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Chennai

3.6 /5 161 votes

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Best Time: Oct-Mar Read More

Ideal duration: 2-3 days

Nearest Airport: Chennai Check Flights

"A magnificent past and an early metropolitan dream"

Chennai Tourism

Formerly known as Madras, Chennai is the fourth largest city in the country, and it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in South India. A city that has a rich cultural history, Chennai perfectly balances its heritage with its thriving modern lifestyle. A metropolis with a heart, Chennai?s skyline is famous for its towering skyscrapers which form a scenic vista along the coast, but the heart of Chennai still remains in the multitude of old temples and churches dotting various parts of the city. Steeped in rich South-Indian culture, Chennai is a city that has a plethora of dimensions that one can explore, and regardless of where you go, the city has an old-world charm to it that refuses to be overshadowed.

Chennai is home to the second largest beach in the world, the Marina Beach, which is one of the most happening spots in the city. At any hour of the day, Marina Beach is filled to the brim with people, both locals and tourists, basking in the soft warmth of the sun and the sand, with the crystal clears waters of the ocean lapping at their feet. The beach is lined with eateries and stalls where you can go for a quick snack, or for some souvenir shopping.

Chennai has some of the oldest temples in the country, such as the Parthasarathy Temple, the Kapaleeshwarar Temple and the Ashtalakshmi Temple. All of these temples have very colourful facades with towering spires that are as intimidating as they are impressive.

Seeing as Chennai had an important role to play in the colonial era, the city has its fair share of historical museums and monuments which are a testament to the days gone by. The most important of these is Fort. St. George, which is considered one of the first British establishments in the country. The monument is more than just a throwback to the colonial age; this fort also houses the state's Legislative Assembly and Secretariat. Another tourist spot steeped in history is the Government Museum, which is also a British-era building and houses a very detailed record of the history of India. Other historical buildings include the National Art Gallery and the Connemara Public Library.

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History of Chennai

The city of Madras, started out its journey towards becoming modern day Chennai - capital of the state of Tamil Nadu, manufacturing hub of the country and hence the ‘Detroit of India’ ; as a part of the famous Vijayanagara kingdom. The 400 year old city thus has a colorful history which has contributed to its rich heritage, grandiose architecture, culture and traditions. It has been ruled by all major South Indian dynasties such as the Cholas, Pandyas, Pallavas and the Vijayanagaras. Due to its ideal location on the Bay of Bengal coast, it tempted not just the British, but also the Portuguese and the Dutch before them. The Portuguese were the first to come in 1522, and constructed the beautiful church Sao Tome. The land was part of the Vijayanagara kingdom when the British arrived, who quickly established their supremacy over the city, with the support of the diminished Dutch and Portuguese forces. The Madras Presidency was thus established in South India in the late 18th century. The development of railways and ports thus made the city an important linchpin for the British, and it was the only Indian city to be bombed by the Germans during the First World War. Following India’s independence in 1947, the city was named as the capital of Tamil Nadu. Madras also played a major role in the Tamil agitation against the Centre’s attempt to impose Hindi as the main language for communication in the 1960s. In the 1980s, the city was engulfed in political violence during the Sri Lankan civil war. In 1998, the city was renamed Chennai, in honor of Damarla Venkatadri Nayaka, who was the chieftain of Chennapatnam when the British arrived in India over a century ago, thus retaining in its name a legacy of its historical roots.

Shopping in Chennai

Chennai is famous for being one of the best shopping destinations in the country, and be it street shopping or shopping in the classiest of malls, Chennai has everything you could possibly need. If you are someone who loves shopping, then Chennai won't leave you disappointed. T Nagar, also known as Thyagaraya Nagar, is the most famous shopping district in the town, and you buy anything starting from trinkets and junk jewellery to expensive Chennai Silk Sarees.

Some of the important and famous shopping destinations in Chennai are Pondy Bazar, Anna Salai, T-Nagar, Anna Nagar, Egmore and Mylapore. For the people looking for high-end branded shopping, there are also several malls in Chennai like the Spencer Plaza, Chennai Citi Centre, Express Avenue and Phoenix Market City.

Nightlife in Chennai

Despite being a metropolitan, Chennai's nightlife is not as happening as you would expect it to be. Though the nightlife scene has been improving in the recent years, yet most of the bars and pubs only regulate in high-end hotels due to some regulations. The bars and pubs are prohibited from regulating after midnight. Some of the mid-range hotels also have drinking room where you can have a nice time. Some of the famous bars and nightclubs in Chennai are The Westminster, Zara's 10 Downing Street, The Leather Bar, Pasha and Elixir. Make sure to dress neatly as most of these places have a strict dress code.

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Chennai's Legacy - Culture and Localities

Madras, as Chennai was formerly known was a thriving city much before the arrival of the British. Mylapore and Triplicane areas are famous for their beautiful, serene temples and delicious cuisine. 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 Museum are all lovely examples of the Indo -Saracenic style architecture. A glimpse of these buildings is sure to transport one back in time.

Restaurants and Local Food in Chennai

Chennai’s local cuisine consists of traditional South Indian food such as sambar, dosas and idlis. Ranging from street side stalls to upscale restaurants, you can enjoy a complete gourmet experience in Chennai.

Chennai like any sparkling city that is constantly growing and expanding in all its spheres, fosters a cuisine that provides countless options. The city has a vibrant street food culture as well as well laid out and flattering fine dining experiences. While you can try a number of cuisines and foods here, one must not miss what Chennai is known for- traditional and authentic South-Indian cuisine. Hence do not miss the filter coffee as well as items like Idli, Dosa, Appam, Vada, Upma, Sambhar, Parotha, Chettinad Chicken, Pepper Chicken, Chicken Stew, Sweet Pongal, Kesari, Payasam and much more. Read more about Street Food in Chennai.

Here is a list of some amazing Cafes in Chennai

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Suggested Itinerary

Day 1 - Reach Chennai by morning. Start your sojourn South-Indian style by having Chennai's famous idlis, vadas, and dosas at one of the popular restaurants like Sangeetha's or Murugan Idli shop. Team it up with a glass of steaming hot filter coffee. Next, head out to Mylapore to get a flavor of traditional Tamil culture which includes the famous Kapaleshwara temple, and shops selling local artefacts and jewellery. In the evening, pay a visit to the bustling Marina beach and perhaps even catch a local performance or play if you're lucky, in addition to the beautiful sunset!


Day 2 - Take a day trip to Dakshinchitra museum, located around 25 km to the south of Chennai city. After a scenic ride along the ECR coast, revel in the museum's portrayal of South Indian culture, art, and craft. Further, explore some local South Indian cuisine for dinner at restaurants in Alwarpet or Adyar.


Day 3 - Devote this day to satisfy your shopping cravings by visiting some of the city's famous shopping areas like T. Nagar and Pondy Bazar, where you can find traditional Kancheevaram silk and other local goodies. For a relaxed afternoon and evening, take a ride through Guindy National Park, and check out the Government Museum and the Birla Planetarium. If time permits, a stroll through IIT Madras would offer you glimpses of deer and peacocks amidst the lush green foliage of the campus. End your trip with an experience of Chennai's nightlife at Besant Nagar beach with a dinner and drink at one of the lovely restaurants there like BOATs (Based On A True Story).

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Holidify's Opinion

What's Great?

Accessible from all over the country and has excellent transport facilities.

What's Not So Great?

Temperatures are very high from March to October. Most of the people do not speak Hindi and English, knowledge of basic Tamil may be required. Auto drivers are known to charge higher rates to non-locals

For Whom?

Chennai is ideal to be used as a base for people looking for a trip to South India. Chennai is also suitable for beach lovers.
If you’re a nature lover, or even if you just want to escape the bustle of the city and find some peace and quiet, a visit to the Pulicat Lake (and Bird Sanctuary) is a must. Home to a vast variety of rare species of birds, including egrets, herons, flamingos, and sandpipers, this lake is one of the most famous bird sanctuaries in the country. Tourists can opt to go on boat rides and cruises and watch a beautiful sunset amidst the melodious chirping of the birds.

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How To Reach Chennai

This city is well connected with major cities in the country and daily trains are easily available. Chennai is also 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. The suburban train connects you to Chennai Central and Egmore, the two main passenger train stations.

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Chennai Reviews

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Sukanya Ghosh 10 months ago
Good for shopping, food and medical facilities. I wouldn't recommend the beaches such as Marina Beach, it was very dirty and crowded. Still developing compared to the other metropolitan cities. The weather is very harsh so do use a lot of sunscreen. Transport may be a problem, apart from that Chennai makes for a good short trip.
Parvathi Preethan 11 months ago
Some tips while visiting Chennai ! 1) If you are visiting Chennai during the south-east monsoon season (November-December) and are unlucky to get caught in the showers, avoid low lying areas like T. Nagar and Valluvar Kottam to escape the traffic and floods. 2) Another tip for a rainy day – Better to carry a raincoat in Chennai, as umbrellas are not effective enough in the face of heavy winds and rains. 3) Autos in the city don’t run by meters, hence it is better to stick to cabs as the language barrier makes it difficult for effective bargaining. 4) In light of the recent bout of dengue and other fevers, better to be safe and carry mosquito repellent creams, especially while visiting outdoor locations like beaches. 5) Chennai heat is scorching; make sure to avoid getting dehydrated by drinking only bottled water from recognizable brands.
Surbhi Parashar 11 months ago
The metropolitan capital of Tamil Nadu - Chennai; is located on the south-east coast of India and offers travellers the best of both the sea and the land - with its beaches, heritage temples and churches. The city is also known fondly for its many culinary delights and is a shopping haven providing both traditional and cosmopolitan options. Chennai assumes a significant position in defining both the cultural history storehouse as well as the modern early morning dream that India is. With so much of the past and future to sustain, Chennai provides the tourist with a complete experience with little left unchecked. From beaches to historical monuments, temples, shrines to churches, Chennai is a modestly holistic destination. To name a few attractions, we have the Marina beach, a Portuguese church, Kapileswara temple and much more. A synonym to the automobile capital of India, Chennai is a city with diverse experiences to offer.
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