The city of Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu, is a compendium of South Indian culture and heritage. The city contains examples from almost every period of Indian history, and is an excellent tourist spot, with all features of modern existence lying alongside untouched examples of religion, history, culture.
This is a list of all the places that can be visited in Chennai, from the malls and constructions of its more modern half to its preserved history. With the help of this list, you may visit theatres, temples and museums, and then spend time at the beach.
Things to see in Chennai: Temples and Churches
1. Kapaleeshwar Temple
Patronised by the Cholas and the Vijayanagar rulers, this ancient and powerful Shiva temple is a wonderful place to visit for the faithful. The temple is always busy and you may get to see a budding singer or dancer performing at their best, for the Lord and his devotees.
2. Balaji Temple
This beautiful temple to Lord Venkateswara, fondly known as Balaji is maintained by the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam itself and has the deity as a replica of the God at Tirupati. If unable to visit Tirupati due to a paucity of time, there’s no better alternative than this temple for the faithful.
Location: T. Nagar
3. Arulmigu Mahalakshmi Temple
Temples to Sri Mahalakshmi are always a great attraction, as everyone wants her to bestow a benevolent eye on them. This temple to Mahalakshmi in all her eight manifestations is especially important to the faithful for its architectural beauty, design and the opportunity to worship her.
Location: Besant Nagar
4. St. George’s Cathedral
Named after the patron saint of England, this grand church was built in 1815, and impresses all visitors with its tall spire, marble statues and mural tablets. The stained-glass windows here bathe the cathedral in rich, warm hues, even as they describe two important events from the life of Jesus, namely his Baptism by John the Baptist and the resurrected Lord with Mary Magdalene are marvellous examples of this art form.
Location: Fort St. George
5. San Thome Basilica
This Roman Catholic basilica was built in the 16th century by Portuguese explorers, over the tomb of Saint Thomas, one of the apostles of Jesus. The basilica was rebuilt as a church by the British in a Neo-Gothic style. Legend has it that St. Thomas arrived in India in AD 52 and preached until his martyrdom in AD 72.
Location: San Thome
Things to see in Chennai: Beaches
6. Marina Beach
Acclaimed as the world’s longest, naturally occurring urban beach, the Marina beach is a 12-kilometre long promenade which is a must-visit place for all visitors to Chennai.
Enjoy the beach and the view of ships moored off the coast, eat the street foods it offers, but be wary of the currents if you wish to wade into the waters.
Location: Marina Promenade
7. Elliot’s Beach
This quiet and relatively secluded beach offers great street foods to the visitors. Wading into the waters here is easier at this beach. Enjoy corn on the cob at the beach or go for a long walk, which is what beaches are made for.
Location: Besant Nagar
8. Covelong Beach
This secluded beach offers an excellent opportunity for some rare photos with its backdrop of sandbanks and backwaters. Go on a boat into the sea if possible or indulge in adventure water sports at this beautiful beach.
Things to see in Chennai: Heritage Sites
9. Victoria Public Hall
Named after Queen Victoria, Empress of India, this town hall was built to commemorate her golden jubilee. It was a theatre and public assembly till early 20th century and now houses the South Indian Athletic Association Club. The hall is an example of Indo-Saracenic architecture.
Location: Park Town
10. Madras High Court
The Madras High Court was officially inaugurated in July 1892, in an Indo-Saracenic style of architecture. To achieve this, two temples which were in existence on the land were shifted out to make space for this building. This building holds the distinction of being one of the very few Indian buildings damaged by the Germans in World War I, when Madras was shelled by S.M.S. Emden in September 1914.
Location: George Town
11. Ripon Building
This beautiful building combines Ionic and Corinthian styles to offer a neoclassical construction which lends outstanding beauty to its surroundings. There’s a Westminster Quarter chiming clock, which is manually wound on a daily basis, installed in the building in 1913. This heritage building was renovated in 2012 at a cost of Rs. 77 million.
Things to see in Chennai: Monuments
12. Victory War Memorial
Originally constructed to commemorate the victory of the allied armies in World War I (1914-1918), this monument was later consecrated to the memory of all those from the Madras Presidency, who lost their lives in the World War II (1939-1945)
Location: Port Trust. Later inscriptions include Kashmir aggression in 1948, war with China in 1962 and the Indo-Pak war.
Location: Marina Beach
13. Thousand Lights Mosque
One of the largest mosques in the country, and a place of worship for shias, this multi-domed mosque was opened in 1810. The name is derived from the tradition of lighting 1000 lights in the prayer hall during Ramadan.
Location: Thousand Lights
14. St. George’s Fort
Constructed in 1644 on uninhabited land, this Fort encouraged more settlements and trading activity, literally helping the city to evolve around the Fort. The East India Company built the harbour, made it the hub of activity and gave birth to George Town, and later Chennai.
Location: George Town
Things to see in Chennai: Museums
15. Government Museum
A museum of human history and culture, this second oldest museum in India has the largest collection of Roman antiquities outside Europe and is particularly rich in archaeological and numismatic collections. The building follows an Indo-Saracenic style of architecture and houses paintings by Raja Ravi Varma.
16. 3D Art Museum
This Click Art Museum at the VGP Complex, has images which cheat the eye, use a ‘trompe l’oeil’ technique to offer 3D images which can have you pet a snake, accept an Oscar, get kicked by Bruce Lee or become puppets on a string.
Location: East Coast Road
Things to see in Chennai: Libraries
17. Connemara Public Library
This old heritage library was renovated and reopened to the public this year, on World Book Day. Originally opened in 1896, this library smells deliciously of the over one lakh old books which are painstakingly preserved, like a Bible published in 1608. Its Indo-Saracenic architecture includes stained glass windows and lovely wood-carved arches and pillars and armchairs carved with animal shapes.
18. Anna Centenary Library
If seeking a place of quiet to read or research from information, Anna Centenary Library will prove perfect. Tamil Nadu’s established State Library, named after CM Annadurai, the Library is constantly teeming with students and learners. Partake in such scholarly efforts with a visit.
Things to see in Chennai: Greenery and parks
19. Jeeva Park
Jeeva Park opens at 5:00 in the morning and is perfect for a walk or a day spent amidst greenery. Jeeva Park is famous for its decent jogging area, as well other additions made to the park for exercise and fitness, like a badminton court.
Location: T. Nagar
20. Guindy National Park
Tamil Nadu’s Raj Bhavan, the governor’s residence, was once known as Guindy Lodge. The name has since changed, but name of Guindy Park continues to refer to this smallest National Park in India. The Park is also one of the few National Parks that can be found in a city of India. Do plan a visit to the park for the birds and animals protected there. The park contains a forest, streams, shrubs and lakes. Try and spot a blackbuck!
Things to see in Chennai: Zoological Parks and Sanctuaries
21. Arignar Anna Zoological Park
Set 31 kilometres from Chennai’s city centre and spread over an area of 1490 acres, this is the largest zoological park in India. The zoo houses 2553 species of flora and fauna, making it an ideal destination for children and adults alike. Developed in a Reserve Forest area from 1979, the park preserves the original vegetation of the area intact.
22. Tholkappiar Ecological Park
Adyar Ecological Park consists of a dense evergreen forest, amongst many other forms of plant life. This ecosystem is meant to prevent the freshwater ecosystems of the Coromandel Coast from complete collapse and disappearance. Funded by the Karunanidhi Government, the park is an example of the necessary change of attitude demanded by the environment for its preservation.
23. Chennai Snake Park
The legacy of herpetologist Romulus Whitaker, Chennai’s snake park is home to an entanglement of snakes – from pythons to cobras. More of a sanctuary than a tourist destination, Chennai Snake Park is a reptant paradise. You will find more than snakes there, including lizards and chameleons.
Things to see in Chennai: Cinemas
24. Sathyam Cinemas
The story began in 1974 on a road in Royapettah, Chennai. Originally called the Royal Theatre Complex, Sathyam Theatres is part of the history of the city.
The theatre displays a number of movies in a variety of languages, so the visitor may get his fair share of recreation. Visit, for the theatre, has seen a large portion of Indian cinema and has very nice seats.
25. Sangam Multiplex
Find the latest movies playing at Sangam Multiplex in high definition. The snack-bar at the theatre is stocked with good food, and the theatre is well-maintained. Visit here, with change for popcorn and watch the latest examples of Indian cinema.
26. Prarthana Beach Drive-in Theatre
Those familiar with cinema often see movies from the 1960s were romance unfolds before a drive-in movie screen.
The experience is removed from the confines of a theatre and balanced against the dark night sky. Prarthana Beach Drive-In offers a similar experience.
27. The Madras Music Academy
Chennai is the last bastion of art and culture, with its theatres and music academies. The Madras Music Academy, one of the earliest music academies in South India, inaugurated in 1928.
The Academy promotes Carnatic Music and prevents the possibility of it becoming obsolete. Similarly, when the dance form Bharatanatyam was eschewed by Indian society for its history and was becoming démodé, the Madras Music Academy protected it. If interested in Indian dance and music, do visit.
Things to see in Chennai: Best Street Food Stalls
28. Karishma Pani Poori
The recipe used at this chaat place in Chennai something unique – their Pani Poori is quite famous. Swim through a small, hungry crowd and feast on a variety of chaat items. This list includes pakoras, bread items, vada pav, and other chaat items.
29. Beach Food-Stalls
The beaches of Chennai, sitting prettily on the rim of the Coromandel Coast, are wonderful places to visit. Adding to their appeal are the food-stalls and items that are found along the beach, like chaat, steamed corn – sometimes even barbecued on coals – and ice-cream.
Location: Marina and Besant Nagar
30. Ajnabi Mithai Ghar
Open from 10 am to 10 pm, Ajanabi Mithai Ghar is an inexpensive way to feast on a number of chaat items and sweets, like bhel puri and jalebi. Open all the days of the week, this Mithai Ghar is famous for its delicacies.
31. Shri Keshav Chaats
Another popular joint for street foods, Keshav Chaats in Purasawalkam is popular with many people in Chennai, who make it a point to visit this centre to indulge in its delicacies, especially the chaat items. Do try to drop in, if you happen to be in the vicinity of an evening.
True to its name, Mannah is all about sweets and cakes, which are popular with the clientele. A popular sweet shop in Kodambakkam, Mannah finds its name being popular with colonies around it, which include T. Nagar and Nungambakkam.
Things to See in Chennai: Shopping Malls
33. Spencer Plaza
This mall, Spencer Plaza, is one of the oldest malls in Chennai. An excellent shopping experience, Spencer Plaza has a number of shops – some of them styled like markets, selling a variety of items, like shawls and other culturally significant materials, and houses speciality shops which source their wares from Sri Lanka. A visit makes for an interesting experience, and we recommend it.
Location: Mount Road
34. Express Avenue
Express Avenue in Chennai has the largest game arcade in the entirety of South India, making it the popular choice of the young and along with those young at heart. If fond of arcade games, do plan a visit. It is a fine way to spend time with children.
35. Citi Centre
Opened in 2006, Citi Centre is an expensive mall in Chennai. Located in Mylapore, Chennai, the mall has 50 shops and 25 dining establishments, with a Lifestyle store which is a major attraction along with the theatres.
Things to See in Chennai: Shopping Markets
36. Burma Bazaar
The Burma Bazaar was established by Burmese refugees at Parry’s Corner, in 1969, with the aid of the Tamil Nadu Government. An unorganised market, Burma Bazaar has an extensive collection of miscellaneous things, from CDs and suitcases.
Location: Parry’s Corner
37. Parry’s Market
You would be amazed at the range of items you could buy at Parry’s Corner, with the shops here selling anything from cereals and pulses to haute couture and sanitary ware. You may find many imported items here, along with textiles, hardware, stationery and machine parts.
Location: Parry’s Corner
38. Saidapet Market
Everyone knows that there are huge margins to be had in selling food and the price of everyday vegetables like onions and tomatoes see a marked hike, by the time they reach the consumer. Head to the Saidapet Market to stock up on your week’s supply of vegetables, fish and other consumables, since they come reasonably priced.
Chennai is a wonderful city and a visit here makes for a wonderful experience. Do refer to this list, which comprises of some of the many places and things that can be seen in the city of Chennai. Despite its length, this list is not wholly exhaustive. The city has more substance to its history and culture, and to the modern additions made. Maybe it is time to set off on an adventure?