Chennai is home to some of the best Beaches, Parks, Monuments and locations of significant historical importance, Zoos, Theme & Amusement Parks and Science Museums.
Depending on the amount of time you have and the area of interest you can choose the following places to see in Chennai.
Zoos & Parks to see in Chennai
Arignar Anna Zoological Park / Vandaloor Zoo
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.
Address: Arignar Anna Zoological Park, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
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.
Address: Guindy National Park, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
Description: This is situated roughly 14 Km away from Mahabalipuram on the Chennai-Mahabalipuram road. There are over 5000 crocodiles starting from a number of 15 in 1976 set up by an American named Romulus Whitaker. Located quite nearby is the snake park from where anti-venom is produced and is closer to the Covelong beach and never missed by visitors either to or from the beach.
Address: The Madras Crocodile Bank Trust and Centre for Herpetology, Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu, India
Thousand Lights Mosque
Description: Situated in the heart of city in the heavy traffic zone and the busiest place in Chennai is the Thousand Lights Mosque named after the place. The multiple domes, cream painted walls, sayings from Kuran painted on the walls are the main features of the mosque.
Address: Thousand Lights Mosque, Peters Road, Peters Colony, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
Beaches to see in Chennai
Covelong Bech / Kovalam Beach
The covelong beach is a beautiful, calm beach between Chennai and Mahabalipuram. The small fishing village surrounding it, the swaying palm trees and the serene atmosphere makes it one of most popular beaches on the coramandel coast. A canal separates the beach from the mainland.
Address: Kovalam Beach, Kovalam, India
Mahabalipuram / Mamalapuram
One of the major tourist spots of Chennai is the Mahabalipuram or Mamallapuram which is located about 60 Km away from Chennai. The place gains its significance from the rocky beach and the monuments that date back to the Pallava reign of the 7th-8th centuries. Some of the must-see monuments are the Arjuna’s penace which is probably the world’s largest sculpted base-relief, the five Rathas or the chariot, the shore temple, the Krishna temple – one of the oldest temples, the light house from where one can get a stunning view of the surrounding areas. The famous Mahabalipuram dance festival which is usually in the months of January/February attracts many a visitors and participants from different parts of the country. There are numerous resorts, restaurants and hotels to stay and relax and enjoy the beauty of the rocky beach and the monuments. There is an entry fee for the visitors.
Address: Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu, India
An apt picnic spot, the Tiger Caves serve as a great retreat for the nature lovers and is situated about 5 Km from Mahabalipuram in the Saluvankuppam region. The crown of carved tiger heads on a cave around the temple which sets it apart from the rest of the rocks and hence the name Tiger caves. The cave, the beach, the well maintained lawn with palm, casuarinas and other trees make the place an ideal and a must-see destination on the way from Mahabalipuram. The Archaeological Survey of India takes the responsibility of its maintenance.
Also popularly known as the Besant Nagar Beach, this is extension of the Marina on the south end. It has the Velankanni church at one end which attracts a large number of pilgrims. Also situated close by is the Ashtalakshmi temple which has primarily the 8 goddesses or the 8 versions of the lord Amman.
The second longest beach in the world, the Marina Beach, runs from Fort St. George in the north to Besant Nagar in the south, a 12 Km shoreline in the city of Chennai along the Bay of Bengal. The beach is primarily a sandy beach. Activities: The major attractions/activities around the beach other than the beach itself are the beach side shops which bring a spark for the women folk and kids with numerous household items, decorations, wall hangings made of shells and stones, jewellery, toys, etc. There are many notable structures and statues from the tourism perspective. It is also an ideal spot for a morning walk or jog, an ideal lovers’ spot, one of the best places for kids to play in the water. The beach is known for its steady waves. Bathing/swimming is banned in the beach though there are a few who do so illegally.
The road running parallel to the beach is considerably wide and has a lot of interest towards tourism.
A significant stretch of the beach road is adorned with stone statues and other historical sculptures. To name a few are the statues of the great, world renowned freedom fighter Mahatma Gandhi, the legendary – Kannagi, the great Tamil poet and philosopher – Thiruvalluvar, statue of the world famous Dr Annie Besant, status of GU Pope, the statue of Labour which stands as a symbol of the hard work of the people. Recently, a statue of the great actor Sivaji Ganesan has been raised. Memorials of the former Chief Ministers of Tamil Nadu, Kamarajar and M G Ramachandran who are still remembered by the people of the state are also present.
To add to the enthusiasm of the children and the visitors, the Tamil Nadu Government introduced the artificial Marina Waterfalls with light features in September 2005.
Historical institutions and monuments:
There are also quite a few government institutions and historical buildings from the British rule along the beach road. To name a few:
* Vivekananda House
* University of Madras
* Presidency College
* Queen Mary’s College
* Police Headquarters
* Public Works Department
* Lady Wellington School
Address: Marina Beach, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
The Birla planetarium also known as the Periyar Science and Technology Centre, at Kotturpuram, Chennai brings a vivid experience of the cosmic world with shooting meteoroids, twinkling stars, the solar system and the contours of Mars and is a must-see field trip spot for school children in Chennai.
Address: Birla Planetarium, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
This is situated on the river banks of the Coovum river in Mount road. It is one of fair grounds where a lot of people come to visit the exhibition and some fair trade also going on in the place.
Address: Island Grounds, Anna Salai Mount Road, Park Town, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
Rare collections of weapons, medals, costumes, coins, uniforms, and other artifacts from the British period are found here.
Address: Fort Museum, Fort Saint George, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
Periyar Science & Technology Center
Periyar was popularly known as ‘Thanthai Periyar’. He was the father of the Dravidian movement and the author of ‘Suya Mariyathai Iyakkam’ (Self respect movement). The Science and Technology Museum located at Kotturpuram is named after him. This museum provides a vast knowledge on science and technology, is definitely a delight for the science students and scientists. There are different galleries called Science Park, Traffic Park and Eco Park that imbibes scientific knowledge on life science, physical science, innovation, energy, transport and electronics & communication.
Periyar Science and Technology Centre, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
Formerly known as the Pantheon complex during the British rule, this place was bought by the government in 1830. The government museum, established in 1851, comprises of major galleries like the Main building, front building, Bronze gallery, Children’s gallery, National art gallery, and the contemporary art gallery.
Address: Government Museum, Pantheon Road, Egmore, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
National Art Gallery
The national art gallery was established in 1857 and is situated in Egmore. Various sectors of archaeology, anthropology, geology, numismatics, botany, zoology, armoury and many more are the key features of this museum.
Address: National Art Gallery, Egmore, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
Theme Parks to see in Chennai
VGP Golden Beach
One of the oldest of the entertainment parks in Chennai, VGP still secures itself to an amusement park for all ages. The dizzy rides, water sports, the beach all make this place an ideal spot to stop for kids.
Address: VGP Universal Kingdom, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
MGM Dizzee World
This is one the best theme parks located on the outskirts of Chennai closer to the Muttukadu region on the way to Mahabalipuram on the ECR road. The park is known for its excellent and thrilling rides and water sports. The park is constructed on 3 main themes – the MGM Dizzy World, MGM Marry World and MGM Water World. The park also has a few beautiful, well maintained lawns, colourful flowering plants and a private beach with coconut trees and also has a few resorts closeby making the location and the park one of the best places for a day out or stay. There are more than 60 rides, some of them being the toy trains, rollercoaster, giant wheel, 100 feet dizzee shake, and many more. The water sport lovers rank this place as one of the best.
Address: MGM Dizzee World, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
Though a recent establishment, it has sprung right up to be one of the best theme parks in the state. Situated on the Chennai-bangalore trunk road near Sembarambakkam, Poonamallee, this amusement park is most popular for some of its best water rides. Some of the striking features are the free fall tower, cable car, lake where one could go for a boat trip, swimming pool with artificial waves, rollercoasters, himalayan ride, and many more rides for the kids as well.
Address: Queensland, Chembarambakkam, Tamil Nadu, India
The place which facilitates and encourages the study of philosophy, science and rational thought and comparative religions is the theosophical society based here near the Adyar river. Here is present the 95 years old library which has great and rare collections of the oriental manuscripts. Also present are the shrines of all faith and the garden of remembrance which attracts many a visitors.
Address: Theosophical Society, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
The Valluvar kottam – a dedication to the great Tamil poet and philosopher – Thiruvalluvar is a great piece of architecture on the corner of Kodambakkam high road. It comprises of an auditorium and a temple chariot. The poet’s epic – the Thirukkural are inscribed on the granite pillars that surround the auditorium. The temple chariot is 101 feet high with a life-size image of the great Thiruvalluvar. The base of the chariot marks the 133 chapters of the Thirukkural and is a place of interest for the Tamil lovers, poets, writers and philosophers.
Address: Valluvar Kottam, Thirumalai Pillai Road, T.Nagar, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
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.
Address: Ripon Building, Sydenhams Road, Periyamet, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
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.
Address: Vivekananda House, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
Fort St. George
Fort St. George was built by the British East India Company in 1640 AD giving it a military architecture. It bestows pride and caliber in Chennai. The fort was inaugurated on April 23rd coinciding with St. George’s Day. Hence the Fort was named after the patron saint St. George. The Fort faced the sea and became a prominent place of merchandise which paved way for the formation of a town called George Town which enveloped the other villages and was popularly called as Chennaipattinam. Now it is being preserved and sustained by The Archaeological Survey of India. Within the boundaries of Fort St. George, the St. Mary’s church and Museum is located with awe-inspiring paintings, medals, letters and antiques belonging to the colonial period. The glass windows, teak plaques still glitter with their beauty and are a delight for the eyes. The Fort St. George Museum was built in 1976 and honoured as one of the oldest surviving buildings. The 150 feet tall Flagstaff is a fascinating feature of the Fort. It is made up of teakwood. The statue of Lord Cornwallis in front of the museum is a masterpiece and has historical importance to it. Presently, the Fort houses the Administrative Headquarters, The State Legislature and the Secretariat.
Address: Fort St George, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India