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Places to See in Chennai

Tourist, Historic, Archaeology, Theme Parks, Zoos & Parks, Monuments, Beaches, Temples, Churches

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. For the purpose of this article, we have restricted places within 100 km around Chennai which are typically within a driving range of 1-2 hours by Bus or Car.

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

Crocodile Park

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

Tiger Caves:

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.

Elliots Beach

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.

Marina Beach

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 beachside shops which bring a spark for the womenfolk and kids with numerous household items, decorations, wall hangings made of shells and stones, jewelry, toys, etc. There are many notable structures and statues from a 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.

Running along the coastline of Chennai, Marina Beach is a natural urban beach, the longest in India spanning about six kilometers and second longest in the world. It is famous for a variety of finger food stalls, all that Chennai has to offer will be found here, especially the freshly fried fish of your choice. Pony rides for adults and children, riding along the beach is also one of the attractions. Along the coastline are a number of historical and architectural buildings like Madras University, Lady Willingdon Institute, and All India Radio to name a few.

Marina beach has been a place for important public gatherings and meetings as well, the most recent one being Jallikattu in 2017 when about six lakh people from all parts of the society gathered for six days in a row in silent protest against a ban imposed by the Supreme court on a traditional bull-taming sport called Jallikattu. The Chennai people were successful in showcasing their unity and solidarity and got the ban lifted and the sport legalized in a matter of two weeks.

Attractions:

The road running parallel to the beach is considerably wide and has a lot of interest towards tourism.

Notable structures:

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.

Artificial waterfalls:

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

Birla Planetarium

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

Island Grounds

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

Fort Museum

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

Government Museum

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

Queensland

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

Theosophical Society

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 visitors.

Address: Theosophical Society, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India

Valluvar Kottam

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

Rippon Building

The white colored, 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

Vivekananda 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.

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


Chennai, formerly known as Madras, is a 400-year-old city that has witnessed the development of India through the ages. It has a prominent place in Indian history and is an important port city, it was in the center of things through the British colonial times to the freedom of India and its growth. Through the 20th century, it has remained one of the major five cities contributing to the economy of the country and a hub for services and manufacturing sectors, employing and attracting people from all parts of India to itself and yet has managed to remain air-tight as far as its culture and traditions. The sights and sounds of the city are like no other and as soon as you step in this city, you get hit by its uniqueness. It is somewhat of a culture shock, in a good way, to people from the North, East and West parts of India and of course to anybody who is not used to the South Indian way of life. The Tamil culture is thick in the air, inviting you to experience and appreciate its uniqueness and your senses are sure to be overwhelmed by the tastes and flavors of Chennai and their hospitality of course.

Listed below are twenty-one things to do when in Chennai. They are sure to give you a memorable time, enriching your experience of a new culture and people and their way of life.

Semmozhi Poonga

It is the first botanical garden set up in the city spanning an area of 20 acres. It is situated opposite the American Consulate on Cathedral Road. There are about 500 species of plants here and trees some of them more than 100 years old. The garden is divided into sub gardens such as a tree court, exotic, herbal, and aromatic gardens and bonsai. One of the sub gardens is called the golden garden where plants with yellow blooms of different shades are displayed. There are several water bodies created that add to the beauty of the garden like the duck pond.

The place is open from 6 to 8 am for the morning walkers and 10 am to 8 pm for other visitors on all days except Tuesday.

Government Museum

Also known as Egmore Museum or Madras Museum, it is one of the chief attractions of Chennai, established more than 150 years ago, in 1846. The building is an archeological marvel to see. There are several galleries housed in different buildings like archeology, anthropology, geology, botany, numismatics, contemporary art, zoology and children’s section. The museum has the largest collection of Roman antiques outside of Europe. There is a rich collection of bronze articles preserved for 100s of years and one can come to see and appreciate the diverse Indian history, art and culture under one roof. On an estimate, the museum gets about 1000 visitors on a weekday and more on weekends. Visiting hours are 9.30 am to 5 pm.

Faraway Tree Gallery

This is one of the best modern and contemporary Indian art galleries to visit in Chennai. It displays paintings, watercolors, drawings, sculptures and more. There are also limited edition prints such as Lithographs and Etchings on display. You would benefit from a guided tour of the gallery and will need a prior appointment to secure one. The gallery is located at Nungambakkam, open between 10.30 am to 7 pm.

Dakshinachitra Heritage Museum

This is a living museum of art, architecture, craft, lifestyles, and performing arts of South India.  It brings together the life of the different states of South India in one place to see and appreciate. It was set up by Madras Craft Foundation, an NGO with an objective of making these art forms available to the public in an engaging and participative way. The museum is located at Muttukadu, 25 kilometers from central Chennai on the East Coast Road to Mamallapuram.

Fort St George

First built by the East India Company in 1641 as its trading center and settlement headquarters, the fort was later remodeled as their administrative center. It was the first fortress to be set up in India. The fort has a number of monuments within it, one of them is St Mary’s Church believed to be one of the oldest churches built by the British in India. The glass windows and teak plaques of the old times are still well preserved. There is also an old 150 ft tall flagstaff made entirely of teakwood. The fort also has a museum containing artifacts from the British rule and a Wesley House that holds the paintings of the Fort Governor. Very recently a portion of the fort is being used as the administrative office of the Tamil Nadu government and the legislative assembly. Located on Anna Salai road, the visiting hours are 10 am to 5 pm.

Santhome Basilica

The church was originally built by Portuguese explorers in the 16th century in honor of apostle St. Thomas, one of the original disciples of Jesus Christ who first brought the gospel to the Indian shores. The structure was later rebuilt by the British in the 19th century and gained the status of a minor basilica by the then Pope Pius XII. It is among the only three churches in the world which house the tombs of the original disciples of Jesus.

The basilica has an all-white façade and built in a neo-gothic style with large windows and naturally lit interiors and a 183-foot high spire.

The peaceful and calm interiors are an inviting atmosphere away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Its location close to the beach makes it an even more peaceful place to be in and spend a few minutes in prayer and adoration.

The church has a museum displaying antiques and memorabilia from the work and life of the apostle St Thomas and included is a display case having his fingerprints.

St Andrew’s Church – The Kirk

Popularly known as “The Kirk” (meaning Church in Scottish), St. Andrew’s Church was originally built for Scottish soldiers more than 200 years ago. Built-in Palladian architecture, the structure is 43 ft tall and the circular dome’s blue interior is made of crushed seashells mixed with Lapis Lazuli, a deep blue metamorphic rock used as a semiprecious stone. The seating style is semicircular and behind the altar is an old pipe organ that still is in good shape and used in every Sunday mass. This was made and procured from England in the year 1883. The old era charm of this church must not be missed and its location being very close to Egmore and Central stations is just a 15 min drive.

Valluvar Kottam

A chariot shaped temple built in the honor of renowned Tamil poet and philosopher, Thiruvalluvar. It was built and inaugurated by the then President of India Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed. The monument has a decorative arch and an auditorium to seat 3500 people. The 39 m high stone chariot has a life-size statue of Valluvar installed in it. The chariot is adorned with beautiful Kalamkari drawings.

Kapaleeshwar Temple

This is an ancient place of worship built in Dravidian and Vijaynagari architecture in approximately the seventh century, dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple has two colossal gates called the gopurams which is typical of a South Indian temple. There are inscriptions on the walls of the temple that date back to the 12th  century.  The most revered festival of this temple is the annual Brahmotsavam which takes place in the Tamil month of Panguni.

Mahabalipuram temples, Pancha Rathas

Pancha Rathas is a monument complex of five monolithic temples, carved out of a single rock. Built-in the 7th  century, each of these temples are shaped in the form of a “ratha” or chariot.  The largest of these is the Dharmaraja Rath at a height of 11 m. These are an example of Indian rock-cut architecture. These temples are marked as world heritage site by UNESCO in 1984. It is located in the ancient town of Mahabalipuram about 60 km from Chennai on the east coast.

Elliot’s Beach / Besant Nagar Beach

Elliot’s beach is one of the cleanest beaches of Chennai and one of the favorite places to visit, especially by the youth. It is the endpoint of Marina beach towards the south and is much more calm and peaceful as it is less crowded at any given time. Karl Schmidt’s monument was built at the beach in honor of a European soldier who gave his life saving a drowning girl in 1930. Across the beach are lined up multi-cuisine restaurants offering a variety of dishes right from South Indian to Chinese and Malaysian

Connemara Public Library

It is one of four National Depository libraries that gets a copy of all published books, newspapers and periodicals in India. It is located on Pantheon road and is a haven for book lovers.

Chokhi Dhani – Mini Rajasthan

A mini Rajasthan heritage sprawled over 15 acres of land, this masterpiece showcase of Rajasthani art and design will take your breath away with its ethnic culture and traditions. There is a piece of every bit of Rajasthan to be found here, the music, dance, mandir, village market, folk dances, camel rides, bioscope, village photo studio, Mehendi for the ladies, Jyotish, traditional Rajasthani food and open lawns to relax. There could be picnics organized for school children, corporate get-togethers, film shoots and can have a wedding planner in Rajasthani style. The place is 32 km from Chennai and welcomes guests between 4 pm to 10 pm. This is a must-go-to place for an evening of North Indian village resort experience.

Cholamandal (Artists’ Village)

About 22 km from Chennai located in Injambakkam on the East Coast Road is this artist’s village called Cholamandal. It is spread across 10 acres of land where artists and their families live and work. In 1964, a group of thirty artists came together to form a settlement which would not only support their creativity but also be a safe haven for their families. They got together and built their own houses, studios, gallery, workshop, and theatre without any external financial support. This became the way of sustainable life for these contemporary artists. The village showcases some exclusive pieces of art such as batik, pottery, and sculptures made of granite, wood, copper, and bronze. There is an open-air theater for the performing artists,  poetry reading and dance.

Muttukadu Boat House

Just before Kovalam, 36 km from Chennai is this beautiful lake in the backwaters. There are speedboats, rowboats, water scooters, and pedal boats to enjoy a ride. The boathouse has a well-maintained restaurant and the walkway along the lake dotted with benches makes for a calm evening spent with friends and family.

T. Nagar market

It is the most happening place for shopping in Chennai where one can get a wide range of traditional Indian attire, sarees, dress materials and other accessories at a very reasonable price. The main street for the budget-conscious is Ranganathan street. The smaller by-lanes are  dotted with food stalls and small restaurants where one can grab a quick bite of South Indian snacks.

Street Food

Chennai like any other metro city in India offers a variety of delectable mouthwatering dishes to the street foodies. There is a charm to standing and eating finger food at a street corner which does not compare to the dine-in experience. The best places to go to when in Chennai are Sarvana Bhavan in Egmore, very close to the Central station, Murugan idli shop, Nair mess in Chelpauk and Maplai in Nungambakkam are to name a few. Elliot’s beach fish fry stalls are not to be missed by fish lovers. Attho at Burma Bazaar is another of Chennai’s famous street foods located at Beach road.

Pondy Baazar – Shopping

Located in T Nagar, this is one of Chennai’s most sought out markets for street shopping, clothing accessories, and footwear. The streets are overflowing with people looking for a good bargain which one is sure to find. There is also the famous multistoried Sarvana stores that has merchandise from safety pins to diamond jewelry.

Barracuda Bay Sport Fishing Club

This is for the fishing enthusiasts who love to spend the day fishing. At Barracuda Bay Sport Fishing Club one can get their hands at catching a Barracuda, King mack, Dorado and Yellowfins using techniques like trolling, popping and jigging, the different ways of catching fish. You will be taken to about 20 km in the sea where you will have experienced guidance in catching fish. The packages are hour based from Rs 6500 for two hours and Rs 8500 for three hours. All gears and equipments provided.

Kalakshektra

Spread over 100 acres near the Chennai seashore, Kalakshetra is a center for the study and performance of fine arts. It was founded in the year 1936 for the preservation of traditional values of Indian art and crafts especially in the field of dance forms and music like Bharatnatyam and Gandharvaveda. There are guided and non-guided tours between 8:30 am to 4 pm. One can participate in the morning prayers and then see around the place and purchase products like handloom sarees, bedsheets, and cushion covers. Kalakshetra dance and other art performances can also be enjoyed by booking online or calling up the theatre manager.