An Ode To Madras
On 22nd August, Chennai, which was erstwhile known as Madras, will complete 380 years since its inception. The day marks the grand event when the British East India Company signed the purchase order for the villages of Madraspatnam and Chennapatnam from Damarla Venkatadri Nayaka, the Viceroy of the Vijaynagar Empire. The entire idea behind the celebration of this iconic day is to bring into limelight the rich heritage and culture of a city that has rapidly burgeoned into one of the most happening metros in the country. Fort St George, where the transaction took place 15 years ago still stands erect as a testimony to the history of the city.
Not many know though that the event hasn’t always been celebrated with much fanfare. 15 years back, some concerned and devoted citizens highlighted the need to notch up the festivities to keep the spirit of the city alive in the minds of the residents and the future generations as well. During the week-long celebration from 18th August to 25th August, indulge in walks to the famous places to visit in Chennai, that will remind you of the immense significance of the cultural history of the city, in the form of heritage walks and lectures, book releases and food festivals and lots more.
Chennai remains one of those cities where age-old customs meet modern traditions, in the most effortless fashion. The city that boasts of a remarkable culture, doesn’t seem to stray far behind when it comes to experimenting with new. It is no longer just the city of filter kaapi and idli-sambar obsessed, religiously devout citizens. There is no doubt that Chennaites have come-of-age and transformed into enthu-cutlets who are all out to inhale the air of change. If you’re planning a visit to Chennai, then mind you, certainly take note of our recommendations to ensure that you don’t miss out on the best that the city has to offer. Ready, steady and po!
8 Places To Visit In Chennai
1. Marina Beach
Marina Beach is one of Asia’s longest beaches and hence, definitely tops the chart when it comes to the top places to visit in Chennai. Tourists and locals can be found in equal proportion lazying at the beach, indulging in some harmless banter and delicious snacks as the sea breeze plays with their hair. The lighthouse is also touted as a famous spot offering a spectacular view of a string of ships along the line of sight. Swimming at Marina Beach is strictly restricted but there is no harm in dipping your feet in the waves that wash across the shore. Whether you’re looking to catch a glimpse of the magnificent sunrise-sunset or enjoy some fun sportive time with your companions, the beach is definitely a must-visit.
2. Chennai Central Railway Station
Chennai Central Railway Station, earlier known as Madras Central, is undoubtedly the most bustling place in the city. Not many are aware that it is now officially known as Puratchi Thalaivar Dr. M.G. Ramachandran Central Railway Station, to honour the late chief minister of the city, Dr. M.G. Ramachandran. Whether you’re looking to travel inter-city or intra-city, this is the place to be. The 146-year-old station which is also touted as the busiest railway stations across southern India was designed by architect, George Harding.
3. Guindy National Park
A fact still unknown to many, Guindy National Park is one of the few places in a city to be present within the city limits. Providing a dense cover of flora and fauna, this spot definitely invites quite a number of people looking to be amazed by the diversity of birds and species as well as a chance to refresh their lungs. Spread over 2.70 sq. km and home to over 130 species of birds and 14 species of mammals, including the Blackbuck, spotted deer, and jackal, this spot is a treasure for nature and wildlife enthusiasts. Looking for an added dose of adventure? The venomous pythons and cobras will definitely appeal to you at the Guindy National Park. Proximity to the airport also makes for a strategic location.
4. Kapaleeshwarar Temple
Kapaleeswarar Temple in Mylapore is one of the oldest places of worship in the city. Dating back to nearly 1,300 years ago, this religious landmark also functions as a major cultural spot by hosting several classical music and dance performances. The magnificent temple has been constructed in the traditional Agraharam style and also including a large water tank. The tallest Gopuram stands at over 40m, while there is another smaller one that faces the water tank. The temple is essentially a holy shrine of Lord Shiva, that was built by the mighty rulers, Pallava. Their hard work was turned to dust by the Portuguese explorers and rebuilt again during the Vijayanagara Empire. For culture buffs, this is a great place to visit in Chennai.
5. Santhome Cathedral Basilica
This elegant, white architectural brilliance in Mylapore isn’t just a sacred site for Christians but art connoisseurs across the globe. It’s believed to be one out of only three basilicas in the entire world to be constructed over the tomb of a direct apostle of Jesus Christ. The church was constructed in 1523 by the Portuguese. The construction pattern follows on the line of neo-gothic style of architecture. The church was raised to the status of a minor basilica in 1956.
6. Thousand Lights Mosque
This multi-domed mosque, which is a revered place of worship for Local Muslims, literally lights up the Royapettah area of Chennai. It is believed that in olden times, about 1000 lights were required to light up the hall of this mosque which is why it has been named as the Thousand Lights Mosque. As it goes without saying, this place looks absolutely spectacular all glowing: hence, is among the most popular places to visit in Chennai at night. With two minarets towering at a height of about 64 feet, this mosque exhibits the excellence of medieval architectural style.
7. Burma Bazaar
Visiting Chennai and not stopping at Burma Bazar is almost equal to a crime. You may not find space to move around here but the chaos has its own charm and thrill. Visiting this area is nothing less than a history lesson when it comes to experiencing one of the finest cultural confluence in town. There are multiple activities to keep you busy from shopping for interesting souvenirs to digging into spicy Burmese Atho cuisine. If you’ve enjoyed the experience of bargaining at flea markets, then this is a visit that you mustn’t miss for anything.
8. Dakshin Chitra
Culture buffs definitely require a visit to Dakshin Chitra while in Chennai. The place is perfect for those looking for a close insight into South India’s culture, traditions and art without individually visiting each region separately. The museum is one of the best sites to give you a thorough insight into the past as well as the present of the region. Located on the ECR Highway, the place also provides numerous stalls for purchasing anything and everything from ethnic jewellery to fashion souvenirs and more.
7 Places To Visit In Chennai With Friends
1. University of Madras
University of Madras is certainly the top places when it comes to places to visit in Chennai with friends. One of the oldest universities in the country was established way back in 1857. Whether you’re an ex-student or a future one, the place definitely deserves a visit to get a feel of the student life while seated in a country steeped in cultural history. Although the university has definitely been branched across several campuses that are situated in different areas in the city, the administrative centre in Wallajah Road is the most prominent one. The building is considered to be one of the examples of Indo-Saracenic architecture in India.
2. MGM Dizzee World
While visiting Chennai with friends, a trip to an amusement park is definitely on the list. MGM Dizzee World boasts of more than 60 rides for the perfect dose of chill and thrill. From Maryworld to Humpty Dumpty and Pumpkins, the rides are believed to be named on famous nursery rhymes. Apart from the adventure rides, there are other entertainment activities like an amphitheatre. When all that excitement peaks, you’re sure to feel the need to re-energise and that’s where the 4 restaurants come as saviours. Indulge in Chinese, South-Indian and other delicacies to give your taste buds a treat.
3. Express Avenue
In the mood for some retail therapy? The largest mall in Chennai beckons. From a large scale of domestic and international brands to choose from to both local and fine-dining options, you definitely won’t fall short of options here. A visit here will definitely require a couple of hours of your itinerary.
4. Valluvar Kottam
Literature enthusiasts should definitely checkout Valluvar Kottam while in Chennai. Dedicated to the famous Tamil poet and saint, Thiruvalluvar, this place is an intricately designed chariot, to honour the scholar. The best time to visit is certainly either the early hours in the day or when the sun is about to set. Accessibility is definitely not a problem since it is located at the intersection of Kodambakkam High Road and Village Road.
5. Elliots Beach
Although Marina Beach certainly has its charm, Elliots Beach is not far behind when it comes to places to visit in Chennai for beach-lovers. It might also hold a special corner in the hearts of youngsters as compared to the crowd found at Marina Beach. The reason is as simple as the presence of the numerous restaurants, cafes and dessert corners in this specific part of the city. The beach is named in honour of the governor’s of the city, Madras Edward Elliot. While here, do try out the prominent pitstops including Murugan Idli Shop, Cozee’s among others.
6. Government Museum
Fan of all things art and culture? The Government Museum is definitely the place to be. While here, you can check out some of the best ancient as well as modern south Indian bronzes. For fun facts, it would be interesting to note that the Amaravathi Gallery houses marble sculptures that depict the life of Gautam Buddha, that date back to the 2nd century.
7. T Nagar
Another gem of a place when it comes to popular places to visit in Chennai for shopaholics is T Nagar. The place sells everything from jewellery to apparel to knick-knacks and local savouries to keep you pepped up in the middle of your shopping spree. Some of the classic eating joints that you must check out are; Absolute Barbecues, Murugan Idli Shop, Anjappar and lots more. While in the largest shopping district, do look out for regional favourites like Kancheepuram silk. Also note that weekends and holidays can account for massive rush and traffic, so choose your visit wisely.
3 Homestays in Chennai for a truly Madrasi flavour
1. OYO Home 41634 Exquisite Villa Palvakkam Beach
This intricately designed and spacious villa near Palvakkam Beach is quite a lure. Stay amidst coconut trees for a relaxing experience. Gather your near and dear ones and head to this dreamy homestay with a lush garden for the ultimate catch-up session. Whether you want to sit in the lawns and bond with your travel companions after a fun day at the beach or stand by the balcony with your favourite novel and beverage in hand, this property offers it all.
2. OYO Home 38597 Spacious Stay Ambattur
This vibrant homestay in Ambattur is perfect for those looking to stay in the city wrapped with all necessary facilities and comfort. The presence of a parking facility along with a kitchen ensures that you stay stress-free irrespective of the purpose of the visit. Security will be the least of your concerns as the house offers both CCTV cameras and power backup to have your back.
3. OYO Home 45738 Designer Stay Near Airport
Planning a business trip to Chennai? This homestay near the airport is easy on your pocket as well as soothing on the senses. The simple decor along with a host of facilities will ensure that you don’t miss out on anything while staying here. If you have some free time on your hand, there are numerous sacred sites around to give you some much-needed tranquillity and space.
Planning a trip to Rajnikanth’s hometown? Then these homestays are nothing less than an adventure to complete your South Indian trail. From delicious food to secure neighbourhoods and a whiff of the sea breeze, nothing beats these homestays in Chennai to provide a local flavour to your visit once you’re done checking out most of the popular places to visit in Chennai.
Hi! I am Paridhi. When not downing endless cups of coffee and binge-ing on Masala Fries, I can be found deeply engrossed in contemporary novels. Delhiite by birth and nomad by passion. I travel and I know things. I write travel blogs by day and binge watch thriller and rom-com by night.