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Why this Mumbai architect’s Walkitecture tour draws locals and tourists alike

Lonely Planet’s People You Meet series profiles people we think you should meet on your journey – those who make lasting impressions and help you connect more deeply with the destination. 

Nikhil Mahashur knows Mumbai in detail. The cement face in the facade of Holland House. The corner minaret on Majestic Amdar Niwas. The drainpipe gargoyles and stained-glass transom windows at Schoen House.

His passion for architecture crescendos from these details – and his weekly walking tours interweave the city’s rich history with its many diverse architectural styles. 

“There’s no place [in the world] where you get so many styles of architecture,” explains Nikhil. “The main reason Mumbai is in the Unesco [World Heritage list] is because nowhere do we have Gothic buildings and art deco side by side.”

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Maharashtra Police Headquarters is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and vivid example of Mumbai’s singular blend of architectural styles in Colaba © lazyiz/Shutterstock

Built on Indigenous Koli land, the city that is now Mumbai changed hands between several Indian settlers and invaders before it was colonized by the Portuguese, who named it “Bombay.” Eventually, it would be passed off to English King Charles II in 1661, upon his marriage to the Portuguese princess Catherine of Braganza.

Then an archipelago of seven islands, it would eventually be knit together through intensive reclamation. Colonialism inadvertently created a tapestry of architectural styles cherry-picked from those moments in history, woven with Indian architecture – an already vibrant and diverse set of architectural influences from Central Asia mingled with older, local ones. 

Seeing Mumbai’s history through Nikhil’s Walkitecture tour


Mahashur’s Walkitecture tour stops to look at the Taj Mahal Palace’s iconic onion domes ©Alisha Vasudev/Lonely Planet

An architect and a morning person, Nikhil is zestful at his tour’s 7:45am start time as he points to the Taj Mahal Palace, a luxury hotel in the city’s historic seaside neighborhood of Colaba. On this particular Saturday, his Walkitecture tour of Mumbai starts at what is today the rear of the hotel, but what was at its 1903 construction the front facade. 

“If you think about where the pool is today [at the back of the hotel], that’s where carriages would’ve dropped guests off,” says Nikhil. 

As he plucks architectural details from the scene – the onion domes of the Indo-Saracenic structure and the Vernacular and Edwardian elements in the buildings opposite it – his excitement is palpable.

He’s like someone waiting to tell you something, and eager to see your response. “The dome of the Taj Mahal Palace is still the highest part of the locality,” explains Nikhil. “Since we don’t have lighthouses [in the area], the navy still uses the dome as a triangulation point.”


The tour stops at the Cathedral of the Holy Name ©Alisha Vasudev/Lonely Planet

More such tidbits follow, each more interesting than the last (who knew the ballroom pillars in the Taj Mahal Palace are made of the same spun iron as the Eiffel Tower?) – and with each, Nikhil’s affection for the city of Mumbai grows more apparent.

Where Nikhil found inspiration for the Walkitecture tour

Nikhil’s appreciation for Mumbai’s architectural marvels grew slowly. “I love glass buildings,” he explains, speaking of the stereotypical buildings that populate most modern cityscapes. “I was ‘grown up’ in architecture, designing and making glass buildings.”


The Shiv Shanti Bhuvan is a colorful example of Mumbai’s art deco style ©Alisha Vasudev/Lonely Planet

It was only on his morning runs along Marine Dr, a palm tree-lined road overlooking the Arabian Sea that’s rich with art deco buildings, that he had his “aha!” moment. “Every time I ran and I [grew] tired, I used to count the buildings [and] say ‘I’ll do 10 more buildings,’” he says. “As I started looking, I started appreciating the art deco part of Bombay.” 

Mumbai has the second-highest concentration of art deco buildings in the world (after Miami), featuring streamlined, nautical-style facades alongside typically Indian and tropical elements.

According to Nikhil, these buildings developed as wealthier Indians started seeing the style in France and the United States on their travels, and requesting it from local builders. At the same time, with the country still under colonial rule, Indian architects were allowed admission to the Royal Institute of British Architects; they then imported the art deco style to their work at home. 


Colaba’s Schoen House tells a tale of Mumbai’s architectural history ©Alisha Vasudev/Lonely Planet

Eventually, Nikhil’s curiosity to know more about these buildings led him to research them in detail, tucking himself away in libraries and reading rooms until the entire city became an architectural puzzle waiting to be taken apart.

“That happened only because of my interest in looking up – and that’s what happens today, we take people on the weekend and make them look up [at buildings],” he explains.

Six years after his first architectural walk, he continues to study each of the buildings featured on his walks, which cover different parts of the city. “There is no book on [Mumbai] architecture that will denote [architectural elements] in detail,” Nikhil sighs. “They’ll tell you this building is Neoclassical, or this is Palladianism, but the rest comes from your knowledge as an architect.”


Architect Nikhil Mahashur’s Walkitecture tour stops on Tullock Road. ©Alisha Vasudev/Lonely Planet

Which is perhaps why so many Mumbaikars join these weekly walks alongside tourists from all over the world: there simply isn’t an architectural guide to the city that melds its history, its personality and its ongoing evolution as effectively. And Nikhil believes it’s the local residents that really make these walks. For where he knows which architectural elements to point out, or what the books say about a building’s history, it’s the retired policeman who will point to what used to be his former station and talk through the cases the building has borne witness to. 

“Each walk with each group is different,” says Nikhil. “That makes it fun for us, too.”

Walkitecture announces its upcoming walking tours via Instagram. Tours are typically conducted on Saturdays at 7:45am for a fee of INR 500 ($6 USD). Private tours can be arranged upon request.

Luxury Travel News / Why This Mumbai Architect’s Walkitecture Tour Draws Locals And Tourists Alike / By Akanksha Singh / / / Sedat Karagöz / Istanbul,New York / Janbolat Khanat Almaty Travel,Tourism News Office

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Travel Exclusive News / Istanbul / Turkey / 7 Of The Best Neighborhoods in Istanbul / By Jennifer Hattam

With its huge size and centuries of history, it would be impossible to see all of Istanbul in one trip – or perhaps even in one lifetime.

Still, its central neighborhoods are relatively compact, and each has its own distinct character and offerings. First-time visitors and those on a tight schedule will likely want to book a hotel in Sultanahmet, smack in the middle of Istanbul’s star attractions, while time spent in other districts gives insights into different aspects of local life in a city that contains multitudes.

Get to know Istanbul by each neighborhood one at a time.

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1. Sultanahmet

Best place to stay for unmissable sights 

The (seriously) historic center of Istanbul and the former seat of both the Byzantine and Ottoman empires, Sultanahmet contains the majority of the city’s most-visited sights within walking distance of each other, making it a convenient base.

For historic atmosphere, it’s certainly hard to beat: the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque face off across Sultanahmet Square, with the storied Hippodrome alongside and the grandeur of Topkapı Palace just a stone’s throw away. Even seemingly nondescript parks, plazas and parking lots are built atop or alongside ancient ruins. 

With a dense concentration of hotels, accommodation options cater to every budget, including rooms in restored Ottoman mansions and simple pansiyons (hostels) with million-dollar rooftop views over the neighborhood’s domes and minarets.

The flip side is that little local life remains in Sultanahmet, and the generally tourist-focused restaurants hardly show off Turkish cuisine at its best.

People walking on Istiklal Street in Beyoğlu, Istanbul with a tram running up the center

Get a taste of Istanbul’s contemporary culture in Beyoğlu © Boris Stroujko / Shutterstock

2. Beyoğlu

Best neighborhood for contemporary art and culture

Across the Golden Horn (and a short tram ride away) from Sultanahmet, winding streets climb past the Galata Tower to İstiklal Caddesi, the pedestrian thoroughfare that cuts through the bustling Beyoğlu district.

Known in the past as Pera and Galata, this area has historically been home to many of Istanbul’s Christian and foreign communities. Today, it retains numerous – and sometimes beautifully restored – European-style apartments from the late 19th and early 20th century. 

Important cultural institutions such as the Pera Museum, the newly opened Istanbul ModernSALT BeyoğluSALT Galata (in the former headquarters of the Ottoman Bank), the Istanbul Research Institute and numerous small galleries have established themselves in some of these buildings, making the neighborhood ideal for an afternoon of art-going.

Though no longer the nexus of the city’s dining and nightlife scene it once was, Beyoğlu still has fine contemporary restaurants as well as lively meyhanes (taverns) where the raki and conviviality flow freely.

In addition to the large hotels around Taksim Square, you can find smaller hotels and rental apartments in the Cihangir, Çukurcuma, Galata and Karaköy quarters within Beyoğlu, each of which has an attractive atmosphere of its own.

3. Fener and Balat

Best areas for antiques and Instagram shoots

Traces of history blend with a stylish present in the adjacent neighborhoods of Fener and Balat, along the banks of the Golden Horn.

The landmark “iron church” and Patriarchal Church of St George attest to the area’s more cosmopolitan past, while colorful old homes and cobbled streets have become a favorite backdrop for film crews and Instagram influencers alike. 

Antique collectors, bargain hunters and nostalgia buffs descend on the neighborhood’s many antique stores, especially when they hold lively auctions, while the cafe culture here thrives.

This area doesn’t have many hotel or nightlife options, but a tram along the water – as well as a slower but more scenic ferry on the Golden Horn – make it relatively easy to get back to Sultanahmet or Beyoğlu after a day’s leisurely wandering. 

A couple take a smiling selfie as they ride on the ferry with the Istanbul skyline in the background

The ferry ride to Kadıköy is a quintessential Istanbul experience in itself © petekarici / Getty Images

4. Kadıköy

Best area for cafes and nightlife

The popularity of the Kadıköy district on the Asian side of Istanbul has exploded in recent years, creating a neighborhood that’s vibrant day and night, with third-wave coffee shops, hip boutiques, small independent art galleries, restaurants, cocktail bars, pubs and live-music venues. 

While the neighborhood has a few notable sights – a museum dedicated to a beloved Turkish rock star, a 1927 opera house, a mixed-use cultural center in a restored gasworks, a colorful street market – the main attraction is simply soaking in the scene and admiring the spectacular sunsets from the long waterfront park’s promenade.

This area has a handful of hotel options, mostly near the water, but it’s easy to hop over for the day or evening from Eminönü or Karaköy on a ferry ride – a quintessential Istanbul experience in itself. 

5. Nişantaşı and Teşvikiye

Best places to go for luxury shopping

Just north of Taksim Square, chic Nişantaşı and Teşvikiye draw a fashionable set with their leafy streets lined with designer boutiques and high-end department stores, stylish sidewalk cafes and grand apartment buildings.

This area has good restaurants and some luxurious hotels, too. The neighborhoods abut Maçka Park, one of the largest green spaces in the city center and a popular spot with picnickers, dog walkers and joggers. 

Though the area is in the central city, limited transportation links are a downside. Walking to the Osmanbey metro station or downhill to the buses and ferries of Beşiktaş are the best ways to connect to the rest of the city.

6. Kurtuluş and Bomonti

Best areas for market shopping and local life

Down-to-earth Kurtuluş and up-and-coming Bomonti are just on the opposite side of the Osmanbey metro station from Nişantaşı and Teşvikiye – but a world away in atmosphere.

Kurtuluş offers the best of traditional neighborhood life, with bustling streets and a wealth of small homestyle restaurants, bakeries, delis and other food stores. 

Anchored around the Bomontiada entertainment complex in a historic brewery building, Bomonti has a growing dining and nightlife scene, as well as some higher-end hotels. In between is Feriköy, where an open-air market is set up in a parking garage multiple times a week, with vendors selling organic produce on Saturday, antiques on Sunday and a mixed array of foodstuffs and homewares on Mondays and Thursdays.

Boats in the Bosphorus Strait near Ortaköy Mosque in Beşiktaş, Istanbul

If you want a luxury hotel on the waterfront, head for the neighborhoods of Beşiktaş and Ortaköy © Shchipkova Elena / Shutterstock

7. Beşiktaş and Ortaköy

Best places to stay for deluxe hotels with Bosphorus views 

The neighborhoods of Beşiktaş and Ortaköy along the Bosphorus are home to some of Istanbul’s most luxurious international hotels, boasting broad views across the famous strait.

Beşiktaş itself is a busy transit hub with a youthful vibe and lots of casual bars and restaurants around its lively market area. A group of restored late-19th-century Ottoman row houses in the Akaretler part of the neighborhood, near the Naval Museum, is now home to cafes and contemporary art exhibitions. 

Sitting under the first Bosphorus Bridge, Ortaköy has a beautiful baroque mosque and a popular waterfront area. Both areas have ferry docks, though Beşiktaş has more connections.

In between sits hilly, green Yıldız Park, former hunting ground to the sultan, now a popular place to have a big Turkish breakfast buffet in a century-old pavilion.

Travel Exclusive News / Istanbul / Turkey / 7 Of The Best Neighborhoods in Istanbul / By Jennifer Hattam / Jennifer Bar,Tony Bar, Sedat Karagoz / Istanbul,New York Travel,Tourism News Office / Janbolat Khanat / Almaty Travel,Tourism News Office

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