, it attracts a loyal following and a lot of repeat guests.
Despite its relatively small size (22 superior rooms, 6 deluxe and 1 suite), Svenska boasts a good selection of places to eat, including the triple-themed Mesa, a bistro, deli and spa serving an all-day menu of bistro classics, baked goods, cocktails and snacks; gourmet Indian cuisine at alfresco rooftop restaurant and bar Soul; plus the multi award-winning Spanish-inspired Miro which features a live interactive kitchen.
Header photo © 2012 Le Sutra
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About the author: MaxineMaxine Sheppard
Maxine is the editor of the Virgin Atlantic blog. Travel and music are her joint first loves, and despite having written for Virgin for more years than she cares to remember she still loves nothing more than jumping on a plane in search of new sights and new sounds.