Posted/Updated on June 08, 2010
Chennai is the gateway to South Indian peninsula; also a place of historic importance. It is a pulsating city, ever changing and ever expanding. The city is probably the most peaceful and green metropolis of India. It was once a group of small villages until the appearance of East India Company to set up a new trade centre in the place. This land was known as Fort St. George during British era.

The city is connected by four main roads. Georgetown is to the northwest while Egmore, Triplicane and Mylapore are to the south of Chennai. The city is a blend of temples, churches, monuments and several other prime destinations. Its fascinating monuments and churches date back to the Portuguese and British period. The spectacular Marina Beach stretches 13 km along the city’s eastern flank which is a favourite place for the city dwellers and visitors. The Fort St. George is another widely visited spot of the city that depicts colonial influence of British and Portuguese on the city. Major places of worship are Parthasarthi Temple, Kapaleeswarar temple, Wallajah mosque, “Thousand lights” mosque and San Thome Basilica.

Tourist Attractions in Chennai

Temples
Parthasarthi temple: Parthasarthi temple, one of the oldest surviving temples in Chennai attracts tourists for its architectural beauty. It is located in Triplicane and built in the 8th century AD. Other than Lord Parthasarthi, the temple enshrines images of Lord Vishnu and wounded Krishna. The annual Bhrahmotsav festival is celebrated in this temple.

There are shrines facing the east for Rama along with Sita, Lakshmana, Bharata, Shatrugna and Hanuman, Varadarajan seated on the Garuda, and Narasimhars in a seated posture. Apart from these, there is a separate shrine for Andal.

Kapaleeswarar Temple: Lord Shiva is worshipped in Kapaleeswarar temple. Though it is believed that the temple existed for more than thousand years, its architecture is no more than 300 – 400 years old.

Ashtalakshmi Temple: Ashtalakshmi temple is a must visit for tourists during the Navratri festival in September-October, which is celebrated with great enthusiasm. Situated at Elliots Beach, Ashtalakshmi temple refers to the eight manifestations of Goddess Mahalakshmi.

Sri Ramakrishna Temple: As the name suggests, Sri Ramkrishna temple is dedicated to Sri Ramkrishna. Located in Ramkrishna Matt in Mylapore, it also has images of Sri Sarada Devi and Swami Vivekananada.

Historical Monuments
Fort St. George: One of the most famous tourist destinations of Chennai is Fort St. George. Built in 1640 AD, by the British East India Company under the direct supervision of Francis Day and Andrew Cogon, it achieved its name from Saint George, the patron saint of England. The fort also houses Saint Mary's Church the oldest Anglican Church built in 1680.

Light House: You cannot miss Marina Beach when in Chennai and the massive tall structure situated at south end of the Marina Beach. The Light House beckons the visitors in the evening and adds glory to the golden sands. It offers panoramic view of the harbor and George Town. The All India Radio (AIR) broadcast station is located opposite to the light house.

High Court: The Madras High Court was built in 1892. This Indo-Saracenic architectural monument is believed to be the second largest judicial complex in the world. It is a major landmark of the city.

Anna Memorial: This is a memorial for Arinzar Annadurai - leader of the Dravidian movement, affectionately called Anna. His speech in Tamil has won millions of hearts in the state.

The memorial of Dr. M.G. Ramachandran leader of AIADMK movement lies adjacent to this memorial. Both these leaders still live in the hearts of Tamil Nadu people.

War Memorial Hall: The War Memorial Hall is a circular rock and marble structure built in memory of those who laid down their lives for the country's honour during World War I. The hall is situated on Beach Road near Island Grounds.

Gandhi Mandapam: Gandhi Mandapam is located on Sardar Vallabhai Patel Road, opposite to Anna University, Guindy, in Chennai. Built in memory of Mahatma Gandhi, the mandapam is easily recognizable because of the structure of the temple gopuram styling of its portals. Gandhi Mandapam lies next to the Guindy National Park.

Kamraj Memorial House
The Kamraj Memorial House Chennai is a storehouse of information on India after its independence. Situated in T.Nagar of Chennai, this house was built in memory of the former Chief Minister of Chennai, Kamraj. Inaugurated by M.G Ramchandran, this house also tells us the life story of Kamraj.


Museums
Government Museum: The Government Museum is located inside the Pantheon Complex and spreads over five sections, each with a specific collection of objects. The Museum houses more than 30,000 odd objects ranging from fossils and rocks to books and sculptures. The Connemara Public Library and the National Art Gallery are also housed inside the Museum. The museum also contains contemporary artifacts and prehistoric findings. Buddhist sculptures found in the Amaravathi section depict the events recorded in the life of the Buddha.

Fort Museum: Located in Fort St. George, the Fort Museum has 10 rooms displaying the documents of Indian History. The collection includes old uniforms, padlocks, old prints, coins and palanquins. The banquet hall has a collection of paintings of the governors and officials of the British regime.

Birla Planetarium: The Birla Planetarium at Kottupuram is one of the modern planetariums of the world. One can enjoy shows on themes ranging from astronomy- twinkling stars, meteoroids, comets, constellations, rotating solar system and other cosmic events.The Periyar Science and Technology Centre is situated near this planetarium.

Parks and Gardens
Nageswara Park: This park at Loz corner was originally a much smaller park than it is today. It was established in the year 1940 but was being neglected for more than last two decades. The park has a wide collection of trees, some ornamental and medicinal plants, water fountain and a playground for children. The Chennai Corporation is responsible for the maintenance of the park. Now this park has been a preferred location for the film makers.

Natesan Park: Thousands of tourists visit this beautiful Natesan Park everyday. This park has a variety of plants and trees like Crotons, aralias, mahogany, bougainvilleas, ceesil peniea, acalypha, pulcharima, neem and gulmohur.

MGM Dizzee World: This place is loved by both adults and children. Visitors can enjoy different water sports like Dashing boat, Arrow Loop Roller Coaster and 110 feet Dizzee Shake.

It is situated at Muttukkadu enroute to Mamallapuram in Chennai. Timing: 10.30 am to 9 pm.

Adyar Banyan Tree: The Adyar Banyan Tree is one of the largest trees in the world. It measures 238 ft from north to south and 250ft from east to west. The total area exceeds 59,500 sq ft. It is the centre of many notable gatherings of the Theosophical Society. Thousands of visitors have rested in its shade after a long walk.

Guindy National Park: This deciduous scrub jungle of Guindy was declared as a national park in 1977. It is located near Sardar Vallabbhai Patel Road to the south of Chennai. The area is covered with trees like sandal, banyan and jamun. It is home to several endangered species as well. During winter, visitors can watch the large number of migrant birds and varieties of snakes.

Crocodile Bank
Head in the direction of Mahabalipuram and you will find the Crocodile Park of Chennai - home to several species of Indian and African crocodiles and alligators. Started in 1976 by herpetologist Romulus Whitaker, the Crocodile Park is spread over 3.2 hectares of lush vegetation.

The Crocodile Bank in Chennai is the largest crocodile-breeding site in the country. Several species of African and Indian crocodiles and alligators are bred in captivity. This park seeks to spread awareness of the ecological role played by crocodiles in selectively feeding on sick and weak and injured fish. Projects are conducted on the biology and study of crocodiles, turtles and lizards.

Visitors to the Crocodile Park in Chennai can view the various alligator and crocodile species lazing about in the open pools. Be it the Mugger or Marsh variety of crocodiles found in the lowland waters or the Gharials (crocodiles with the longest jaw), the Crocodile bank is home to nearly 7000 inmates.

Other species of crocodiles found in the Crocodile Park in Chennai - Morlet's crocodile from Mexico, American Alligator, Dwarf crocodile from Africa and the Siamese crocodile. Visitors can collect interesting trivia and information about these species. The Crocodile Bank also has a snake farm, where anti-venom is produced. Demonstrations of venom extraction draw considerable crowds.
Beaches
Marina Beach: Marina Beach is the second longest beach in the world with a stretch of 4.5 km (2.5 miles). Visitors can take long walks along the beach or spend evenings by eating crispy sundal and murkku. The stretch reminds you of the good old British days because of the old buildings on the side of Kamarajar Salai, a main road along the Marina, This stretch is filled with statues of remembrance from Tamil culture to great leaders of the state of Tamil Nadu.


Elliots Beach: If you are a nature lover, you cannot miss the beautiful site in Elliots Beach which is situated down south from Marina. Another major reason for tourists to flock here is the Velankanni church and the Ashtalakshmi temple, located at the end of the beach. The Ashtalakshmi temple is dedicated to goddess Lakshmi and the granite structure makes it look very different from the usual South Indian temples.
 Electronic Voting Machine on Beach


Other Places
Theosophical Society: Theosophical Society founded by Madame Blavatsky and Col. Olott sin USA is situated amidst the beautiful sylvan settings in Adyar. The society encourages the study of comparative religion, philosophy and science. It also houses a 95 year old library which has a rare collection of Oriental manuscripts written on palm leaves and parchment.

Valluvar Kottam: Valluvar Kottam is a memorial dedicated to poet-saint Tiruvalluvar. The temple is a replica of the temple chariot in Thiruvarur. The statue of the saint is 33m tall and 133 chapters of his famous work, Thirukkural have been depicted in bas-relief in the front hall corridors of the chariot. The auditorium at Valluvar Kottam which is the largest in Asia accommodates about 4000 people.

MGR Film City: MGR Film City is one of the latest attractions of the city. Tamil Film industry is the second largest only after Mumbai. You can visit the Film City to catch a glimpse of your favorite film stars.

Kalakshetra: Tamil Nadu is known for the love of music and dance. Established in 1936, Kalakshetra is a pioneer institute for classical dance, fine arts and music. Some of the renowned dancers like Yamini Krishnamurti and Leela Samson were the students of this institute. A festival is organized at the end of each year.

Best Time to Visit Chennai
The best time to visit Chennai is from November to March since the weather at this time is pleasant and cool.

How to reach Chennai
Chennai is one of the four metros in India. It can be reached by air, rail and road or even by sea.

By Air: Chennai is well connected to the world and most international airlines have flights to Chennai's Anna International Airport. Domestic airlines operate daily flights to all major cities of the country from the Kamaraj domestic terminal near the international terminal. Both air terminals are located at Meenambakkom about 20 kms from the city.

By Rail: Chennai is the headquarters of Southern Railway, a division of Indian Railway. Chennai is connected to many cities and towns by super-fast and express trains. The city has two main railway stations.Chennai Central, which links north and west India and Egmore, which links south India. Chennai has a recently introduced local electric train network, MRTS (Massive Rapid Transport System) to connect different points of the city.

By Road: Chennai is well connected to all the major cities of India by a network of highways and roads. Most government bus services for Tamil Nadu and other states now operate from the newly opened Chennai Mofussil Bus Terminal at Jawaharlal Nehru Salai, Koyembedu.It is claimed to be the largest bus station in Asia. Inter state buses operate at regular intervals from Chennai. Many private operators are also available for domestic and interstate transportation. Pre-paid taxis and airport coaches are available at airports and railway station.

Travel in Chennai
Compared to the other major metros of India, Chennai is far less congested and polluted. The city also offers reasonably efficient public buses and you will never find commuter trains maddening. But it is safer and more practical to travel by taxis.