Delhi is the political and cultural capital, while Mumbai is the financial and commercial capital of India. They are India's two largest cities, which are similar in some ways, yet also very different in language, food, culture, and climate. While they offer different experiences, both are excellent destinations if you want to get some insight into India.
In this article, we will make a comparison between Delhi and Mumbai and discuss some of the major differences that should be helpful for you to make a decision whether Delhi or Mumbai is the best destination for you.
Delhi vs Mumbai: City Comparison Overview
|History||Delhi has a long history dating back to 6th century BC. It was the capital of the Delhi Sultanate and the Mughal Empire.||Was a British trading port in the 17th century.|
|Status||The country's capital and largest city with 30 million people||India's second-largest city and known as "the city of dreams"|
|Things to do and see||Red Fort, Jama Masjid, Chandni Chowk Market, Qutub Minar, Humayun's Tomb||Gateway of India, Crawford Market, Marine Drive, Dhobi Ghat, Bollywood|
|Food||Known for their kebabs||Known for their vada pavs|
|Streetlife||Not safe, necessary to take certain precautions||Safer than Delhi|
|Accommodation||Heritage hotels||Luxurious sea-view hotels|
|Convenience of Travel||Road traffic is bad, but using the metro is a convenient and comfortable way to get around||Road traffic is also bad. The metro is still under construction, but you can use local trains|
|Best Times to Visit||Spring and autumn||Dry months from October to February|
1.History: Delhi Has a Richer History
While Mumbai's history goes back several centuries, Delhi's goes back to at least around the 6th century BC, making it one of the oldest cities in the world.
Delhi's History: the Capital of Past Muslim and British Empires
The rulers of Delhi have changed numerous times over the centuries. Most notable are the Delhi Sultanate, which ruled between the 13th and 16th centuries, and the Mughal dynasty, which ruled between the 16th and 19th centuries.
Delhi was the capital city of both empires during part of the duration of their rule. Both of these dynasties were Muslim empires and their rich historical heritage is reflected in the old architecture of Delhi such as the Red Fort, Jama Masjid, Humayun's Tomb, or the Qutub Minar.
The rule of the Mughal Dynasty ended when the British Government took control in 1858 after a bloody fight and the Siege of Delhi.
The British government played an important role in the formation of New Delhi. In fact, it's foundation stone was laid by King George V and the area was designed by British architects. This British heritage is evident particularly in Victory Square, also known as Vijay Chowk, where you can see a vast area of colonial buildings that are the home of India's current government.
Mumbai's History: A Major British Trading Port
Mumbai, now the capital city of the Indian state of Maharashtra, was known as Bombay until 1995. Before that, it was under the control of successive indigenous empires until the 17th century when the British took over. In 1845, it was made into a major seaport, which in turn developed its economy significantly.
Many historic buildings in Mumbai can be traced to this colonial period, such as the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (the historic terminal station with grand colonial architecture), the Gateway of India (an arch monument to commemorate King George V and Queen Mary's visit in 1911), and the Wellington Fountain (an elegant fountain built in 1865).
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2. Capital of Politics and Culture vs Finance and Commerce
Delhi is India's capital and largest city, dominating the north of India. It is a densely populated and sprawling city with approximately 30 million people. Delhi is well known for its historical tourist sites and marketplaces. However, it is also notorious for its pollution and consistently ranks as one of the world's most polluted cities.
Mumbai is India's fast-paced commercial capital, like New York in the USA, located on the west coast of India. It is also called the "city of dreams" and is the home to the national movie industry HQ, Bollywood. India's second largest city, it has approximately 25 million people.
3.Things to Do and See: Old Delhi's Heritages Sites vs Mumbai's Bollywood
As an old city, Delhi contains many beautiful old buildings and UNESCO World Heritage sites. Travelers will be astonished by the scale of the Red Fort, the magnificence of Jama Masjid, and the bustling streets of Chandni Chowk, one of the oldest markets in Delhi.
While Mumbai does not have as many historical sites to offer, it offers exciting nightlife, beaches, coastal drives, and cafes. In Mumbai, you can visit the famous Crawford Market, Marine Drive, or the iconic Bollywood.
Example of a Delhi Itinerary
In Delhi, you can start by exploring Old Delhi, which is the walled part of the city dating back to the Mughal-era. There, you will find the Red Fort which was once the main resistance base of the Mughal emperors built in the 17th century.
Then, you can visit Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in India, and take a rickshaw ride through Chandni Chowk market which is well-known for its delicious street food. Other famous historical sites worth seeing include Qutub Minar, a tower from the Delhi Sultanate-era, and Humayun's Tomb, a garden tomb of a Mughal Emperor which helped inspire the Taj Mahal.
Usually, after exploring Delhi, travelers will then visit the Taj Mahal in Agra, a 2-hour train ride from Delhi. If you would like to see India's iconic Taj Mahal, its best to start in Delhi instead of Mumbai.
Example of a Mumbai Itinerary
Start your tour of Mumbai by visiting the Gateway of India, a monument to commemorate King George V and Queen Mary's visit in 1911. Then, visit Crawford Market where you can see the daily life of the locals in this hectic market as they purchase local produce and goods.
Travel along the scenic Marine Drive and visit Dhobi Ghat, the city's famous open-air laundromat where you can see thousands of clothing items hanging on the lines. You can also spend a half-day exploring Bollywood to learn more about India's famous film industry.
4.Food: Kebabs vs Vada Pav
The food scene in both Mumbai and Delhi is a melting pot of many cultures. However, in Mumbai dishes typically include more seafood, while in Delhi the food tends to include more northern Indian ingredients like cream, lamb, and chicken.
Delhi is famous for creamy Kormas and Salans, rich Biryanis and Pulaos, and Tibetan dumplings called momos. For meat lovers, Delhi's succulent Shami and Burra kebabs are must-tries.
A great place to taste Delhi's local food is Karim's, a historic restaurant established in 1913 near the Jama Masjid. Their recommended dishes include kebabs, Tandoori Bhara, and Mutton Korma. For something more luxurious, try Indian Accent, an award-winning and internationally recognized restaurant.
Mumbai, on the other hand, is most famous for its Vada Pav and Bombay duck. Vada pav is a street food that is like a mini burger, but the patty is made from potatoes and vegetables instead of meat. Vada pav is basically a fried potato fritter sandwiched between two buns with chutney spreads. Bombay duck, also known as 'bombil', is actually not duck but a type of fish. This fish can be made into a curry or served fried.
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5.Streetlife: Chandni Chowk Market vs Crawford Market
Delhi and Mumbai both have a vibrant street life where you can easily find large open markets and bazaars. Delhi's Chandni Chowk Market not only offers delectable local street food but also allows travelers to appreciate the local way of life and the see first-hand the 'organized chaos' of India.
The most famous and vibrant market in Mumbai is the Crawford Market, which is Mumbai's largest food and produce wholesaler. In this British-style building, you can find anything from groceries and household items to clothing and food.
Whether you are visiting Delhi or in Mumbai, you'll need to be careful with your valuables as sometimes there are pickpockets. Women are also recommended not to travel alone at night. This is especially important in Delhi. In general, Mumbai is safer than Delhi but travelers still need to take precautions.
6.Accommodation: Heritage vs Sea-view
Each city has their specialty when it comes to hotels and accommodation. Delhi specializes in beautiful colonial-style heritage hotels that offer and luxurious and classy experience along with amenities like expansive gardens, great restaurants, and pools. Some of the best heritage hotels in Delhi include The Claridges New Delhi, Maidens Hotel New Delhi, and The Imperial New Delhi.
On the other hand, Mumbai offers great luxury hotels with stunning sea-views such as The Taj Mahal, The Oberoi, or the Trident Nariman. These hotels are located around Colaba or Fort districts in South Mumbai. Not only does the area offer beautiful sea-views but its also full of delectable food and high-end shopping.
7.Convenience of travel: Private car and guide
Both Delhi and Mumbai have international airports and are easily accessible from abroad. However, land transportation within the city can sometimes be a challenge.
Delhi has better infrastructure than Mumbai and the roads are generally bigger. However, both cities have bad traffic, especially during peak hours. It is highly recommended to avoid the roads during rush hour in most major cities in India.
Public transport is easily accessible in both cities. Delhi has a metro system that is cleaner and more comfortable than normal trains.
Mumbai's metro system is under construction. Meanwhile, their main mode of public transport is 'locals' the term for their railway system which was first created by the British. The first-class carriage is recommended for travelers and it is essential to avoid using these trains during rush hour due to the volume of passengers.
Autos are little three-wheeled vehicles that are cheaper than a taxi. The downside of using them is that you need to negotiate the fare before your journey. Uber and Ola are other convenient options for travelers in both Delhi and Mumbai.
While it is possible to get around the two cities with public transport and taxis or autos, for ease and comfort we recommend using a private car with a guide. This will give you more time to explore and take away the hassle of figuring how to navigate the city yourself. Local guides are also an excellent source of history and will make your trip more interesting.
8. Best Times to Travel: Middle Seasons or Dry Months
Considering the weather, the best times to visit Delhi are October and November or February and March when the weather is pleasant: not too hot or cold. While the best times to visit Mumbai are in the dry months between October and February.
You may enjoy Delhi more if:
- You are interested in visiting ancient historical sites.
- You want to experience staying in a heritage hotel.
- You are a fan of kebabs.
You may enjoy Mumbai more if:
- You are interested in experiencing Indian nightlife and bars.
- You are particularly concerned about safety.
- You would like to see Bollywood.
- You like seafood.
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