Chennai is one of the grand entrance to Southern India. The city was one of the first British Colonies in the country. Colonial rule led to the development of the city structurally and architecturally. Many of the buildings constructed during colonization still stand.
However, Chennai already had a rich cultural heritage that it continues to preserve. May it be the authentic South Indian cuisines, the melodic Carnatic music or the stunning beaches, everything in Chennai exclaims exotic.
Chennai Travel Guide
The footprints of colonial rule still exist in the old neighborhood of Georgetown. However, that is not the only attraction here. Chennai is home to the second longest urban beach in the whole world, Marina Beach.
Exemplary buildings such as Madras University line the shores of the beach. You can stroll along the beach during early morning hours when it is serene and not busy.
One should definitely experience the celebrations of Diwali and Pongal in all its grandeur in this city. Festivals are celebrated with a lot of vigour in this city.
Valluvar Kottam is a memorial made in resemblance of a chariot in the Nungambakkam neighborhood. The science geek in you should not miss the Birla Planetarium in Kotturpuram.
The breathtaking seafront in Kamarajar Salai offers you an exciting journey as you walk up and down the city.
You can view the unique art deco architecture of the surrounding buildings and enjoy the water breeze.
Things To Do In Chennai
1. British Era Buildings
There are numerous monuments and buildings scattered around the city which might take you back in time to the British era. George Town or Muthialpet is one such major area.
A walk down the road beginning from Parry’s Corner will take you past landmarks like the Madras High Court, Kothawal Chavadi, the twin temples of Chenna Mallikeshwarar and Chennakesava Perumal dating back to the 18th century.
This is one of the busiest shopping districts in Chennai and you can buy everything from wholesale fabrics to cosmetics to utensils.
The Madras High court building
2. Government Museum
This museum is located across the striking British-built Pantheon Complex. The big highlight is building 3, the Bronze Gallery, with a marvellous collection of South Indian bronzes from the 7th-century Pallava era through to modern times.
The museum also includes the National Art Gallery, Contemporary Art Gallery and Children’s Museum, on the same ticket. Some sections may be closed for renovation.
The Government Museum
3. Fort Saint George
A delight for history buffs, this fort constructed during the British Rule, encloses historic monuments of St. Mary’s church and St. George museum. The museum houses artefacts from that era including paintings, coins, silverware, arms, porcelain and documents.
The Saint Marys church built around the 17th century happens to be India’s oldest surviving British church, surrounded by even earlier gravestones are located inside this fort. An interesting fact is Clive was married here.
4. Birla Planetarium
Situated close to the Anna University in Chennai, Birla Planetarium is an important part of Periyar Science and Technology Museum.
There are regular audio-visual programs on astronomy conducted here apart from exhibits that include Solar System, Cycle of Stars, Sky and Seasons, Comets and Man on the Moon. Science Park, Traffic Park and Science on Wheels are the highlights of Science Centre which are of interest for the young visitors.
5. Alamparari Fort
The fort built by the Mughals is in ruins today, but you can still witness its grandiosity and splendour from its amazing architecture and layout. Located next to the sea, it offers a view that will surely hold you captive as long as you stay here.
If you want to enjoy the best of the Alamparai Fort, you must visit it either during the early hours in by evening. The golden rays of the rising or setting sun playing hide and seek with the azure water cuddles the entire vicinity and creates a soothing ambience.
The interiors of the library, one of Asia’s largest
Chennai has a long coastline and home to numerous pretty beaches and shorelines. A few worth visiting are
1. Marena Beach
The beach with the longest coastline in the continent is home to numerous activities from shopping, eating to playing in the waters of the beach or just sitting and watching the sunrise. It gets crowded during evenings with many people coming to hang out in its vast shoreline.
You can enjoy a snack or two while playing some of the games set up by the stall vendors in their temporary set up which include shooting balloons or rides for kids. Plus, during the evening you can taste a variety of local dishes served in food carts next to the shore.
The long coastline at Marena
2. Elliots Beach
Now renamed as Besant Nagar Beach called as Bessy by the locals, Elliot’s is one of the places to see in Chennai and less crowded than the popular Marina Beach.
On the southern side of this seashore, are the famedAshta Lakshmi Temple and Velanganni Church, popular among the residents of Chennai.
The Schmidt Memorial near Elliott Beach which was built in remembrance of a Dutch sailor, Karl Schmidt is best to experience a tranquil evening overseeing the waves as they roll into the shore.
The Schmidt Memorial at Bessy beach
This broken bridge which is popularly known by the local is situated at the northernmost tip of Chennai. It is said that during the high tide the water rises to a great height where you will surely get drenched in the sea water. Nettukuppam is the perfect spot for you to spend some time close to nature.
For photography enthusiast, this holds a double treat for you as you can click some memorable pictures. The distance from Chennai to the Nettukuppam beach is 24 km.
4. Guindy National Park
A national park situated in the middle of a city, Guindy has many birds, animals and reptiles as its residents. On visiting this place one can see blackbucks, spotted deer, jackals, tortoise and the likes. The snake park is home to cobras and pythons, while the birds found here include partridge, quail, flycatcher and buzzards.
Sowcarpet is the North Indian hub of Chennai. Known for its snacks stalls, saris, men’s and women’s traditional outfits, Sowcarpet is a shopper’s paradise. You can finish all your shopping on this single street and then wend your way through the heaving crowds towards the numerous chaat shops and small eateries serving traditional Gujarati and Marwari fare.
T. Nagar short for Thyagaraya Nagar is the most important hub for shopping in the city. If we talk of value for money, this is the place that epitomizes the idiom. Not only is this place famous for its collection of sari stores and gold jewellery but also has quite a lot to offer for the entertainment of the tourists too.
The wide streets of T.Nagar
3. Pondy Bazaar
Another famous bazaar in Chennai, the Pondy Bazaar is all for the people looking for some trendy clothes, footwear, mobile phones and accessories. The vividness of this market is surreal and can easily be felt through the street vendors selling their products right under the sun. Also offering a number of the delectable restaurants this place is among the best places to shop in Chennai.
Not to be confused with Paris in France, this street market has it all. All you need to do is hone your bargaining skills and venture in, only to come out with bags full of clothes, toys, chocolates and what not. Craving for an adventure? Walk right into these streets and figure your way out.
The narrow streets at Sowcarpet
Temples and Churches
Being the capital of Tamil Nadu, the state of temples there are numerous temples in the city.
1. Kapaleeshwar Temple
Apart from being a religious spot, what draws crowds to this temple is its unique architecture. The detailed Gopuram of this structure is 37 metres high and is a fine example of the Dravidian style of construction. The temple, home to the deities Shiva and Karpagambal, even holds a festival in the months of March and April.
2. Parthasarathy Temple
One of the historical places to visit in Chennai, this temple is said to be the oldest in the city. Dedicated to Lord Krishna, you can see its splendid coloured gopuram standing in all its glory, distinctly apart from the other shrines that stand within the temple grounds.
3. Sri Vadapalani Andavar Temple
Built in 1890, this temple worships at the altar of Lord Muruga. The temple is dedicated to Lord Muruga and the moolavar is in standing posture and resembles the Palani Muruga. It is one of the most frequented temples in Chennai and is also one of the preferred venues for marriages. Annaswami Nayakar, a devotee of Muruga was the founder of the temple.
4. Ayyapan Temple
The Mahalingapuram Ayyappan temple was the first Ayyappan temple in the city. The temple was built in 1974. has become the ideal place of worship for several devotees. It came into existence because of many devotees proceeding to Sabarimala during the Mandalam-Makaravilakku seasons.
5. Navagraha Temples
There are 9 temples built across the city and are considered as the Navagraha temples in Chennai. They are all dated back in centuries and has significant importance. The nine temples are a representation of nine planets. They are –
- Suryan Sthalam: Kolapakkam Agastheeswarar Temple
- Chandran Sthalam: Somangalam Somanatheswarar Temple
- Angarakan Sthalam: Poonamallee Vaitheeswaran Temple
- Budhan Sthalam: Kovur Sundareswarar Temple
- Guru Sthalam: Porur Ramanatheswarar Temple
- Sukran Sthalam: Mangadu Velleeswarar Temple
- Shani Sthalam: Pozhichalur Agastheeswarar Temple
- Rahu Sthalam: Kundrathur Nageswarar Temple
- Ketu Sthalam: Gerugambakkam Neelakantheswarar Temple
6. San Thome Church
The sparkling white structure of San Thome stands on the tomb of St Thomas. This structure, which is a reminder of the colonial past of the city, has stained glass windows and a statue of St Thomas in a sitting posture. According to devotees, this is the place where St Thomas, who was a disciple of Lord Jesus lived and also attained martyrdom around 2,000 years ago.
7. Vellankani Shire
Just off the Elliot’s Beach stands the AnnaiVailankanni Shrine which is revered by both Christians and non-Christians. The pristine white structure of the church stands to overlook the Bay of Bengal and is visited by thousands each day. You can attend the mass conducted here in both Tamil and English.
8. Saint Andrews Cathedral
Also known as the ‘Queen of Scottish Churches in the East’, St Andrew Church is reminiscent of the Chennai’s past. Built in 1818, its construction was done according to Georgiana and Neo-classical architecture. Well, this also adds to the wonderful outlook and appearance of the church.
Often referred as the ‘St Andrew Kirk’, this opulent marvel of the past showcases the finest blend of art and craft of a bygone era. Unique design, shape and form of this religious structure make it one of the must-visit places in the entire of Chennai and its surroundings.
Experiences to have
- Theater – watch a play in the Museum Theatre where plays are performed often.
- Music and Dance – Famous for its conservative culture, you must visit Chennai during months of January and February where numerous events take place covering cultural events of many famous personalities like at Saarang at IIT Madras. Check out BookMyShow for details
- Shopping – walk into one of their numerous malls to get away from the heat and spend your noon window shopping and trying out delicious food at their food centre.
- Street Food – do take a walk munching their idlis or dosas. If you are near the North Indian Habitation area, then do eat their Chaat, Puffs are a speciality, along with Muruku Sandwich
- Muttukadu – A backwater area of the Bay of Bengal, Muttukadu is one of the tourist places near Chennai where one can get to indulge in water sports. With its extensive facilities, Rowing, water skiing, speed boat riding, windsurfing and paddle boating are possible in Muttukadu.
- Fishing – there is no doubt that fishing is one of the leisure activities which everybody loves to do. So, a visit to the one of the busiest fish harbour at Royapuram Fishing Harbour where you will find people busy and even bustling in the dark. This amazing harbour can accommodate about 575 fishing boats.
The fishing Harbour
- Botanical Park – The Semmozhi Poonga Park is a botanical garden. Overseen by the horticultural department, it is an ideal place to visit in Chennai with family. Apart from the exotic and rare flora grown, there are also some medicinal herbs in the greenhouses of the park. You can relax in their many themed gardens.
- Amusement Parks – Just head out MGM Dizzie World or Queensland for a day of park and water rides
Like almost anywhere you go in India, cricket is the game they love. Chepauk stadium is the place to catch some cricket action. Come IPL season (April-June) the city is always in a joyous mood cheering for their home team Chennai Super Kings. Worth every penny you spend to go watch a match. You will get to feel the zeal of the locals.
It is also the home for some tennis actions with the Chennai Open which happens during February March each year. Nadal has also played here sending the local crowd into a frenzy.
Table tennis, field hockey, football and formula racing and squash are the other popular sports played in the city. The city has many stadiums which host various events. Bowling, video gaming arcade and laser tag arenas can also be found in the city.
CSK supporters in their yellow jersey at the stadium
Nightlife Hot Spots
Now, Chennai has quite a lot of famous places where you can party and enjoy drinks and also some more places where you can enjoy some midnight snacks. So here is a look at the areas in and around the city where you can be expected to have a gala time and enjoy yourself.
- 10 Downing Street
- Cloud 9
- Pasha, The Park
The city is home to famous South Indian Idli vada and Dosas. Pongal is their speciality.
You must try their Filter coffee. Grab their tumbler before sunrise at Saravana Bhavan on RK Salai or those which are served at Tiffin (breaksfast) time in true-blue Mylapore establishments like Karpagamabal Mess and Mami Mess, almost every corner of the city can give you a cup of true filter coffee.
Sundal which is usually boiled white channa (it’s common to find black channa and green peas versions too) tossed with mustard seeds, raw mango, grated coconut and curry leaves is a must try snack.
Being a coastal city it has its share of seafood One of the cities quintessential item is Nethili Fry -fried anchovies tossed in a spicy masala, leading to a final crunchy and scrumptious dish.
As mentioned in the street food section Muruku Sandwich is a must try as it takes a spin on traditional sandwichs to a new level.
Or just stick to ordering a local Thali which will give you everything the locals eat in one big meal.
A cheeese Muruku Sandwich
The city has an international airport where you can fly in. The central railway station a beautiful British Era building is also the hub of activity with trains connecting to many places in the country.
Autos and Taxis are the primary means of transport inside the city. Take note; it is better to travel in metered autos rather than being duped in an unofficial car. State run buses are also plenty. Ola and Uber have their taxi services which are the safest and cheapest for a tourist as the rates are fixed.
The Chennai Central with all its chaos and crowd is still magnificent
Best Time to Visit
It is best to visit between January and March rather than October through December. The city receives heavy rainfall from October to December, which can spoil your travel plans. Avoid visiting in summers as the heat and humidity can be unbearable.
South India is a literate part of the country. Thus, any average Chennai local can speak with you in English, although the lingua franca is Tamil. They do not converse in Hindi or any other Indian Language usually.
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December 8, 2016 9:27 am