Explore These Famous Destinations While Touring Chennai
Welcome to the land of idli, vada, sambar, masala dosa, Carnatic music, Kanjeevaram Sarees, Bharatanatyam, and all things artsy. This place is a traveller’s dream come true!
For starters, did you know that Chennai is the birthplace of the world-famous Filter Coffee? And Tamil language is more than 4 million years old? There is so much splendour hidden in every nook and corner of the city that the list of tourist places in Chennai is endless. Now, without much ado, let me tell you about Namma Chennai (Our Chennai) and what makes it so endearingly special.
Formerly known as Madras, Chennai is the fourth largest and 36th metropolitan city in the world. It is the capital city of Tamil Nadu and has a rich history and culture, which is reflected in the many famous attractions in the city. Chennai is a melting pot of cultures – with countless traditions and myriad cuisines, temples, dance forms and musical renditions. The spirit of Chennai lives and thrives in its vibrant culture and traditions which make the city an integral part of India heritage.
It is the ultimate pick as a weekend getaway or vacation with your family and friends. And while Chennai works its charm on you, make the most of your trip by visiting these attractions in the city.
Top 26 Places to Visit in Chennai for sightseeing
- Covelong Beach
- Marina Beach
- Sri Parthasarathy Temple
- Kapaleeshwar Temple
- Madras High Court and Dakshin Chitra
- Elliots Beach
- Heritage District and Madras Crocodile Bank Trust
- Santhome Church
- Connemara Public Library
- Royapurram Fishing Harbour
- T Nagar and Theosophical Society
- Besant Nagar and Burma Bazaar
- Cholamandal Artist Village and East Course Road
- Birla Planetarium and Anna Centenary Library
- Government Museum, Egmore
- Arignar Anna Zoological Park
- Churches and Art centres
- Breezy Beach
- Kolli Hills
- Apparao Art Gallery
- Madras War Cemetery
- Fort St.George
- Velankanni Shrine
- Semmozhi Poonga
1. Covelong Beach
Covelong Beach is one of the famous beaches of Chennai. Known for its pristine natural beauty studded with a line of palm trees, this beach was once a major port for ships. This beach showcases mesmerizing views of the coastline.
- Adventurous water activities
- Beach camping with the bonfire
Distance: 40 km from Chennai
How to reach: Covelong is well connected to Chennai by road
Best time to visit: November to March
2. Marina Beach
Did you know that Chennai’s Marina Beach is popular for being the second-longest urban beach in the world? It is counted among the most popular beaches in India and is undoubtedly Chennai’s most cherished landmark. In fact, this beach has historical significance. It was indeed so long and wide spread that the British founded the city of Madras here in the first place. The beach is also one of the most preferred venues for everything from weekend picnics to political rallies and protests. Naturally, it is one of the top tourist places in Chennai. Stretched over a distance of 13 kilometres, Marina Beach is the longest natural beach in the country. It is one of the crowded beaches in India with almost 30,000 visitors a day. Enjoy watching sea turtles, sunrise or sunset, cool breeze with a plate of crispy sundal and murukku and cherish the most enchanting experience.
- University of Madras, Senate-House, Chepauk Palace
- Statues of Tamil scholars, Victory of Labour, and Mahatma Gandhi
- 49-meter high Old Light House, which provides a panoramic view and is the only light house in India with a lift
- Country’s first aquarium established in 1909 is known for its extraordinary and rare collections of both tropical and freshwater fishes.
- Famous icehouse where ice brought from the Great Lakes in North America are stored
- Velankanni church and the Ashtalakshmi temple
- Air show and Ceremonial parades on Annual Independence Day, Republic Day
- Marathon and Walkathon campaigns for various causes
- Idol Immersion of Lord Ganesh on the last day of Ganesh Chaturthi
- Kite flying, Beach cricket, Skating arena
Distance: 6 km from Chennai
How to Reach: You can either hire a taxi or drive till the beach
Best time to visit: November to February
Note: Swimming is not allowed in the sea owing to the dangerous tides.
Also known as Mamallapuram, the rock-cut built-up architecture with extensive carvings here will definitely leave you awestruck. Declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, it is one of the rich architectural legacies of the country. Take a quick break from the city, lounge on the sand, relax and click perfect shots in this location.
- One of the oldest temples of South India, the iconic shore temple is carved from a large block of granite.
- Descent of the Ganges or Arjuna’s Penance
- Magical Krishna’s Butterball hanging on a sloping floor, which won’t fall no matter what
- Pancha Rathas carved out of a single rock
- The Sculpture Museum
- Cycling tours
- Mamallapuram Dance Festival
Distance: 55 kms from Chennai
How to Reach: State and private buses ply at regular and frequent intervals from Chennai.
Best Time to Visit: December to March
4. Sri Parthasarathy Temple
Located in Triplicane area of Chennai, it is a 1000 years old temple dedicated to different avatars of Lord Vishnu:- Narasimha, Rama, Gajendra Varadaraja, Ranganatha, and Krishna. Built in the 8th century by Pallava ruler Narasimhavarman I, later on, renovated in 15th century by Vijayanagara kings; Temple name Parthasarathy is based on Sanskrit words which means Arjuna’s (Partha) charioteer (Sarthi) as Krishna was the charioteer, he was called Parthasarathy.
- Sundays moral classes for children
- Donating food to 100 people everyday.
Distance: 6 kms from Chennai
How to Reach: The Temple is very near to the Marina Beach. Taking the MRTS is a great idea to cut through the traffic and reach there fast.
Timings: 5:30 AM – 12:00 PM & 4:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Entry Fee: No
5. Kapaleeshwar Temple
Nearly 1,300 years old, the 125ft tall Kapaleeshwar Temple in Chennai‘s Mylapore area is one of the oldest places of worship in the city. Apart from being a religious landmark, the temple is a major centre of culture and regularly hosts several classical music and dance performances.
As per legend, Goddess Parvati requested Lord Shiva to explain the full meaning of the five lettered Mantra (“Na Ma Shi Va Ya”) and the significance of the sacred ash. When Lord Shiva was explaining this to her, she was attracted by a dancing peacock. Seeing this Lord Shiva got angry and cursed her to become a peacock. It is said that she worshiped Lord Shiva under a “Punnai” tree here in the form of Peacock. Pleased with her penance, Lord Shiva relieved her from the curse. The idol of Goddess Parvathi in a peacock form can be seen in this shrine.
The surrounding area of the temple still retains its traditional Agraharam style of architecture and the temple complex also includes a huge water tank. The Marghazi season is the best time to experience the essence of this cultural Diaspora and the joy it brings!
6. Madras High Court and Dakshin Chitra
Located in George Town, Madras High Court is known not just for its exceptional architecture but also for its magnanimity. It falls among the largest judicial buildings in India. Built in 1892, this building is known for its Indo Saracenic architecture comprising of painted ceilings and stained-glass doors.
If you want a wholesome experience of South India’s culture, traditions, and artworks, Dakshin Chitra captures Chennai’s cultural diversity in a nutshell. This cultural museum is a fine repository of 4 cultures (now five) of major South Indian states and boasts of exhibits such as pre-colonial clothing, farming, music and dance forms, along with architecture. Located on the scenic ECR Highway, it is also widely popular for its numerous stalls that sell everything from traditional and ethnic jewellery to fashion accents and interesting souvenirs.
7. Elliots Beach
L Elliot’s Beach, “Bessie” or “Besant Nagar Beach is one of the cleanest beaches in the city of Chennai. It does not offer much activity but it an ideal spot for long walks. If you love the calm and tranquil place and want to soak your feet in the splashing sea water, head on.
- Velankanni Church
- Ashtalakshmi Temple eight manifestations of Goddess Mahalakshmi.
- Karl Schmidt Memorial is named after the Dutch sailor who lost his life while saving a drowning swimmer
Distance: 60km from Chennai
How to Reach: It is well connected to the main city via all means of transport
Best time to visit: November to February.
8. Heritage District and Madras Crocodile Bank Trust
Chennai being one of India’s oldest colonial cities has a rich history of nearly 400 years. While the city has drastically transformed after our country achieved independence, some part of it, especially the region near Fort St. George and Poonamallee High Road, still retains its colonial charm with several British-era landmarks and architectural buildings. Some of the most popular heritage structures in this area are the Ripon Building, Victoria Public Hall, Southern Railways Headquarters, and the Madras High Court Complex.
The Madras Crocodile Bank Trust is not only one of Chennai‘s best-known wildlife attractions, it is also one of the most reliable research and conservation agencies working in the field of reptile conservation and herpetology.
An initiative to keep the fading species of crocodiles safe; Madras Crocodile Bank Trust was built by herpetologist and wildlife activist Romulus ‘Rom’ Whitaker. It is home to 17 crocodile subspecies and reptiles like frogs, lizards, snakes, and turtles. Students specializing in biology, especially in herpetology, will have a great academic as well as fun experience at the crocodile bank. It is a safe haven for wide varieties of snakes, crocodiles, earthworms, scorpions, tortoises, etc. You will not find such spices anywhere else. Amongst the adventure of exploring the wide range of wildlife spices, you can create some awesome memories with your loved ones.
With an exhibit of more than 2,400 reptilian species, including 14 major species of crocodiles and alligators in the world, the MCBT is the largest crocodile sanctuary in the country. Started in the year 1976 by pioneering conservationists, Zai and Romulus Whitaker, the MCBT takes care of over 5,000 specimens of crocodile and is also extensively involved in the conservation of Olive Ridley turtles.
- Indian tribe Irulas snakes hunting skill is the biggest attractions in the park.
- Saltwater crocodile called Jaws III; 16 feet in length is the famous giant monster largest captive crocodile in the country. Every Sunday afternoon at 4:30 PM visitors can witness the majestic beast at its meal.
- You can take part in their interactive seminars about herpetology.
- You can become a zookeeper for a day and assist the trained caretakers
- You can go on a night safari and check out the nocturnal activities of the famed species.
Distance: 42 km from Chennai
How to Reach: Well connected by train and bus, the transport fare will come to INR 300
Timings: Everyday: 9:00 AM – 5:30 PM (Monday closed)
Night Safari: Everyday: 7:00 PM – 8:30 PM
Entry Fee: Adult: Rs.60, Children (below 10 years): INR 30
For Night Safari entry: Adult: INR 200, Children (below 10 years): INR 100
Best time to visit: November to February.
9. Santhome Church
Take a step back into Chennai’s history when you visit the San Thome Church, which will take you a couple of centuries back. The magnificent white Gothic style church stands close to the Marina Beach was rebuilt by the British in 1893. The church is built on St. Thomas’ grave. San Thome Church is among the sole 3 within the world that house the tombs of 1 of Christ’s original disciples. San Thome Church at Chennai has been declared as a national shrine and is a major pilgrimage centre for Christians in India.
- Its close proximity to the beach makes it more beautiful.
- Clothes, books, and other essentials are distributed in these areas.
Distance: 7 km from Chennai
How to Reach: Well connected to the main city. Many buses pass through the San Thome High Road.
Timings: 6:00 AM to 8:00 PM
10. Connemara Public Library
Constructed in the late 19th century with a collection of over 600,000 books it is one of Asia’s largest libraries. It is heaven for literature geeks or book lover as it is home to several rare books of extreme value. You will find every possible book from foreign to Indian authors, from the latest edition to a fifty-year-old text in this library. So, if you an avid reader and love reading books in a quiet environment, the Connemara Library should be definitely on your to do list during your visit to Chennai.
Distance: 3 km from Chennai central
How to Reach: You can easily each by hiring a taxi from Chennai central.
Timings: Mon to Sat: 9:00 AM to 7:30 PM
Sundays: 9:30 AM to 6:00 PM
The library remains open on all days throughout the year, except on public holiday
Entry Fee: None
Note: Membership is only required for borrowing. So, anyone can visit the library for reading.
11. Royapurram Fishing Harbour
Run by a local fishing community the harbour holds a daily sale quantity of 200 tonnes. Checkout the amazing auction where most of the day’s catch is sold. 30,000 people visit this harbour every day from local fishmonger to wholesale traders from neighbouring states. Jewels of the sea like Pomfret, prawn, lobsters, shark, sardine, crab etc. can be purchased in the market. If you want to experience how local fisherman do business and get fresh fish then visit the Royapuram Fishing Harbour.
Distance: 7 km from Chennai
Timing: 2:00 AM to 3:00 AM
How to Reach: Drive yourself or hire a car.
12. T Nagar and Theosophical Society
In Chennai, the word ‘shopping’ resonates most with T Nagar, and it is as simple as that. From innumerable fashion and jewellery emporiums to the best of boutique stores, this neighbourhood shopping district is a must-visit for anyone interested in regional specialities such as the Kancheevaram silk sarees and traditional wear. The most major mainstream shopping complexes are located on Ranganathan Street and North Usman Road which are mostly jam-packed on weekends and holidays. T Nagar also has a number of great roadside shopping markets and smaller shops and boutiques that are excellent for shopping. So, if you are planning on a list of things to do, Chennai has this locality to keep you busy for hours.
The Theosophical Society is a century old organization, which has rich historical significance. Best known for its sprawling international headquarters campus in Adyar, it passes through the Adyar river estuary which is one of the best-maintained green spaces in Chennai. The campus is a cultural and spiritual centre with a fully functional library. It also hosts numerous talks and cultural events. A quick fact here! Theosophical society is also home to the Adyar banyan tree, which has a history of more than 450 years and is one of the largest banyan trees in India. The Huddleston Gardens of Theosophical Society is the place for peace, created for the purpose of universal brotherhood where there is no distinction between human beings and the intention is to provide the best of teachings of all religions to elevate the quality of humanity.
13. Besant Nagar and Burma Bazaar
Besant Nagar is a famous place in Chennai, known for its beauty and tranquillity. Named after Annie Besant, this place attracts many tourists. People come here mostly to enjoy the calm and peace of the beach waves. Elliott beach, which is one of the tourist places in Chennai, is located here in Besant Nagar. Among the popular restaurants and dessert spots along this promenade are Murugan Idli Shop, Mash, Cozee’s, and Amadora Gourmet Ice Cream.
Famed as one of the most ancient markets in the whole of India, Chennai’s Burma Bazaar is a terrific blend of all things cultural. From used books and cheap grey market electronics to great street food, Burma Bazaar is a must visit for anyone who enjoys street shopping. It gets its name from the Tamil-Burmese community that set up several shops here when they settled in Chennai after they had to move out of Burma (present day Myanmar) when military rule was established there. Over the years, Burma Bazaar has earned the reputation for being one of the most attractive shopping districts in India. The place is also popular for its delicious and lip smacking Burmese Atho cuisine.
14. Cholamandal Artist Village and East Course Road
The East Coast Road (ECR) is one of the most picturesque highways in not just Chennai but all of India. Surrounded by the beautiful sea coast for almost its entire stretch, the part of this highway which falls within Chennai city limits is a great destination for long drives and also has some brilliant tourist attractions which include hidden beaches, resorts, and cultural centres. Some of the most popular attractions along this stretch are the VGP Resorts, Cholamandal Artists Village, and ECR, Akkarai, and Kovalam beaches.
Being blessed with art and music as its foundation, Chennai has a cultural commune dedicated to numerous artists which form the major chunk of cultural artists in the city. Established in the year 1996, the Cholamandal Artists’ Village is nestled on the outskirts of Chennai in Injambakkam Village.
Quick fact! The most astonishing and endearing feature of this place is this little cultural hub and everything about it has been handcrafted and created by artists themselves, without seeking any financial assistance from outside. It has theatre groups, art studios, galleries, workshops and so much more!
15. Birla Planetarium and Anna Centenary Library
Located in Kotturpuram in Chennai, the Birla planetarium is a super fun place to be in. This place is one of the most famous tourist places in Chennai. Showcasing a number of shows, the place is a delight for young adults. The Solar System, Cycle of Stars, Sky and Seasons, Comets, and Man on the Moon are some of the many exhibits here. For science enthusiasts, this place can be a wonderland as it is all about science, solar system, the universe, and facts related to scientific topics. It would be an absolutely interesting place for people who are passionate about science and technology.
Anna Centenary library is an educational complex which was recently completed in the year 2010 and is one of India’s largest and fabulously well-equipped libraries. Frequently visited by students, locals and research experts from all across the country, the library is home to over 1.2 million books, periodicals, encyclopaedias and volumes. The library features several state-of-the-art facilities such as a digital library and internet centre, an extensive Braille and children’s section and also an entire floor dedicated to regional and Tamil language books.
Many school students and scholars visit the place quite often for exploring the new researchers and addition to the place. This would be the perfect place for those who love following their curiosity and have an insatiable thirst for knowledge.
16. Government Museum, Egmore
Counted first and oldest public museums among all museum in India, the Government Museum complex in Egmore’s Pantheon Road has been one of Chennai’s most famous recreational and educational attractions for more than 160 years. The museum is best known for its extensive numismatics collection and artefacts related to Tamil history. The museum complex also houses other popular attractions such as the Museum Theatre, a popular stage venue in the city and the Connemara Public Library, which is one of the oldest in the country. This is something that you can cover during your Chennai sightseeing tour.
17. Arignar Anna Zoological Park
Are you ready to have some more fun during your Chennai sightseeing? Highly recommended is the Vandalur zoo or popularly known as the Arignar Anna Zoological Park for family outings and picnics. This park makes for an ideal destination for kids as it brings them closer to nature. This zoological park is the best option to have fun both for the kids and adults. Jeep safari and a visit to the waterfall is a must!
The Vandalur Zoo, in its current form, is the largest zoological park in India and attracts thousands of visitors every day. Dating back to 1855, it started off as the Madras Zoo in the Government Museum complex by noted conservationist Edward Balfour and it earned recognition as the first public zoo in India. Today, the zoo is widespread in Vandalur and is a safe home for more than 1,500 wild species, including 46 varied species of mammals, birds, reptiles, and insects.
18. Churches and Art centres
The There are so many beautiful churches in Chennai. Right across the Elliot’s Beach, the Velankanni Shrine is also called the Annai Vailankanni Shrine, a sacred shrine for both Christians and non-Christians. This pristine white structure overlooks the Bay of Bengal. In Mylapore, the Santhome Church of Chennai is again a must visit as detailed above. The beautiful architecture of this church invokes nostalgia and takes you back to the colonial times with its stained-glass windows. It also houses a library, museum and a shop which provides prayer materials.
Also, there is no way you can miss these artistic and cultural institutions dedicated to the fine arts and performing arts. Do pay a visit to Kalakshetra, which is a cultural centre dedicated to preserving Indian art and dance. And the Rukmini Devi Museum, the Craft Education & Research Center, and the College of Fine Arts set in gurukulam-like ambience. Dakshinachitra, which is just a little less than 30 km from Chennai, is also a beautiful place where you can experience the traditions and customs of the Dravidian life.
19. Breezy Beach
This beautiful golden beach lies away from the city in its own silent way. This less populated beach, also known as Thirumviyar beach is the main attraction for the nature lovers. Situated in the village named Valmiki Nagar in Chennai. This less crowdy beach adorns the purity of the ambience.
Attractions: You can enjoy a quite breezy evening here which is the main attraction of this place.
Best time to visit: You can visit here at any time of the year to enjoy the different form of nature.
Distance: 16.1 Km (36 min) from Chennai.
Entry Fee: No
Timing: You can visit here any time of the day.
20. Kolli Hills
This hill carries an ominous name meaning Mountain of Death. This place is located in Namakkal District of Tamilnadu. This commercially untouched place bears out the true self of nature. It also has a religious touch as Arappaleshwar Temple which is dedicated to Lord Shiva is placed here.
- Tourists can reach to the top of the hill through winding road through a small jungle.
- It can be a 3-4 hours small trek for all adventure lovers.
- A marvellous bird eye view of the city from the top of the hill.
- Siddhar Caves, Masi Periyasamy Temple and Falls, Selur Viewpoint and Seekuparai are some of the must-visit sights around the Koli Hills
Distance: From Chennai the place is 371Km.
Best time to visit: September-March
21. Apparao Art Gallery
Chennai is considered to be the motherland of art. The Tamil language is a 4 million years old language so their art practices. Apparao Art Gallery is the oldest art gallery. This privately-owned place is located in Nungambakkam, Chennai. This place opens at 11 a.m.Tourist can visit till 9 p.m while Sunday is closed for visitors.
- Walls are covered with paintings and motifs.
- There is trees and bonsais everywhere which is a feast of eyes.
- Sharan Apparao the founder of this gallery arranges small workshop season occasionally.
Distance: 4.2Km from Chennai.
Timings: 11a.m-7p.m.Sunday closed.
Entry Fee: No
Best Time to visit here: Any time of the whole year can be visited except Sunday.
22. Madras War Cemetery
Madras War Cemetery is a great initiative where Second World War graves of many civil and cantonment cemeteries in the south and east of India, are received together in order to give them proper maintenance and significant memoranda. Madras War Cemetery is located on Mount-Poonamallee Road, Nandabakkam.
- This neatly cleaned place is like a perfect place for some quality time.
- Will be able to know pasts of the Indian army who served and died in foreign country.
- The place is perfect for good photography for its mixture of green and colours of flowers.
Distance: Via Chennai Trichy Highway its 14.4Km distance.
Timing: 8a.m-5.30p.m on Monday to Saturday.Sunday and other public holidays it remains closed.
Entry Fee: No
Best Time to visit: October-February.
23. Fort St.George
This place was first built fort by British India, in 1640 now it is turned into a small war memorial. Some unique things you’ll be able to see here like old weapons, beautiful paintings and others. Along with the long paved way, big round pillars, high ceilings, old furniture the building carries a heap of history with it.
- For history buffs, this place is a perfect getaway for them.
- Wonderful collection of paintings and old weapons used of that time.
- This place is located near the sea beach.
Distance: Via Beach Rd/Rajaji Rd its 3.9km away.
Entry fee: 5-100INR
Timing: 9am-5pm,Sunday Closed
Best time to visit: Any time of the year.
24. Velankanni Shrine
This beautiful white building is considered to be the most sacred place in the town. This is the oldest basilica of the city with high-end top, recurring the European architecture. It is situated in the Velankanni village at Tamilnadu. A large premise is neatly maintained as well as inside of the church is decorated with all the essentials of the particular religion.
- This place has lodging system too, controlled by church authority.
- Serene and peaceful place for a true celestial feeling.
Distance: Via NH32 Velankanni Shrine is 313.4Km away.
Entry Fee: No
Timing: 5a.m-9p.m all days in a week.
Best time to visit: This place is available throughout the year for the visitors but during Christmas, it should be the best time to peep in.
25. Semmozhi Poonga
This place is a great instance of natural advent in an artificial manner. This is a botanical garden set up jointly by the Horticulture and Agricultural Engineering department of the Government of Tamil Nadu.
- The silence will ease your mind over here.
- Stunning arrey of water fountains and the artificial lake is the most joyful for children.
- Perfect a place for nature photography but they charge 50INR for the camera.
Distance: The distance between Semmozhi Poonga to Chennai is 5km.
Entry Free: 15 INR for adults and 10INR for children.
Timing: 10a.m-7p.m all days of the week.
This 17th century Dutch fort is the amalgamation of Indian history and foreign tradition. Entering through a large wall and a giant gate you will be welcomed by found Stoney benches under a tamarind tree. The tall grass and trees leave you to an age-old fort which was in use once and you can feel the vibe of the history embedded in every nook of this fort.
- At the very top of the fort you can observe a sea and enjoy a calm and breezy sunset from there.
- There has almost 10 engraved tombs with beautiful motifs which is worth clicking pictures.
Distance: 60 km from Tambaram and 16 km from Mahabalipuram.
Timing: 9a.m-5.30p.m. All Days
Best time to Visit: November-March.Try to avoid visiting in monsoon.
So, take your pick from the above recommendations or plan to explore it all, depending on the number of days you wish to spend in Chennai trip, your budget and where you decide to stay. From temples, churches, beaches, libraries, markets, to natural parks, Chennai is a coastal city that has it all. If you are planning a visit to this metropolis popularly considered the cultural gateway of South India you will find a host of famous places to explore. Without further ado, get set, pack your bags and head out to Chennai and immerse yourself in this beautiful city.
P.s. You might like these related resources:
- The best time to visit Chennai and the best places to make your visit worthwhile
- Historical Places In and Near Chennai That You Can’t Afford To Miss Out On
- Top 10 Weekend Getaways From Chennai That’ll Leave You Spellbound
- Activities in Chennai that Make it a Unique Metropolis