Tamil Nadu is characterized by its evocative array of culture and heritage, belonging to a civilization settled here for thousands of years. Chennai, the capital of the state, carries this legacy to date albeit rapidly evolving as a metropolitan city. The yesteryears have their doors open to the present here through the many ancient places to visit in Chennai such as temples and monuments as well as museums storing relics from the past. The city is also graced by a coastline that travellers and locals visit who regularly for a refreshing evening suffused by the cool sea-breeze. At such communal places to visit in Chennai, you can observe the Tamilian zest and pride within the native population which will recharge you with a similar excitement in your spirit during your trip. 

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Places to Visit in Chennai: Museums and Other Landmarks

Chennai was a significant place for the Europeans during colonization. It was a centre of trade, culture and architecture. The post-independent era has observed the city flourishing too, carrying many remnants from the past. As a traveller, you can learn immensely about the history of the city through the many places to visit in Chennai that are dedicated to preserving relics. The city is home to 2,467 heritage structures revealing a diversity in the aesthetics of architecture from the Pallava dynasty to the colonial period. A chance to visit the heart of Chennai, you get an opportunity to engage in a dialogue about its legacy with the city itself which makes it a unique experience in its own right. Some of these sites include:

Fort St. George

Among the integral places to visit in Chennai, Fort St. George is the first British fort constructed in India back in the 17th century. Its creation led to an accelerated habitation in the area, with a number of trades and residential communities cropping up around it. What was once an important trading post for the British is now being used as a centre for the legislative assembly of Tamil Nadu. Within the complex, St. Mary’s church continues to stand tall as one of the oldest churches in the country. Providing insight about the European rule in India is the museum which houses remainders from the colonial era. The exhibition includes coins, letters, uniforms and weapons among other things. The first flag to be hoisted after India’s independence is stored here too. Due to the great historical value of the fort as well as the church and the museum within its premises, they are some of the most popular places to visit in Chennai.

Government Museum

The Government Museum, or Madras Museum, is among the prominent places to visit in Chennai. Established in 1851, it is the second oldest museum in the country following the Indian Museum in Kolkata. It possesses a nuanced collection of ancient artefacts and is also home to the biggest collection of Roman antiquities in the world outside Europe. It exhibits relics under the different sections of archaeology, anthropology, botany, geology, numismatics, zoology and contemporary art. This is a great tourist destination in Chennai for kids as there is a separate Children's Museum for them. Within the complex, you can enjoy the National Art Gallery which also consists of paintings by the famous Malayali artist Raja Ravi Varma. The Indo-Saracenic architecture of the building makes it stand out among the places to visit in Chennai too.


DakshinaChitra

A cultural centre, this is one of the most intriguing places to visit in Chennai as it is a living heritage museum. The tourist destination in Chennai embodies the cultural diversity of the South Indian states in its establishment’s very structure and demonstrates it through a depiction of the local art, architecture and lifestyle. Regular programs and workshops on folk dances, puppet shows, pottery and painting among other activities are held in an effort to promote and preserve the culture of the region. DakshinaChitra also showcases a collection of ordinary day-to-day objects and clothes. This is a unique experience, not offered by other places to visit in Chennai, so make sure to add this to your itinerary!


Valluvar Kottam

This monument is included in the most popular places to visit in Chennai. Dedicated to the classical Tamil poet and philosopher Valluvar, the structure displays intricate craftsmanship. You can observe the inscriptions of all chapters of Valluvar’s notable work Thirukkural on the walls. The highlight of the structure is the prominent replica of a chariot where a statue of the poet himself is placed. The monument also boasts of a large auditorium that can fit more than 3,000 people.


Vivekananda House

Once known as the Ice Castle, this pink-hued building originally constructed to store ice was named to Vivekananda House in honour of the prolific Indian monk. He stayed there only for a few days in 1897, but his philosophical lectures in the city were highly impactful. Now the building consists of a permanent array on his life as well as the culture of India. Its distinct architecture and historical significance has earned it a spot in the list of important places to visit in Chennai.


Higginbotham’s

Literature and art have flourished in Chennai since time immemorial. It is not surprising then that the oldest bookstore in India is located here! One of the places to visit in Chennai that Higginbotham’s has become a major landmark of the city. This is a haven for bibliophiles. Although a heritage structure, the store has kept up with the times and is stocked up with the latest releases. It consists of an impressive collection of the works of Indian writers, especially that of literary pieces in vernacular languages.


Ripon Building

This is one of the most impressive places to visit in Chennai owing to the beautiful architecture built in the Neoclassical style. Strikingly white, the building is situated near the Chennai Railway Station, alluring travellers and locals alike. The tower on it consists of a mechanical clock which is one of its major attractions. The building is now used by the Greater Chennai Corporation. You may enter the premises but cannot go inside the building currently.

Places to Visit in Chennai: Beaches

Among the first cities in the country to undergo development - technologically as well as economically - Chennai is a top choice to settle across India. And its proximity to the sea helps. Due to the large population of the city and the inflow of travellers, the major beaches are not pristine and ideal for water sports, yet they are important places to visit in Chennai. They unfold a new aspect of the city to visitors and provide cool relief. Some of the must-see beaches in Chennai include:


Marina Beach

The longest in India, and the second-longest urban beach in the world, Marina Beach is one of the iconic places to visit in Chennai. It is a lovely spot to witness an awe-inspiring sunrise, while the bustling city about you gradually comes alive. Stretching from Fort St. George to Foreshore Estate, it is the primary location to have picnics or do some exercise. Hence, this is one of the places to visit in Chennai that is always bubbling with a crowd. Bustling with life, it has its own unique experience in offering to travellers. For example, it is ideal to shop for souvenirs and enjoy street food at the numerous stalls put up beside the beach. You can also engage in activities such as kite flying, beach cricket or volleyball, horse-riding or even go on a merry-go-round ride at the fairs frequently put up in the area. Although swimming is disallowed owing to the turbulent nature of the waves here, two large swimming pools have been set up along the beach. There are many other places to visit in Chennai surrounding the beach.


Besant Nagar Beach

Besant Nagar Beach, also known as Elliot’s Beach, is among the most popular places to visit in Chennai. Locals use it as a recreational space like Marina Beach, but it experiences less crowd than the latter and is also less polluted in comparison. Decked with food joints, there is a variety of street food available. A noticeable landmark in the area is the Kal Shmidt memorial. The Shri Ashtalakshmi Temple situated beside the shore is another of the important places to visit in Chennai.


Covelong Beach

At the outskirts of the city on the way to Mahabalipuram lies the Covelong Beach, one of the well-known places to visit in Chennai for a day of tranquillity. The white-sand beach attracts many tourists to have a swim in the clear water. It is located in a fishing village which happens to be one of the only places to visit near Chennai that is a windsurfing spot. The beach is dotted by a number of monuments such as the Dutch fort from the 1600s converted into a beach resort and a catholic church.


Neelankarai Beach

This is one of the few places to visit in Chennai next to the sea which is relatively unspoilt and peaceful. Located in South Chennai, it is a good site to cool down after a humid day in the city. Neelankarai literally means blue shore, and the decently maintained beach upholds that. Sauntering on the beach watching the sky change its shade at dawn or dusk is serene. This tourist destination in Chennai is also known for the turtles that can be spotted crawling about on the shore.

Places to Visit in Chennai: Temples

Spirituality and faith are inextricable from the city, and over the centuries they have shaped the culture and traditions of its residents eminently. Evidence of that can be observed in abundance amidst the committed crowd that is attracted to the daily rituals practised at the devout places to visit in Chennai. Travellers can include such places to visit in Chennai in their itinerary to experience this. Besides, most of the temples in Chennai are hundreds of years old with intricate architecture which is another reason they are popular among tourists. Some of the prominent temples are:


Kapaleeswarar Temple

Dedicated to the forms of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, this is one of the most popular religious places to visit in Chennai. It dates back to the seventh century, constructed under the Pallava dynasty. It is an exemplary temple that showcases the best of Dravidian architecture, with intricate details adding to its overall beauty. It attracts tourists from near and far to participate in its daily rituals, but it is the most crowded during the Panguni season. There is a carnival-like atmosphere among the devotees. The largest procession is held for the Arubathimoovar Festival when a majestic chariot makes its way across the streets of Mylapore.


Ashtalakshmi Temple

Right next to Elliot’s Beach, you can head to this temple after a beach day to attend prayers dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi. It is one of the most popular places to visit in Chennai as it is believed that your faith can be blessed by the Goddess for eight things to have a well-rounded life: prosperity, success, progeny, knowledge, wealth, courage, bravery, and food. There are different shrines within the temple to appease each aspect of the Goddess.


Parthasarathy Temple

As this is the only temple in the city where there are shrines dedicated to different reincarnations of Lord Vishnu, it is one of the significant places to visit in Chennai. The name itself of the temple is in remembrance of Lord Krishna. This was also created by the Pallavas in the eighth century, making it one of the oldest marvels of architecture in the city. There is an influx of devotees throughout the year as there are several festivals or Urchavams organised to celebrate each form of the deity. The temple is full up to its maximum capacity during the festival of Vaikunda Ekadesi.


Marundheeswarar Temple

Another one of the religious places to visit in Chennai dedicated to Lord Shiva, this temple is being eulogised by poets and saints since centuries. Legend has it that Valmiki, who wrote the epic Ramayana, prayed to Lord Shiva at this temple and was blessed by him. This temple is visited by people battling diseases or those whose family members are dealing with health problems as it is believed that the presiding deity’s blessing will cure the devotees.

Places to Visit in Chennai: Markets

An experience of a destination is incomplete without visiting the marketplace. It is a great space for interaction between locals and tourists. The places to visit in Chennai for shopping must be included in your plan. Not only do they provide a glimpse into the nuances of the local life, but most of them are fairly priced and have a lot to offer. Perfect to buy souvenirs as well as actual useful things for your home, the markets of Chennai are unmissable. The most popular places to visit in Chennai to go shopping are:


Theagaraya Nagar Market

One of the best places to visit in Chennai for shopping, Theagaraya Nagar Market constitutes the largest shopping district in the country based on revenue. It is the perfect place to buy gold ornaments as well as a variety of sarees. A lot of the street stalls also offer souvenirs to travellers. You can buy the items sold here at an extremely affordable price. The best time to plan your visit is early morning; the market gets crowded quickly as the day progresses. Besides shopping here, you can enjoy some local food at the eateries.


George Town and Burma Bazaar

Ripon Building, George Town is home to shops big and small. This is one of the places to visit in Chennai that is a haven for shopping lovers. After going on a heritage trail to admire the architecture of the past, you can dive right into this bustling market and get to shopping. A variety of products can be found here, such as fabric, shoes, gadgets, accessories and handicrafts. The best part? Shopping here will not put a dent in your wallet. It is well-known in particular for the sale of the traditional Kanchipuram sarees. Burma Bazaar in the area, run by Burmese Tamil refugees, has hundreds of shops on both sides of the road too, selling inexpensive goods.


Pondy Bazaar

A market that has it all, this market must be in your places to visit in Chennai list. Affluent brands as well as even locally-owned shops are lined up on the streets. Hence, no matter what it is you want to buy, this is one of the places to visit in Chennai where you will definitely find it. For better or for worse, the products are not sold on a fixed price. This implies that you can be done with your shopping spree at a budget as long as you possess excellent bargaining skills. The vivacity of the market reflects the attitude of the fast-paced city.

Other than visiting these tourist places in Chennai, you must take a few days and explore other places around the city. There are plenty of places to visit near Chennai that must be in your itinerary while travelling in South India. Within 200 kilometres of the city are pilgrimage sites such as Tirupati, Tirumala, Kanchipuram, Srikalahasti and Vellore, beach towns such as Pondicherry and Mahabalipuram. Just like the places to see in Chennai displayed a rich heritage, all these destinations are steeped in history and local culture which is highly enjoyable to travellers.

Written by Shruti Mishra, an in-house Tripoto writer.



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