One would find hosts of places to visit in Chennai. With all this comes the zeal to visit this beautiful place full of historical monuments, temples, beaches and many places that are more interesting. Chennai, the gateway to south India is located on the Coromandel Coast and extends about a stretch of 17 Km. It is the capital city of Tamil Nadu and is the fourth largest metropolis. In the earlier days, the region of Chennai was known as Tondaimandalam and the modern city developed from the settlement of Fort St. George and blended itself with the surrounding villages. The city was known by the name of Chennai after independence but got it confirmed officially in 1997 by the chief minister Mr. M. K. Karunanidhi. The city was under strong British influence but still has managed to retain its Tamil heritage and create its own unique culture. The city is around 350 years old but the past landscape has very well blended with the present scene along with the culture of music, dance and various other art forms. It has a population of around 6 million and the city is ever changing.
Popular Tourist Places in Chennai:
It is the most famous tourist attraction in the city as it is the second longest beach in the world with its sandy foreshore. It stretches around 4.5 Kms and is the pride of the city. Watching the sunset with a handful of local snack, murukku in the cool evening wind can be a great pleasure. Samadhi of great leaders from the past, a huge aquarium and statues of idols from ancient culture are the eye catchers.
San Thome Cathedral Basilica:
It is considered one of the historic landmarks of the city and is located near the southern end of Marina Beach. It houses the most beautiful statue of Virgin Mary which is about a meter tall and was brought from Portugal in 1543. The cathedral has been named after the Apostle of Christ, St. Thomas and is said to contain the remains of him.
This temple is situated in Mylapore and is devoted to Lord Shiva. It is said to be more than 350 years old and the inscriptions here date back to 1250 AD. It is the most sacred temple of the Hindus and has beautiful architecture inside it. It is one of the most distinguished shrines of Lord Shiva and goddess Paarvati in India.
Vivekananda House and Museum (The Ice House):
The Vivekananda House or the Vivekananda Illam is one of the attractions along the beach road. The place gains its historical significance from two main factors. Swami Vivekananda stayed here for a period of 9 days when he visited Chennai in 1897. To add to the attraction, there is a permanent exhibition on Swami Vivekananda that was established by the Chennai Branch of Ramakrishna Math. The place has another history attached to it which dates back to 1842. Constructed in 1842, this place was originally used to store ice blocks imported from USA by the Tudor Ice Company, which is why it holds another famous name – The Ice House. This went on until 1874 when they decided to produce ice locally. In 1885, the building was purchased by a Bilagiri Iyengar and named it “The Castle Kernon”. The building was later taken over by the government in 1930 and in 1963 it came to be called the Vivekananda House. Books and photographs of the great Monk illustrating the historical happenings associated with his life and his own writings are on display and even sold in the museum.
It is located 42 Km from Chennai on the East Coast Highway. It was built in 1976 by Romulus Whitaker with the aim to conserve the reptile, crocodile that is fast becoming an endangered species. It houses more than 6,000 crocodiles among which some are African. This park is a great attraction for the kids.
It is a planetarium where cosmic shows, like virtual tour of the night sky, sky and seasons, solar system, comets etc are held. It is located at Kotturpuram in the Periyar Science and Technology Centre campus. It has around eight galleries with more than 500 exhibits. It was built in 1988 in the honored memory of B. M. Birla. The shows are conducted in English and Tamil and it is open from 10:00 am to 5:45 pm. It has the most developed projector and can answer all the curiosities regarding science and other modern technologies. It is the best centre of attraction for curious students.
Ashtalakshmi Temple is a highly revered shrine situated in Besant Nagar, on the shores of Bay of Bengal. The architecture of the temple is unique, with the deities installed in four levels. It looks different than the other South Indian temples as it a modern construction, less than 25 years old. The temple enshrines Goddess Lakshmi, Goddess of Wealth and Lord Vishnu as the principal deities. The temple has separate shrine for the Ashtalakshmi forms of Goddess Lakshmi. Ashtalakshmi Temple has a shrine for the Dasavathars (the 10 incarnations) of Lord Vishnu. Other deities worshipped here include Tumbikai Aazhwar (Lord Ganesha), Guruvaayurappan (Lord Krishna), Chakrathaazhwar and Narasimha (on either side of the same idol), Anjaneyar (Lord Hanuman) and Dhanvantri. Visit to this temple brings the well being for the devotees.
This Park is situated at Luz corner and has been developed a few years back. It is a hot spot for filmmakers for shootings because of its fountains, gardens, walkways and flowers. It has a separate play area for children and is open on all days. All types of medicinal, flowering plants are found here, and thus it attracts tourists who want to spend a relaxing day.
It was founded by Madame H.P. Blavatsky and Col. H.S. Olcott in 1875 and is situated on the banks of the Adyar estuary on a expanse of 250 acres away from the bustle of the city. The great Adyar Banyan tree, the library, church, mosque, temple and the Buddhist shrine are a must see.
This temple is located in Injambakkam area of the city. It is one of the most frequently visited temple in the region. The idols worshipped here are that of Rukmini and Lord Krishna. This temple is not as huge as the other branches of this temple but is always bustling with pious devotees.
Fort St. George
Fort St. George occupies a place of pride and prominence in Chennai. It was built in 1640 AD, by the British East India Company under the direct supervision of Francis Day and Andrew Cogon. This bastion achieved name from St. George, the patron saint of England. The fort houses St. Mary’s Church and fort museum. St. Mary’s Church the oldest Anglican church in India built in 1680 and the tombstones in it’s courtyard are the oldest British tombstones in India. This ancient prayer house solemnised the marriages of Robert Clive and Governor Elihu Yale, who later founded the Yale University in the USA
MGM Dizzee World:
It is located near Muttukadu region in the outskirts of the city and is the best amusement park in the city. It consists of three fun sections, MGM Dizee World, MGM Marry World and MGM Water World. It offers exciting water sports and rides like toy train, roller coaster, Dizzee shake etc. It is an attraction for people of all age groups. A private beach is also found and visiting the park would be ultimate fun.
Guindy National Park:
Guindy National Park, also known as the Deer park is the 8th smallest national parks in India and probably the one in the world that is situated within a metropolis. It was owned by a British citizen named Gilbert Rodericks during the British rule in India. In 1958, the park came to hands of the Tamil Nadu Forest Department. It is an extension of the grounds surrounding Raj Bhavan. The park is known for its exclusive varieties of flora and fauna which includes 100 species of bird and 14 types of mammals with the main attraction being the spotted deer and the blackbucks.
It is situated in the Egmore region of the city. It houses some of the grand art galleries, theatres, libraries in the country. Some of the great treasures of the past can be sighted here. Some sculptures date back to the Chola Empire. Coin collection, ivory work, woodcarving, inlay work, sculptures, kids corner, transportation gallery etc are just wonderful and worth seeing. The museum is closed on Fridays and National Holidays and open from 9:30 a. m. to 5:00 p. m.
National Art Gallery:
Built in 1906, the gallery is situated in a splendid Indo-Saracenic edifice. The building was initially known as Victoria Memorial Hall and was designed by Henry Irwin. The eminent historian Tillotson described it as one of “the proudest expressions of the Indo-Sarcenic movement”. There is a good collection of old paintings and sculptures including Tanjore paintings on glass; Rajput and Mughal miniature paintings; Deccan paintings from 17th century; and handcrafts, metalware, and ivory carvings from 11th and 12th century.
Arignar Anna Zoological Park:
Popularly known as the Vandaloor zoo and situated in Vandaloor, 30 km south of Chennai. This is one of the largest of such zoos in south Asia spread over 1265 acres of land featuring a Nocturnal Animal House, the pre-historic Animal park, Safari Park, Aviary section, aquarium, zoo-education and interpretation. The animals are left in their natural environment yet safe for the visitors to walk along and see them. Guided tours are available, so also are people allowed to ride cycles which can also be hired. Lion Safari is also one of the main attractions.
Chennai is one of the important trade centers of south India and is a good place to shop for a large variety of things. One of the famous shopping places is Burma Bazaar, where one can find all sorts of imported goods ranging from electronic gadgets to readymade and perfumes. Trading in almost all kinds of goods from plastic goods to textiles and stationery, and from ready-made garments to household items can be had here for reasonable prices. There are many new shopping complexes that offer a large range of shopping to be done under a single roof, have come all over the Burma Bazaar. This is shoppers’ paradise.
The white coloured, indo-saracenic style of architectural structure representing the Gothic, Ionic and Corinthian style is the seat of Chennai Corporation and is located near Central Station, Chennai. The main attraction of the building is the Westminster Quarter Chiming Clock which is a mechanical one wound every day and comprises of 4 bells. The three-storied building is named after Lord Ripon. The domed features of the building add to its beauty and magnificence.
This beautiful stone chariot located near Kodambakam area in Chennai is dedicated to the ancient saint and poet Thirvalluvar who is famous for his literary works on Ethics. Some legends claim Mylapore to be the birthplace of Thiruvallavur. It is an exquisitely carved structure where a life-size image of the poet-saint. There is an auditorium that can seat 4000 people and is considered one of Asia’s largest. The large hall is devoid of supporting pillars. Verses from Thirukurral are depicted on granite walls around the hall.
Thiruvanmiyur. A renowed school for learning arts and crafts, Kalakshetra was founded in 1936 by Rukmini Devi Arundale. Adhering to the Indian system of education through the Gurukulam, the students and their teachers live within the campus so as to have a truly rewarding experience.
MGR Film City:
Set up by the Government of Tamil Nadu in the sprawling Tharamani area, MGR Film city houses various locations and settings for film-shooting besides dubbing and re-recording theatres. The software city is coming up nearby.
Elliot’s beach lies along the coast down south from Marina. It is also a night beach that is particularly famous with the Chennai youth. At the end of this beach is the Velankanni church, and the Ashtalakshmi temple. Although the church is much smaller than the original one, it attracts its own share of pilgrims. The Ashtalakshmi temple is dedicated to goddess Lakshmi. A modern granite tier construction, not even 20 years old, it looks quite different from the usual South Indian temples.
These are just a few of the amazing places to visit in Chennai and there are many more places to stopover when planning to tour this beautiful city rich in its long held treasures of temples, shrines, forts and palaces brimming with art and culture. The long and beautiful beaches give a different turn to the nature of the city reflecting love and warmth. The cuisine is simple and inviting. The smell of the filter coffee can really be nostalgic and remind one of the places visited in Chennai even after many years of the tour.