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Places to visit in Chennai

Discussion in 'Tamil Nadu' started by Saket, Mar 12, 2017.

  1. Saket

    Saket New Member

    I have to go Chennai to meet someone, and I will be getting a flight there from Bangalore. Instead of coming back the same day I wish to spend some time there and see Chennai.
    The maximum number of days I can stay in Chennai is four days, and I would like to know what places to visit in Chennai in the time I have.

    I believe every destination has many places to visit, but due to my short time please mention the most popular places to visit.

  2. briannagodess

    briannagodess Well-Known Member

    Hello, @Saket, welcome to the forum!

    (Images from Vinoth, Jayk, Velachery and Ramesh)


    Chennai is the capital city of the state of Tamil Nadu. A city replete with religious sites, heritage sites, museums, beaches and many more. As developed as the city might be, it still has that old-world charm that makes it a top destination of the country. With its mixture of the modern and the traditional, it's that balance, making one understand the rich culture of the city even more. Other aspects such as the warmth of the local people, the delicious local cuisine and the importance given to arts would render one amazed by the overall beauty of the city. In this guide, we would highlight some of the best places to visit in Chennai, especially during a short visit to the city.

    Places to Visit in Chennai

    • Kapaleeshwar Temple - The Kapaleeshwar Temple is dedicated to both Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. It is not known exactly when the temple was built though many scholars believe that it was around the 7th century when the original temple in this location was built. The present structure though can be traced back to the 16th century during the rule of the Vijayanagara dynasty. From the outside, the first structure you would notice is the very colourful gopuram filled with carvings of Hindu deities. Inside, there are various shrines dedicated to various gods and goddesses but the two main ones are of Kapaleeshwar (Shiva) and Karpagambal (Parvati). The shrines have typical Dravidian styles of architecture, filled with colourful carvings and statues that would surely mesmerise you. It's a very busy temple so make sure you avoid visiting it during weekends or special festivals if you want to have a peaceful darshan.
    Kapaleeshwar Temple (Image from John)
    • Sai Baba Temple - The original Sai Baba Temple is located in Shirdi in Maharashtra. But if you are a Sai Baba devotee, you can also visit the replica of this temple in Chennai which has the same name. Sai Baba is a revered saint of people of many faiths including Hindus and Muslims. This temple in Chennai is very simple, in line with the philosophy and even the lifestyle of the revered guru. The main sanctum has a pure white motif, with a statue of Sai Baba, clad in simple clothes and a garland. Surrounding the main shrine are smaller shrines dedicated to other Hindu deities such as Ganesha, Vishnu and Murugan.
    • Sri Parthasarathy Temple - The Sri Parthasarathy Temple is another popular religious attraction of the city. It is a temple dedicated to Lord Perumal, or Lord Krishna, built around the 8th century during the rule of the Pallava dynasty. It is also considered as 1 of the 108 Divya Desams and hence revered very sacred by Hindus. The temple has a pure white facade and the architectural style is mainly South Indian. Lord Krishna is depicted here as Parthasarathy, meaning the charioteer of Anjuna, with the idol sporting a moustached look. Along with the main deity, the temple is also home to other forms of Lord Vishnu, like Narasimha, Ranganatha and Rama. This temple is usually very busy and there are daily rituals and processions that one can take part in if they would like.
    • Vadapalani Murugan Temple - Next we have the Vadapalani Murugan Temple, dedicated to Lord Murugan, son of Shiva. It is, again, a very colourful temple, with a gopuram filled with intricate carvings. The highlight though is the carving of the main weapon of the deity which is the spear. It is believed to have been built during the 19th century so it is younger as compared to the previously mentioned temples. The main sanctum houses an idol of Lord Murugan, dressed quite extensively and sporting the same spear as his weapon. Just outside the main shrine, you would find a tank that gives the place a more heavenly and spiritual vibe.
    • San Thome Church - The San Thome Church is also known as the St. Thomas Cathedral Basilica, located in Mylapore in Chennai. It is unique in that it is one of the only three churches in the world that was built over a tomb of an apostle of Jesus. Here, the tomb of Saint Thomas, also known as the Doubting Thomas, can be found. The original church which was built in the location of the present church was founded during the 10th century by Christian Persians. The present church though was built during the 16th century by the Portuguese. The church has a striking white facade and a majestic Neo Gothic architectural style. Inside, you would find a high ceiling, stained glass windows with scenes from the bible and chandelier pieces. The tomb of Saint Thomas is located underground, near the museum dedicated to the life of the saint. Another interesting trivia is that this tomb is the only tomb of the 12 apostles located outside of Europe.
    • Armenian Church - Last on this section is the Armenian Church, an 18th century church built by the population of Armenians from Iran who resided in Chennai during the rule of the British. The church has a white facade although sadly, the age of the exteriors are showing now. It is a non-functional church and is opened only for tourism purposes. The interiors are more well-maintained but very simple in design, with the original wooden pews still intact. Its bell tower is so-named the belfry, since it has under its roof, not just one, nor two, but six bells of varying weights and sizes.
    • Chennai Central Railway Station - The Chennai Central Railway Station was built during the 19th century and was then known as the Madras Central Railway Station. It is one of the oldest railway stations of the country and was the main terminating station of the city after the closure of the Royapuram Railway Station. The station has a Neo Gothic facade of red and white motifs. With its pointed arches and clock tower, it would surely transport you to the bygone era. This is also a very busy railway station, the hub of most transportation activities especially for the locals. Even for tourists, you can reach Chennai from any other city in the country and end up in this railway station.
    Chennai Central Railway Station (Image from Plane Mad)
    • Vivekananda House - The Vivekananda House was originally known as the Ice House, built during the 19th century by Frederic Tudor for his ice business. Later on, the structure was bought by Biligiri Iyengar and was famed for being the residence of Swami Vivekananda for a short while during his stay in Chennai. Swami Vivekananda was a proponent of Neo Vedanta and also established the Ramakrishna Math. His teachings are influential in that they not only touch on spirituality but also on nationality. The Vivekananda House became the headquarters of the Ramakrishna Math in Chennai. It now houses some paintings depicting scenes from important Hindu texts such as the Gita, Puranas and Mahabharata. There are also exhibits on the life of Swami Vivekananda, the room where he stayed during his visit in the house and the meditation hall where he spent time meditating. You also can't miss the short video showcasing his speeches or lectures so that you can learn more about his philosophies.
    • Ripon Building - The Ripon Building was once the seat of the Madras Corporation of British India. It is just a four-minute walk from the Chennai Central Railway Station. It has a strikingly white facade, built using the Neo Classical architectural style. Right now, the building can only be viewed from the outside since it is not opened for tourism purposes. Its arches and numerous pillars provide for a picturesque exterior vibe. There's a central tower housing a clock as well which gives it a royal appeal.
    • Anna Centenary Library - The Anna Centenary Library is the largest library of South Asia. The library has a contemporary facade, of blue reflective mirrors and white tile-like walls. It is spread across eight storeys high, with each floor having a specific section. It even has a designated section on the ground floor for blind readers who can access the braille books. Other sections are dedicated for children, a periodicals or newspapers section and an ancient manuscripts section written in the Tamil language. One downside is that you cannot borrow books from here to take home, thus you need to complete your reading on the library itself.
    • Fort St. George - Fort St. George was the first ever fortification built by the British in India. It was built during the 17th century and became the hub of most commercial activities involving the British. Originally, the fort has walls set amidst the shores of a harbour or jetty point. Now, the fort area is home to various government offices of the Tamil Nadu section. Not all sections are opened to the public but you can take a short stroll amidst the grounds. The Fort Museum here showcases some ancient artefacts from the British rule, like weaponries, coins and paintings. You can also visit the St. Mary's Church here, considered as the oldest Anglican church of the country.
    • Government Museum - The Government Museum is a pride of Chennai, being the second oldest museum in India, established in 1851. The museum is spread across five buildings so it can be regarded as a complex. The main building is the largest and houses exhibits on archeology, zoology and geology. The first houses artefacts, mostly statues, pertaining to different religions of the country. The second houses stuffed animals and skeletons, while the third houses a number of important minerals and earth deposits. The second building houses exhibits on bronze sculptures and numismatics. For children, they would enjoy the exhibits on the third building, which are mostly about weaponries during the pre-colonial rule, and the exhibits on the fourth building, where interactive science models can be found. The last building houses important arts and paintings from the bygone era. The most praised paintings here are those of the works of Raja Ravi Varma.
    Government Museum (Image from Wikimedia)
    • Chennai Railway Museum - The Chennai Railway Museum is an educational yet fun attraction in the city. It is comprised of two sections, an outdoor exhibit area and an indoor exhibit area. The outdoor exhibit area showcases different train models, from steam-powered ones, up to electric powered ones. Other exhibits you can't miss are those of the Fowler Ploughing Engine and Crane Coach. The indoor exhibit area is also interesting as it has displays of miniature replicas of trains from India and those made for other countries. Kids would surely enjoy the running model of a local train. There's a separate charge for riding the toy train here but it's a good way to relax after touring the entire museum.
    • Besant Nagar Beach - The Besant Nagar Beach is also known as the Elliot's Beach, located to the south of the Marina Beach. This beach has soft golden sands and very rough waves which makes it unsuitable for swimming. The beauty of this beach though is that it is less frequented by tourists so there's the air of serenity. Hawkers and vendors are also fewer but they are still there to cater to your food or beverage needs. Besant Nagar Beach is also home to the Karl Schmidt Memorial, dedicated to the person of the eponymous name who saved the life of a drowning English woman in the beach. There are many food stalls selling mainly seafood dishes around where you can satisfy your hunger in. The shores are spacious enough for games such as cricket and volleyball to be enjoyed in.
    Besant Nagar Beach (Image from Rupam)
    • Marina Beach - The Marina Beach is the main tourist beach of Chennai, hence always crowded and busy. It is known for having the second longest shoreline in the world, perfect for strolling amidst the sunset. The beach has about 13 kilometres of shoreline, almost impossible to cover with a few hours on hand. The beach has golden sands and waters with rough waves, not that suitable for swimming or even water sports. For a family picnic or just gazing at the vast expanse of water, this is your ideal destination. The shores are very active, with various food stalls, astrology stalls and beverage stalls to choose from. While the beach is far from an idyllic getaway, it can give you a glimpse of the local life easily.
    • Guindy National Park - Occupying an area of 2.82 kilometres squared only is the Guindy National Park. Aside from being one of the smallest national parks of India, it is also one of the few of its kind that can be found within the city limits. While the national park cannot be compared to the wildlife reserves of Rajasthan or Maharashtra, it has its own charm. The forests here are a mixture of dry evergreen subs and open grasslands, truly a respite from the concrete jungles of Chennai. Commonly spotted animals here are blackbucks, chitals, hyenas, bonnet macaques and squirrels. There's a variety of bird species and reptile species that you can also find on separate enclosures. You can also visit the nearby Guindy Snake Park, houses a number of cobras and pythons, and Children's Park, with a number of slides and swings to keep the little ones entertained. They are both part of the Guindy National Park but have separate entrances and entry fees.
    Deer in Guindy National Park (Image from Vinoth)
    • Madras Crocodile Bank - The Madras Crocodile Bank is located about an hour's drive from Chennai. If you have the time to spare, this wildlife reserve centre is a good getaway to see a huge number of crocodiles in one place. As of latest estimates, the centre has over 2,000 crocodiles in captivity. But since its establishment, it has bred more than this number and has even reintroduced some in the wild. The species of crocodiles that bred and also reside here are mugger, gharial, saltwater, just to name a few. Other reptile species such as snakes, turtles and lizards can also be found here.
    • Arignar Anna Zoological Park - The Arignar Anna Zoological Park is located on the outskirts of Chennai in Vandalur, about an hour of driving from the city centre. Originally, the zoological park was established in 1855 but was moved in the outskirts by 1985 due to expansion constraints. The zoological park has various sections for a wide variety of animals. They are housed on enclosures to make them safer for tourists. You can enjoy the safari ride amidst the huge mammals such as lions, elephants, gaurs and sambars. There are also separate sections for reptiles, amphibians, birds and crocodiles. You can opt to tour the zoological park via battery-operated vehicles or even bicycles.
    • Semmozhi Poonga - Then we have the Semmozhi Poonga, considered as the lungs of Chennai. The park has various sections including a bonsai section, butterfly section, herbal section, fern section and more. There are walkways where you can enjoy walking in with your loved ones. There's a small artificial pond within the premises where you can find some bird species, mostly ducks. There's a small children's park where you can find swings, slides and other mini rides that kids can enjoy. There are benches spread all around where you can rest after a tiring day of walking in the city.
    Flower in Semmozhi Poonga (Image from Thangaraj)
    • Huddleston Gardens of Theosophical Society - For a relaxing stroll amidst greenery, visit the Huddleston Gardens of Theosophical Society. In the midst of the garden is the old banyan tree, which is quite huge and can be considered as one of the oldest in the region. Its location on the banks of the Adyar River gives it a very serene vibe. The forests are varied, with the rare mahogany trees dominating most areas. Do visit the hidden library here where you can find rare books from ancient centuries of Hindu mythology and Tibetan teachings.

    This ends our sightseeing guide on the city of Chennai. As you can see, you can enjoy the number of religious and heritage attractions of the city. The museums located here are also worth visiting since they highlight the rich culture of the city. Being on a coastal area, you can have that privilege of spotting the gorgeous waves of the sea from here. For lovers of wildlife and nature, you also have a few attractions that you can explore within the city. For Chennai, even a few days would be enough to explore it, but do consider the attractions mentioned above that are the mist important sightseeing places of the city.

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