Taj Mahal Palace

Taj Mahal Palace

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Apollo Bunder, Mumbai - 400 001, Maharashtra
Visit the Website +91 22 6665 3366
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Area: Mumbai

Few hotels can boast the sort of mystique and myth-making that define the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai. Its dazzling architecture alone makes it a sight to behold. With there being no major buildings to its rear, and only – only! – the majestic arch of the Gateway of India and the Arabian Sea beyond its front doors, the curved gables and colonial pomp of the Taj Mahal Palace almost makes it seem the true entry point to India’s most vibrant and creative city.

Almost from its start, the hotel seemed destined to be special. Rumours that its chief architect, the Englishman WA Chambers, committed suicide on seeing that the hotel had been built facing the wrong way, stuck firm, despite being urban myth. Hotel staff still whisper that Chambers’ ghost trolls the hotel’s hallways making mischief and clanking the pots and pans in the kitchen.

This merely makes the Taj Mahal Palace that extra bit special. The hotel has endured much in the intervening era, surviving the transfer of power from London to Delhi in 1947 and the terrorist attacks of 2008, which would have been far worse but for the hotel’s heroic and selfless staff. During the country’s modern nadir in the mid-1970s, it was said that a bottle of Taj champagne cost more than the average Indian salary.

Yet the modern Taj has always retained both its inclusivity, its irreverence and a sense of being ‘a bit special’. Photos of famous figures, including a slender 1960s-era Roger Moore, with voluminous dark glasses, adorn the walls, while famous and/or powerful people flit hither and thither. On one recent trip, Stylebible spotted German chancellor Angela Merkel and Mick Jagger at either end of the hotel’s long, cool, wooden corridor.

There is an air of another era here, too- a sense that Ismail Merchant and James Ivory might be hovering somewhere, seeking to direct a scene involving a repressed English family and a field of waving corn. The 30-metre outdoor swimming pool, with its stone water-spouting lions sets the tone for the entire place.

Wandering among the colourful foliage, with its whooping and clacking birds, you could be in the tropics, far away in the foothills of Goa or embedded in the lines of Kipling’s poem, Mandalay. Waiters swoop in from nowhere, bearing the promise of salty lime sodas and a chilled Kingfisher beer. Dinner here, overlooking the pool, or in one of its signature restaurants, including the Zodiac Grill, the Casablanca and the ultra-exclusive The Chambers, is always an occasion. The hotel goes out of its way to make you feel special.

The gym and sauna are solid, if perhaps unexceptional, though the spa treatments regularly win awards, and rightly so. Perhaps the most thrilling aspect of this hotel is the rooms. The new wing, refurbished in the mid-2000s, still retains its air of historical wonder, while the old wing weds the wonder of old and new: wooden floors, giant bathrooms, floaty sheets and drapes and giant windows looking out over the sea or the pool.

And that’s before you consider the room service. There is, in the minds of this writer, nothing quite like entering India under the cover of darkness. So many international flights arrive in Mumbai at or around midnight, for some reason. Tired and creased, you arrive starving and thirst-crazed.  The first thing you need to do is pick up the phone and order a cold beer and a spicy curry. This is zipped to your room on heavy plates and under silver service, in a few short minutes. There is, literally nothing like it – and perhaps nothing like the Taj Mahal Palace on the face of the planet. If you visit no other hotel in your life, let it be this one. 

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Air conditioning
Airport transfer
Bar & Lounge
Beauty salon
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Concierge
Complimentary Mini-Bar
Gym
Restaurant
Room service
24 hour room service
Sauna
Spa treatments
Swimming pool (outdoor)
Wine cellar
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