Chennai is an ancient metropolis dating back 400 years. One can find history, heritage, art and architecture everywhere. Beautiful buildings with walls soaked in history, temples, churches and structures, all monuments to a varied and beautiful heritage. Here are the monuments in Chennai that are most loved and a must-see for anyone who visits the city.
Monuments in Chennai
1. St. George’s Fort
Built on the banks of the Bay of Bengal, St. George’s Fort was an important trading post for the East India Company during the British Raj.
It is still important today, being the seat of The Government of Tamil Nadu and home to the Legislative Council Chambers. The fort is a beautiful example of military architecture and history, dating back as far as 1644.
- Location: Rajaji Salai road
- Timings: 9 am to 5 pm (Friday closed)
2. Freemasons Hall
A different sort of cultural legacy, The Freemasons Hall, built in 1923, is a pleasing example of Greek architecture, with building material sources from all over the world, like the sholingur stones that build the impressive staircase and Italian tiles that floor the verandahs.
Considered one of Tamil Nadu’s finest buildings and easily accessible, this is building provides an interesting look for the public into the exclusive world of freemasons.
- Location: Ethiraj Salai
- Timings: 9 am to 6 pm (Monday to Friday), 9 am to 6 pm (weekends, public holidays)
3. Kapaleeshwar Temple
Built in the 7th century CE by the Pallavas, the original Kapaleshwar Temple was destroyed by the Portuguese and Santhome Church was built in its place. Tamil Nadu’s present and ever popular Kapaleeshwar Temple was then built by the Vijayanagar dynasty and this temple to Shiva still stands in all its spectacular beauty.
- Location: Mylapore
- Timings: 6 am to 1 pm, 4 pm to 8 pm
4. Valluvar Kottam Monument
A relatively new monument, Valluvar Kottam was built in 1976 in tribute to the great classical Tamil poet and saint Thiruvalluvar, author of the Thirukkural. Built mainly of stone, the 133 chapters of the poet’s work Thirukkural have been inscribed in the front hall corridor.
The monument, built in the shape of a temple chariot also houses one of Asia’s largest auditoriums, with seating capacity of approximately 4000 people.
- Location: Nungambakkam
- Timings: 8 am to 6 pm (Friday and public holidays closed)
5. Madras War Cemetery
Built in memoriam of the men and women who lost their lives fighting in World War II, the Madras War Cemetery is home to almost 900 commonwealth burials with people from Great Britain, Canada, Australia, Africa and India.
This garden to history, though somber, is also beautiful and peaceful. The cemetery is a restricted area and will require permission to visit.
- Location: Nandambakkam
- Timings: 8 am to 6 pm (Sundays and public holidays closed)
6. Armenian Church
Built on the bones of the Armenian cemetery in 1772, the church, once an active parish is now a protected heritage site.
While the architecture and history of the church is interesting, what really is spectacular is its magnificent belfry with its six humungous bells each weighing in at around 150 kilograms and at sizes ranging between 21 to 26 inches.
- Location: Armenian Street
- Timings: 9 am to 2.30 pm (Sundays and public holidays closed)
7. Viswaroopa Adhivyadhihara Sri Bhaktha Anjaneyaswami Temple
The massive, 32 foot statue of Sri Anjaneyar is this temple’s primary focus and believers talk of its healing powers. Carved entirely from a single rock, miraculous or not, the idol is awe inspiring.
Popular all year round, the temple really blooms on the festivals of Hanuman Jayanti and Ram Navmi with believers and tourist thronging the temple in the thousands.
- Location: Nanganallur
- Timings: 5 am to 12 pm, 4:30 pm to 9 pm
8. Annai Velankanni Church
Built close to the site of the apparent Marian apparition and consequent miracle for a little Indian boy, Annai Velankanni is one of India’s famous religious destinations, and it is not just Christians who flock here.
Built in 1972, the church is worth the visit just for its glorious architectural beauty and iconography as art, if not for a quiet prayer for healing.
- Location: Elliots Beach
- Timings: 5 am to 9 pm
9. Ripon Building
This stunning building, built in 1913, is the official seat of the Chennai Corporation. A vision in white, it is painted this colour in the Indo-Saracenic tradition popular with British architects of that era.
Named after Lord Ripon, the erstwhile Governor General of British India, the buildings clock tower stands 43 meters high and its Westminster Chiming Clock measures 2.5 meters.
- Location: Sydenhams Road, Periamet
- Timings: 10 am to 6 pm (weekends closed)
10. Tirupati Devasthanam Balaji
One of South India’s most famous temples with devotees coming by the thousands seeking darshan from the resident deity Lord Balaji, the Tirupati Devasthanam Balaji is a wonderful example of grandeur and splendor that the devout dedicate to their favorite idols.
The other idols represented here are Lord Ranganatha, Sri Devi, Bhumi Devi and Brahma.
- Location: Sriperumbudur, Near Bus Stand
- Timings: 10 am to 6 pm
11. Prakasam Salai
This flourishing tourist spot, Prakasam Salai is an architectural landmark. Built in 1795, it is easily distinguishable with its gorgeous red-brick structure. A treat for both history and architectural design fans, it also is famous for its archaeological points of interest.
Within the building you will find a collection of shrines like Kandaswamy Koil, Wesleyan Chapel and Tucker’s Church. Close to the railway station, it is easy to access and worth a visit.
- Location: Opposite Parry’s Corner
- Timings: 10 am to 6 pm
12. Madras High Court
A major landmark, this judicial complex is the second largest in the entire world. Founded in the year 1862, this 19th century Victorian High Court is designed in the Indo-Saracenic style by the famous architect Henry Irwin.
The building is a testament to the man’s genius. The beautiful domes, corridors, ceilings and stained glass doors are a unlike any you will find in India’s courts and a must visit.
- Location: Parrys, George Town
- Timings: 10:30 am to 2:30 pm (Sundays and public holidays closed)
13. Anna Memorial
Built as a monument to the beloved Dravidian leader Aringar Annadurai and also the former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, C.N. Annadurai, the Anna Memorial is set within a beautifully-manicured green park area.
While the monument is central to the memorial, the 510 hectare area also has a museum, safari park, animal house and aquarium and makes for a lovely day out for the whole family. A truly lovely place to spend some time.
- Location: Marina Beach, Chennai
- Timings: Open 24 hours
14. Doveton House
Built in the classic European style in 1798 by famous architect Benjamin Roebeck, Doveton House was named after Lt. General John Doveton and was once a lodging place for British officers as well as a prison.
Today it is the administrative office for the Women’s Christian College and Education Centre and is set in a 20 acre park area.
- Location: Nungambakkam, Chennai
- Timings: 7 am to 7 pm
15. Thousand Lights Mosque
Spread over three acres, this mosque is one of the largest in the whole of India and is a national treasure. Built in 1810, it is said that a thousand lights needed to be lit to light the assembly hall.
Built in medieval architectural style with domes and minarets that grow to heights of 64 meters, the Thousand Lights Mosque is an important pilgrimage site for Muslims. For the rest of its visitors, it is simply a joy enough to soak in the marvelous history and beauty.
- Location: Nungambakkam
- Timings: 5.30 am to 8.30 pm
This sprawling bookshop is touted as India’s first ever and is considered a monument albeit of a different kind. Housed in the heritage Majestic Building, the bookshop opened its doors in 1874.
A monument of a different kind, today it is a bibliophile’s paradise and besides the wonderful and extensive books, the building itself is steeped with history. A must visit for book lovers and lovers of history alike! It is a treasure trove and a much beloved space for many a local.
- Location: Mount Road
- Timings: 9 am to 8.30 pm
17. Karl Schmidt Memorial
The only heritage monument standing on Elliot’s Beach is the Karl Schmidt Memorial, dedicated to the man who drowned in the gallant and noble act of saving the lives of others, namely a young English girl.
Historians note that while Schmidt drowned, the girl was saved and, like his life meant nothing, she had attended apart the next night. The governor, angered by this callousness, then had the memorial built to honor the noble deed.
- Location: Elliot’s Beach
- Timings: 24 hours (best avoided late at night)