From opulent to budget, from north to south, here is a selection of the best hotels in Mumbai, India: EXTREMELY HIGH-END 1. The Taj Mahal Palace: Waterfront luminary When George Harrison wanted sitar lessons, he took notes from maestro Ravi Shankar in one of the Taj Suites. When Jimmy Page and Robert Plant toured India in the 1970s, they made the hotel their Mumbai base. Playing host to cultural icons like these had already made The Taj Mahal Palace a cultural landmark before the 2008 November terrorist attacks seared the hotel into public memory. The hotel offers a choice of 543 unique rooms and suites across the Palace and the Tower Wing. The slightly heavier price tag is absolutely worth it once you lay eyes on the stately Gateway of India aglow at night, with yachts bobbing in the distance. Aside from the views, there is round-the-clock butler service, free airport transfers, variable check in/check out times and complimentary breakfast and cocktails. “The Taj has always reinvented itself since it was born decades ago and this is what makes it the icon that it is,” says general manager Taljinder Singh. 2. The Trident Bandra-Kurla: Beige, brown and bronze The warm colors and quirky bronze sculptures of the new Trident Bandra-Kurla are the first indication that if you’re here to mix business with pleasure, this hotel will serve up a pretty heady cocktail. Those that like a tipple will love the wine tasting room and wine library at Oh Two Two (022, the all day multi-cuisine restaurant), as well as the grappa display and enoteca at the Italian fine dining restuarant, Botticino. Indian specialty restaurant Maya and the in-house delicatessen complete the delectable quartet. All rooms and suites come with iPod connectivity, DVD players with a USB plug-and-play port, and all hour valet and laundry services. “The staff has been trained well to extend gracious, personalized and dependable service,” says general manager Visheshwar Singh. And if you’ve brought the kids along, you can book the babysitter to watch them while you’re out. The first hotel in North Mumbai’s new business district, the Trident is 30 minutes from the international airport (on a good traffic day). 3. Waterstones Hotel: Which flower do you choose? “A charming little hotel that’s big on style,” is how Gayle Henriques, the Waterstones Hotel General Manager, describes the Waterstones Hotel and with ten different themes running through this 99-room boutique property, we’d have to agree with her. Wireless internet access, SIM cards on request, and a travel desk make life easier if you’re here on business. Also ask about the free airport transfers, buffet breakfasts and baggage storage for late check-outs. You’ll feel like a kid in a candy store. Should it be one of the classy floral suites? The turquoise-and-white Marine Room for the see-through bathrooms? Or the Mountain Room with jazzy cow skin-print sofas? Whatever theme you choose, you’ll get ironing facilities, a bar, refrigerator, DVD player and a choice of movies. And if the pillows aren’t fluffy enough, housekeeping, which comes around twice a day, will be glad to resolve that for you. HIGH-END 4. The Four Seasons Mumbai: Into the Aer A decade is a long time in hospitality, but if you ask Vincent Hoogewijs, general manager at the Four Seasons Mumbai, he’ll tell you that the ten years they spent waiting to enter the Indian market was worth it. We think so too, since the hotel has given us Mumbai’s highest bar (roof top lounge Aer), a fabulous spa and The Club, an exclusive 33rd floor area where members can talk business even as they ponder the vintage of their Cristal Rosé. The rooms are child friendly, with cribs, strollers, high chairs and play pens provided at no extra cost. The L’Occitane toiletries are also complimentary. Too bad the seriously comfortable duvets and bathrobes won’t fit in a regular suitcase. Their fleet of 7 series BMWs will ferry guests around town but if you dread being stuck in Mumbai traffic you can always call for the helicopter. 5. Grand Hyatt Mumbai: Mini metropolis Take 500+ rooms, 100+ apartments, 10 meeting halls, and an upscale shopping plaza. Add some fine dining restaurants and sprinkle liberally with funky, contemporary art, et voila – you have the sprawling 10 acre complex of the Grand Hyatt, Mumbai. General manager Ilan Weill explains that the art is a collaborative attempt by established artistes, upcoming talent and craftsmen “to reinterpret the Shiva myth.” Staff also double up as art guides. Rooms are uncluttered, with an oversized work desk, high-speed internet, and a concierge to tackle any problems. Head to the Celini restaurant for one of its three set executive lunches or let Chef Alessandro Persico whip up a mean margherita for you, at the restaurant’s show kitchen. Once you’re done there you can book a seat in the sleek salon, headed by international hairstylist Christiaan Georgio. 6. Hyatt Regency: A spa-tacular experience It’s understandable given its location, service and facilities that the Hyatt Regency is usually filled with business travelers, but surprisingly, this hotel is popular with wedding crowds too. In large part that could be thanks to the 10,000 square feet Club Prana — a spa, salon and fitness center rolled in one. The Traditional Thai Yoga Massage is great, especially if you prefer dry massages. Also try the delicious Marma facial from their Ayurvedic menu. Rooms are sleek and uncluttered, and include a work desk and Wi-Fi internet. After a day of work, do take advantage of the rainshower facility and the sleek marble tub. 7. Hotel Marine Plaza: The lure of the Allamanda With a breathtaking sea view, lights along the bay, and a flower-laden pool terrace, Hotel Marine Plaza’s Allamanda terrace really is hard to resist. One besotted couple, says general manager Sanjeev Shekhar, even paid handsomely to have the place to themselves on their first wedding anniversary. The Art Deco interiors hold another sweet spot – its five-story atrium, with enthusiastically English pub, Geoffrey’s, adjacent to it on the ground floor. Check into the elegantly-furnished Special Suites – wall-to-ceiling glass panels from the living area to the bedroom reveal a bird’s eye view of the Queen’s Necklace, especially fabulous at night. The coffee table books in this suite are a thoughtful touch, particularly Sharada Dwivedi’s “Bombay, the Cities Within.” 8. Hotel Novotel Mumbai Juhu Beach: Rock out on the seashore Juhu beach in the suburbs can be noisy with crowds thronging daily to the food stalls on the sand, so credit goes to the 203-room Hotel Novotel at Juhu for creating a quiet spot further north along the beach. Multiple leisure zones like Serena Spa and five restaurants pull in the business and leisure crowd. General manager Heinz Egli is a musician after hours, and the DNA (and name) of chic lounge bar Gadda Da Vida on the ground floor bears much of his influence. Nurse your drink on the patio and enjoy the selection of English-only jazz, electronic and rock (live sets on Fridays); then head across the pool to Olio and ask for their Parmesan Cheese Risotto. 9. Rodas, an Ecotel Hotel: For the carbon conscious The eco tag is always a novelty, but the Rodas Powai does live up to it with a very high green quotient. The Hafeez Contractor-designed structure faces north-east catching only oblique sunlight that helps reduce cooling costs. Heating in the 36 rooms cleverly channels the hot exhaust from the air conditioning, using a system of compression. Rooms have internet, and the Biotique bath accessories and jute slippers are a nice touch. The Rodas receives mainly corporate clients, so they have a large business center and excellent boardrooms. The Rodas has a strict no paper napkin/sachet/plastic policy so you’re encouraged to be a planeteer — reuse towels (hang them up) and sheets. 10. Sahara Star: Five-star fish bowl As far as first impressions go, the Sahara Star’s unfinished exteriors don’t give you much to go on, but inside, “bigger, glitzier, better” seems to be the hotel’s mantra. The hotel is home to India’s largest aquarium, 11 specialty food and beverage outlets, five banquet halls and 18,000 square feet of open air banquet space. For the novelty of the experience (in India), we suggest the Ocean’s Private Dining Room, beneath the aquarium. The hotel’s unique design, according to CEO Vivek Kumar, was shaped with the help of leading consultants and professionals, responsible for London’s Millennium Dome and the Petronas Towers in Malaysia. Rooms are named after planets though there’s no celestial theme. All have a view of the central area inside, a welcome alternative to the chaotic Expressway outside. Airport transfers and breakfast are free for all residents. MODERATE 11. Shalimar Hotel: Feel at home, away from home Looking more like a sleek residential building than a hotel, the Shalimar occupies a plum position in one of South Mumbai’s prime shopping and entertainment areas. The comfortable apartment feel extends to the 66 rooms and suites, with colorful furnishings, busy prints, drapes, paintings and carefully placed knick-knacks. Prices may seem steep compared with other hotels of its calibre, but the 47 year-old establishment is a short cab ride away from sea front, and the tourist and business areas of South Mumbai. There are plenty of restaurants around, but try the in-house bakery’s fresh goodies (they make their own breads and pastries), even if you give the hotel’s other eating joints a skip. 12. Executive Enclave: Suburban hospitality Stepping into the small, welcoming lobby of the Executive Enclave is like walking into someone’s living room – only the shoeshine kit near the sofa gives it away. The hotel is a minute from Linking Road (a shopping area), and some great restaurants. Too tired to head out? Try The Cafe on the rooftop for continental fare and a very basic bar, it somehow manages to blot out noise from the traffic below. Marketing manager Norbert Pinto informs us that all rooms come with electronic safe, LCD TV, Wi-Fi connectivity (a modest Rs 331 for 24 hours, though it’s free if you head to the ground floor lounge). Rates also include free airport pick up, in-room tea and buffet breakfast. Not bad for a hotel in one of Mumbai’s most animated suburbs. 13. Juhu Residency Boutique Hotel: Sun, sand, sea and single malts Makeovers can work magic, and the Juhu Residency Boutique Hotel is proof. This standalone property, a stone’s throw from Juhu beach, oozes class from every one of its 18 rooms and three restaurants. Chef director Sebastien Fernandes (or Chef Saby as he’s affectionately called) who was part of the makeover team, explains that eight rooms were torn down to create a central lounge on each floor where guests could relax or conduct meetings. Rooms are spacious and accommodate a minibar and safe. The beds have supersoft comforters and a rollaway option for extra guests. (Wi-Fi is optional). We strongly recommend you book a table at the Melting Pot where nightclub J 49 used to be, seafood joint Pebbles or rooftop 49 Grills, all operating under Chef Saby’s watchful eye. Their collection of single malts (Bunnahabhain, Glenlivet, Glenmorangie, Caol Ila and so on) would give any five-star a run for their money. 14. Hotel Krishna Palace Residency: Where corporates are kings Less than two minutes from Grant Road Station, Krishna Palace Hotel was only recently transformed from humble two-story beginnings to its present 68-room, 15-story avatar. According to Manoj Worlikar, general manager, the boutique property usually receives corporates, single travelers and Israeli diamond merchants, who stay for a week on average. Rooms are modest but all boast tasteful, minimal decor and furnishing. Amenities include a flat screen TV, DVD player, iron and board, baby cot and hair dryer. The entire building has Wi-Fi connectivity, though it is chargeable. 15. Best Western The Emerald: Bring the family along The world’s largest hotel chain has scored a notch in its rather large belt with Best Western Juhu, Mumbai’s hip shopping and entertainment zone. Chetan Mehta, executive director of the hotel, believes that personalized service and friendly staff – who can arrange anniversary surprises, restaurant reservations, spa bookings or hospital visits – brings guests back. The superior rooms suit couples with kids (they also have a kids play area outside), while studio rooms have a work station for business travelers. Shoeshine, bathroom slippers and shaving kit are complimentary though the all-access Wi-Fi is not. Room rates include a free buffet breakfast, but for other meals get out and explore the restaurants and lounges on the Juhu strip – the night will run out before your options do. BUDGET 16. Garden Hotel: Old Bombay meets Mumbai Tucked in a quiet lane off the Colaba Causeway, the Garden Hotel is just a few minutes from South Mumbai’s tourist spots. The area is big on ambiance and old world Bombay charm, with a small park directly opposite, and the sounds of a piano often filtering in from the nearby residence. You won’t regret a quick stroll around, or a quick coffee break on the deserted terrace, before your travel brochure/tour guide hauls you off to bigger attractions like the Gateway of India. The unpretentious two-star springs some surprises – free Wi-Fi throughout the hotel, air conditioning in all 33 rooms and in-room lockers. The kind concierge helps out with requests ranging from hair dryers, irons and the odd email (without charge), to laundry needs or booking a masseur. 17. Anjali Inn: Rest for the weary, and a personal travel guide Finding this modest hotel tucked behind the curiously named Mahalaxmi Again restaurant in Mumbai’s crowded Andheri East area can be quite a challenge. But guests at the Anjali Inn needn’t worry about that as they are personally received at the airport or station by manager Anil Rao. The staff double up as travel advisors, and Rao candidly admits to telling vacationers to shorten their stay in Mumbai, and helps them with bookings to Rajasthan or Kerala instead. Rooms are extremely clean, and considering the attached bathrooms, air conditioning, lockers, internet connectivity and television, they come at very sensible rates. They’ll provide a hairdryer for free and laundry is at $0.20 (Rs 15) a piece. Interested already? Make sure you book in advance as the 12-room inventory fills up pretty quickly. 18. Hotel Manama: One night stands with Mumbai Hotel Manama sits in the middle of the busy commercial area conveniently close to the CST train station, and its drab facade hides no frills lodging for very economical prices. The eternal pile of baggage in the lobby indicates tourists using Mumbai as a pit stop to get to Goa and other Indian cities. The 45 rooms are small and comfortable, with TV and attached bathrooms, and important documents can be kept in the hotel’s safe deposit lockers. There’s no internet for visitors but they do have local and international dialing facilities. Skip the restaurant on the ground floor and try Cafe Britannia a little further down or the street stalls in the area. 19. Hotel Pearl: Peace and quiet in the heart of the city This 39-room hotel keeps a rather low profile location in the central suburb of Chembur, but is a reliable base if you’re looking for a quiet stay, or willing to travel a bit to explore the city. The staff are helpful with directions and getting around. Parking is free for vehicles, as is the use of the internet in the lobby. Being a residential area, there are plenty of economical restaurants and stores around if you need to. 20. West End Hotel: Low on drama, high on charm Perhaps the only thing SoBo hotel West End Hotel has in common with London’s entertainment district of the same name is that the original owners, who built it in 1948, were Englishmen. Still, current owner Ajay Ramani says, this 80-room establishment has carefully preserved its old world appeal – and international tourists, wedding guests and medical faculty (on work at Bombay Hospital nearby) will testify that the charm still works. The decor is nothing fancy, but rooms are spacious with attached bathrooms and air conditioning. Given the location and amenities, prices are a steal, especially if you book a room for three (the Junior Suite), or four (the family Suite). Udita Jhunjhunwala is an entertainment and lifestyle writer and author based in Mumbai.