10 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Chennai
Home to numerous beaches, tourist attractions, and colorful markets, Chennai, India, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in India. In addition to a reputation for being a fun and lively city with lots of shopping and an interesting arts and culture scene, Chennai is also known for its unique native architecture, including its dazzling light houses.
First discovered by the British in the 1800s, the city grew to become a trading and exporting center for the East. It's one of India's most industrial cities, a place where bustling trains and freight traffic jam the streets.
These days, Chennai is attracting tourists by the hordes, with an ever-expanding range of things to see and do. It's a city of the senses: scent-filled spice markets, a cuisine that pleases the palate, a vibrant nightlife scene, and art that's as colorful as the city's streets. Some of the best places to visit in Chennai are top attractions for travelers, and they are all easily accessible by public transportation.
This guide will give you a complete overview of the top tourist attractions and city highlights in Chennai.
Marina Beach, in the southernmost tip of Chennai, is one of the most popular areas in the city. It's a big, sandy beach where many restaurants serve Indian cuisine, most of which is vegetarian, as well as kebabs, burgers, fish and chips, and ice cream. At night, there are bars and stalls, with live music to boot, attracting a young crowd. The beach lies within a nature preserve, so swimmers can enjoy views of the marine and birdlife that the area is known for. There are bike rentals available and good snorkeling opportunities off the shore.
Fort St. George
Fort St. George, located between Chennai and Trichy in southern India, has been an active British fortress since 1758. Located in a secluded part of the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu, it is a short drive from Coimbatore, the principal city in southern India. The Fort is surprisingly accessible from the Chennai city centre, where the Chepauk Palace and the iconic Marina Hotel are located. It is only a three-hour journey from Bangalore or Hyderabad, capital cities of northern and southern India respectively.
Kanchipuram is the southernmost district of Tamil Nadu and is famous for its carvings of ornamental designs. Kanchipuram is also known as a residential centre of sculptures and sculpture workshops. The area contains many fine examples of fine stone and wood carvings from Hindu temples and sculptures of deities and a variety of heroes and deities. The Kanchi Matha Centre provides accommodation in its surrounding area. There are many temples here like the Sri Meenakshi Amman Temple and the Sri Govindaraja Swami Temple. And, if you wish to stay outside Kanchipuram you can also visit Tamil Nadu tourist places like Chidambaram, Theni, Mamallapuram, Sravanabelagola and Virupaksha Temple.
Chennai Museum, located on the main Chennai fortifications wall, is the result of a 1903 renovation of the Mud Fort. The museum has some interesting displays on the history of the region. Included are an excellent scale model of the wall, recreated bastion towers, and a tank built in the 16th century, as well as many modern buildings and the excellent Oranjaly Mosque. A small cafe overlooking the fort wall makes for a relaxing end to the tour.
Sri Meenakshi Temple, Madurai
Situated on the banks of the River Cauvery, this temple, the biggest and oldest of all the sacred places in Tamil Nadu, is the capital city of the powerful Chola empire. The temple consists of a main shrine called the Meenakshi temple, with its accompanying pillared hall, the Tiruvottaimalai temple, and a fine gallery of Chola sculpture. A special attraction of the temple is its annual festival, held in the month of Chittirai (April/May) when hundreds of elephants dance for their temple.
Sri Ramakrishna Math
One of the most important centers of Buddhism in South Asia, the Sri Ramakrishna Math is the residence and headquarters of India's most revered and famous monk, Swami Vivekananda. This temple, founded by his disciple Narendranath Datta, attracts a large number of visitors. Unlike many of the other major Buddhist temples, visitors have the opportunity to visit the small private room where Sri Ramakrishna experienced his enlightenment, the Ashram, as well as the shrine where he died.
Housed in the town of Chennai (formerly Madras), the Government Museum in Chennai (Madras) is one of India's best, most valuable and largest museums. The museum was established in the early 18th century. Its permanent collection is displayed in a massive and lavishly decorated building that is one of the largest in the country. Highlights include the 12th-century Shiva sculpture (considered one of the finest examples of Indian sculpture), a rich collection of Mughal miniatures, several important English paintings, and exquisite collections of antiquities and historical maps. The museum is divided into three main sections, each offering a wealth of information.
Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, Srirangam
There are many beautiful temples in South India, but this is one of the most famous in the world. The famous rock temple, located on the banks of the Cauvery River, was built in a massive granite block by the Pallava kings who ruled in the 7th century. The temple, which is covered with Indian magnolias, has a history that is fascinating to a visitor. The Temple contains the Nandi (Bull) statue, a much-venerated holy figure. The pillars in the Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple are made out of limestone from a nearby quarry. As the builders could not find any blocks of limestone from the river, they therefore covered the walls of the temple with limestone blocks and erected the huge walls around them. The temple was completed in 1152.
This stunning Hindu temple complex on India's southern coast features a huge granite chariot, or ratha, as well as many temples dedicated to Hindu deities. Although originally constructed in 1055, the current temple complex began its construction in the 16th century. Key highlights of the site include the elegant Shivakumareswara Temple, as well as the Virupaksha Temple (about 1 km away) and several others of interest.
If you're a fan of Ancient Rome, an afternoon spent visiting the Adyar Library should top your list of must-dos in the city. In contrast to other museums in India, the Adyar Library is housed in a splendid building by French architect Le Corbusier in the most famous French style. Though one of the most visited museums in the city, the museum's extensive collection of books and manuscripts make it a gem of South India. Displayed in a series of rooms, the collection includes rare religious books, manuscripts, ancient coins and statues. An afternoon spent exploring the Adyar Library shouldn't be missed by any lover of Ancient Rome or Art in India.