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Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (formerly Victoria Terminus)

By Smita Bhattacharya

What is Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus?

Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST), formerly known as Victoria Terminus, is a UNESCO World Heritage site and, remarkably, also one of the busiest railroad stations in India. It serves hundreds of commuters every day. Located in the heart of Mumbai, India’s financial and commercial capital, it is a major transportation hub for the city and the surrounding region.

CST was designed by Frederick William Stevens in an Italianate Gothic Revival style with influences from classical Indian architecture. It was constructed between 1878 and 1887, which was the year marking 50 years of Queen Victoria’s rule of the British Empire. In March 1996, the station was renamed Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, in honor of Shivaji, the founder of the Maratha Empire.

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Text: Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Maharashtra, India. Images: the interior and exterior of the station.
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Why is Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus a UNESCO World Heritage site?

According to UNESCO’s website, “Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus is an outstanding example of late 19th century railway architecture in the British Commonwealth, characterized by Victorian Gothic Revival and traditional Indian Features, as well as its advanced structural and technical solutions.”

The edifice is a sight to behold, having maintained its architectural splendor through the decades, and especially impressive when illuminated at night.

An elegant brick building with turrets.

What can you expect on a visit to Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji train station?

The Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus is a beloved landmark for all Mumbaikars like me. We pass through its corridors several times a year, and its grandeur never fails to impress. The ornate pillars, grand vaulted ceilings, intricate wood carvings, gorgeous tiles, and ornamental iron and brass railings of the balustrades are all amazingly impressive. However, the building’s crowning glory is the high central dome, which acts as the focal point and is a masterpiece in stone and light.

Looking up at the ornate dome.
The dome, seen from below.

Be prepared for crowds when you visit, as it’s one of India’s busiest railway stations, with hundreds of passengers passing through its doors each day. The station is the beating heart of Mumbai, its every pulse propelling the city’s financial lifeblood. Therefore, to visit CST is to visit Mumbai in a nutshell.

Use the map below to find accommodations near the train station:

Is Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus worth visiting?

If you’re in Mumbai for a long layover or to do a short city tour, this is where you should probably start. The Terminus is a magnificent example of Victorian Gothic Revival architecture, and its interior is just as impressive as its exterior. The station’s high ceilings, stained glass windows, and ornate carvings are a testament to the city’s colonial past.

station interior with arched ceiling and elegant pillars.

Right across from the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, you’ll find another architectural gem – Mumbai’s Municipal Corporation Headquarter building. Both were designed by the same architect, so they reflect the same colonial grandeur.

CST is also close to other must-sees like the Gateway of India, the Taj Mahal Palace, the Prince of Wales Museum, the Bombay High Court, and even the Mumba Devi Temple, the city’s namesake. So visiting CST means you can tick off a whole bunch of Mumbai’s top spots in one go.

Or sign up for a tour that includes the train station but also other top sights in Mumbai. Click on the images below for lots of choices:

What sorts of travellers would like Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus?

If you love history, culture, or architecture, you must certainly visit Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST). Just walking around and watching people will give you a feel for Mumbai’s colonial past and how the city works today. Within minutes of arriving at CST, you’ll see people in crisp suits hurrying to work, dabbawalas carrying colorful tiffin boxes filled with hot lunches, street food vendors dishing out fragrant mouth-watering food, taxis honking impatiently, buses lumbering by, and cyclists weaving through the chaos. It’s a lively and exciting place to be!

Fun fact: CST was the location of filming the song ‘Jai Ho’ in Slumdog Millionaire.

The main entrance facade of CST with arched entrances and towers framing the entrance.
Photo courtesy of Rachel Heller.

Tips for visiting Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus

Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus is easy to admire from the outside. Entrance and exploration of the main train station are free of charge. A raised platform next to CST, adjacent to the BMC building, offers a photo-worthy vantage point of both landmarks.

While the station buzzes with daily commuters, access to the main building’s interior is currently limited to guided tours. A small but worthwhile rail museum inside is also only accessible with a guide. Recommended tour companies: Raconteur Walks, Khaki Tours.

A long hallway with windows on one side and doors on the other.
A part of the station that is only accessible via tour.

The boats to Elephanta Caves, a UNESCO site on an island just off of Mumbai, leave from quite nearby at the Gateway of India.

Where is Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus?

Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus is located in South Mumbai, also known colloquially as ‘Town’. As it’s a functioning train station, you can reach it by any train running on Mumbai’s Western and Central Lines. If you’re not brave enough to take the local train, taxis or Ubers are an option. From Mumbai’s international airport, it takes about an hour to get here, depending on traffic, and costs around USD 8-10.

For more information about Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, see the Central Railway’s website.

Text and photos provided (except where noted) by Smita Bhattacharya of www.smitabhattacharya.com. Smita is a long-time Mumbaikar with a passion for the city’s hidden gems. She’s always on the lookout for new and interesting places to explore, and loves sharing her finds with others, even if it means boring them to bits.

Have you been to CST in Mumbai? If so, do you have any additional information or advice about this UNESCO World Heritage site? Please add your comments below!

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