Formerly known as Madras, Chennai is the capital city of the state of Tamil Nadu, in the southern part of India. Located on the Coromandel coast of Bay of Bengal, Chennai is as dynamic as it is immersed in tradition. This ‘capital of the south’, is one among the four metropolitan siblings of India, having a rich cultural history which it perfectly balances with its metropolis lifestyle.
Amid its chaos of traffic and sweltering humid climate, Chennai is worth visiting for its temples steeped in south-Indian culture, British-era museums and monuments, culinary delights and Marina Beach (Second largest urban beach in the world). Chennai’s skyline is famous for its towering skyscrapers, but the heart of Chennai has an old-world charm to it that refuses to be overshadowed.
One of the most visited Indian cities by foreign tourists, Chennai houses almost 2467 heritage buildings within the metropolitan area – highest within any city limit in the country. The Mylapore and Triplicane areas are famous for their beautiful, serene temples and delicious cuisine, while North Chennai areas like Sowcarpet are dotted with shops selling everything under the sun, including clothes, bicycles, food and electronic items.
Vestiges of the British rule like the stunning Madras University and Queen Mary’s College, the Ripon Building and the museums are lovely examples of the Indo-Saracenic style of architecture that the metropolitan is known for. The modern metropolis of Chennai – a buzzing city of glorious beaches, monuments standing as a testament to the time, and the people who have preserved age-old traditions – is sure to sneak its way into your hearts.
Places to Visit
Situated in the city of Chennai in Tamil Nadu, Marina Beach is a natural urban beach along the Bay of Bengal. The beach is stretched out to a distance of 13 kilometres making it the longes10 Things to Do in Chennai
t natural urban beach in the country, second largest in the world and also the most crowded beach in India with almost 30,000 visitors a day.
With a white sandy shore that looks as though extending to infinity, the landscape of Marina Beach is a mesmerising and serene sight to behold. The beach has a primarily sandy terrain and is dotted with plenty of merry-go-rounds and shops selling souvenirs. You could take a walk along the Marina beach with your near and dear ones or even all alone and enjoy the cool evening sea breeze along with a hot plate of crispy sundal and murukku. Watching the sun crawl upwards into the sky or even disappear into the ocean from the beach, is an awe-striking and enchanting experience.
Mylapore is one of the oldest and culturally enriched neighbourhoods, located in the southern part of Chennai. However, the area precedes the birth of Chennai or Madras, as the British named it, by at least some 1500 years. The city had already seen a lot of eventful history pass by even before the British stepped on this land. Mylapore is also very much traditionalist to its core and boasts of many temples, churches and historical monuments. At the same time, it is also stepping up to match the modern world with shopping malls, tree-lined beautified avenues and other attractions to meet the expectations of the urban tourists.
Mylapore has a native name as well. It is called Thirumayilai by the locals, which is taken from a Tamil word meaning “the land of the peacock’s scream”. It is an undeniable ode to a large number of peacocks which once roamed the land of Mylapore before commercialisation took over. The presence of peacocks is evident from the architectural designs of the Kapaleeswarar Temple or the San Thome Church – two ancient sites of the neighbourhood. Mylapore has its mention in several accounts by writers, poets, explorers and folklores that have roots in the ancient time. From European colonising groups to explorers like Marco Polo to Tamil Saivite poets, there are praises of this old city and its splendour everywhere. A visit to the important sites in Mylapore as well as a look around the neighbourhood itself should be on every traveller’s list who is visiting Chennai. In one word, Mylapore can be called the nerve centre of the city.
Vadapalani Murugan Temple
Vadapalani Murugan Temple is one of the most frequented places of worship for Hindus in Chennai. It has its roots fixed in numerous legends and myths, especially about its founder and first priest Annaswamy Naikar. He had a dream about this deed he must do for his good as well as the benefit of the society, and thus he started worshipping Lord Murugan at his home instead of trying to find him elsewhere. This small shrine was later transformed into the colossal premise with multiple deities that you can see today. The temple is known for helping devotees finding solutions to life’s problems. People come here seeking answers to their marital, academic and professional problems. Many devotees claim that worshipping here has assisted them to get over the trouble and find peace in life.
It is also believed that worshipping Lord Murugan here is as pious as praying to him at the original Palani temple. If someone is unable to visit the original abode, they can pay their respects here, and Murugan will bless them all the same. Vadapalani Murugan Temple has a rich history and an ornate architecture and is also enriched with people’s faiths from all-over the country. If you visit the temple on any of the days of the special festivals, you will get to see the popularity Murugan has in this place.
The significance of San Thome Church is unparalleled in the history of Christianity in India. The church, which was once constructed as a mausoleum in memory of Saint Thomas, has now grown to be a Basilica, as stated by the then Pope in 1956. San Thome Church is among the only three in the world that house the tombs of one of Christ’s original disciples. The other two are St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City and Santiago de Compostela Cathedral in Galicia, Spain.
If you visit the St Thomas Church in Mylapore, you will be stepping into a historical tale that will take you back a couple of centuries. Beneath the towering white structure of the basilica minor lies the last remains of the saint, who once used to be one of the twelve apostles of Christ and came over to India in 52 AD to spread the religion. He is considered to be the patron saint of Christianity in India, as he converted a large population of locals in Kerala and Tamil Nadu with his wise words and preaching, and formed the community which now calls themselves Syrian Christians. The museum inside the church displays souvenirs of the great saint and his legend so that the visitors can be acquainted with the glorious past of San Thome Church.
Madras War Cemetery
The Madras War Cemetery, right in the heart of the city of Chennai, is a recognition of the glory as well as horrors of the war our ancestors have fought to make this world a more peaceful place. In short, it houses the last remains of around 855 martyrs who laid down their precious lives at the battlefronts in the devastating Second World War and also a Memorial stone for 1000 more who died fighting in the Great War before that. In 1952, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the Indian Government together established this cemetery to commemorate those who died to save our lives. Among the tombstones, there are three non-World War martyrs and a small memorial for a sea merchant as well. It must be remembered that the headstones are not only of soldiers who fought but of doctors, nurses and other support staffs as well.
Top class maintenance by the authorities has kept the cemetery in great shape. Even though it has its roots in a sad and bloody past, the cemetery lawn feels like a serene and peaceful place for the dead to rest. It hosts the Armistice Day homage every year on November 11 with wreath offerings and Guard of Honours. Anybody interested in war-time history or wants to pay their respect to the martyrs should visit the Madras War Cemetery. It is not only a remembrance but a tangible proof of the cost of war.
Dakshinachitra Museum, located in Chennai, is one of the living-history museums in India. It stores in itself great works of architecture, crafts, performing arts, and lifestyles that belong to South India. The museum has its vision and mission to promote the cultures of South Indian states by making them more engaging and enjoyable for its viewers. It is a project of Madras Craft Foundation which is an NGO that was opened to the public on 14th December 1996. The heritage museum is home to 4,220 artefacts and 1,000,000 pictures. Visiting here will give you an in-depth knowledge of south Indian heritage. You are going to leave with the most magnificent treasures of learning.
Developed in the form of a village, it showcases the traditional lifestyle of South Indians. It is a collection of 18 authentic houses, each having its own contextual exhibition. These homes are purchased, broken down, transported and lastly reconstructed by professional artisans or Stapathis who belong to the places from where the houses are bought. Moreover, Dakshina Chitra itself means the ‘house of south’. So, if you are a person of history, and a person of culture who is deeply attached to its roots this place is for you. Visit Dakshinachitra Museum to explore and learn about the life and history of South India.
Elliot’s Beach aka “Besant Nagar Beach” or “Bessie” is located in Besant Nagar, Chennai. Also known as Besant Nagar Beach, It forms the end-point of the Marina Beach shore and is named after Edward Elliot (who was once the Chief Magistrate, Superintendent of Madras and Governor of Chennai during the British times). It has the Velankanni Church and the Ashtalakshmi Kovil in the vicinity. The mesmerising beach is one of the cleanest beaches in the city of Chennai. Located towards the south of Marina Beach, an incredibly calm and tranquil place, it does not offer much activity hence, is an ideal spot for long walks. Moreover, the site is perfect for the ones who want to soak their feet in the splashing sea water and lose themselves entirely in the arms of nature.
Elliot’s Beach is quite famous among the tourists as well as the natives of the state. In the colonial times, it was a place limited to white people. The beach is popular with local college students and families. There are many restaurants near the beach with mouth-watering cuisines. There is a police outpost at the beach, and the crowd is managed via all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) to prevent drowning mishaps. Many people drowned at the beach in 2010, seeing which the government sanctioned two more ATVs the very next year.
The beach is often visited by travellers for sunbathing, relaxing and visiting the famous ancient monuments nearby. It is usually less crowded than the famous Marina Beach and hence, preferred by the travellers. During the evening hours, one can spot various youngsters roaming around the beach as this beach offers the perfect retreat, away from the city life of metropolitan.
The Connemara Public Library
The year 1896 witnessed the inauguration of a new and remarkable landmark in the city of Chennai- the Connemara Library, which is a treasure trove of books, newspapers, periodicals and other related texts. A library is a place where you will unquestionably find every text that you can look for. The Connemara Public Library is one of the four national depository libraries of the country and hence, it receives copies of all books and other texts that published in India. Its history dates back to over a hundred years, and till date, the library remains a repository of century-old publications.
The fantastic collection at the Connemara Library includes books, journals, magazines and Braille manuscripts among other texts. Located at Egmore in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, it forms a small part of the Madras museum as well. A new building was added to the library in the year 1973. This new structure boasts of a vast collection of textbooks that a visitor might be looking for. The building has a video room, a periodical hall, a reference room and an entire floor that is solely dedicated to Indian books. The total collection of books in the library goes up to beyond six lakh copies! The Connemara Library has everything that a literature geek or book lover could wish for. It is thus in no way an overstatement to say that the library is a readers’ heaven. That the library is well maintained adds to the grandeur of the place. The only drawback that one can think of concerning the Connemara Library is that because of the enormous collection of books; the library usually remains crowded.
Valluvar Kottam is a temple chariot like-monument in Chennai, built to honour the renowned classical Tamil poet and saint, Thiruvalluvar. This intricately designed monument was built by Kalaignar M.Karunanidhi during the 1970s to honour the contributions of Thiruvalluvar. A popular Tamil poet and philosopher, he has been attributed with the creation of Thirukkurals which are hailed as one of the greatest works of Tamil literature. Valluvar Kottam is known for its great architecture, built with innovative layouts and well-thought execution. The sublime beauty of Valluvar Kottam is best experienced during the morning hours when the city is just waking up to the day, or you can make a visit to this destination during the evening hours when the sun is just setting over the horizon. The magnificent design of the Valluvar Kottam is a wonderful sight to behold, which makes it the perfect destination to click a few pictures.
In addition to being an important tourist destination in the city, Valluvar Kottam also plays host to some of the most important exhibitions and events in the city. Handlooms and handicrafts are regularly hosted in the auditorium here which is an air-conditioned facility and is a good way to spend a few hours admiring the artistic beauty of both the what lays inside and outside. The monument is complimented perfectly by a temple car, which is fixed to the floor but is a delightful addition to the edifice. Another interesting fact about the Valluvar Kottam is that you can also see a few saplings here which were planted here by Mother Teresa herself, and are marked by a stone plate marking the year 1984.
MGR Film City
Having been established in the year 1994, a considerably new structure, the MGR Film city is managed by the Government of Tamil Nadu in loving memory of MG Ramachandran who was not only a crowd-pleasing tamil actor but also a longtime CM of Tamil Nadu.
Covering a massive 70 acres at Taramani in Chennai, the MGR Film City is a popular tourist hotspot and the place-to-be for several South Indian films directors. Besides being the best place to catch a glimpse of a popular Tamil actor and the film city also has a film school, indoor and outdoor shooting locations, replicas of village and urban areas, temple, church, mosque, post office, police station, prison, courtroom, and landscaped gardens in Italian, Japanese and Mughal styles. They recently opened the MGR Knowledge Park which has been adding to the attraction.
Must Try Food in Chennai
- Annalakshmi Restaurant
- The Flying Elephant
- Kaidi Kitchen Veg Restaurant
- Absolute Barbecue T-Nagar
- The Marina
- Onesta OMR
- Ratna Cafe
- The Waterfall Restaurant
- Rayar’s Mess
How To Get There
Chennai is well connected to both national and international cities via air. From the airport, the cheapest way to the city is by taking the suburban train into the city which only costs Rs 12.
Chennai can be easily accessed via road. It is connected to all major cities via road.
This city is well connected with major cities in the country and daily trains are easily available. The suburban train connects you to Chennai Central and Egmore, the two main passenger train stations.